At some point in our lives as Nigerians we must come to terms with the fact that Nigeria was designed by the British to fail. God played no role in Nigeria’s creation, men did, white men. Nigeria before 1960 via colonialism was a mere private estate owned by the King/Queen of England, her sole purpose was to supply raw materials and Agricultural produce to British industries. The tribes that made up Nigeria co-existed for centuries; they traded with each other but never envisaged coming together under one roof as a country. The ancient Oyo Empire had trade relations with Hausa states; the Benin Empire had trade and cultural relationships with most tribes south of the Niger. Before the ‘white man’ called us Nigerians, many tribes already knew each other and understood their diversity.
As fate would have it, colonialism ended, and in a bid to maintain access to raw materials, the British institutionalized this Neo-colonial Nigerian state, a union of strange bedfellows. As at independence, Nigeria had a well educated competitive South merged with a conservative feudal North. The only unifying factor about Nigeria was the mutual suspicion amongst various ethnicities, to the delight of former colonial masters – that was the plan from the outset.
|Nnamdi Kanu: Biafra agitator|
Several countries created by Colonial powers with similar complexities as Nigeria’s have since broken up. India and Pakistan were once administered as one country, there’s North/South Korea, most recently South-Sudan parted ways with Sudan, all in a bid to actualize self determination and resource control. Apart from mutual suspicion, the second unifying factor for Nigeria is Crude Oil, a commodity that has cursed both the land that produces it and the entire nation as a whole. It is pointless writing about how dependency on Crude Oil has stunted immense potentials of the Nigerian state, or how its pursuit has institutionalized corruption. We all know the story.
Today, a lot of things about Nigeria are fundamentally flawed; the exit of President Goodluck Jonathan and second coming of Muhammadu Buhari presented hope to many, a hope that sadly has started waning months into this new administration. Nigeria’s age-long challenges seem to be mutating into bigger problems, many can see it but the blind optimists can’t. Ethnic and religious tensions have not abated, Boko Haram is still a scourge on the land, there’s been a resurrection of Biafra agitations, and Nigeria’s economy is nose-diving at the speed of light.
It is time to push the reset button.
There is hardly any nation on earth that was created on a platter of Gold, peace and harmony; many great nations of today had very dark histories filled with sorrows, tears and blood. How did they overcome it? Through thorough soul-searching. There comes a time when a long-suffering country decides to tell itself the truth and ask her citizens, “Where are we headed?”
Nigeria needs to ask her people this same question. This present arrangement where we have a Northern region that seems aggressively hostile to modernity and an ambitious South jostling to outsmart the next ethnic group leads us to nowhere. Agitations for resource control and self determination can only be curtailed when the ‘national question’ is answered. Answers to our national question will not be obtained through conferences, we’ve had too much of those already; neither will a violent revolt lead us anywhere.
We must renegotiate Nigeria; if Nigeria must remain together as one country, where will our loyalties lie? Is Northern Nigeria prepared to see itself as an economic and industrial unit that needs NOT rely on Political power at the center to remain relevant? Will Southern Nigeria agree to remain steadfast in the pursuit of human advancement without sacrificing its potentials on the altar of seeking political power at the center? Can Nigeria get rid of its powerful and enticing centre replacing it with a moderate managerial system where the centre only enjoys military might but outsources economic power to federating units?
If nothing works can we propose a mutual separation (not divorce) of Nigeria with a predetermined reunification date? Perhaps certain regions can be allowed to take a ten to twenty year break from the Nigerian federation with the option of reunification if it so desires. East and West Germany did it. Germany collapsed after the Second World War in 1945. The country was divided into four zones, where each superpower controlled a zone namely France, Great Britain, United States and the Soviet Union. By 1946, French, British, and American zones merged to become West Germany while the Soviets held on to East Germany. West Germany prospered in capitalism while East Germany struggled economically with communism. About forty five years later, the Berlin wall fell; East Germany agreed to adopt the capitalist ideology of West Germany, Germany reunified and is today a world power.
Can we experiment with this in Nigeria? Maybe Southern Nigeria should come together and form a truly federal and secular federation while the North is allowed to tow a feudal, socialist and Islamist pattern.
Nigeria must find her soul, but not in Abuja. The soul of Nigeria is broken into many pieces residing in hearts and minds of over 250 ethnic nationalities. Each ethnic nationality needs to discover or accept that it possesses a piece of Nigeria’s soul; the government of the day must initiate and encourage this national soul searching exercise.
Implementing key recommendations from the 2014 CONFAB report might be a good start; the time to act is now.