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The Contradictions That Undermine Nigeria’s Slippery Road To Unity

The Oasis Reporters

June 21, 2019

A Map of Nigeria

The road to Nigeria’s unity since independence on October 1 of 1960 has remained slippery or rather tortuous till date.
But first, please permit me to take us back to that date when the old National anthem composed by a resident British lady in Nigeria, Lillian Jean Williams was adopted. The lyrics of that anthem goes thus:

Nigeria, we hail thee
Our own dear native land
Though tribe and tongue
May differ in brotherhood we stand
Nigerians all are proud to serve
Our own dear fatherland
Our flag shall be a symbol
Of truth and justice reign
In peace or battle honour’d
And this we count as gain
To hand unto our children
A banner without stain
Oh God of all creation
Grant this our noble quest
Help us to build a nation
Where no man is oppressed
And so with peace and plenty
Nigeria may be blessed.

In the early 70s, if you could not recite the lyrics of the National Anthem, you were most likely not to make it to Secondary School from Primary School. We were thus compelled to learn it by heart and it was our pride reciting it. That the old anthem was composed by a foreigner did not remove anything from it as it captured most succinctly the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians well beyond in my humble view, what is now played as Nigeria’s National Anthem described by the late Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo as ” Disco” . The third and fourth lines of the anthem captured the truth about the newly independent nation. Tribes and tongues did differ yet Nigerians stood in brotherhood. The second stanza spoke about our flag ” Green, white green ‘ was meant to depict our rich agricultural lands and also symbolized truth and justice. There was also the honest desire to hand on to our children a banner without stain. The third stanza was a request to Almighty God to help us build a nation where no man is oppressed. The one but last line was about PEACE and PLENTY which would have conflated to make Nigeria blessed.

The anthem in its totality was about a bright and promising future for this country sadly most of the values it spoke about were observed in the breach. Even before the British colonizers departed the shores of Nigeria, the Regional governments were essentially concerned with their regions as against building and strengthening the unity of the newly independent Nigeria. Little wonder then that 6 years down the line, the nation was thrown into a crisis starting in 1966 and subsequently snowballing into the 1967 Civil War which almost tore the country apart.

Essentially, those who worked to ensure we became independent simply vanished into their regional or ethnic cocoons instead of continuing to grow the unity of this nation which the national anthem so clearly preached.
Nigeria that the departing colonial masters believed fervently had the potential for greatness if managed and led well was to witness regionalism which hampered the efforts at growing the country.

Not long after gaining independence, military adventurists stepped in after sacking the Tafawa Balewa Central as well as the Regional governments. The military did hold some hope of stitching the nation together again but translating words into action became rather difficult. The Gen Yakubu Gowan administration created a 12 States structure from the abolished regions and from there the nation has been further broken down to 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory which rather than enhancing national unity appears to be driving us farther apart.

The greatest weakness in the mentality that carved out most of the States, remains that the concerns of many ethnic minority areas were not factored in and they ended up feeling continually marginalized by the majority and this has continued to fuel the demand for the creation of more States. Another monster which the military failed to tame was the religious excesses and fundamentalism which is still constituting an albatross to the nation.

Further down the line, a patronage system developed and is still effectively exerting an asphyxiating stranglehold on the nation to the extent that the system in a general sense is no longer treating us as equals. All you need these days is to be the son or daughter of some powerful traditional ruler, governor, General or some other influential personage to saunter through the eye of the needle without any encumbrances. This system has all but made a complete mockery of merit, fairness and equity. Under these difficult situations and or circumstance how would unity be enhanced?

Many years since independence, Nigeria’s unity is very much a mirage. Nigeria has wobbled her way through the years without someone to provide the requisite leadership that should have lifted us to that high point which should have have made Nigeria the envy of other nations. At a point, Nigeria was euphemistically referred to as the ”Giant of Africa”. That was then but not any more as the leaderships has all but squandered almost all the opportunities the nation has had. The nation therefore has only itself to blame for allowing her internal contradictions to undermine her unity. The two most important enemies of Nigeria remain Religion and Ethnicity. After these comes Insecurity and Corruption. Our ears and sensibilities have been bombarded by a ”War on Corruption” being waged over the years but the speed of execution has been so slow as to render same, almost ineffectual.

Besides many see the fight against corruption as the pursuit of a vendetta against political opponents. My personal viewpoint is that the fight against corruption is not holistic enough since there are many characters milling around both the president and the corridors of power being accused of monumental corruption.
If I dare ask, when will these be investigated and or prosecuted.or could they also be beneficiaries of the dubious immunity clause?

Unity in Nigeria at best is a mirage as the values of justice, equity, peace and fairness have all taken flight. Many parts of the country are crying of marginalization while others particularly the oil bearing areas are complaining about not getting a fair share of the revenues derived from crude oil exploited in their backyards.
Compounding the situation is the level of insecurity in almost the entire nation. Before Boko Haram showed up in the northeast, there was the militancy mainly in the crude oil producing areas which was characterized by the blowing up of oil pipelines, other oil related facilities and the kidnapping for ransom of mainly foreign oil workers. Dangerous arms found their way into wrong hands thus diluting the security situation in the affected areas. With a steady supply of arms into wrong hands, dubious politicians began eliciting the support of such criminal elements either for their personal security or to help them win elections.

The Boko Haram insurgency has been by far the worst security challenge this nation has faced. From the beginning, Boko Haram was confined to only the areas around Lake Chad, but because past governments were so lethargic in confronting the menace, the insurgency grew and extended to other parts of the country.
Credit must be given to the PMB government for pushing the insurgents back to where they started though there can be no alternative other than completely defeating them. This is still a long way off but it can be done and here, I am wishing our men and women under arms the very best.

Without a doubt, the worst thing to have happened to undermine security in this nation was the collapse of the Libyan government which saw huge quantities of arms move southwards of the Sahara desert. Their destination obviously the Sahel region and eventually to the West African belt. In the absence of effective border controls the illegal arms have found their ways in numbers into wrong hands. Some of the Fulani herders having accessed these arms have taken to cattle rustling, kidnapping and armed robbery. Farming activities particularly in the North have become a nightmare as many farmers are being kidnapped for ransom. Food security can therefore not be guaranteed. There is so much tension and apprehension in the air that normal activities in many parts of the North have been disrupted.. Against this backdrop, when will peace and security the key prerequisites for national unity be returning to our shores?

Written by Col. Gora Dauda (rtd)

He writes from Kaduna, north west Nigeria.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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