I sense it would be healthier to pen this rejoinder on a pressing national discourse like Nigeria’s unity. Permit me to say that, there are epoch in the verve of a nation when it faces a chasm, a circumstance of such weighty peril that its awful existence as a feasible entity is at ante. At such times the shared wakefulness of the sum total polity is forced to clutch that a superlative crack is requisite. Nigeria is in one of such times.
This rejoinder is in spirit of unflustered scrutiny with no desire to blame any finicky grouping but only to prop up national wellbeing. If there has been any failure, it has been a collective failure and we must all pull together to redeem it. It is further premised on a candid credence that there is sufficient covert good will to ensure that the political class, and indeed all Nigerians, voluntarily agree that there is no alternative but to accept some sacrifice of its current unlimited one-sided power, to restructure Nigeria in the interests of the nation as a whole.
Chido Onumah, your piece reinforced some feelings that popped-up shortly after the 2015 general elections. I had posited that elections may have come and gone but it left behind a grave necessitate for genuine national reconciliation and the need to build bridges across the various divides. To be blunt, although many political pundits may wave this aside, the voting pattern revealed one bitter truth that: Nigeria is deeply polarized along ethnic and religious line – it massages a lethal mix of politics and religion. In fact, the claim that Nigeria is united is not only political but frivolous and deceitful. Simply put it: the narrative of Nigeria’s unity is plagued with incongruities that leave one severely staggered.
When the debate on restructuring resurfaced, I expected President Muhammed Buhari like his predecessors to brandish that “Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable” – a phrase that has become analogous to our politicians but how do we corroborate this with the increasing complaints of marginalization, agitations and feelings of alienation that has enveloped the whole nation?
President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on the debate as captured in his Eid el-Fitr message compounded the whole discourse. It is a sad reality to still lay claims that we have a “clear constitution’ whereas what we have in veracity is an atavistically outdated document that has created more confusion and disconnect for the Nigerian people.
Therefore, one has to grabble with the difficult and uncomfortable question, what is it in particular about Nigeria and life in Nigeria that is so unappealing that a tiny but potent section of Nigerians find it a more attractive proposition to agitate for Biafra or even resort to an arm struggle in Niger Delta than build a life for themselves in the so-called civilized, democratic giant of Africa? This can only be fuelled by the trio of marginalization, injustice and dissatisfaction.
Sadly, successive Nigerian governments and the Nigerian people must bear a large share of the responsibility for this national disgrace. The core of our problem lies in the fact that there is no strong sense of national unity, identity and civic pride in Nigeria. For now, Nigeria remains a mere artificial construct and a geographical expression and for the natives, a real life of stateliness remains a dream.
Thus, the major quandary of Nigeria is systemic not personal; it is a nation that – any politician who achieves power under this system will behave in exactly the same way, as we have seen in our recent history, and would not produce any different result.
There is no point ascribing blame for this huge failure as it is shared by all. We can see that this is the culmination of a historical process of over 50 years of methodical attrition of the structures of inclusivity and national cohesion. All the political parties, and the military when it ruled, have contributed to this plain sailing slide and, as with all downhill slides, the worsening momentum has increased as time has gone on. As a result we are now on the very brink, about to go over the edge. It is on this I agree with you that “restructuring Nigeria has become a categorical imperative for the country. It is either we restructure or perish”. The calamity is that this ominous catastrophe is such a disparity to the brilliant outlook that could be ours.
Nigeria has to anticipate future situations and invent solutions in a pro-active comportment while taking an integrated restructuring of the whole system for national prosperity.
The concern here stems not only in re-negotiating Nigeria’s unity but solving the problem of domination which has often undermined national dialogue and foisted lopsided and biased outcomes. Not only is the workings of government totally maneuvered by a section of the country but even the ordinary administration of the country is also hampered by unwarranted interference and particularism.
We truly need a platform that would provide a round-table within which the energies of the nation as a whole could be merged into a united exertion to purge the distortions of recent times and to take a positive approach to the revitalisation of the economy and the structures of good governance.
This period of political rethinking must be used to create a platform, a shared base, on which to build a great future for the Nigerian nation. And the prospects are truly glittering. Given a decent system of good governance the people of Nigeria could achieve miracles of development and mutual prosperity. All observers are united in sensing the enormous potential that lie waiting to be unleashed in this country.
It is to be hoped that the shared astuteness of the Nigeria people will respond to the need for a clean loom to hoard Nigeria from what may otherwise demonstrate to be an irremediable twirl into debacle.
If our unity continues to remain non-negotiable, we may someday have to negotiate our disunity!
Amanam Hillary Umo-Udofia is an active citizen and can be reached on [email protected]