We were taught we are one country, that we are one people and that we are one nation under one God. We were taught about unity and strength and why we must under all circumstances stay united as one people. We were taught that a bundle of stick cannot be easily broken but that a single stick can be broken effortlessly. We grew up knowing there is joy in being together. We boasted of our numbers and proudly declared our country, ‘the giant of Africa’.
For some years now our unity is tested as we are under attack by some foreign enemies, and instead of uniting as one people to fend off the enemy, we are busy fighting each other, killing each other, and destroying each other. Our case is even made worse because we have as a leader a president who loves his foreign cousins much more than he loves us. When it comes to addressing the atrocities of his foreign cousins against us his fellow citizens he speaks loudly but carry a twig, and when it comes to our minor indiscretion he wields the big stick. It’s a fantasy for him to expect that these foreign cousins cum bandits would stop banditry or change their behavior without our imposing significant cost for their actions. Our inability to deal with the foreign bandits who have invaded our country shows how polarised we’ve become.
A house divided against itself, cannot stand, so says the Holy Book in Mark 3:25 and Mathew 12: 22-28. Similarly, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city (nation) or house divided against itself will not stand. These words were not just idiomatic but words spoken by the Lord Himself which is similar to saying ‘united we stand , divided we fall’
Nigeria is divided. A divided house does not get its share of happiness and does not know peace. Like a divided house, Nigeria is wobbling. It is sharply divided by politics, religion, tribe and other extraneous factors. The atmosphere is fouled by threats of war, cries of secession and disintegration. And you ask, ‘Where is the unity, faith and patriotism upon which the foundation of our country was founded?’ Why did we allow tribalism and nepotism to take the centre stage instead of the back seat? Why are we at war with each other at a time we should be united?
Any nation where the component members are constantly at war and on each-others throat can hardly stand, however strong her army might be. Like a divided house that nation will fall and the citizens will scatter because when unity is absent, peace and security also become absent.
Not that Nigeria is about to fall anytime soon. I don’t wish to see her fall even though all the signs of a failed state are there for even the blind to see, but most certainly her internal contradictions will not allow the current government and system to endure. Our constant warring will not allow us to know peace and stability which are essential for growth and development. And we can’t go on like this.
Though we privately agree on our common problems, yet building consensus around major issues has remained a mirage because the things we admit privately are the things we publicly deny.
I guess it’s time for the president as the leader of the country to quit shrieking his responsibilities. He needs to take charge and initiate an all-inclusive dialogue. Instead of fighting and killing each other, we need to dialogue and build consensus on such issues as equal citizenship, restructuring, true federalism, and rotational presidency.
Take the issue of equal citizenship or the Igbo question for example: Since after the civil war which was fought primarily to bring the breakaway Eastern Region back to the fold of One Nigeria, the Igbo has been unfairly treated. Successive governments both military and civilian had been unfair to the Igbo, thus causing frustrations among the people. With little or no assistance, Igbos have built back their destroyed cities and helped in developing other parts of the country. They are arguably the first and second-largest property owners in any part of the country. They are everywhere in Nigeria making an honest living. They ask for nothing but to be respected as equal citizens so as to live in peace and prosper as free men.
If you have ever been to any of the cities in the Igbo-dominated South Eastern Nigeria. You will find a beautiful commercial place and enterprising people. You will not believe that all of the well-built-up cities were theaters of war about fifty-four years ago. The entire South East with a population of nearly fifty Million people is not up to the size of Niger or Kogi State in landmass yet the people are happy. It has been expressed in many quarters that there can be no Nigeria without the Igbo because they are everywhere. They account for nearly 60% of taxes collected in major cities and contribute to a sizable portion of the national GDP.
Because of the sweat and blood, the Igbo has contributed to the development of Nigeria you will think that those that run the system will be kind and polite to them. But the opposite is true. Instead of being nice or respect them as equal citizens, they are instead made to go through several hurdles and to accept they are second-class citizens. They endured all that was placed against them until the coming of President Buhari in 2015.
The president who told the nation that he is for everyone suddenly reduced the Igbo to five % and began a systemic exclusion of them from the scheme of things. Many objective minds frowned at the systemic profiling of the Igbo and spoke against it. You don’t divide your citizens between a privileged class on the one hand and a victim class on the other hand and expect peace and stability.
Those in the know insisted that the ill-informed policy of marginalizing over fifty million people is a recipe for anarchy and will not augur well for the country. But the more the cries of marginalization rent the air, the more the regime tightens the noose around the neck of the Igbo, thus keeping us more divided than we’ve ever been.
The questions are: ‘Why are we paying lip service to the unity of Nigeria? What’s the moral in keeping the Igbo in Nigeria if we cannot allow them equal citizenship? Who wants to be a citizen of a country where he or she is treated unfairly on account of language and religion? Why did Nigeria fight a civil war where over three million lives were lost just to keep the Igbo in Nigeria if we won’t be nice to them? What’s the big deal in treating the Igbo the same way the Hausa and Fulani are treated?
The Igbo citizenship question is a question Nigeria must resolve much sooner than later so that the country will make meaningful progress. I think it’s beneath the office of the President for Mr. Buhari to refuse to address the core issues fuelling separatist agitation in the South East but instead scornfully referred to over fifty million citizens as a dot in the circle. What he forgot is that without the dot, the circle will be blanc. He forgot that without the Igbo Nigeria will cease to exist as a nation. As a leader, he forgot he owes a duty to all sections of the country including the ‘inanimate’ dot that he sees in the circle. This government may not endure if we continue to neglect issues we should address or remain divided when we need to come together and pose a strong and united front against our common adversaries.