Benneth Onoh: The Indivisibility Of Nigeria Debate – ‘The Status Quo And Citizenry’
by Benneth Onoh
You may read the first part of this article, Benneth Onoh: It’s Time To Revisit The Indivisibility Of Nigeria Debate.
In a video broadcast to Nigerians prior to the 2015 presidential election, Barack Obama the first American president with African Heritage stated:
“Hello. Today, I want to speak directly to you—the people of Nigeria.
“Nigeria is a great nation and you can be proud of the progress you’ve made. Together, you won your independence, emerged from military rule, and strengthened democratic institutions. You’ve strived to overcome division and to turn Nigeria’s diversity into a source of strength. You’ve worked hard to improve the lives of your families and to build the largest economy in Africa.
“Now you have a historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeria’s progress—by voting in the upcoming elections. For elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful. All Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear.
“So I call on all leaders and candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections—and that they will not incite, support or engage in any kind of violence—before, during, or after the votes are counted. I call on all Nigerians to peacefully express your views and to reject the voices of those who call for violence. And when elections are free and fair, it is the responsibility of all citizens to help keep the peace, no matter who wins.
“Successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria meet the urgent challenges you face today. Boko Haram—a brutal terrorist group that kills innocent men, women and children—must be stopped. Hundreds of kidnapped children deserve to be returned to their families. Nigerians who have been forced to flee deserve to return to their homes. Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all that you have worked to build. By casting your ballot, you can help secure your nation’s progress.
“I’m told that there is a saying in your country: “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” Today, I urge all Nigerians—from all religions, all ethnic groups, and all regions—to come together and keep Nigeria one. And in this task of advancing the security, prosperity, and human rights of all Nigerians, you will continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”
Going through this video broadcast one is left with no option but to notice a plea to stop Boko Haram by voting for the candidate that is trusted to do that. According to Obama; Boko Haram is a brutal terrorist group that wants to destroy Nigeria. If Obama knew all these, one is left to wonder why even after Boko Haram had pledged allegiance to ISIS in Iraq, his administration had refused to enlist Boko Haram as a terrorist organization? The only credible answer to this question is that Obama and his administration had let themselves to be influenced if not outrightly bought over by the Nigerian Status Quo.
This even becomes clearer when Obama, in making the case for people to come and vote in a democratic election, likened the Boko Haram insurgency to the Biafran civil war by using the War Slogan of the Autocrats which he claimed to have been told by whom he did not mention, “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”. The same slogan that I have previously quoted in the first part of this article was used by the Autocrats to justify the atrocities going on during the Biafran civil war. Obama pretended not to know the implication of the Autocratic rhetoric with the strong wording” MUST” by going on to “URGE” all Nigerian citizen from all divides to come together and keep Nigeria one by voting the candidate that will stop Boko Haram, and by so doing they are in the task of advancing the security, prosperity and Human rights of all Nigerians with America as their partner.
It is on this note that I deem it necessary to enumerate to Obama and any other person that allowed him or herself to be told rather than cross check the records, the price of that Autocratic word “MUST” in that rhetoric:
-Over 2 million citizens brutally murdered by fellow compatriots, who claimed to be fostering national unity and love with the Barrel of the Gun.
-Children in their hundreds of thousands starved to skeleton and pot Belly, what was then called Kwashiorkor, one of the very first in the history of mankind, of which this writer was one of the lucky survivals, and this happened following a world blockade championed by the very people that sold Obama that rhetoric.
-Pregnant women brutally murdered and their unborn fetuses slashed out of their womb by fellow compatriots in the name of maintaining love and Unity.
-Thousands of civilians rounded up in their villages and other places and brutally executed by fellow compatriots who claimed to be doing that for the love of the country. According to the New York Times on 10th January, 1968 “Federal troops… killed, or stood by while mobs killed, more than 5000 Ibos in Warri, Sapele, Agbor…”
-Hospitals and market places intentionally targeted and bombed by the airstrikes of fellow compatriots in the name of keeping Nigeria one etc.
