Femi Fani-Kayode: Is Nigeria A Nation?
by Femi Fani-Kayode
If not for the courage and sheer gallantry of the men and women of the Nigerian Armed Forces Boko Haram would have taken over Bama and many other towns in north-eastern Nigeria by now and things would have been far worse.
We must not fail to commend and encourage our soldiers when they do a good job because they are the only thing that stand between us and the demon hordes.Frankly I am very proud of the way in which they gave Boko Haram the beating of their lives and threw them out of Bama in the last few days. I take this opportunity to salute them and to thank them for their service and this beautiful gift to the Nigerian people.Yet despite the admirable efforts of our military personnel the Haramite infidels and barbarians have taken over the town of Gwoza, killed the Emir and declared the place an Islamic state.They have seceded from Nigeria and they are beheading Christians and southerners and all moderate northern Muslims that do not share their views.
I wonder what would have happened if it had been a town in the south that had been taken over in this way by a group of terrorists and Christian fundamentalists.
I wonder what would have happened if they killed the local traditional ruler and then started to kill every northerner, every Muslim and every moderate Christian in that town that did not share their views.
I wonder what Nigeria would have done to them if it was a southern town that fought our soldiers, murdered our people, butchered our young boys, abducted and raped our little girls and declared secession from our country in this way and not a northern one.
I wonder how our northern brothers would have reacted to this and how they would have felt if any southern terrorist group had as its main objective the wiping out of Islam and all Muslims in Nigeria and the establishment of a Christian fundamentalist state in the whole of the south that is governed by Old Testament Cchristian canon law.
I wonder if our northern brothers would be as calm, as forgiving and as patient as we in the south have been about the atrocities of Boko Haram.
The last time that a part of this country attempted to secede we slaughtered over two million of our compatriots in order to keep Nigeria one. Yet, today Gwoza has been taken over by murderous secessionist forces and we act as if it is no big deal.
The truth is that this is a nation of double standards where southerners are subject to a different set of conventions, laws, rules and regulations when compared to northerners.
Northerners can get away with secession and establishing an Islamic fundamentalist state and new caliphate whilst southerners dare not try to do the same sort of thing.
This begs the question: is Nigeria really one country and are we really one people. And even if we say it is one country and we are one people, how much longer can this remain so given what is going on in the north today with Boko Haram?
Some northerners have said that if power does not return to the north next year they will smash up Nigeria and make the south pay dearly. They believe that they own Nigeria and that they were born to rule.
How are we as southerners supposed to react to this? Are we supposed to accept it sheepishly and just bow down and surrender? Does a southerner from the Niger Delta not have a right to serve two terms in office as President of Nigeria?
Are southerners and middle-belters not human beings? Are they nothing but slaves to the core Muslim north? Are the issues that Colonel Emeka Odumegwu- Ojukwu, the erstwhile leader of Biafra, raised after the pogroms and brutal massacre of Igbos that took place in the north in 1966 and just before the civil war in 1967 not still relevant today?
Were the recommendations and agreement that were agreed upon and entered into by both sides after protracted negotiations at Aburi in Ghana not pertinent and appropriate? Did we not make a monumental error by not standing on Aburi and allowing Nigeria to become a confederation?Is it not of paramount importance that we restructure this country and devolve power from the centre before we all kill ourselves? Is Nigeria not meant to be a secular state where each and every religion, nationality and tribe are regarded as being equal, regardless of their size, strength or number?
Should the minority ethnic nationalities not be protected from the excesses of the majority ones? If the basic principle of equality of all faiths and nationalities and the equitable principle of equal opportunities for all is violated must Nigeria remain one?
Should we tolerate the practice and institutionalisation of apartheid in our fatherland twenty four years after contributing so much in helping to bring it to an end in South Africa?
When a former Minister of the Federal Republic from the core north says that the killing of any Fulani person by the Nigerian Armed Forces, or indeed by anyone else, in their fight against Boko Haram “is a debt that will be repaid”, what are we to make of that?
When a leading Presidential candidate from the core north says that an attack on Boko Haram “is an attack on the whole of northern Nigeria” and that the Islamist terrorists “should not be killed” and “their homes should not be burnt”, how are we meant to feel?
When the northern spokesman of the leading opposition party says that Boko Haram ought not to be proscribed and that to proscribe them would be ”unconstitutional and unjust”, how are we supposed to react?
How are we meant to feel about the constant threats and provocative submissions of some of the core northern delegates at the recently concluded Constitutional Conference? Permit me to give two examples.
Firstly a vocal delegate from Yobe state, who was the National Secretary of the defunct CPC, who is a close associate of General Muhammadu Buhari and who is a leading member of the opposition said the following:
“Let me come back to the issue of derivation. All these big names, professors, they almost knelt down before us that we should maintain the status quo for the stability, security of the Nigerian nation. All these people shouting at plenary. These are the people we liberated from the south east. They should be told. Is it because they have transient power?”
Secondly a leading traditional ruler from Adamawa state, who was also a delegate at the conference, said that if the north did not get its way during the proceedings he and his people “would leave Nigeria and relocate to the Cameroons” where half of his kingdom was actually situated and where half of his people reside and come from.
One must ask whether these people know the implications of what they are saying? Are the rest of us meant to take all this lying low and do they really expect us to keep our mouths shut and not express our deep sense of outrage and utter disgust?
When the Northern Elders tell the President that he must withdraw the soldiers that are fighting Boko Haram from the North-East, cancel the State of Emergency that he declared in the three most affected northern states and that if he does not do all this and produce the girls that were abducted from Chibok at the soonest he should “forget his re-election bid in 2015”, what does that mean?
Do they not appreciate the fact that this is nothing but cheap blackmail? Do they not know that it reinforces the suspicion that Boko Haram is just a tool in the hands of the core north to ensure that the President is intimidated into throwing in the towel and to ensure that the country is brought to it’s knees unless and until power is returned to the core Muslim north?
Do the core northerners themselves understand that this can result in a terrible reaction from the rest of the country against them and that they may end up losing everything that they have gained and benefited from Nigeria in the last 54 years if they do not desist from indulging in that sort of reckless rhetoric or from treading that dangerous and unpredictable path?
How much longer do we have to put up with this sort of thing? For how long do we have to put up with these threats and this assumption that we are second class citizens in our own nation?
How much longer do we have to shy away from asking the same question that others asked many years ago, namely, is Nigerian really one country?
Are we a nation or a mere geographical expression? Has anything changed since Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Leader of the Yoruba, asked that question as far back as 1947 in his book titled “Paths To Nigerian Freedom”?
Is the principle of “self-determination” with it’s inherent quest for freedom and it’s ethos of “justice for all” a dirty word? Is it not a perfectly natural, legitimate, equitable and lawful aspiration which has the full backing of international law? Do people not have a right to determine what their future will be and whether that future will be spent as Nigerians or as non-Nigerians?
Surely, it is time for us to answer these difficult questions even though we keep brushing these matters under the carpet.
It is time for us to either answer the Nationality Question once and for all or begin to prepare for the break up of this great country into two, three or perhaps even more pieces.
It happened in India, Malaya, the Sudan, Indonesia, Abssynia, Austria-Hungary, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yemen, Gran-Colombia, Prussia, the Ottoman Empire, the Persian Empire, United Arab Republic and in many other countries and it is in the process of happening in the United Kingdom today with the upcoming referendum on independence in Scotland.
If that is the only thing that will bring peace, stability and lasting progress to our shores why should Nigeria be any different?
Femi Fani-Kayode is a lawyer and former minister of aviation. He is a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), he was once a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC). He writes from Lagos.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.