Nigeria is one complicated marriage of convenience. Many of the jarring complications that this marriage of convenience witnesses currently springs from the fact that the partners and parties in the marriage are riotously unequal.
It may have been administrative convenience and the sheer ferocity of colonial greed that made Lord Lugard execute his amalgamation of 1914, however, the handiwork of his ingenuity has gone on to weather many storms.
As a country, Nigeria has been threatened with disintegration many times in the recent past.That the grim prophecies of the naysayers and the the prophets of doom have however failed to materialize is an eloquent testimony not just to the resilience of Nigeria as a country but to sheer chance.
A destabilizing dichotomy
Nigeria is sharply divided into the North and the South. Many of those who have led the country, succeeding only in doing well for their pockets and families in the process, like to talk about unity in diversity.But the truth is that what the country has been experiencing is disunity in diversity.
Boasting over 250 ethnic groups, a vast land mass, and people who subscribe to different religions and cultural affiliations,Nigeria has had to contend with all manner of challenges since 1914 and 1960.
Independence in 1960 was supposed to offer a chance for Nigerians to sit around the table and have honest conversations about moving their country forward without the prying eyes of their colonial masters.
However, military coup after military coup soon plunged the country into the bowels of the cataclysmic civil war that raged for three years.Even after the war that asked the most brutal questions on brothers ceased,the scars lingered and more than four decades later,they appear as indelible as ever.
So those who speak of Nigeria’s unity in diversity always do so tongue-in-cheek or at best more in hope than in expectation, especially when they do so with the best of intentions.
An opera of oppressors
There are many in Nigeria who quarrel with the federal character principle which finds expression in Nigeria’s constitution. These Nigerians argue that in ditching meritocracy for mediocrity along the lines of federalism and regionalism, Nigeria has continued to fail to get the best out of its considerable human resources.
However,in spite of the many arguments highlighting the disadvantages it breeds, the federal character principle is an attempt to make every part of the behemoth that Nigeria is feel included. But it has not exactly worked.
With nepotism and ethnicsm heavily influencing decisions especially under the dispensation of the current administration, allegations have been rife about secret employment into key agencies of government and an agenda by a certain ethnic group to oversee key areas of the national economy and national life.
The product of these machinations is that Nigeria has become sharply divided between the oppressors and the opressed.Now,whether those who feel oppressed are genuinely oppressed or are merely tilting at the windmills is not as important as the effect these residual feelings of oppression are having on many people,and worse still,what they are driving them do.
The secessionist flames that never run out of wood in sections of the country is testament to the impact the feelings of exclusion and oppression are having in both the long and short term.
Going forward,how does Nigeria ensure that in this time of national difficulties all Nigerians are rowing in the same direction? How does Nigeria ensure that those who feel especially shortchanged in the current arrangement of the country are able to cast aside their resentment and put their hands to the deck in the task of building a country whose greatness will be beneficial to everybody.
This would only be possible when Nigeria becomes a country run on equity.