This article is, to a great extent, inspired by the interview with the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, published in the January 23 edition of ‘Daily Sun’, p.32. In the interview, the clergyman made significant comments about the fast approaching elections and what they portend for the oneness of Nigeria. I recommend the interview to both Nigerians and non-Nigerians who wish this country well. Permit me to quote some excerpts that form the cornerstone of this article.
‘I feel very sad to see people re-echo 2015 elections in different views. We have based our assessment about Nigeria not on any critical analysis by our media but on what foreign organizations are predicting. It will be so worrisome for a married man to allow his neighbour dictate what is to happen in his family. Because there is no way your neighbour can love you more than yourself….God has not spoken to anybody about the future of Nigeria. Let us remember that today is the tomorrow you dreamt about yesterday…. If we want 2015 to be a disaster, it would start today. If we want it to be successful, it would also start from today…. There must be a Nigeria first before you can become the president,’ the Bishop said.
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In light of what Bishop Kukah said, what do we make of the politics being played by the PDP and APC, the dominant parties seeking for the keys to Aso Rock next month? What will become of Nigeria if either party loses the presidential elections even if in a transparent election?
The Americans have been roundly criticized for the 2007 prediction that Nigeria will cease to exist as a united country this year. Though U.S. government agencies have denied the prediction emanated from them, it really matters little. Quite a few foreign think-tanks and individuals think it is only a matter of time. There are Nigerians who share this view and actively promote it. So is it over for Nigeria? And if not, how do we salvage the situation?
First, everyone who still believes in the unity of Nigeria must decide that this country should remain as a voluntary, just and heterogeneous entity. A union of equals, no matter what our chequered history has thrown up.
Second, the politicians must realize that if their rhetoric and actions unleash a deluge, they will not be spared. Maybe they have salted away money in other countries, even sent their families out. But Karma is a deadly force and I doubt if they can live forever in exile. Ask Idi Amin of Uganda and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.
The APC and PDP should rein in their dogs of war. I have no faith in either of their presidential candidates and have expressed my views in the article ‘Why neither Jonathan nor Buhari may be the Messiah’ which is freely available on any search engine and in ‘PM’ and ‘BusinessDay’ newspapers. But the reality is that they dominate the political space. So both by word and deed they should spare Nigeria mayhem. They should strive to rise above the divisive forces that claim each candidate as its representative.
Also, the relevant institutions of the state that have anything to do with the elections should strive for even-handedness and probity. True, the attack dogs of the parties will snap once their interests are attacked but people of goodwill will always see when the right thing is done.
In this era of terrorism and insurgency, it is easy to conclude that Boko Haram can destroy Nigeria. But Boko Haram will only succeed if Nigerians settle on the insurgency as a religious and ethnic instrument by a section to lord it over the rest of Nigeria. True, many of our politicians are evil-minded enough to conceive monsters for power-juggling exercises but Boko Haram’s global links indicate something bigger. So let us focus on combating its challenge.
Then those candidates who want to lead Nigeria must give us concrete measures for restructuring Nigeria. For Jonathan, how is he going to implement the outcome of the National Conference? APC never supported the conference, so does restructuring, a mantra of South-western politics, feature on Buhari’s agenda? Why are the other presidential candidates so silent?
The earlier our security agencies cease harassing MASSOB and other peaceful groups with self-determination agenda in any part of Nigeria, the better. They are only lionizing them and giving them a significance they may not have even among their supposed primary constituencies. The factors that led to Isaac Boro’s declaration of a Niger Delta Republic in February 1966 and Ojukwu’s declaration of Biafra in 1967 still exist and the younger generation hard-hit by the contradictions of Nigeria are not stupid. Nigeria only drives them into the embrace of radicals and extremists through continued alienation in the form of lack of efforts to better their lot within Nigeria.
Let no Nigerian lift a hand against anyone if his or her candidate loses in a transparent election. If it will cost Jega and his men the last pint of their blood to give us a true election, so be it.
Finally, it is high time all Nigerians, no matter the god they worship, had minds of their own. Over-dependence on all shades of religious leaders who claim Nostradamus-like insights about Nigeria must cease. I agree God has the final say in all affairs of men, but nation-building is a human project. The Almighty has given us the freewill to decide whether to build or destroy. Let us resolve to build Nigeria.
Henry C. Onyema