Everything has beauty not everyone sees it—Confucius
So over the week, I had the pleasure of some wonderful Fulani guests, two males and two females, they were all ‘full’ Fulanis, but one was black…Black Fulani are not an everyday sight. At the end of three hours they were the sweetest people on earth I had interacted with…they were Mr. Buhari’s family…no they were not, Mr. Buhari is Fulani Katsina, have you seen Fulani Sokoto? Here I was seated with ‘killer’ herds people (sic).
Settlers, Landlords, Landowners, Migrants, Indigenes are words, which have become familiar in our national discussion for no good reason. With no clear-cut nor precise meaning, and despite our religious intolerance of the recent past with one another, a major player in our crisis-ridden drive towards attaining nationhood has been the ethno-related disgust we harbour for each other, a situation that has facilitated the growth of mutual suspicion a Yoruba man presupposes he is more Nigerian than the Ibo man and the Ibo thinks so of his Hausa counterpart and the ball rolls further with others crying foul on the counts of marginalization. This scenario simply upgrades my psychological mind frame with some sort of superiority or inferiority complex. I further deduce an all-important cleavage to my immediate ethnic idiosyncrasy.
Hear an American, ”I am an American, I live in Chicago, and I am of Scottish descent”. Then hear his Nigerian colleague ”I am Igbira from Okenne, in Kogi State in Nigeria, don’t mind those Igala people. The truth is that every nation has its own peculiar ethnic issue but how have we as Nigerians made an effort to manage our Diversity. The term Unity in diversity has remained a political coinage. Our ethnic difference has rather done us more harm.
Every time I fill a form I am constantly reminded of my local government area of origin, I am simply told that I am not really wanted where I am, and that where I reside is inconsequential. It is most disheartening as one pays his taxes and other such obligations to that particular area yet not accepted.
That we have to redefine our ethno- understanding is an understatement. We have been robbed of meritocracy, excellence and unity, we are still battling favouritism, federal quota, catchments areas and such nonsense in a world that is consistently getting smaller through globalization and the need to fight a collective cause (despite the hypocrisy).
Our ethnic and indigeneship battle has midwife ethnic militias, phoney ethnic bodies, the OPC, APC, MASSOB, Ohaneze, Afenifere, Middle Belt and Center Belt all charging like bulls without a focus, non seemingly has the native intelligence to dialogue with the other.
The Nigerian leadership is yet to produce a system of governance that can exploit our differences only leaders who have simply made long speeches to the point of confusing themselves.
Everybody accuses the other of marginalization to the point the word ”Marginalization has been marginalized. When a list of persons are announced for national service the first instinct is the concern for where the chairman hails from, how many Yorubas or Ibos, then if the secretary is a Hausa or Fulani, the task at hand is of null importance, the suitability of the persona is very, very secondary.
The intellectual ignorance we still exhibit at this point of our national lives is terrific; the ‘southerner’ basks in the stupidity of his all-knowing nothingness, while his northern counterpart thinks he will lead even the rats in the country all put together.
A Hausa proverb goes, ‘when an old woman stumbles more than twice, she has to count the contents of her market basket’. The vexed issue of ethnic jingoism, parapoism, indigeneship, State of Origin will not go away because it is stuck in our minds.
This issue of ethnicity unresolved will continue to generate constant pressure that unrelentingly assaults the resolve of our leaders, who whether Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba-Ijaw will suffer.
It is now obvious more than ever that the principle of Federal character or geographical spread or representation must be re-examined and rationalized in a way that eliminates the continual contradictions which its implementation highlights.
The arguments of all sides are strong, and very convincing. Is it fair for Mr. A who lives in Kano State but whose parents hail from Edo State have to return to Edo to find a school for his son because admissions to schools in Kano are reserved for children of Kano State “origin”? On the other hand, since in proportionate terms, Edo State is assumed more “educationally advanced” than Kano State, is it not only fair and just that more pupils of Kano State “origin” should be given “enhanced opportunity” to “catch up”? Both sides cling to their respective sides of the argument as if their lives depend on it… does it not?
Nobody bothers to recognize that there is something intrinsically wrong, artificial and backward in the entire situation, if some of our past presidents were labelled settlers, (not as if they are not truly settlers) who then is not a settler.
The keyword is “origin” who is of Kano, Edo or Abia States of origin? What is the origin of your origin? How far back into history can one go to trace his roots? Whichever theory of creation or evolution we ascribe to, if we stretch the answers to the foregoing to their logical conclusions, it should become clear to us how absurd our fixation with ethnicity is, one can be patriotic to his or ethnic nationality without being an “ethnic animal”.
A way can be evolved to destroy the rigidity of state identity, most of the past state creation exercises have been wrought with political considerations than with the real issues left hanging, the drama of assets sharing, boundary demarcation and all other palavers. I believe each state should prescribe a set of conditions that, once fulfilled by any Nigerian citizen, entitles him to all the rights, privileges, and obligations of persons of that State. When Mr. B moves to Lagos from Adamawa, there is no reason why he cannot make Lagos his home if he so wishes provided he: i) Has lived in Lagos and paid his due taxes there for a stipulated period of time—say five years; ii) Has renounced state identity with Adamawa; iii) Is genuinely and equivocally loyal to Lagos; iv) Is committed to the assimilation of the culture, norms and practices prevalent in Lagos; v) Has registered his movement with the relevant population control agency, and vi) Has satisfied all other conditions required of him.
It is possible that the next generations of Nigerians can live in a society where state identity is not only administrative and statistical convenience that has no emotional content and must, therefore, give way to large communal claim for patriotism and nationalism—Only time will tell.