Treating individuals, groups and nationalities with the same level of concern and compassion, and handle issues objectively irrespective of who is involved concerns the government, but it also concerns the governed. What is happening in the North East is not up to 5% of what happened in Biafra, which was an all-out brutal war, supported by the ‘civilized world’ against a people who were pushed to the wall. Even since then Nigerian soldiers have been engaged in all forms of internal peace-keeping operations. Then nobody talked of a marshal plan or rules of engagement.. Today, these are key issues because different people are involved. Some people are even suggesting special, constitutional allocation for the North East. When a self-serving emergency was declared in the Plateau, clothed with all forms of illegalities, people clapped for the Federal Government. When the Niger Delta was burning, the Arewa Consultative Forum urged the government to live up to its responsibilities and urged the soldiers to fire on. Now there is a partial emergency in the North East. The same people are raising alarm, castigating the government and the peace keepers. The same ACF now warns that increased military deployment is naïve and is not a superior option to the slower and more tedious option of dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation. What is good for the geese is also good for the ‘gizzard’. We are all aware how Local Governments and constituencies are distributed across the country. We also saw the cut-off marks for Federal Government Colleges in 2013 which was 139 for Anambra, 133 for Lagos and less than 10 for Sokoto, Yobe, Taraba, Kebbi and Zamfara
Another important step is to understand our past, make amends where possible and resolve that the future would no longer be a continuation of the unpalatable present which is an unfortunate reincarnation of the past. An attempt was made in this direction through the Oputa Panel, which was unfortunately ambushed and sabotaged. An aspect of our past that requires revisitation and restitution is the Igbo/Biafran affair. It is a self-evident truth that Nigeria and Nigerians treated Ndigbo and Biafrans very wickedly and unfairly. That issue must be addressed for Nigeria to move forward. This involves admitting what was done wrong, and apologising (because government is a continuum). The issue of compensation will also come up-even if it is a token. The Dutch has apologised and paid compensations to Indonesia for what happened during the war of independence; UK has admitted its inhuman treatment of Mau-Mau fighters in Kenya and offered compensation.
Ifforeign colonial powers could admit their wrong doing, apologise and pay compensations, why wouldn’t Nigeria do so for what it did to its brothers?. Even Bangladesh has set up war-times tribunals for its civil war of 1970s. But Nigeria is still living in denial and has never accepted that anything went wrong! It is true that history is always written by victors. That is why failed coup plotters are executed while successful ones go on to become ‘Presidents’, billionaires and statesmen! But winning the war is not the same thing as winning the peace or ensuring reconciliation. The Biafran affair is ‘the original sin’ that has been left un-acknowledged and un repaired and continues to haunt the country. And that is why anytime Biafra is mentioned, people become hypersensitive. We all see how the film version of Half A Yellow Sun is being tossed up and down in Nigeria even though it has been released abroad ( a wasted effort given the internet open space). Whether the Nigerian government borrows the apology authored by Femi Aribisala or pays N1 as compensation, the issue is that it must do something. The ostrich mentality (Okey Ndibe, 11/6/14) will not do. Beyond Biafra, there were also other peoples that were unfairly treated like Odi, Zakibiam.
Beyond the soft matters of personal values, treating individuals, groups and nationalities fairly, acknowledging our past wrongs and making reparations where possible, there are hard issues that must be addressed, if we are to continue to remain as a nation.One of them is the form of government. Nigeria has been described as a multinational nation. Experience over the years and across the globe teaches that a union of diverse peoples can only move forward when these diversities are recognized in the way government is structured and run. Centralization does not work because it leads to separatist and sub-nationalist agitations. Our constitution, however imperfect it is and whether it was written by ‘we the people’ or solely by Professor A.Yadudu and his personal secretary, sees Nigeria as a federation and federations are basically decentralized political arrangements. However, the exclusive list in the USA is less than 20 but in Nigeria it is almost
70! Certainly, something is wrong. We should stay apart a little bit and take a breath of fresh air rather than staying together to be suffocated. People will also organize their affairs in the ways that create value for them so that while Kano sponsors mass weddings, Bayelsa can grant amnesty to cultists, Fashola can decorate the environment for big men and drive poor okada riders into the nearby ocean while Yerima goes back to Zamfara to cut off more hands in the name of Sharia [islamising by law] or team up with BH to islamise by force. Amechi can continue to build model schools simultaneously with buying private jets; the ombatse prayer group in Nassarawa can continue to take their blood oaths and use force if that is what they want while MASSOB will continue to sing its songs and distribute its flags.
We also need to have strong institutions, not strong men running the institutions. If the law enforcement and judicial institutions are in good shape, most of the problems plaguing the nation will fizzle away. Iniquity, inequity, unparalleled corruption, poor governance( in all its ramifications), ‘oga’s boy syndrome’, do or die politics and unfair distribution of our commonwealth among the constituent units are all caused by weak and compromised institutions. If the law enforcement and judicial systems are functional, anybody who designs and approves roguish pension for himself will be called to other; any public servant who turns government into a family business will be in jail before the transaction matures while anybody whose greed or other personal tendencies are against the public good will learn the lessons the hard way. To support strong institutions, we also need observant, agile, committed and engaged populace. Without that, the elite
will always take the society for granted. Why they do not do so in the US is because the people will shout and the institutions will act! Docility and apathy do not go hand in hand with democracy, justice and dispersed development
All is not right with Nigeria. Nigeria has been built on fraud and deception: the merger was not based on the interest of the constituents; the reason for the amalgamation was not made open and some parts were given undue advantage over others; the creation of states, local governments and constituencies have been fraught with inequity which particularly castrated the Ndigbo, and eventually the southern parts of the country.. Some people are not benefitting equitably from the Nigerian enterprise and a unity that benefits some and suffocates others in a brazen manner cannot work. Those who hold that Nigerian unity is non-negotiable are definitely not facing socio-political reality. Even father-mother-brother-sister units discuss and negotiate their terms of togetherness! There must be a change of mindset and nobody is more patriotic, more Nigerian, than the other. We have be rooting for EFA( Education for All) we must root for another EFA(Equity for all)!
So, which way Nigeria? Break up like Sudan, break down like Somalia or move forward in peace based on justice, acknowledging the right of different people to some degrees of autonomy over their affairs so that rather than being suffocated together, we give breathing space to ourselves? The choice is ours. Dividing Nigeria is not a full proof solution but in the absence of equity and fairness, it may become the only option.
As for those who feel that there is no problem because they are having the best of the bad Nigerian situation, those who exploit the status quo to satisfy their greed and opulence and are not willing to work towards a better Nigeria here is a warning and advice for them ‘ how terrible it will be for you that have such an easy life in Zion and for you that feel safe in Samaria you great men of this great nation (Nigeria)..you refuse to admit that a day of disaster is coming but what you do brings the disaster closer. How terrible it will be for those who are ensconced so snugly and feel so safely in the land; lying on ivory beds and sprawling on their divans and dining on the lambs from the flock and stall-fattened veal, bawling at the sound of the harp. You drink wines by the bowlful and use the finest oil for anointing themselves. Woe to you; you will be the first to be exiled and your feasts and banquets will come to an end! (Amos, 6,1-7)-Concluded..