By Chukwuma Ajakah
In his 6th century B.C fable titled “Four Oxen and the Lion”, Greek philosopher, Aesop, explores the central theme of unity hinged on the aphorism, “united we stand, divided we fall.” That has featured prominently in the speeches of many world leaders of thought intent on galvanizing members of their group to attain set goals while remaining one indivisible unit despite their individual differences.
The phrase is often used to inspire unity of purpose and cooperation. The Nigerian variant of the age-long aphorism is “unity in diversity” which clearly factors in the heterogeneous nature of the country. The basic idea is derived from the notion that if individual members of a group with binding ideals such as federalism, confederation, alliance or union stay together to pursue a common interest, they will succeed, but will fail if they do otherwise.
According to Aesop’s legendary tale, a lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen lived. Each time the lion tried to attack the oxen; they turned their tails to one another in such a way that the predator met the horns of one of them whichever he approached them from. Things turned awry for the oxen when they separated after a quarrel and each went to graze alone. The Lion ceased the opportunity and killed each ox after the other at its individual grazing spot.
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The thematic preoccupation of “Four Oxen and the Lion” which appears in a series published by Harvard Classics (1909-1914) focuses on the desirability of unity attained through the collaboration of the microcosms that constitute the larger whole.
The threat to Nigeria’s continued unity takes alarming dimensions as various separatist groups call for secession. Moreover, leaders of umbrella bodies of diverse ethno-socio-cultural groups sing discordant tones, ranging from call for restructuring to a referendum targeted at determining whether Nigeria should continue to exist as a united federation or disintegrate, allowing any groups that desire to go their own way to do so.
The plight of Nigeria as an amalgamation of nations is portrayed in Aesop’s Four Oxen and the Lion. Against the background of incessant attacks by criminal herdsmen, Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, leads his separatist group, Oodua Republic in a vociferous agitation for an independent Yoruba nation in the Southwest region of the country while Nnamdi Kalu pilots his own group, Independent People of Biafra from exile. There are even more ferocious groups threatening the continued existence of the country and the daily lives of the citizenry like the unrelenting lion against “four oxen”. The brazen manner in which these “lions” carry out their attacks of banditry and terrorism reveals that the drummers are nearby. As the wall of defence is about to crack, the oxen-a metaphor of the Nigerian state, are unsafe and about to crumble.
Many who once preached “One Nigeria” are gradually coming to terms with the realities on ground as the strident drums for secession from groups such as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Oodua Republic gain momentum, drawing their unsure feet into the dance they were unprepared for. The Federal government seems to play the possum over the expressed grievances.
In Matthew 12:25, Jesus who knew the thoughts of the politicians of the era cautioned them, saying: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” This assertion is echoed in Luke 11: 17 and Mark 3:25. Although the agitation for self-determination rivets in every part of the country and not peculiar to the Igbo nation, the Federal government’s clampdown on the South-East through the massive deployment of the country’s security forces in Imo and other states of the region suggests that the political players are insincere in their much talked about pursuit of a United Nigeria. The government also appears unprepared for the threat such agitations pose. This perhaps accounts for the hasty recourse to brutal force in some supposed troubled states whereas insecurity stares the entire country in the face.