Where are the answers?


? Nigeria, my beloved country, working together is our aim ?
I remember listening to and singing this song as a child, especially on children’s day (May 27). Are those match parades still held? Good times!
   I am fully aware of the complexities surrounding Nigeria, from our politics to the economy and I know that the problems will not just disappear neither will one solution suffice. I am not for any political party be it PDP, ACN, ANPP or the labour unions. This is for Nigerians like me – citizens who are tired of hearing or reading about the same old things. My aim is to get us to think about the place we call home.
   Why is it that after nearly 52 years, Nigeria has not developed to the point of having things done in a real democratic way? Can we blame the Northerners who want to live under Islamic rule? Can we blame the Easterners who want to be able to enjoy the benefits of living in an oil-rich region? Can we blame the Westerners who want more support for their agricultural practices? Can we blame Nigerians who want to be able to practice their religions freely without the fear of being attacked?
   I have lately been absorbed (overly!!!) in learning about the history of Nigeria. I was quite appalled at how little I knew of the history of my country. Thank God for Youtube! Maybe I should have been more inquisitive and should have done my research a while ago but I do think that our history should have been taught to me while I was in secondary school. It should have been included in our learning curriculums just like Maths, English and Science. I did take social studies classes from JSS1 – JSS3 but all I can remember is being taught things about how Flora Shaw named Nigeria, how the Nigerian flag came about as well as the fact that Nigeria used to be a British Colony (how distant/impersonal does ‘Amalgamation’ sound to a 10 year old child?). How Nigeria in itself came to be? I do not remember being told. I do not remember having any class discussions on if there should even be a Nigeria. The students who actually took history classes in the senior classes SS1 – SS3 probably know more about these details but I strongly believe that this particular aspect of our history should have been taught to everybody. The flaws in our educational system is talk for another day.
   Nigeria has had 14 leaders in 52 years, 6 successful coup d’état in which 2 of the leaders were killed (if we pretend to believe the official version of Abacha’s death – that he died of a heart attack). Up till now, there has not been a single peaceful process of election. The only widely acclaimed and relatively fair election that I have heard of had its results annulled. Lives are regularly wasted as different people jostle to be able to have a bite of the ‘national cake’. I have always queried events from a perspective in which I see Nigeria as one country with people that should see themselves as one. Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups but I did not realise the extent and depth of the divisions that exist between the different tribes. I mean, I have always wondered why most things in Nigeria or should I even say Africa have to be linked to where individuals come from. For example, I have never seen David Cameron talk to Ed Miliband based on where they were born. I believe this is because they both believe in England as one. However, when it comes to British politics, we hear things like ‘the Scottish way, the Welsh way e.t.c. Could the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish divisions be compared to Nigerian tribal divisions? (I acknowledge that these lots work together way better than Nigeria does but I do hope you get my point). What would it be like if Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland all become merged into one country? Bear it in mind that some in Scotland even want out of the U.K. When it comes to Nigerian politics, the tribal influence strongly comes into play. This influenced the post-independence political groups (NCNC for the Easterners, AG for the Westerners and NPC for the Northerners). Even with the present legislation barring ethnic discrimination in political parties, the support given to different political aspirants based on where they come from is always obvious. So here’s my question: Do we feel Nigerian or do we actually only feel tribal (Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa etc) and just go along with the Nigerian general tag?
 The summary of all that I read and watched during my quest is that in the 20th century, Nigeria was ‘assembled’ by the British in their bid to secure their economic interests and make their rule of the colony easier. Assembling Nigeria resulted in bringing together people of different tribes with widely varying traditions, cultures and tongues. Throughout the British rule and up until independence, they did nothing to unify the people in the country that they made. Read a funny comment once that I will just paraphrase “God who used River Benue and River Niger to divide the land knew what he was doing before Lord Lugard decided to go against it by bringing together tuwo, ogbono and ewedu expecting a good meal” Well most people now know that Sir Frederick Lugard was not even bothered about the meal being edible not to talk of it tasting good. The bloodshed that followed the independence was distressing to read about. I am not talking of the ordinary citizens of Nigeria alone here (millions of lives have been lost). I am talking about the resulting deaths of the so called leaders. Coups and assassinations became the norm:
