By Obadiah Mailafia
THE omens are not looking good. The moral sickness of our body politic is a nightmare that refuses to go away. If what we see reflects the spiritual condition of our country, I would make bold to say that Nigeria is on the throes of death.
We hear that South Western states are scheduled o hold a summit to decide on how to collectively address the challenge of insecurity and how to develop a framework for an autonomous economic region. Several pictures of bank notes purportedly from “Oduduwa Bank” were being circulated in social media.
A dear friend sent me a text with the pictures: “Are you going to sit back and watch our country die?” He being from the South East, I jokingly replied: “Why are you sending me these pictures? Don’t you know I am a Biafran?” We all laughed it off. But, inside, my heart was bleeding. A few years ago another friend, a prince of the Caliphate, shocked me by remarking that they are, by all intents and purposes, resigned to the fact that our country will break up: “It is not a question of if, but, when”.
As if to buttress the point, an international conference on the ecological crisis facing the Lake Chad region took place at the ornate Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja on February 2018. One of the proposals being touted by our Federal Government was to borrow a staggering US$15 billion loan to build a canal from the Congo right though the Ubangi Shari in Central Africa to Lake Chad. The idea is to create a navigable waterway that would grant Northern Nigeria access to the sea.
The Washington financial institutions, I am told, frowned at the proposal. So did France, UNESCO and some of the Western powers. If the North no longer believe in Nigeria, then we who do are, of all people, the most to be pitied.
As everybody knows, Ndigbo youths are all Biafrans. The Federal Government persecuted and hounded IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, even though he never carried a sword. But the military, under Operation Python Dance, have killed several youths who were protesting peacefully. Boko Haram Jihadist killers, by contrast, are being treated with kid gloves. Some have been granted titillating amnesties while others have, allegedly, been absorbed into our armed forces.
The issue of Biafra is geopolitically linked to that of the Niger Delta where the restless youths have for years been campaigning for “resource control” and self-determination. Many believe that if the North had found oil they would long ago have declared their own Arewa Republic. Niger Delta peoples believe their oil is the dowry by which Nigeria’s “forced” and unequal marriage is being solemnised.
There is also the sad fate of the Middle Belt. As far back as 1900 an intense debate took place in the British parliament and among the intelligentsia on the imperative of creating an autonomous administrative region for the non-Muslim peoples of the Middle Belt; a people that were never historically a part of the Caliphate, having never been conquered in war or peace. Without ever having consulted the peoples so affected, the colonialists went ahead to subordinate them under the Caliphate supposedly to save administrative costs.
During the post-independence period, leaders like Joseph Tarka, Patrick Dokotri and Rev. David Lot fought bitterly for the autonomy of the Middle Belt. They were only partially pacified by the conciliatory gestures of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the defunct Northern Region. Sir Ahmadu Bello was a large-hearted visionary who did not segregate on the basis of ethnicity or religion.
The same, unfortunately, could not be said of those who pretended to be his legatees. His successors, both military and civilian, practised a form of Apartheid that would have been the envy of Hendrik Verwoerd and the post-war architects of Apartheid in South Africa. Verwoerd and his brethren in the Broederbond secret society brethren were austere Calvinists who believed they were executing God’s purpose on earth. Their Arewa colleagues, by contrast, are a godless and avaricious pack of hounds.
When economic liberalisation under the military undermined the economic base for the patronage system on which this feudal class had subsisted, they introduced political Sharia as a weapon for power and hegemony. Much as they would like to disown it, Boko Haram is their moral stepchild. That iniquitous enterprise has destroyed the entire economy of the North while bringing blood, tears and ashes to our country.
The late Bala John Takaya, former President of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, made it a point to remind our Northern leaders of the gross injustice and historical crimes they have committed against his people. Instead of engaging him in dialogue, they made him their bitterest enemy; undermining his career at every turn until his death in May 2018.
Bala Takaya was one of the most brilliant students ever produced by the famous Baptist High School, Jos. His academic record since he left the school in 1969 was never broken until, ironically, his own son broke it sometime in the late nineties. Takaya was a formidable science student who switched to Government/Political Science, according to him, to equip himself intellectually to emancipate his people. Those of us who knew him understood him to be a patriot – a compassionate and gentle soul. Although he was angry at injustice, he was a democrat and a humanist with a pure heart.
Today, sadly, the Middle Belt is leaderless; lost in the wilderness like the children of Israel of old. We pray that, unlike the ancient Israelites, we would not have to wander for 40 years before we see the light of redemption.
I have studied enough of what the Germans term the machstaaten to know that no upstart power is ever allowed to alter the international geopolitical equilibrium without a challenge. There may be global conspirators and economic hit-men whose strategic intent is to see Nigeria disintegrate. The Saudis have been in the business of marketing their backward Wahhabi ideology to spread treachery across the world while legitimating their Byzantine rule at home.
Foreign powers are keenly aware that Nigeria, all things being equal, is destined to be a world power in the twenty-first century. By 2050, our population is forecast to reach 410 million, surpassing the United States and only behind China and India. We are endowed with abundant natural resources. Despite the racist IQ propaganda, Nigerian students outclass their peers at top Ivy League institutions. We are a self-confident people, some of whose ancient cultures date back to the Egypt of the Pharaohs.
Like Archimedes the Greek mathematician, Nigerians demand a place to stand so that they can move the world. We are the only bulwark preventing our glorious continent from becoming the playing field of empires as it has been for the better part of a millennium.
I am an admirer of the ancient Yoruba culture and its great republican ideals. I know that tyranny is anathema to Yoruba civilisation. My hero Chief Obafemi Awolowo is the highest embodiment of the Yoruba spirit of excellence, resilience and hope.
Whilst appreciating those who are embittered and dispirited, I am persuaded that this is no time to give up on Nigeria.
We are greater together than divided. But it would have to be on the basis of a reformed federation that guarantees freedom, justice and equality for all. We must mobilise a moral coalition of patriots who believe in Nigeria and in her manifest destiny among the nations of the earth. The entirety of the Black world looks up to us. We cannot fail them.