The Sun News

Dialogue and consensus, or…

MY topic last week was on the Arewa Declaration asking the Igbo resident in the northern parts of the country to quit the region. As far as I was concerned it was no big issue because of how it came and who was propagating it. The faces we saw were anything but youths and when the Secretary General of the group spoke on Channels TV Sunrise program, the gap between his intelligence, grasp of national issues and the statement they issued were poles apart and that was enough to indicate that those “adult-youths” were dancing to a music whose players were miles away. The Arewa people said they were reacting to secessionist bid by the Igbo. Like I said last week if this is the case, then it is a misdirected aggression. Secessionist agitations are not usually directed at a particular group; at best it is an affront on the sovereignty of a nation. It is a legal advocacy. So as far as I know those who made that declaration and the few misguided elements supporting them are interlopers who may have been instigated to jump into the ring because of the misplaced belief that this entity called Nigeria belongs to a section of this country. This indeed is very unfortunate.

What has brought this nation to the point she is at today is the attitude of few reckless men, and of course women, who elevate ignorance and warped design and foist it on the nation in the name of a joke, unappreciative of the nasty variables such acts precipitate and what they do to political governance and cohesion as well as negative exertions they have on social relations among the component parts of the country. You must take cognizance of the fact that I didn’t use the word ‘nation’, because it is regrettable to note that we have been unable to fuse into a nation after 57 years of independence. For this long, we have been unable to say exactly what the hindrances are. Some say it is ethnicity, and I ask if it is about tribe how come it has been difficult for the governors, ministers and even the presidents from particular sections of the country to work in concert to make their areas the Dubai of Africa. If it is religion, religion helped to provoke industrial revolution elsewhere, it also helped them to achieve discipline and high level of cohesion. The question would be why is our own experience with religion different? The answer would be that we have had poor and ill-equipped persons as leaders. It became worse with the military intervention. I used to think that the military brought a lot of physical transformation but with what I know now they destroyed the foundation of this nation by their terrible disorientation of the human capital, which is the force that drives progressive development and of course what they did to the administrative structure of a country they claimed they came to rescue from destruction.

At this point let me make an interesting disclosure. I had wanted to give this work one of these titles: “Dialogue or ……”, “Welcome the Igbos or let them go”, or “Hypocrites in high places”, but I kept thinking because none of them reflected my personal conviction. This nation was designed by God and not by man to provide a haven for the Black Man all over the world just like Lagos is to all Nigerians. But we missed it right from the beginning and that is where the issue of effective and visionary leadership comes to play. We describe the founding fathers as heroes but if you ask me only one of them was a true nationalist by the kind of “Pan-Nigerianism” he espoused, the practical efforts he made to bring it to pass including personal sacrifices. The others were good examples of ethnic jingoists. Even before independence polarization was an issue, founding fathers held tight to it and even threatened to abort the granting of nationhood and even when we got independence the atmosphere was such the North said they could not cohabit with the other sections of the nation. In fact, it was from this point our political lexicon was enriched with the word “araba” which I understand to mean ‘let us divide.”

What this proves is that we had teething foundational challenges which we ought to have fixed at that time, which from the look of things were haphazardly addressed, a vacuum the military cashed in on and left us with a worse political, economic and social order, call it failure of leadership and you won’t be wrong. The consequence is what is following us all around in the nature of bad fortune. The omission has left us with a system where reason has taken flight and only those who can promote mediocrity, nepotism and who can see only up to their noses dominate leadership positions at all levels. It is exactly the same reason why we cannot think on noble issues like citizens’ rights, productive economy and a political order that is full of equity, fairness and justice. It is why we like negative ethnic profiling and dancing around it so much that we waste all the time, at a period nations of our age are building productive economies, pursuing science and technology, going to the moon, producing and needing what they produce even if they cannot export. When I look at us and them, I think we should bury our heads in shame. It should be disgusting for us to be discussing who is a Nigerian or not, who should stay where or who should quit, or still, which religion or tribe is superior in the 21st century. It is extremely frustrating but we must do it because we have veered off the track by millions of miles, consequence of myopic and wicked leadership orchestrated by few men but cheered on by all of us.

The wounds are deep, the pains very excruciating. It has turned all of us hypocrites. Confronted in private, every Nigerian would tell you he wants to go; it is such that if one section wants to fight for unity today they find no support. See the hypocrisy. The military said our unity is not negotiable. Fine, now see what they did to federalism, 57 years after independence we don’t know whether we run federalism or unitary system. Kano with an official population of 9.4million has 44 local government areas; Lagos with 9.1million has 20 local governments. Tom Ikimi during the last Edo gubernatorial election disclosed it was because of him Etsako East and West local governments were created. If a ‘bloody’ civilian got this, now imagine what the military top hierarchy who were mainly Northerners got for themselves. South-East has 5 states when the other zones have between 6 and 7. We have Federal character and quota system yet the people are not certain on the criteria for selecting or admitting anybody. The youth from South-East for instance will have to score 280-300 and yet JAMB the admission body would insist that high scores do not guarantee admission, according to them quota and catchment area could be superior to brilliance and merit. Not one significant Federal presence is found in the South-East. Two weeks ago all arms of the Military were in their various institutions in the North holding international conferences, every layman knows what that means in terms of liquidity to the ordinary man. It looks contradictory to say we have one nation and yet we have two sets f legal system, Sharia and the Penal code, we fuel religious intolerance and even kill fellow citizens in the manner we do to animals. The choice before us is dialogue, consensus, or…

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