 Tafawa Balewa (1st Nigerian post-independence leader as Prime minister) was killed in a coup. The President Nnamdi Azikiwe’s government (central and regional) was overthrown and Aguiyi-Ironsi (not part of the coup) became the military head of state but was then killed following a coup and Gen. Yakubu Gowon was chosen to replace him. Gen. Murtala Mohammed became leader after Gowon after a coup before he was himself assassinated. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was also chosen to replace Murtala. Nigeria returned to democratic rule after about 13 years of military rule and then Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected to be president. Maj. Gen. Muhammad Buhari overthrew Shagari before Buhari himself was deposed in a coup by Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He handed over to Ernest Shonekan as interim president but then Gen. Sani Abacha seized power from him. Maj. Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar became Head of State after Abacha died/got killed (who knows?) Most of us are familiar with the rest: Obasanjo became the leader of Nigeria again but this time as a democratically elected president followed by Umaru Yar’Adua (till his death) and then Dr Goodluck Jonathan till present.
 To prevent divorce after marriage, people are usually advised to ‘look before you leap and make sure you are compatible’. When incompatible people end up being married to each other, they can either decide to divorce, stick with it and make each other miserable or stick with it and work on the relationship in order to improve it. Are there couples who are 100% compatible? I believe the answer is NO. Do all Yorubas agree with each other? Are all Igbos, Hausas or even the minority ethnic groups united within them? No. Sir Frederick Lugard brought out his pen and carved out a part of West Africa not minding the complexities of the deeply rooted divisions and he made it one. Nigeria has never really been one in the true sense of it. How can the sense of true national unity be fostered in us? Either practical ways are developed to encourage the unity of the country or the country should be broken. Tribally unbiased politicians in Nigeria are rare if ever they exist.  It is possible to have two siblings peacefully share a room in their parents’ house. Sibling rivalry in some are stronger than others and if this would affect their relationship negatively and there was a spare room in the house, would it not be better to separate them? Then each can respect the other’s space. It does not mean they cannot go into each other’s rooms but there would be increased consideration for the owners of the rooms.
As humans, we can always find solutions to whatever problems we focus our energy on. Nigerians were not consulted before Nigeria came to be. Now that Nigeria exists, what can be done to keep it going peacefully? I think it is time to stop playing the victim to the happenings of the colonial era. Can there be a time when cabals would not be the ones ruling Nigeria behind the scenes? Would there ever be a time when a particular tribe will not feel left out of how things are run in Nigeria? On a personal level, what effect would breaking up the country have on the citizens? (People like me who were born into one Nigeria). Would my Igbo and Hausa friends suddenly be tagged as foreigners when they come to Ife? My dad speaks the Hausa language fluently as he was born in the North and he feels very much at home there. What would people like him feel about their identity? No divorce is easy. If Nigeria would be broken, how would it be done and what would happen to the things already identified as Nigerian? Who would get what? Would the Cabals benefitting from this inconvenient marriage kick against any such division with all their might? Would there be another war like the war against Biafra?
 I personally think that working on keeping Nigeria together will be a lot easier than having to break it apart. Our orientation as a people has an important role to play but we also need to have policies that support the people in place. Sadly, our leaders appear to be incapable of setting these. I believe that setting up regional governments that would govern the States and work under a central leadership would work better for Nigeria compared to the current federal system (well on paper anyway, we all know how removal of oil subsidy worked really well on paper for Nigeria). But if this is done, how would we not end up with the same group of people running the regions? The Tinubus and Obasanjos in the west, the Abubakars and Babangidas in the North etc. All I know is that in majority of the ‘developed countries’, if not all, the prime minister or president does not control everything – American states have their different laws, Police and Banks in the UK are not under the sole control of the Prime minister. No system is perfect but there are ones that work better than others.
How long till the citizens decide that they have had enough and demand for freedom from the stranglehold in Nigeria? Would it be better for different regions to govern their own issues with legal policies that respect their cultures and traditions as a people? Would separating Nigeria end the conflicts within a tribe? Would it end the conflicts between different tribes? Can any of the ethnic groups survive alone? Can the North and West buy oil from the East? Can the East and West buy cattle from the North? Can the North and East buy agricultural produce from the West? Should each region benefit from the federal purse based on what they contribute to it? Should Nigeria cease to exist? Can there be a united Nigeria with little or no corruption?
What do you think?
Oluwapemi Elujoba

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In the beginning...Let there be Light

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