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Greed or grievance: Nigerians agitating to belong

By Tabia Princewill

s it greed or real grievance which creates secessionist, violent groups? Depending on who you ask the answer might be different in Nigeria, a country where different ethno-religious entities engage in brutal but unproductive competition for control of resources and see themselves as “deprived” relative to others around them. Our psychology has generally become one of threats and extortion: gone are the days of discussions based on ideology and concrete proposals beyond attempting to act as a spoiler, gain notoriety and therefore corner resources for oneself.

Although Nnamdi Kanu seems to have vanished into thin air, it is time we finally consider what makes it so easy to stir up violent protest in Nigeria.

British passport

A man of his age, in many other countries might have set up a think tank, an NGO or joined a political party (or even started one himself with like-minded people). What makes countries like Nigeria prone to violence and why is it so easy to get millions of people to follow what can only be described as demagogues or manipulators?

University students during one of NANS protests.


As it turns out, Nnamdi Kanu and his wife are British citizens. Did it occur to any of Kanu’s followers that he could simply disappear and blend back into anonymity upon returning to whatever town or city in the UK he once called home? Did they ever think to ask him if he renounced his British passport while clamouring for Biafra? Like ShettimaYerima, who gave the “quit notice” to the Igbos living in the North, (it’s important to note that Mr Yerima lives in Lagos), he has misled poor, angry and desperate Nigerians, like any false prophet, and taken advantage of the fact that out of 170 million Nigerians, between 65 and 75 million are illiterates according to recently released figures by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.

Restructuring is still trending; however, we are yet to have any of the real policy conversations which will enable any form of restructuring to work for us. Restructuring will never be enough, there will always be one group or other claiming to have been short changed in some way if we cannot help our people to think critically, to analyse and recognise when they are being used for political gain.

What percentages of state government budgets will be spent on education, health and other social services? In peaceful, economically successful countries, these sectors are priorities.

They once were, when the likes of Awolowo, Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello were in charge. Today, we spend 70 per cent of our budgets on largely unproductive government staff and other appointees, with only about 30per cent left for infrastructural development, forgetting that if we have not educated and cared for the human beings for whom we build bridges, etc., we are doing ourselves a disservice.

We hardly ever talk about income distribution or how, as a matter of fact, we will get the majority, currently living in poverty, to a level of basic comfort. The debate on restructuring is yet to address the economic marginalisation of the masses; as of yet, it still focuses too much on cosmetic changes with little impact on the man on the street’s ability to feed himself.

Economic marginalisation

The greatest tragedy here is that Nigerians do truly want to belong to something greater than themselves. Human beings are social animals; Nigerians like millions across the planet, love nothing more than to be a part of something (a religious association, a club or organisation etc.).

We frequently display, in an unfortunately rambunctious, ill thought out manner, just how much of a force for change (whether good or bad) any one person can be when he or she allies with others.

Nigerians want to belong: to feel that is, that they matter, that they are individuals whose hopes and aspirations can materialise, which shouldn’t be exclusive purview of the rich or well-connected.

Their country should have afforded them that comforting feeling of knowing that the state will provide a minimum benefit or positive added value, rather than leaving them completely alone to fend for themselves however they can.

What will restructuring do about this? The real challenge in Nigeria is inequality and social injustice as enshrined by corruption and its corollary, impunity. Injustice engulfes the poor and middle classes on a daily basis, all they belong to is a brotherhood of scorned, belittled, citizens.

Till we fix this, we might be restructuring in perpetuity, especially without training those of school ages to see through manipulation and reject scapegoating of other ethnic groups.

By Tabia Princewill

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki has been widely criticised for his apparent defence of IPOB. A number of lawmakers from the House of Representatives called the “Progressive Caucus”, released a statement in which some worrisome allegations were made.

They said: “A clear pattern of overt support to the leader of the terrorist group had since been established under the watch of the Senate President, for some time now. His deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, had not only hosted, but put the full paraphernalia of his office… to give solidarity and support to a secessionist leader facing treason charges for levying war against Nigerians and the Nigerian state.”

Overall Leader of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu

If this is true, then IPOB did benefit from high level political support as was alleged by the Federal Government. That in itself is treasonous, even if we’ve become accustomed to seeing politicians fight each other at the expense of Nigerians.

Those who funded Boko Haram were known to the government, by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s own admission. He even said some were in his government! Why are politicians allowed to get away with destabilising the polity?

When does it end?  How did we get here? Where else in the world, besides Nigeria, would such allegations even be possible and what will be done about it?

CAN and Sukuk bond

The Federal Government has reassured Nigerians by saying its N100 billion Sukuk bond was by no means a ploy to islamise Nigeria. We have reached, as a nation, a level of childishness and manipulation I didn’t think was possible. Forget for a second about its name, this is merely a financial instrument with a positive effect for all Nigerians, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or even class.

Actually, it’ll be even more beneficial to Nigerians of modest means, as one can invest, reportedly, with only N10,000 and make twice that in return.

The financial market and the formal economy for that matter, have long been closed off to the poor. So why fight an instrument meant to uplift them while at the same time raise money to fund much needed projects, if not because some people clearly profit from sectarian division?

CAN has been involved in politics, even though religious groups ordinarily stay out of such. In fact, one finds it difficult to forget how hard CAN campaigned for the former President on the explicit notion of his being a Christian facing up to a Muslim candidate. The 2015 election from CAN’s viewpoint wasn’t a contest of ideas, the former President wasn’t judged by them based on his performance but rather his religion. Religious leaders in this country are undoubtedly afraid of a time which will come in Nigeria, where the people think for themselves.

The Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said: “Funny, a lot of investors that we have been marketing the bond to are just looking at the yield”. There you have it, profitability trumps sentiment. Nigeria will remain undivided, no matter what some people plan.


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