All these, if I may say, do not rhyme with advancing the security, prosperity and human rights of all Nigerian Citizens as wanted to be projected by Obama in that speech. To be a little diplomatic, this rhetoric has consciously or unconsciously nothing to look for in the mouth of the President of the United States of America, more so in the process of urging Nigerians to exercise their civic responsibilities by voting in a democratic election.
I assume then that Obama was not told by the Autocrats, who later tuned the Nigerian Status Quo, that Nigeria “COULD” have been kept one in earnest through the negotiation process accorded by the Aburi Accord which they were a party to, but had to recklessly discard without offering any other alternative, rather to resort to the Barrel of the Gun to enforce the “MUST”. Now drawing parallel from the Obama´s speech, the Autocrats/ the Status Quo, who sold him this rhetoric, were “URGED” through the Aburi Accord to keep Nigeria as a happily united nation, but they opted through subjugation, to make Nigeria a geographic enclave with recurrent conflict potentials.
Ever since then, violence and counter violence with loss of innocent lives of fellow citizens has continued to rain in the enclave of what we call Nigeria, as the only accepted means for settling disputes and misunderstanding. No one can classify that as an act of Oneness or Unity. Referring to these continuous conflicts in separate parts of the country in the form of militancy, insurgency and recently herdsmen attacks, not to talk of the state sponsored extra judicial killing, Pat Utomi was probably right when he recently saw all these as suggesting a country in a “state of rolling civil wars.”
The very fact that till date the same Autocrats /Status Quo that resorted to war, in discordance of a peaceful accord, still brandishes themselves as the best patriots who fought for the unity and love of this country with over 2 million fellow compatriots killed, humbles me to remind them that wars are fought among two warring factions literarily for every other reason but not for Unity and Love of each other. These definitely belong to the Negotiation Table. Statesmen never opt for the Barrels of the Gun as the first and only option.
Since the Autocrats emerged the Status Quo, they have blatantly, from the very start, removed negotiation as a means of fostering mutual co-existence, as they had always declared that the Indivisibility of Nigeria is nonnegotiable, naturally deeming themselves as the lord directors of reference in the negotiation. Whenever I hear this declaration, I used to ask between whom and who? The same Status Quo had been blindfolded to believe that they fought and won a war, called one Nigeria, and therefore should not entertain any discussion on the mutual co-existence of the country, since that in their views is militarily assured. In so doing, they have forgotten that what they call one Nigeria is made of over 170 million citizens of diverse cultural heritage, and that without the citizens there is definitely no Nigeria. Of course the Status Quo can choose not to discuss the peaceful co-existence of the country among themselves, but must they also deny the over 170 million citizens of Nigeria this discussion?
Joachim MacEbong of “Quartz News,” in his analyses of the Obama´s speech prior to the 2015 presidential election, optimistically crafted the outcome when he said “No matter what the tallies say after the elections, Nigeria must come out the winner“.
I wish I could share in this optimism, but the realities on the ground in Nigeria then and today, show over and over again that no matter what the tallies say, not only after the elections, but generally after whichever realignment of the system of Government in the country, the Status Quo always remains the winner.
This cycle is best described by the words of my mentor, the late Dr. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere when he said; “Nigeria has chronically chosen to be moving steadily back to the cave, when its counterparts and peers of 60s and 70s are busy finding their ways into the orbit or moon”.
Now that all is said and done, and the Status Quo has taken the stewardship of the country, I do not think anybody including Obama could anymore doubt what their integrity stands for, as Nigeria’s economy is no more Africa’s largest economy.
We have emerged from democracy to democratic dictatorship.
From the rule of law, to judges being our headache.
From guaranteeing human rights of the citizenry to wanton impunity, where there is even no more value for human life.
From great nation according to Obama, to criminals, and now, to ‘fantastically corrupt’ nation.
With all these, I hope we can still count on American partnership as promised by Obama prior to the elections.
Dr. Benneth Onoh writes from Germany. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.