What is the purpose of power? Is it to intimidate others or to build them up, to grow them into becoming their best selves? The answer to this question seems simple enough. But give any one of our countrymen an ounce of power and suddenly the reality becomes something else entirely. Oppression is the name of the political game in Nigeria, a winner takes all configuration where government is the be-all and end-all of public life. Fortunes rise and fall, all depending on what persons or parties are in power.
Our businesses, our economy don’t depend on the purchasing power of the middle class; they depend on contracts from government and when those contracts run dry, the entire industries shut down, leaving workers near destitute. Yet, we constantly refuse to face our dysfunctional attitude to power, preferring to wait our turn to demean, oppress and destroy.
The interesting thing about Nigeria is that most features of this country which we’ve gradually turned into negatives, or problems without apparent solutions, could be veritable strengths if we allowed it; that is, if we allowed competent people with the talent and ideas to see beyond the status quo to wield power at all levels. Consensual democracy, a form of government where social harmony is obtained by getting differing power blocks to negotiate and later cooperate by finding common ground, is best practised in a plural society where not one power centre is strong enough to rule alone. Some might believe this description doesn’t apply to Nigeria(particularly those ethnic groups which claim marginalisation). They choose to blame other groups for supposedly keeping them down and out. Where were they when these groups were organising themselves, building platforms and sharing ideas?
One can’t watch from the side-lines then ask why one wasn’t invited to play. Even when one has meagre resources, one must use them accordingly. The South West has continuously, for example, invested in education and opportunities for its people. The South East hasn’t, encouraging its people to pursue commerce, which wouldn’t be an issue if its governors had supported the creation of local industries rather than basic importation and resale. The South East hasn’t organised itself. Not the way the South West has, for example. It hasn’t laid down an intellectual proposition or offering which the rest of Nigeria is then free to buy into or not. To secede is to run away, to refuse to task one’s mind on how we can all work better together, starting by refusing to be used by politicians to create chaos.As for the South-South, it has allowed itself to be completely dwarfed, swallowed up by the South East.
Ironically, the same imperialistic tendencies the South East has accused other ethnic groups of practising, are exactly what it exhibits in Port Harcourt, for example, which is less Ijaw than Igbo these days. This wouldn’t even matter if a real agenda for development was pursued, then we could be Nigerians first, and our ethnic identity would be similar to the colourful eccentricity of a car sticker which says “Sunny California” or “I’m from Ohio!” in the United States.
If the supporters of the marginalisation idea organised themselves based on ideas rather than just language and ethnic origin, they could have something to sell to the rest of Nigeria to encourage others to support them; after all, poverty is poverty no matter what language is used to describe it.
But some people don’t seem to understand consensus politics or know how to raise real issues, wants and needs in a manner that federates all other groups around a common cause, development. We are all marginalised in Nigeria. Wasting time arguing over who gets to be crowned “most marginalised” is a struggle where the poor man always loses (no matter his ethnic origin) and the people in Abuja, most of whom govern these same would-be marginalised states without even living amongst their people, win. In theory, a country as ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse as ours, should be the perfect place to engage in lively debates through which each group is humanised (rather than brutalised) in the eyes of the others, thus leading to policies which encourage development for all rather than a few.
In practice, what we’ve done instead is personalise power, thereby saying “when our man gets there, he will do better for us” which is rarely the case. We have strong ethnic consciousness but little class awareness. In the words of Karl Marx, “landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed”. Not only are some politicians using the idea of secession to cause chaos, these parasitic landlords encourage the colonisation of the Nigerian mind which is pushed into believing that it is possible (or sustainable) to make demands without coming up with plans or ideas to actualise those requests. Biafra is a phantom project, a white elephant, an empty shell, a spoiler for those Igbos who are hard at work, side by side with the rest of Nigeria.
The current move towards secession is another sad consequence of our desire to be spoon fed, to be destructive rather than practical, dynamic or industrious. Secession is the lazy man’s option. The poor and middle classes of Nigeria must stay together in one nation and fight one common battle for emancipation from landlords who are from various ethno-religious groups. The greatest enemy here isn’t even the landlords, it’s the mind-set in Nigeria which says that all should be given and nothing earned.
Who is behind the groups calling for all Igbos to leave the North? It is too easy in Nigeria to register a group and to claim to speak on behalf of others. The average Nigerian, engaged in his daily struggle for survival, does not have the time or the funds to engage in such divisive and propagandist activities.
Groups promoting hate speech (including their sponsors) should be investigated and sanctioned. The landlords, those who think they own Nigeria and all its riches, find it too easy to pay puppets to divide Nigerians using inflammatory statements. The Northern governors, traditional rulers, have condemned the groups, which is a good first step, but more action is needed.
The involvement of the security agencies is paramount to make sure this doesn’t keep happening. But most of all, Nigerians need to be more discerning and to ask more questions. Who does disunity profit? No one except politicians.
Senator Ali Ndume, through his lawyer, Ricki Tarfa, said he isn’t a Boko Haram sponsor. The senator says he had information on Boko Haram which he shared with then Vice President Namadi Sambo. But too many questions remain: How did the senator come about that information? How did he gain access to the terrorists? Does that mean they were known to him? How and why? These questions should be answered in court.
Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in the world, something which only makes headlines every time the UN releases a report on the subject. The number of out of school children has been on the rise since the ’90s. Democracy has not yielded fruits for the Nigerian child.
The Senate President said education should be a national priority in order not to provide the next generation of terrorists and militants, which is obvious. But politicians in this country are very good at soundbites and later moving on to something else. Without plans to tackle this ticking time bomb, these children will grow up to be the next generation of “marginalised” people who wring their hands, blame others and applaud politicians who profit from their misery. Aren’t we tired of going round in circles?