• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
businessday logo


Nigeria still a Babel

Fifty-four years on, Nigerians are still discussing their situation. Some believe that the whole business of amalgamation between North and South, in the first place, was a disaster. They insist there’s no business staying together. This manifests in the quick resort to clannish tendencies at slightest opportunity.

The greatest trouble with Nigeria is the culture of hate among the citizens which has continued over the years. This followed the country right from the morning of Independence in 1960, when the national anthem, the country’s very hymn of deliverance from British colonial bondage, was crafted by a British woman who, according to the late Chinua Achebe’s ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’, unfortunately had not been properly briefed on the current awkwardness of the word, tribe.

At 54 “a Nigerian child seeking admission into a federal school, a student wishing to enter a college or university, a graduate seeking employment in the public service, a businessman tendering for a contract, a citizen applying for passport, filing a report with the police or seeking access to any of the hundred thousand avenues controlled by the state, will sooner or later fill out a form which requires him to confess his tribe (or less crudely, and more hypocritically, his state of origin,” Achebe further noted.

Before the inauguration of the recently concluded National Conference, the Presidency issued a warning to the delegates that the unity of the country was off-limit. There were fears at the highest level of government that such a discussion could result in disintegration of the country.

Citing instance with the recent opportunity granted the Scots to vote whether they wanted to remain with the United Kingdom of Great Britain or go independent; a policy analyst said Nigeria should explore such avenue to lay to rest the perennial agitation for self-determination.

“Since Nigeria has, lately, been inundated with agitations that border on self determi-nation and restructuring, shouldn’t we have a situation where all these agitations will be subjected to voting? Let us institute an arrangement that will make it possible for Nigerians to vote for One Nigeria or say oth-erwise. That will reduce the tension in the land. There is too much restiveness in the country today because of idle constitutional clauses that border on indissolubility and in-divisibility. The impression such clauses cre-ate is that Nigerians are prisoners. They do not have the right to decide what they want. Such an imposed state may endure under a repressive atmosphere such as we have in Nigeria. But it certainly cannot last forever. Nigeria can free itself from such reprehen-sible baggage by allowing free choices to determine the mode of our future existence. This is one lesson we must learn from Scot-land,” the pundit said.

 Audu Ogbeh, a former national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), recently expressed sadness that many Nigerian citizens still see the coming together of the North and South as a huge mistake.

“They call this situation a contraption, a forced marriage and one which must be annulled. There is a strong undercurrent of anger and hate, the South for the North and vice versa. Some Southerners see the North as lazy and unproductive, unintelligent and retrogressive, but wanting to control political power in perpetuity and oppressing everybody else. Some Northerners see the South as intellectually arrogant, insolent and claiming a copyright and monopoly of intelligence and know how in all things of life. These feelings have, until recently, been restricted to the three major ethnic groups,” Ogbeh said.

The politician further said: “As it is today, when disaster strikes in one part, some others find it amusing and greet it with cynicism. The abduction of the Chibok school girls is an example. Reactions ranged from open cynicism to mockery by those who feel and say, nobody was abducted or ‘it’s the Gambaris, let them suffer too.’”

Femi Okurounmu, chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Dialogue, said that at the start of the conference, it was mostly a clash of the South-West against the core north.

“While the South-West pushed forcefully for the realisation of all the elements of their agenda, they found themselves almost in every case pitched against the core North, enjoying only lukewarm support from the South-East and a near total indifference from the rest of the country, Okurounmu, who was also a delegate to the National Conference, said.

“The resistance to change from the core North is understandable and indeed expected. The status quo clearly places the North in a vantage position relative to all other sections of the country… The totality of the North’s position is that while they may accept some inconsequential amendments to the 1999 Constitution, they are doggedly opposed to the writing of a new one. Not even with the President’s green light, as expressed in his conference inauguration address that a new constitution could be recommended,” he recalled.

It has, indeed, been 54 years of culture of hate and intolerance of one another. It has been 54 years of each part of the country pulling on the entity called Nigeria with the aim of having the largest chunk of the big elephant, and no one is interested in building. It is 54 years of squander-mania by those in the corridors of power. It has been 54 years of corruption-ridden country where money meant for infrastructural development end up in private coffers. It is 54 years of epileptic power supply, decrepit roads, unstable education system, grinding poverty and saddening situations. But tomorrow is pregnant!

Zebulon Agomuo