Unity is the state of being one. It is not the absence of diversity, it’s the presence of harmony and agreement within the diversity. When Christians say they worship one God, people of other faiths find it contradictory with their claim that there are three persons in one God. They hold this belief, not because these personalities, God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit, the Trinity, do not have different personalities, they hold the belief, because, though they have different personalities, they are in perfect agreement in whatever they wish to do. They are united in their plan and action, essentially making them one. It was on this premise that God said, “let us make man in our image and after our likeness …”. This was in anticipation that though human beings are created with different personalities, they are expected to be united in plans and actions in order to have peace on earth. Our old national anthem succinctly captured this when it stated, “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. Brotherhood means oneness in diversity.
Nigeria has everything it takes to become a superpower nation. Abundant liquid and solid minerals. Surplus human and material resources. Fertile soil and abundance of land for agriculture. Clement climate to work all year round. The only thing that is lacking is unity. Unity is so important in the existence of men that even God acknowledges that nothing will be impossible for men to achieve once they are of one mind. “And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do”. (Genesis 11:6). You can imagine how much Nigeria will accomplish if they are united. Indeed nothing shall be impossible for them. It then implies that all our security and economic challenges arose from our disunity.
The first obstacle towards unity is lawlessness. The unwillingness of a people to obey the laws of their land. When God created man, He built inherent sense of unity in him until he disobeyed God and that spirit was replaced with a quarrelsome and cantankerous spirit that finds it difficult to relate with fellow men peacefully, prompting Cain, the first son of creation, to kill Abel, his brother. Majority of Nigerians have become experts in undermining the laws of the land for selfish purposes. This group of people are called idiots by the ancient Greek. To be civilized simply means to voluntarily obey the laws of one’s country. This is why most civilized countries are always united and disciplined. This is also why they are more prosperous because in unity there is strength. Uncivilised countries, on the other hand, are reckless and this disobedience to their laws is largely responsible for their poverty and backwardness, which eventually result in wars and failed states.
There’s no area in which this disunity is prevalent as it is in the area of the security of our country. We could not even agree on what we should call the thieves, bandits, kidnappers, rapists and terrorists. A renowned Cleric, Sheikh Gumi, advised or instructed that the thieves should not be called bandits. The Sheikh failed to give us an alternative name for them. I recall one incident of robbery against a family. In the process of the robbery, the robber commanded everyone to lie down and not raise his head. The innocent child amongst them, whose elder sibling was in the habit of spanking him for correction, wanted to use the opportunity to revenge on his elder brother. He went to the robber and reported to him that his elder brother raised his head so he can be spanked. When he reached the robber, he said “Uncle Thief, Emeka raised his head up”. That singular act jolted the robber, who was surprised and ashamed that an innocent little boy knows that he is a thief. He eventually repented from stealing after that day. Yes, there’s a proverb in our place that if you call a Witch by her name, she will stop attacking you. The dictionary defines bandit as a robber or outlaw belonging to a gang and typically operating in an isolated or lawless area. However, if the Sheikh loves the bandits so much that he does not want us to call them bandits, then let him adopt them as his children and permit us to call them the Gumis, because there is no other name that we were taught to call them in school or in the Bible or Qu’aran.
Some call them Fulani Herdsmen as if these vices do not exist in their traditional ethnic societies before the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria. Every tribe, religion has a name for these vices in their local indigenous language, indicating that the crimes are of universal application and not peculiar to any ethnic group or religion. It may be the Fulani today but tomorrow it may be another tribe just as it was another tribe yesterday. The most important thing is that if we are united, we can overcome the security challenges.
The attack on Governor Ortom of Benue State has provided a blue print for our victory. Whoever targeted Ortom, had in mind to target the unity of this country and bring permanent damage in the relationship between the Tivs and the Fulanis. This relationship has been unease from the pre-colonial era when it was alleged that the Tivs halted the move of the Fulanis towards extending Islam to the Atlantic Ocean. Because of his principled stand on open grazing, which some uninformed people believe is anti Fulani, since it curtails the freedom of the nomads to feed their cattle in the farms of others, any assassination of his person, God forbid, would have been termed an act by the Fulani to get rid of him thereby leading to unimaginable civil unrest. This is always how uncivilised and disunited people reason and this is why a country populated with such people is always vulnerable to the manipulation of malevolent third parties who are waiting in the wings to cause anarchy in our country. We may be in for some surprises when investigation is complete. However, as a country that God loves, all things work together for our good. The immediate statesmanly intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari has laid down an important formula for future national unity in the face of insecurity. President Buhari is Fulani, Muslim and APC, Ortom is Tiv, Christian and PDP, yet President Buhari pleaded that this issue should not be politicised and declared “an attack on one is an attack on all”. This is how a united country should think.
Yes, an attack on any Nigerian, irrespective of religious, ethnic or party affiliation, is an attack on all Nigerians, because it is a matter of time that such conduct metastasizes and spread to everyone. An attack on Ortom is both literally and figuratively an attack on all. Literally, because, as a Governor, he has in his security entourage, Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba, Christian, Muslim etc and bullets do not discriminate when tearing through the ranks. It could have taken anybody, irrespective of tribe or religion. Figuratively, because, the assassination of any Nigerian by bandits diminishes all of us for what goes round comes round. This rapprochement from the President immediately dounced tensions and restored the shattered equilibrium of the nation. It was not surprising that Ortom felt obliged to visit the President to say thank you for the fatherly disposition towards him. He came out also pleading with Nigerians not to politicize the incident. At least, in this regard, the Tivs and Fulanis spoke with one voice and one language. If we continue like this in this country we shall overcome. When foreign terrorists attacked America in their soil, they became one and fought ensuring that it never happened again in America.
Recently the Defence Minister advised Nigerians not to be scared of the bandits but to confront them. He came under attacks from some quarters, who criticised him, as advising people to take laws into their hands. The truth is that what he said is constitutional, even if he didn’t put it in a diplomatic and legal way. Section 24(e) states “it shall be the duty of every citizen to render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order”. It does not require sophisticated weapons for the people to overcome, it requires unity of purpose by all citizens. In Igboland, once injustice increases, the storm will strike. In the seventies and eighties when robbery became too much in Onitsha, the people arose in unity in operation boys oyee! and wiped out the robbers. The remnants fled. In the recent past, when bandits became rampart in Igboland, the people arose through the Bakassi boys and wiped them out. Everyone remembers the Otokoto riots in Owerri when ritualists, occultists and robbers increased and the people, in unity, wiped them out. There is no limit to what a united, determined people can do because united we stand, divided we fall.
The greatest facilitator of unity in a country is equity, fairness and justice. Our Constitution has given us a road map. Section 14 (3) provides that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs, shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”. Section 14(4) added that the Government of the State and Local council should conduct their affairs in such a manner as to recognise the diversity of the people and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation. The framers of the constitution were magnanimous to state the benefits of equitable sharing of public service offices and infrastructures among the federating units. They said the practice will promote national unity, command national loyalty, give sense of belonging and ensure that no section, state, ethnic or religious group dominates the others. The first on the list is national unity. One Nigeria is worth sacrificing anything for in the interest of the black race all over the world. One nation, one destiny.