We were taught we were one country, that we were one people and that we were one nation under one God. We were taught about strength in unity and why we must under all circumstances stay as one people. We grew up knowing there was joy in being one big country. We boasted of our numerical strength and proudly declared our country as ‘the giant of Africa’. We are abundantly blessed with resources. But just look at our sorry state.
For some years now, we have been under attack, and instead of uniting as one people to fend off the enemy, We are busy fighting one another, killing one another and destroying one another. Our case is made worse, because we are unfortunate to have 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 our people, he speaks loudly but carries a twig. But when it comes to our minor indiscretion, he wields the big stick and bays for blood. It’s a fantasy for him to expect that his foreign cousins cum bandits would stop banditry or change their behaviour without our imposing significant costs for their actions.
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 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’
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, ‘why are we focused on what divides us more than what unites us? Where is the unity and faith upon which the foundation of our country was founded? Why are we at war with each other at a time we should be one?’ Any nation where the component members are constantly on each-others throat can hardly stand, however strong her army might be. 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, which I don’t want to see, though all the signs of a failed state are very obvious for even the blind to see. But most certainly Nigeria’s internal contradictions will not allow the current system to endure for too long. 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. We need to pause, pull back from the brink and build back our nation.
Though we privately agree on our common problems, yet building a consensus around major issues has remained a mirage because the things we admit privately are the things we publicly deny.
I call on the president to quit shifting his responsibilities and take charge. He needs to initiate an all-inclusive dialogue. Instead of fighting and killing one another, we need dialogue to build consensus on such issues as equal citizenship, restructuring, true federalism and rotational presidency. Take the issue of equal citizenship: Since after the civil war which was fought to bring back the breakaway Eastern Region back to the fold of ‘One Nigeria’, the Igbo have 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 cities and built 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 honest living. They ask for nothing but to be respected as equal citizens. This is not too much to ask from ones country.
If you have ever been to any of the cities in 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 in the South East were ones theatres of war about fifty-four years ago. The entire South East with a population of nearly 65 million people is not up to the size of Niger or Kogi State in land mass, yet the people are happy. It has been expressed in many quarters that there can be no Nigeria without the Igbo. They account for nearly 60 per cent of taxes collected in major cities and contribute to sizable portion of the national GDP. Because of the sweat and blood the Igbo has contributed in the development of Nigeria, you will think that those that run the system will be kind, nice and polite to them, but the opposite is true. Instead of being nice, or respect them as equal citizens, they are instead oppressed and made to accept that they are second class citizens. They had endured all that was thrown at them until now.
The president, who told the nation that he is for everyone, suddenly realized the Igbo gave him seven per cent vote and must be punished as a result. He thus began a systemic purge of the Igbo from the Nigeria project. Many objective minds saw the danger and frowned at the systemic profiling and vigorously spoke against it. Responsible people insisted that the ill-informed marginalization of over 65 million people is a recipe for anarchy and will not augur well for the wellbeing of the country. But the more the people cry, the more the noose is tightened around their neck.
The questions are: ‘What’s the moral in keeping the Igbo in Nigeria if we cannot respect them as equal citizenship? 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 sooner or later so that the country will make progress. It’s unfortunate for the president to profile all Igbo as IPOB. Such extreme prejudice is beneath the office of the president. It’s wrong of him to refuse to address the core issues fuelling separatist agitation in the South East, but instead scornfully referred to over 65 million citizens as a dot in the circle. What he forgot is that without the dot, the circle will be blank. As a father of the nation, he forgot he owes a duty to all sections of the country including the ‘inanimate’ dot that he sees in the circle. This government will not endure if we continue to neglect issues we should address or remain divided when we need to come together and pose a united front against our common adversaries; Our enemies are not the Igbo but the terrorists, the bandits, the insurrectionists, the militia herdsmen and all the outlaws tearing down our nation. God has blessed and given us all that we need to be a great nation and will not forgive us if we allow this beautiful country to be destroyed.