Nigeria, a country of such staggering diversity, would have been in a much better place were ethnicism not as entrenched in some Nigerians as inseparably as red is from blood. For many Nigerians, life begins and ends with their ethnic groups when Nigeria, Africa`s most populous country, has some 250 ethnic groups. For this group of people, nothing is valuable or valid beyond that which is tinged with the colour of their ethnicity. This kind of crude parochialism and provincialism have no doubt fired the flames which are licking up the country inch by inch.
Nigeria is also a country of stereotypes and profiles – of master profilers who are so adept at clamming people into ready-made groups that for them all that matters is their own evaluation and estimation, and nothing more. An abundance of these is a major reason why Nigeria has remained rooted to the same spot for decades. The few moves the country has made in this time has been backwards, perilously drawing close to a land of no return as is the case now.
With the 2023 elections breathing down our necks, Nigerians can draw from a mix of experience and discernment to understand that between now and the conduct of the elections, all manner of things will fly from many places at the same time from those who are either ignorant or mischievous or malicious or all of them put together. If Nigerians know what to look out for, they may actually know to stop their ears when such sowers of discord begin to flex their tongues as dexterously as cobras flex their fangs.
In statements recently attributed to the Oluwo of Iwoland, Mr.Abdurosheed Akanbi, the revered monarch was said to have given extensive reasons why the Igbos would find it difficult to give Nigeria a president from within their ranks.
According to a statement released by his press secretary, Mr. Alli Ibrahim, the monarch said that while people everywhere allow other tribes to own lands and do business in their domains, South Easterners deprive other people from owning lands in their places. The monarch insisted that Nigerians in Nigeria should be allowed to own land anywhere He further accused the good people of the Southeast of unsophisticated, primitive and uncivilized thinking. The monarch concluded by predicting that Nigerians from other zones will be reluctant to vote someone from the Southeast as president.
That someone so highly regarded and revered would indulge such incredible illusions about the supposed insularity of the Igbos who are known the world over as one of Nigeria`s most hospitable ethnic groups is simply alarming. Because Igbos travel far and wide to do business, hospitality and good neighbourliness have come to form part of their DNA.
Of course, talk has become really cheap in a country without no-fly zones for the pigeons of conflict, yet, no matter the talk, it cannot cheapen truth. Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended) allows Nigerians to live and own property anywhere in the country. Section 44 of the same constitution prescribes that such property cannot be taken away by the government save for public purpose and only after adequate compensation is paid to the owner. The Land Use Act also makes extensive provisions about land ownership and acquisition in the country.
Now, does the celebrated Oluwo have anything closely resembling cogent, credible and compelling evidence to show that the Igbos of the southeast are as provincial as he has made them out to be? Igbos have always lived and done business all over Nigeria. Have there been complaints that Igbos have been as nearly a handful as the Fulani herdsmen who have been accused of unleashing terror on their host communities? Shall the hare now be described as a hyena just so it could be killed for supposedly being dangerous?
Can the Oluwo show Nigerians his kinsmen or subjects who went to the Southeast to own land and do business but were turned away and chased out of the region in breach of Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the relevant sections of the Land Use Act. It is all connected to 2023.
Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. Since then, there have been six different presidential elections. In that time, every region of the country has produced a president for the country save the southeast.
There have been calls that as a matter of equity, and by reason of being so richly endowed with men and women more than capable of doing the top job excellently, the Southeast should have its turn. Yet, there are those who are determined never to see this happen. People like these want nothing good for Nigeria; whenever they speak, it is division and discord that issue from their mouths. For as long as Nigeria continues to listen to them, the Giant of Africa will continue to ail.