We Must Go On With One Nigeria
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At a time when we are faced with series of problems bedevilling the country, comments coming from the North about breaking-up, division or secession from the country into their respective regions does not augur well for the myriads of people living under the
banner of one Nigeria. It is quite unfortunate that individuals from the North who claim to be part and parcel of a civilized pressure group and who seem to be more enlightenend are amongst those pursuing and singing the song of 'survival' outside a divided and balkanized Nigeria.
For the record, it is a well known fact that the talk of division or 'secession' of Nigeria by the major and minor ethnic groups had been a recurrent feature of our socio-political existence, firstly, during the decolonisation era and secodly, during the post colonial era, with the North first calling for it in 1950 and 1953. Similarly, the Western Nigerian leaders in a bid to establish political control of Lagos, which was declared a federal territory, threatened secession, while Michael Okpara under the leadership of the Eastern Region issued out a threat to seceed as a result of the poorly held election of 1964. As if that was not enough, one Isaac Shaahu in 1965, having found the NPC led government in the North unendurable threatened secession, while Isaac Boro unsuccessfully proclaimed in 1966 the Niger Delta People's Republic. Most recently, the Bakassi Movement for Self-Determination (BAMOSD), led by one Tony Ene Asuquo, declared secession from Nigeria in 2006 as a result of the Bakassi peninsula ibroglio.
All these threats were basically issued, yet did not materialise not until the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu took the threat to another level by acting on it, culminating in what we know today as the Nigerian Civil War. This article is not interested in the hullabaloo that engulfed the Nigerian state between 1967 and 1970, but the recent threats of a break-up that has once again found its way into our political dictionary.
This writer finds it worrisome that the Presidency continues to keep mum on a delicate issue of this nature where both North and South have in the last couple of days been calling their bluffs simply because the former had asked for a review of the revenue sharing formula and the latter demanding for a true fiscal federalism, resource control and national conference. It gets even worse when some elements in Osun state had claimed the current governor was trying to Islamize the state and seceed from the Nigerian federation. With the tension this is causing, there ought to have been some form of caution from policy makers in Aso-Rock. It is saddening that it is until an issue escalates terribly that the powers that be begins to panic, looking for a long waiting panadol to cure the headache.
Comments coming from Professor Ango Abdullahi, under the auspices of the Arewa Elders Forum that the North could stand on its own in a divided Nigeria smears off a campaign of malicious representation and for that reason ought not to have been made by a respected individual of his calibre. It is true that Nigeria is an agglomeration of diverse ethnic nationalities and a basic fact that we were forced by the British colonialist to live as one, yet it has become a reality that we cannot live without each other.
For the single fact that the North provides about 90% of the nation's food crops and livestock (even though many outside the North believes they contribute nothing to the nation) does not give it a monopoly of sustainabilty. If the North believes it could shut down its food production against the South, where would the North get fuel which is the life blood of any nations' development to power its industries and mechanize its farm lands? The reality is that we cannot do without one another and in the event of a break-up, one wonders where all the regions would begin its development from what with our over reliance on oil.
This writer is of the opinion that it is even the North that tends to benefit more from a united Nigerian federation than a divided one simply because the North which many had presumed to be monolithic has been fragmented along ethnic and religious lines in the last couple of years. When we look at the North Eastern and Central states, one would be amazed to find a small proportion of Hausa/Fulani ethnic stocks occupying these areas while Christianity is often predominant even if the equation in the North makes it a silent issue. While the Core North too could be said to have other ethnic groups within it who are neither Hausas nor Fulani and for that reason, the North today has even become more heterogenous as a result of migration, inter-mingling, inter-marriage and settlement of Igbos living most especially in the nooks and crannies of the region.
Professor Abdullahi and his ilk should therefore, thread softly and enusre the issue of review of revenue sharing formula should be argued based on concrete need for it, rather than heating up the polity with threats of division and how it would survive in the event of it. The civil war has taught us a bitter lesson that the amalgamation of 1914 is a reality and for that reason, we must continue to respect the territorial integrity of the country. We must not allow ethnic differences or filial aspirations for ones tribe to overshadow the fact that our loyalty lies not to our respective regions but to the country as a whole. Nigeria must survive and its unity begins with us all.
RAHEEM OLUWAFUNMINIYI is a social commentator and political analyst who wrote from Ibadan. He could be reached via