By Owei Lakemfa
A country, like a multi-storey building, may not collapse of a sudden; it starts with cracks. The cracks maybe a symptom of greater magnitude that might not be immediately visible. They may be due to improper structural design and specifications, structural stress, poor construction or poor maintenance. The solution is not to deny the cracks or paper over them, but to repair them and subject the building to structural integrity.
We are buffeted by empty phraseologies like ‘the unity of Nigeria cannot be negotiated’. This is by the very people who through their mindless actions, clannish, exclusionary, ethno-religious and regional myopia daily assault that unity.
There are those who claim Nigeria is ordained by God, has come to stay and can, therefore, not be divided. These are mainly sycophants. No country is natural; all countries were built by humans and are subject to wear and tear. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, was a super power and a nuclear power house. Whoever thought it could crumble like a pack of cards or dividing like amoeba into 15 different countries? Who thought the power house called Yugoslavia could disintegrate into seven countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia? Is the Nigerian structure stronger than Yugoslavia or the USSR? Certainly not.
An African proverb says the sun shines on all homes in a society, be it a crumbling hut or an intimidating mansion. Part of the causes of Nigeria’s dislocation is that those who claim they are the big boys, think they can monopolise the sun and decide whether it should shine or not on the smaller federating houses. They forget that the smallness of the needle does not mean it can be easily swallowed by the big cock.
We are in a house, and some people are digging round the foundation; our reaction should not be to continue shouting that they should not do so, or keep threatening them. It is better to find out why they are trying to dig up the foundation, dialogue and persuade them not just to stop, but also to repair the foundation.
There are those who have put the Nigerian building into improper use and have now endangered it. The solution is not lamentations, but what concrete steps can be taken to remedy the situation. In the first instance, are they ready to mend their ways or want to continue in their destructive ways? Do other inhabitants want to continue to tolerate or accept this destructive and disruptive behaviour?
There are inhabitants of the Nigerian house who think the solution to the defective structure is to restore the building to the large open spaces it was before mini-flats were carved out. So, they call for internal restructuring as a solution to the defective structure. They may yet discover that their own part of the building also has its own serious defects which cannot be fixed by singing of a glorious past and white-washing it.
There are those who think the solution is to protect their own floor of the multi-storey building forgetting that one foundation carries the whole structure and that if it gives way, the entire building will come crashing down.
There are some, including men of God, who have no faith and think the best thing is for Nigerians to have a so-called ‘Plan B’ which is to abandon the Nigerian structure and take shelter in other structures as refugees. The Holy Books of such people do not contain stories of prophets who stand by the truth, speak the truth to power, and rather than flee, stand to fight the ungodly tormentors of the people. If all such priests do is gather the riches of the country and flee at the slightest hint of distress like birds of passage, where then is their faith? They also have allies in their profession who are apologists, negotiators and spokespersons of the powerful and their bandit handbags.
It is a failure to think things through that has led to some leaders, as I said earlier, declaring that the ‘unity of Nigeria is not negotiable’. It is illogical to declare that a building, with visible cracks all round it, should not be talked about and possible solution discussed as a way forward. Normal people do not allow or disallow negotiations about cracks in a building, they fix them.
There are also the myopic who believe that all they need do is bring in more of their kinsmen to live in the Nigerian building so they can seize a few more rooms. This is idiocy because they do not know the agenda of those they are importing, especially when these people have no building skills, professional competence, no stake in the Nigerian project and bring nothing to the table except violence. These imported bandits are mainly from rundown or makeshift structures that have collapsed or are collapsing. In any case, what logic says the solution to fixing a building that shows distress is to bring in squatters?
There are the caretakers of the structure whose primary preoccupation is the common purse and how to utilize it for their private ends. Their specialisation include imposing incompetent workmen and women and supervisors, buying fake materials, decking themselves in flowing gowns and appearing to be religious.
As members of an extended family, we doubtlessly have wayward, parochial, selfish children and of course, elders whose sense of wisdom is destructive as they exhibit signs of senility. But we also have intelligent and well behaved children, and elders who can point us to the direction of collective development. One of our major challenges is that the culture of the former has been allowed to permeate and dominate. Over the years, we have reversed the law of osmosis which dictates that the stronger solution draws the weaker solution. Given our cumulative 29-year military brigandage and misrule, we cannot but be in dire straits.
Even when urchins are still noisily singing the praises of our leaders as they drag the country to Golgotha, those with a sense of decency and social justice, need to reverse this trend.
Who knows whether the cracks we see all over have not affected the structural integrity of the country. If it has not, then all we need do is carry out the necessary repairs, depending on the exact cause or causes of the cracks. If it has, we can collectively agree to rebuild the structure. A structure, like a country, is not a religion to which no enquiry can be made, or re-examined in the light of advanced technology and knowledge. So, we cannot exhibit the foolery that once a building has been constructed, it can no longer be rebuilt.