As a bona fide Nigerian in the Diaspora, any time I remember my home country Nigeria I feel grieved. I cry for a country that is fast sliding irreversibly into anarchy. I mourn for a people that lack national cohesion and direction. I weep for a country that has everything needed to be great and yet rootle abject in poverty. I bewail a nation with a surfeit of talents, whose nationals compete with the best in the world and excel and yet cannot replicate the same feat at home because of dysfunctional leadership.
In Nigeria the masses live like hostages plagued by poverty, terrorists, bandits and criminals and oppressed by those elected to superintend over their affairs. The people are kept permanently divided along tribal and religious lines by greedy politicians who benefit from such prejudices and stereotypes. I make bold to say that I am a fully-fledged. I am of a Northern parentage. I grew up in the East and I worked in the South-West before my sojourn abroad. In those days our unity was desirable and sustainable. But today, things have fallen apart; national unity is fractured so much so that nobody is proud to be identified as a Nigeria.
There are hues and cries in every nook and cranny of the nation. There are cries of oppression and marginalization and the concomitant emergence of emergency freedom fighters and separatist agitators. Nigeria has never been this disunited. There is no gainsaying the fact that no government in our 61 years history as an independent nation has exposed our differences and fault lines like the present regime of President Mohammadu Buhari. And regrettably, the politicians who are elected as representatives of the people are taken advantage of the deplorable situation rather than work for the interest of the citizenry and the nation. The clerics too, who are supposed to preach peace, when they are not preaching prosperity without hard work, they are preaching violence. Of course our National Orientation Agency that is supposed to re-orientate the public about our national ethos of patriotism and service is moribund and the mainstream media dwells on stereotypes; highlighting our differences and weaknesses. And sadly, the disillusioned masses are fighting one another and erroneously adoring those that brought hardship and misery on them. It is unfortunate in the extreme!
Those in power must know that the separatists’ agitations are fueled by bad governance and failed leadership. Those in authority must understand that a nation is under social contract with its terms and conditions to protect the citizens and pursue general interest and not parochial interest. Government cannot exercise authority when it cannot meet the desires and aspiration of the people. A contract can be terminated when the covenant is not faithfully adhered to. When one is in a relationship that is not working, he has options to review the relationship or back out. It is only slaves or hostages that have no choice in a matter of this nature but Nigeria is not master-slave relationship. And this essentially is the theoretical framework behind the separatist agitations. Although I am not making any case for the balkanization of the country yet the truth is that the action and inactions of those in government are stoking the fire of these centrifugal agitations. And if the truth must be told: the Nigerian state as currently constituted is a failed state and there is urgent need for renegotiation and restructuring as advocated by well-meaning statesmen like His Excellency Atiku Abubakar (GCON), the Wazirin Adamawa if the union can be made to work again.
In theory, the call for separation is not in any way treasonable; what is treasonable is the criminal neglect of the people, our common will and the abuse of the oath of office. Those governing Nigeria are obviously selfish and outmoded. They do not understand the heterogeneous nature of the country. In a multicultural nation like Nigeria, decision makers must as a matter of necessity tend to interest of the disparate groups. There are cries of marginalization, persecution, intimidation, oppression, corruption, mediocrity and nepotism. And those in power are unperturbed. The result is that standards are lowered, principles are compromised, rules are flouted, values are eroded and impunity and mediocrity are enthroned. The result of all these come to mutual recrimination, suspicion, strife, bitterness, social unrest, youth restiveness, lack of faith in the country, armed conflict and separatist agitations. Thus, national unity is fractured.
I know the separatists have genuine reasons and the right to agitate but my advice to them is that they seek other alternatives to present their case. History has shown that separation has never been easy otherwise the whole world would have broken into pieces. It took Eritrea and Southern Sudan many years of internecine wars, misery and blood-letting to separate from Ethiopia and Sudan respectively. The Catalans of Spain has since time immemorial fighting to no avail to separate from Spain. Nigeria cannot afford another civil war. There was one in the 1960s that left over three million people dead but from the look of things the nation appears not to have learnt the lessons of history for the issues that led the civil war are yet to be addressed fifty years after. It is also alleged that these crises are sown by selfish politicians who want to misdirect us as the next general election beckons. Whatever is the force behind the crises, Nigeria you must wake up.
Obviously, Nigeria is not the only multi-ethnic nation in the world. But other nations have tried to creatively manage their differences. Although, India has had Pakistan and Srilanka carved out of it but it is a multi-ethnic and a multi-religious entity and they are living in peace and Indian nationals are making remarkable impact at the global stage.
Clearly, the future of this country lies squarely in uniting the people. Unity will promote peaceful co-existence. Peace will engender greater national productivity and economic progress and Nigeria will take its rightful place in the comity of nations.
Indeed, there is strength in unity. It is said that united will stand and divided will fall. I think that we are stronger and better together. Therefore, it is expeditiously necessary that Nigerians close ranks and unite and fight the common enemy – the corrupt politicians who propagate divisive tendencies among us in order to take advantage of us all instead of dissipating energy fighting to balkanize the country. Arise O’ compatriots!
Hajia Mohammed, actress, social activist, politician, writes from London, UK via [email protected]