By Babajide Balogun
We are living witnesses to the anger, despondency and hopelessness pervading the country. With the recent protests happening simultaneously and spontaneously across the land, it’s time for every patriotic Nigerian to pray. To pray that the balkanisation of the country that we all thought was feasible, but not desirable, is not here already.
What started as a mere protest against the dreaded SARS, a unit of the Nigeria Police created to tackle armed robbery and other violent crimes, but which has morphed into a terror organisation that harassed, intimidated, extorted, blackmailed, maimed and even killed citizens, is more or less looking like our own Nigerian Spring. The organisation that has powered the protests when combined with the seeming support they enjoy from Nigerians, calls for serious concern.
Some have postulated that the protests are being sponsored by some prominent Nigerians and those opposed to the government to cause embarrassment, and thus propel its fall. Truth be told, these are delicate and trying times for the country.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari needs to put on its thinking cap and come up with an iron clad solution to this unfortunate situation before the country goes up in flames. Nigeria, with all the perennial problems it is experiencing, from hunger and starvation, unprecedented insecurity, insolvency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other social upheavals, cannot afford to have a divided citizenry.
This is because the protesters, though ventilating genuine anger later became nuisances to other law–abiding citizens of the country by blocking major roads, causing serious inconvenience to the people.
I hope government will come up with a quick-fix solution in order to avert avoidable crisis that could pitch the pro and anti-protesters against each other because the anger in the land based on the serious dislocation the country is experiencing at the moment, could trigger a crisis of epic proportions.
Accordingly, if we are able to cross this difficult hurdle, the challenge is how do we take measures to stop its re-occurrence by bringing stability and confidence to all and sundry that this is a country that belongs to all of us and, every man, woman and child who seeks a future of dignity and respect will be given a fair chance.
Nigeria being in its most delicate, fragile and breakable nature at this material time, what do we do moving forward? It is glaring that the government of the day appears handicapped and does not have the capacity to bring any sustainable and practicable solutions that will stand the test of time, which will also be acceptable to everyone because of mutual mistrust and having exhausted its goodwill.
As things stand, the South favours restructuring of the country, while it is perceived with some suspicion in the North. But it is becoming inevitable that both sections of the country will have to sit down at a table and agree on a workable arrangement that will be a win-win situation for all sections of the country in order to prevent an avoidable conflict with dire consequences.
The real challenge is who we elect in 2023. We have to get it right. We need to have a leader who is trusted on both divides. The 2014 Conference convened by the Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GEJ, administration was not wholly accepted by the North even with its noble recommendations.
The reason being its composition that appeared to have favoured the South, and the mistrust arising from the motive of the conference spearheaded, by former President Jonathan, who was unarguably unpopular in the North at that time.
Is it not time Nigerians put aside their differences and take decisions that will have a positive impact on not only this generation, but for generations unborn? Is it not time for us to focus on salvaging our fragile union for the sake of the next generation? Do we elect a leader who will be trusted by all Nigerians to bring us to a table and talk about the so-called restructuring that has been a vexed issue for decades?
Is it not time for us to give a listening ear to the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, a Northerner, who believes in restructuring the country and has articulated how Nigeria can be restructured to make it a more viable and prosperous nation, for the good of all?
Is time not ripe for us to have an experienced administrator with excellent emotional intelligence and wide acceptability who believes in one indivisible, prosperous nation where each Nigerian shall become the equal and the substitute of his brethren regardless of his religion, tribe or tongue?
The precarious situation the country is in now and going forward, an apprentice kind of leadership will not be in our best interest.
I know because of the current situation we are in as a nation, the suggestion might look as if it is insensitive because of its political colouration, but believe me in the course of trying to find a solution to our problems, we must bring all options to the table because it is our collective survival as a nation that is at stake here.
Let’s listen to all opinions, because it is not a North versus South or Muslims versus Christians issue, but a Nigerian issue. It’s time for rationality and humanity to be at the forefront of our thinking and actions.
May the God Almighty give us the wisdom and the will to do what is right for our collective good.
*Babajide, a political analyst, wrote from Ibadan.