Nigeria is on the edge again. This time, it is like a thriller. Even the blind can see the cliff on which the country hangs. In a nation that is churning out soothsayers, in their numbers, one needs no seers to remind us of how we have arrived at this precarious stage and what the consequences are. The reason is simple: There have been cumulative injustice; cumulative unrighteousness, gross inequity, mistrust and distrust, and we obviously have hit judgment time. Nigeria is troubled from all fronts; every direction looks uncertain and various entrenched interests are intent on driving nation through damnation path.
There have been cacophony of voices, and like the Tower of Babel, everybody is speaking at the same time and no one seems to be listening. Under this atmosphere of anomie, no one group is ready to advance reasons that are acceptable, as panacea to the nation’s problems. Mutual suspicion among various ethnic groups and religious organisations underscores every discourse. Most people, especially those from the Southern divide and the Middle Belt, are pushful in their call for restructuring (Prof. Jerry Gana even charged that if Nigeria disintegrates, Middle Belters would go independent).
Former President Ibrahim Babangida, in his 2017 Sallah message, advocated for restructuring and introduction of state police. His call reinvigorated his earlier calls for structural adjustments that would help the country move on. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and other prominent Nigerians are on the same page with Babangida. However, the core North does not want to hear about it. Through Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), it has insisted that the status quo, which had nourished an insatiable greed for control and nepotistic management of national resources, be retained.
Unfortunately but gradually, separation is overshadowing restructuring. In the same confusion, while some are making case for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report, others, especially from the North, argue against it saying that it was not representative and that the composition was lopsided in favour of the South. While some say, the unity of Nigeria is negotiable and if food we eat is subject for negotiations, others say it is sacrosanct. For most Nigerians, the country is clinically dead.
The position taken by some retired military generals, mostly from the Middle Belt, and other Christian elders under the aegis of National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), should make a sensible person to shiver and catch cold. They expressed sadness that Nigeria was drifting towards a needless conflict, which could culminate in another war, if not properly managed. This group, comprising of Elder Solomon Asemota, Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro (retd.), Gen. Zamani Lekwot (retd.), Elder Moses Ihonde, Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (retd.), Elder Shyngle Wigwe, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, called on Nigeria’s leaders to tread softly to avoid an implosion, which now looks too imminent to be ignored.
In a statement issued after the meeting, signed by its chairman, Elder Solomon Asemota (SAN), NCEF noted with concern the budding constitutional crisis in the country, and said the threat of another major ethnic conflict, occasioned by the Indigenous People of Biafra’s call for secession, and the response of Arewa northern youths for the eviction of the Igbo from the North; the agitations for fiscal federalism and resource control, among many other regional agitations, could set the country on the path of a war the nation cannot afford at present.
The group also observed that “conflicting signals, emanating from the Presidency and the Senate as well as the unrelenting attacks of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen have not helped the situation,” noting that the “Presidency appeared to be at war with itself and at conflict with the National Assembly.” It said: “It is preposterous that with the wide expanse of land available in the North, government is sponsoring grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen across the nation.”
The NCEF also reminded that “our founding fathers signed on in Nigeria, as a democratic country in order to guarantee justice, equality and fairness for all citizens. They did not sign on for a Sharia ideology that promotes discrimination, persecution, division and oppression on the basis of religious belief and sectional ethnic identity. This is not the dream of our founding fathers; neither is it our aspiration.
“Therefore, the NCEF is calling on all Nigerians, at home and abroad, to join in the call for the supremacy of the Nigerian Constitution. Every action of the present administration that violates the Constitution, particularly Section 10, Section 38 (1) and Section 14 (3), which specifically relates to the principle of federal character in appointments should be reversed and all cases of injustice, inequality and unfairness in government appointments should be redressed forthwith.”
The elders also urged Nigerians to sustain the clarion call for restructuring of the nation for true fiscal federalism, noting that the ongoing debate on restructuring was healthy and hoped that it would quickly resolve the choice between regions or states, as federating units. It was like these Middle Belt leaders were just waking up from sleep and now realised that their long time sheep-like mingling with core North has brought misery to their people. Unconditionally, according to Chief Chekwas Ojeozigbo Okorie, the people of Middle Belt deserve apology from these leaders. How do we avoid the impending implosion that will not know any boundary in consuming everyone?
Even the members of the National Assembly are also opposed to any form of restructuring for the simple reason that they are enjoying the faulty and corrupt foundation in which the country was laid. They forget that sovereignty lies with the people, and the people who sent them there are yoked and crying for solution, which they cannot provide. For the legislators, Nigeria is about that which affects them first. Every other thing can wait. This is so because they are also beneficiaries of the rotten system, which is daily begging for upgrade. But fact is, they cannot pretend for far too long, as the impending implosion will also consume them. Nigeria is dying slowly and there is no leadership for resuscitation. Therefore, unless we face these problems and give new life to the country, it will die. Make no mistakes about that.
For selfish interests, those who had taken advantage of the lopsided federation to loot our commonwealth and enrich themselves, oppose the restructuring of the country while not offering us explanations why the federation works for only a few. For instance, no one has been bold enough to explain to Nigerians the embarrassing disparity in admission requirements into unity schools in the country. No one explains why we bury merit and promote mediocrity. All that became president of Nigeria from the southern divide were on rent while power basement remains with hegemonic north. Administratively, this unavoidable corrupt loaded unitary system’s Fourth Republic must discontinue. Dog eat dog axis of evil.
Truth is, Nigeria is where it is now because our politicians have proved to be terribly short-sighted and criminally self-centred; they have remained selfish and nothing, which is in the long interest of Nigeria, appeals to them. For majority of them, their visions are locked in stealing from the public till. But it has to stop at a point. And that is why an implosion is imminent. However, any radical change that may reshape Nigeria will certainly not come from the National Assembly. Invariably, everybody admits that the country is very sick and dying, but no one is yet to agree with another on what to do to fix it.
Former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barack, once said: “We must strike a balance between North and South for peace to reign. Always remember that a complicated peace is better than a simple war.” Even the food we consume is subject for negotiation; the country must be renegotiated and restructured for lasting peace to reign. Otherwise, a referendum on Biafra is viable and stands as a visionary alternative.
• Nwosu wrote Isiala Mbano, Imo State via: [email protected]