Ethinc hostilities have been brewing steadily in Nigeria, and on the 6th of June, they erupted. The youth wing of Arewa Consultative Forum declared Igbos persona-non-grata in Northern Nigeria. This followed recent calls for secession from pro-Biafra groups led by Nnamdi Kanu. Do these agitations suggest Nigeria is better split apart?
Nigeria is a country plagued by inter-ethnic tension. Its towering ethnic polygamy has bestowed the country with as much diversity in culture and human resources as the tension and distrust that threatens this marriage. Ethnicism was birthed with the country and has grown with it. It orchestrated the first bloody military coup in 1966 and a year after, it manifested into a dreadful Civil War which succeeded the birth of Biafra which died two and half years after, along with over two million people, properties, and a deeper subdued ethnic tension, one which will continue to hum dissatisfaction and begin proper speech 50 years after.
For some time now, there has been an upsurge of pro-Biafran agitations propagated by movements such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Biafran Revolutionary Organization (BRO), Eastern Peoples’ Congress (EPC) and so on. In the midst of these agitations, a voice stands out: that of Nnamdi Kanu, a British-Nigerian son of an Igbo chief who was arrested on October 14, 2015 on treason charges, and thereafter, implicitly assumed the position of demigod in Igboland.
Prominent among his feats since assumption of this celestial height is his successful stay-at-home solidarity call on 30th of May 2017, 50 years after the defunct Republic of Biafra was declared. That action shutdown all commercial activities in Igboland. He also declared a boycott of the forthcoming Anambra gubernatorial polls and all subsequent elections in Eastern Nigeria. Although the latter has been trailed by barrages of criticism especially from political circles, it nevertheless indicates the extent pro-Biafra agitation is ready to go.
Northwards from Igboland, hostilities had been brewing steadily, and on the 6th of June, they erupted. The youth wing of Arewa Consultative Forum declared that, “it since seized to be comfortable or safe to continue sharing the same country with ungrateful, uncultured Igbos who have exhibited reckless disrespect for the other federating units and stained the integrity of the entire nation with their insatiable criminal obsessions” and on October 1st, shall commence “visible actions to prove to the whole world that we are no longer part of any federal union that should do with the Igbos.”
This declaration is quite unfortunate. First, it creates the erroneous impression that Northerners alone are accountable for Nigeria and are thus, responsible for cleansing it off bad eggs. By this, it put them in the same ditch, or even worse than that of the Igbos since a derailing brother stands to be corrected and not to be trashed. But worst of it all is that it concretized and made more eminent, Igbo secession and consequently, Nigeria’s disintegration, what one would hitherto dismiss as youthful exuberance or a mere metaphor for tribal solidarity as some prefer to call it.
On the drawing board of these happenings, the big picture painted is the fragility of the country—how eminent disintegration is if nothing is done. A lot others see it as such and thus the enormity of calls for unity, togetherness and more recently, restructuring to reaffirm equity and fairness. The discourse has continued and this article is one of such.
The question of our unity can only be in doubt to one who is dead to national progressiveness and buried deep in the grave of tribal sentiments. Like the United States of America, our sufficiency lies in our diversity. Nigeria needs the industrious Igbo, the sociable Yoruba, the dogged Hausa-Fulani and the agro-inclined Tiv. So does she need the various minority ethnic groups with their variegated competences. The strengths and weaknesses of our diversity, we must swallow them all. We are all parts of one complete system. Remove one part and you would install deficiency.
Also, if we cannot tolerate ourselves at the level of a nation, we deceive ourselves if we think we can tolerate ourselves as ethnic groups and regions. The same sentiments of distrust that arouse us against our Nigerian kin will manifest themselves even at those smaller units. We need to tame the problem from its roots by opening up our minds to accommodate others in tolerance, and lawful and lovely assertion of our grievances when the need arises. Secession is cutting an unwanted tree from its trunk; it will certainly blossom again.
When I observe secessionist agitations, I often do that with a bump in my throat. This bump develops from my wonder of just how unreasonable and selfish the agitation leaders are. Nigerians have lived together for well over 56 years. These years have not accounted for ethnic distrust alone. Outside our tribal territories, we have intermingled, made friends, established businesses, married; and are steadily and peacefully cruising on with life. For what ultimate benefit do they want to cut off these congenial and conjugal ties all in the name of secession?
I know an Igbo who a residence in Makurdi is named after. I know also of a Hausa family that has blended unblemished into Tivland such that unless told, you will not discern their identity. How beneficial is secession compared to the level of destruction of peace and stability meted on these people if this country disintegrates? I would rather exhort that we abandon our thoughts of secession, embrace all these people—not just ourselves and our comfortable settlements at home and abroad. If the agitation leaders claim they are thinking for their people, they obviously have a lot more thinking to do.
At the base of this national issue is a clash of interests, a clash between the sane and the insane, those who opine that Nigeria should remain one and those who stand for secession respectively. At the pinnacle of this issue lies, I fear, another bloody clash. Thus, in the best interest of the nation, the insane should use this as an antidote-of-sort and ingest similar ones, presently rampant on the national landscape, including the very regions from which the agitations are coming. With hindsight into the Civil War of 1967 – 1970, the present economic challenge, the mutual suspicion and distrust, the psychological, physical, and social traumas and other devastating effects the climax of this issue can result to, it is better to sheath our swords, embrace one another and use dialogue in confronting our grievances while remaining resolute to maintain one Nigeria.
So, are we are better united that divided? I say yes.