Last week, I wearily described Nigeria as an arranged marriage of convenience that has always been troubled and convenient only for certain groups…because it was (in my opinion) organized by conniving British colonial officials who were not strong on emotional intelligence and possessed pretty dire matchmaking skills.
Despite inter-tribal tensions that have been a fact of life since Independence, many Nigerians – including Igbos who reject the secessionist agitations of their kinsman, Nnamdi Kanu, and IPOB (Indigenous People Of Biafra), the group he leads – want Nigeria to remain intact. And I quoted some of these unionists last week – folks who are optimistically convinced that the faltering marriage cannot only be salvaged but transformed into a truly fruitful and happy union, if we all work on it.
Now I’d like to focus on the alternative viewpoint, which can be summed up thus:
The marriage has been on the rocks for ages and has irretrievably broken down, thanks to greedy, overbearing partners who have delusions of grandeur. No amount of counselling, talk-talk, grammar, prayer or “restructuring” can save it.
Any attempts to reconcile this lousy marriage will be like putting a sticking-plaster on a gaping wound. And we will never progress until the status quo is dismantled. So let’s quit blindly and stupidly wasting everyone’s time on a lost cause and boldly head for the divorce court!
Where do I stand in this debate? I know that my response will irritate Vanguard readers who are into unambiguous black-or-white positioning. But I am, at the moment, hovering in the grey area between the two camps and sitting on the fence.
My parents (Ogoni father, Igbo mother) were staunch and senior supporters of Ojukwu’s Biafra; and they were devastated when we lost the civil war.
In other words, I grew up in a home in which secession was regarded as very possible and very desirable, so I don’t regard the idea of schism as sacrilege and go through phases of thinking that my part of the country, the Niger Delta, will probably be better off detaching itself from the bigger picture and going it alone.
Small can be beautiful. Small is less hassle and easier to manage. Small means less sharing of money and resources. If there are fewer citizens to worry and care about, the per capita income will rise dramatically.
On the other hand, I have lots of interesting, clever, kind-hearted and much-loved friends from all over Nigeria; and I can clearly see the advantages associated with all of us belonging to a larger entity that dwarfs so many other nations in terms of its land mass, population, economic potential and successful individuals.
Big is prestigious. Big is enviable. Big is a big deal. There can be strength in numbers. There can be strength in ethnic and geographical diversity. Variety is the spice of life. We can, TOGETHER, get over problems like census-fixing, Boko Haram and so on.
Still, the country is in a mess and inter-tribal wahala is commonplace and my default setting is to believe that separation should be seriously considered if things don’t improve soon. And I vehemently disagree when people like Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, insist that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable.
If some Nigerians flatly refuse to be fair to other Nigerians, why on earth should victims of this unfairness – as in victims who don’t have slave mentalities – be bullied or cajoled into country-sharing with their oppressors ad infinitum?!
As things stand, Northerners are significantly involved in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which includes states from the South South, South East and South West. And the questions I want to ask are as follows:
Will Northerners return the favour when the recently approved North-East Development Commission, NEDC, is up-and-running? Will any Southerner be warmly welcomed onto the NEDC’s Board as members or allowed to collect juicy NEDC contracts, especially if the NEDC is largely funded by petrodollars?
And, by the way, how many oil blocs are owned by entrepreneurs from oil-producing communities? Why are we treated so shoddily? It is easy to shout “One Nigeria Forever!” when you get more out of the unity project than you put in.
Also, why are Northern Christians discriminated against so blatantly?
And it’s not just about the “sins” that have been committed by Northern Muslims. A lot of Southerners dislike other Southerners. A lot of Yorubas, Niger Deltans, Igbos, etc, misbehave; and their misbehavior is undermining our country.
Distinguished Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has warned against “dogmatic and dictatorial” approach and said, when he was being hosted by the impressive Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, last week:
“Don’t tell me that Nigeria, as it is, is non-negotiable. To me, that’s a fallacy…The claim that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable is a false statement. The right of the people to determine their future is what is non-negotiable…
“…Negotiation involves ensuring that there’s no marginalisation…and ensuring that the major components of the country are not feeding on the centre.”
I couldn’t agree more.