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Thoughts on the National Conference – 3

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By Dele Sobowale

“In Bassa, LGC, of Plateau State, we have Bache/Rukuba, Irigwe, Buji, Arno, Landere and two more..0815-220-7041..Ogbasu (Ndoni Area), Ogba, Egbema all of Rivers State. Ukwuani, Aniocka..all of Delta 0803-307-3706…Igede, Etulo, Agila, Ulayi, in Benue State 0803-637-7322…Old man! You omitted the Ndokwas of Delta State 0806-852-5958…Presido,…I want to add Buji, Jere, Chokobo, Gusu, Tarya, Lemoro, Kurama..0703-557-8551…My ethnic group is Yakurr. We speak LOKAA central Cross river State, 0815-666-7471…Your list did not include Mandara from Southern Borno and Mwaghavul in central Plateau, 0803-609-9046…Borgu territory is made up of the following  languages: Boko, Batonu, Bokobaru, Bisan and Dendi, 0803-707-5398..Tangale in Biliri , Akko LGA of Gombe, 0803-364-8292..I want to add my ethnic group..Nikyob.Pls note that Atyap is the same as Kataf. 0809-127-9397.
To each of these  people who have assisted in getting me and my readers better informed about Nigerian ethnic groups, I express my deepest gratitude. I am sure other readers will benefit from this joint exercise because this is the first column I would write in almost twenty (yes twenty) years on these pages) whose contents will be partly contributed by others. I promise to publish the entire list when it is finished.

Last week I pointed out some of the reasons the Southwest might not be as peaceful as people think in the event of a break-up. Let me repeat that it was deliberate; I don’t want anybody reading ethnic hatred into what I would say about their own zones or ethnic groups. As it turned out I am learning about some ethnic groups for the first time in my life. Those asking for a national conference of ethnic nationalities must now begin to think of how they will handle the enormous task of mediating the demands that will come from all of them. It is not going to be easy.

Next to the Southwest, the Southeast would appear to be another solid bloc; after all, they speak the same language and share some of the same customs. But, the SE would start out with four disadvantages, among others. The first is leadership; the second is geography, the third is boundary adjustment and fourth are reparations. Selection of a leader for the new nation would be the most difficult of all the zones. The SE, like the SW, has had only two leaders who enjoyed almost unanimous support – Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ikemba Ojukwu. Both, however, emerged as leaders not in elections among the Igbo people themselves, but, by accidents of history and both lived long enough to experience humiliation during elections in the second, third and fourth republics from the NPN, SDP and now the PDP. When it came to voting, Igbos praised Zik and Ojukwu but voted against them. The records of all our elections are there for all to read. Today, just as in the SW, nobody can claim leadership of Igbos. And once again, a group without a leader is a mob. The obvious question is: who will lead the separate nation which MASSOB seeks?

If for any reason, President Jonathan should announce today that he will not seek a second term in 2015, but will endorse the selection of a candidate from the SE, then, the world will experience the largest number of prospective candidates for the office of President in any country in history – accompanied with the largest outpouring of defamations against each and every candidate. Nothing less than forty wanted to be Anambra governor after Obi – mostly jesters.

The proposed nation will also be confronted by the facts of geography – the new nation will certainly be oil-producing with Abia, Anambra and Imo contributing. But, it will be almost land-locked – lacking direct access to the sea. Anyone automatically assuming forbearance by the SS nation which will be a competitor for oil exports and sovereign must tell us why the co-operation must be granted.

Third, it will need some boundary adjustment if some of its people are not to be left behind in Delta, Rivers and Benue States where they run the risk of becoming marginalized minorities.

Lastly, reparations will constitute a mind-boggling problem. Igbos, more than any other ethnic group, have made the majority of their investments outside their own zone. What will happen to those investments? Will they leave them and walk away? And, if not, who will pay the reparations and, if paid at all, would Igbos have to start all over again in their own nation? Will this even constitute a fair settlement and lead to peaceful co-existence?

So, to our brothers in MASSOB and others who believe in their separatist doctrine, my advice is: be careful what you ask for, you might just get it. And, I am not so sure you will like it.

If you think the “Oduduwa and Eyimba” (for lack of other names to call them) nations will have problems, then you have failed to distinguish between ordinary rashes, measles and leprosy. Next week, take a trip with me to the Southsouth; then you will begin to understand the complex problems breaking up will cause. Start by compiling the list of ethnic nationalities we have already discovered in the zone. Bear in mind that more are on the way; then ask yourself if a nation formed out of that zone will not merely repeat, on a smaller scale, all the problems of Nigeria as we know it today but might make them worse.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”, William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, in HAMLET.
Now that the noise had subsided on the three words which set tongues wagging and pen overflowing with ink and bile, perhaps we can safely put it into proper perspective by recalling two real life stories. First, on a Sunday morning, at Onipanu Bus Stop, Lagos, an old woman dashed across the express road, right under a pedestrian flyover. She missed being crushed by a petrol tanker by inches. Everybody, including those clutching Bibles shouted at her “Mama why don’t you go to your house and die”. Second. Chief Olusegun Osoba, former Ogun State governor, celebrated his birthday – which was attended by Babangida, Abacha, all the Service Chiefs, Ministers and the highest traditional rulers in the land. At the end of the ceremonies, his true friend and Publisher of this paper, our own dear Uncle Sam, went up to Osoba, and said to him. “You have had a great day. You should go home and die.”

Does anyone in his/her right senses actually think that those two declarations should be taken literally?  Poor Oshiomhole, who is one of the few good Executive governors we have had since the early 1970s, must feel like Benito Mussolini, 1883-1945, the Italian fascist leader who exclaimed, after one of his pet projects was defaced by vandals: “Ruling Italians is not impossible; it is merely useless”. We want development in Nigerians and when governments try to deliver vandals wreck their efforts and we blame the governors. Haba!!

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