FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo deserves commendation for rekindling faith in our country by reminding us of the true meaning of “One Nigeria”.
According to the retired General who spoke in Abeokuta when he was invested with the Fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Surveyors: “I am a strong believer of One Nigeria, but not One Nigeria at all costs, but One Nigeria where every Nigerian can feel proud that he or she has a stake in the country”.
Saying that Nigerians are better off together than going their separate ways, Obasanjo affirmed: “Those of us who have shed part of our blood and sweat for the country, we did so because we wanted a country where every Nigerian can claim as his or her own…any Nigerian who does not feel concerned about the challenges of the country is a human without being human”.
These words of the former two-time leader of Nigeria are doubly significant amid the current atmosphere of doubts about what Nigerians are and who “owns” the country. It comes at a time when almost everybody whose opinion matters has raised the alarm that the country is at the brink of another civil war or disintegration due to its overwhelming security woes.
The faith of many Nigerians has been shaken by the bold claim of a particular ethnic group that Nigeria belongs to people of their stock, including those of them who are not even Nigerians. The Federal Government has never chided them for such provocative claims.
Armed herdsmen have been attacking communities, destroying farms, kidnapping people and taking over indigenous people’s lands. The law enforcement agencies appear to condone these acts of terrorism and sabotage of our country’s territorial integrity.
All ethnic groups in Nigeria came under the domination of the British colonial masters on the same day (January 1, 1914) when the Protectorates of the North and South were amalgamated. We also fought for independence together and were granted it on the same October 1, 1960. The notion of the “ownership” of the country by one ethnic group while the others are reduced to serfs neither arises nor holds water. It is inconsequential and should be ignored.
The various separatist efforts only arose because of the growing injustice, extreme nepotism, marginalisation, condonation of herdsmen attacks and insistence by the Federal Government that pastoralists should have access to people’s ancestral lands.
These were not what those who fought for Nigeria’s Independence and the Civil War to keep Nigeria one laboured for. Nigerians must continue to resist efforts by unpatriotic elements to rend our country asunder.
We believe that after the tempest, the sun will shine. Nigerians will once again be proud to belong to the One Nigeria of our collective dreams and aspirations.