The unity, social cohesion and structural stability of the Nigerian federation are conditions precedent for its economic growth and development. There has to be a Nigerian nation before any form of progress can be achieved. Currently, Nigeria is a country of a collection of micro ethno-geographic nationalities whose localised interests are placed above that of the broad collective. The Nigerian populace is also more of “indigenes” of these micro-ethnic nationalities than “citizens” of Nigeria.
It has been argued that the diversity of the Nigerian people, which was compounded by the colonial experiment of forging a modern nation out of a critical mass of uncommon history, tradition and culture of diverse indigenous peoples, is remotely responsible for our disunity as a nation. This notion of Nigeria being an amalgam of cultural incompatibles that has become an entrenched narrative that justifies our disunity is a fallacy unsupported by any shred of historical evidence and actually goes contrary to the logic of common sense.
Diversity is a measure of racial mix within a given geographic space and NOT the ethnic composition within a broad racial categorisation. Therefore, a mono-racial (negro) country such Nigeria does NOT qualify to be regarded as a diverse country on account of ethnic differences. Nigeria does not have much in common with racially diverse countries like the United States of America and the Republic of South Africa but has so much in common with less diverse mono-racial (mongoloid) China and mono-racial (caucasoid) United Kingdom of old. Like Nigeria, China has between 55 and 95 ethnic identifications within its broad mongoloid classification. They include the Uygur, Hui, Zhuang and the majority Han Chinese people. Mandarin, which is a language spoken by majority Han Chinese people, originally evolved from closely related languages spoken by “diverse” ethnic groups around the agricultural settlements of the four cardinal points of China. Similarly, the multi-ethnic identification that characterises mono-racial Nigeria actually evolved from a common source as clearly discernable in the close similarities in culture, language and interwoven ancestral history of the various peoples of Nigeria from the four cardinal points of its current geographic space and beyond. In this circumstance, Nigeria is best described as a plural, not diverse, country.
The implosion of the Kwararafa confederacy several centuries ago ignited a wave of southward migration from the fringes of the old Kanem Borno Empire into the Benue valley. The Kwararafa is largely made up of groups who are regarded as “Banza bokwoi” who nevertheless shared a common patriarchy with the original seven Hausa states. One of such groups that migrated out of Kwararafa was the Igala. The Igala who are closely related to the original Hausa states of Sahel Nigeria would migrate deep into the south of Nigeria and establish a settlement on the banks of the great River Niger at a place called Idah. From their original base in Idah, a detachment of the Igala would cross the Niger and eventually join a party of migrants out of the Benin Empire (a sub-group of the larger Yoruba of western Nigeria). in a seamless form of cultural assimilation and integration, this party of Igala would fuse with the Bini migrants to establish the various Igbo-speaking communities of Isele Uku, Agbor, Ogwashi Uku and Asaba in the mid-west of Nige- ria, and Onitsha, Obosi, Ogbaru and Ugwuta in the eastern heartland of Nigeria; thus serving as a source of cultural interlink between the plural peoples of pre-colonial Nigeria.
The British majority caucasoid population, like the Chinese mongoloid and Nigerian negro populations, can similarly be classified into smaller ethnic groupings. Former British prime ministers Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill identify as Jewish (Middle Eastern origin) and Huguenot (French Protestant origin), respectively. Queen Elizabeth II of England is of Germanic ethnicity, while her future successors are of Greek ancestry. The differences between Nigeria on one hand and the Chinese and British on the other hand is that they elevated their racial similarities and shared geographic reality (citizenship) above their petty man-made ethno-geographic differences in local origin, while we have put the latter ahead of the former in Nigeria. Like Queen Elizabeth II, Disraeli and Churchill that are broadly categorised as White and British, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo are similarly Black and Nigerian. By putting our Nigerian citizenship above our in- dividual ethno-geographic indigeneship, a pan- Nigerian consensus will be achieved that will allow time-tested economic models to work for us as a nation.
There is a need for Nigeria’s political leadership to begin the process of mobilising Nigerians to evolve a new political culture of aligning their individual legitimate businesses with their democratic choices away from ethno-geographic and religious sentiments. As one people, artisanal shoemakers and garment workers of Aba, Sokoto and Ilesha should be mobilised to align their democratic choices with candidates whose economic policies hold prospects of higher productivity and increased individual prosperity, away from the hollow politics of ethno-geographic and religious sentiments.
Similarly, farmers in Jega, Agatu, Onitsha Ugbo and Owo should also be mobilised to align their democratic choices with candidates whose policies hold bright prospects of higher yield of agro-produce with resultant increase in individual prosperity. If this process is successfully carried through all facets of Nigeria’s socio-economic polity, there will emerge from this political culture a people’s (proletarian) consensus to check the divisive tendencies of the existing elite tactics of divide and rule.
The competition of pragmatic economic ideas as the fundamentals of politics in Nigeria will birth the era of politics of ideology, with political parties coalescing around clearly-defined socio-economic ideological leanings. This process will throw up a democratic governance structure that is elected by a majority of people from plural backgrounds united by a set of socio-economic ideas, away from the existing majority of shared ethno-geographic and religious affiliation.
Under this broad pan-Nigerian framework, the various federating units at the sub-national level will transform from largely ethno-geographic and religious nationalities created with the sole political intention to partake in the sharing of Nigeria’s oil mineral resources (na- tional cake) into an all-inclusive hub of wealth creation brought about by the freed energy of all Nigerians with additional prospects of increasing the national cake. Nigerians who were born in a particular ethno-geographic enclave will freely find their bearings by following their natural economic callings in line with their passions, talents and endowments and find affinity with like-minded Nigerians in any of the numerous economic hubs. For example, a young Nigerian who was born in Onitsha and identifies as Igbo may not necessary have trading as his natural economic calling. He may be drawn to cattle breeding as an occupation. His citizenship allows him to move to Sokoto or any other cattle-breeding hub to successfully pursue his economic goal in life. Similarly, a young Nigerian who was born in Kano and identifies as Fulani may not necessarily be inclined towards cattle breeding. If garment and shoemaking is his/her natural calling, then his/her Nigerian citizenship should allow an economic space in the industrial town of Aba. The same applies to a Kanuri from Borno who decides to pursue a career in marine transportation in the creeks of the Niger Delta or an Ijaw whose calling is not a fisherman in the waters of the Niger Delta but as leatherwork entrepreneur in Sokoto.
If this process of systematic assimilation and integration of Nigerians from plural backgrounds into geo-economic zones becomes entrenched, the long-term implication is that the Nigerian federation would have undergone a process of organic re-structuring. The commercial cities of Aba and Onitsha will no longer be enclaves of Igbo traders but that of Nigerian entrepreneurs. Cattle breeding will no longer be Fulani but Nigerian, the mastery of the creeks of Niger Delta will no longer be an Ijaw exclusive but inclusive of all Nigerians and the tanneries of Kano will become a Nigerian cultural economic heritage.