The hot button in Nigeria today is to crow of secession. It does not matter if the jumped-up secessionist leader can in truth tell the boundaries of his dream nation. The really appalling aspect of the matter is that some of Nigeria’s so-called leading politicians have joined the bandwagon of preaching hate and violence in the promotion of ethnic and religious cleavages. It is remarkable for me that Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State as the incumbent chairman of the Governors’ Forum is espousing the bonding ideal against all odds from the diverse divisive domains.
The need for me to do this piece arose following the criticisms directed at Governor Fayemi after he felicitated with former Military President General Ibrahim Babangida on the recent celebration of his 80th birthday. The burden Governor Fayemi bears today as “the governor of governors” transcends the hotheadedness of quondam activism. Against the background of dangerous divisions across the country, Governor Fayemi cannot but accommodate all interests within a potentially combustible nation.
At this time that the nation is being fecklessly torn apart by mundane ethnic concerns, bigotry, hate and terrorism, politicians in the mold of Governor Fayemi owe it as a duty to take charge of the central unifying role of bringing all together through shared values.
There is no gainsaying that the bonds established by Nigerians across ethnic and religious borders in the intervening years from amalgamation to independence and the civil war have grown beyond the flimsiness of a whimsical breakup. The point is that the need for a restructuring of Nigeria must be undertaken by a focused leader, and not by fly-by-night ethnic warlords no matter how well-intentioned. Governor Fayemi can stand to be counted as a champion of dialogue who would not be found wanting in getting Nigerians to talk across ethnic and religious lines towards finding a workable future for the beleaguered country.
Nigeria can in no way be singled out as the only diverse nation in the world. India, for instance, had its share of diversities and even mutinies, but it still holds aloft the torch of democracy. Nigeria is now obviously saddled with a troubled democracy which some have even termed a dictatorship, but the future can better managed through leaders who can get together by ensuring that the country’s destiny is determined through conference and not by force of arms.
Past leaders of stature all over the world such as Pandit Nehru of India and Nelson Mandela of South Africa are ready examples for new Nigerian leaders to emulate. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore boldly made the mark of taking his then fledging nation from the Third to First world status. Dr Mahathir of Malaysia repeated the feat.
This shows that it is possible for Nigeria to defeat all debacles and shoot well ahead in the comity of nations, without bending the knee to defeatism, if the current parochialism and prebendalism are put aside. The problems of the country ought to be seen as challenges that can be mastered by a committed leader, and followers who believe in the cause.
It needs to be stressed that it is not necessarily the law that makes the people to survive but the spirit. It is the willingness of the people to bond together based on shared values that strengthens the commonwealth. This way, the people who have been made to believe can always douse the evil seeds of discord. The lesson of course is to readily subjugate self in favour of the general good. Governor Fayemi stands in good stead to get his brother governors to gravitate towards the common touch.
The railway track that travels all the way from Sokoto up North down to the South through Eha-Amufu, Umuahia and Port Harcourt must have over the years established so much binding mores amongst the diverse Nigerians. The migration of Nigerians to all nooks and crannies of the nation even before the amalgamation has built together uncountable Nigerians who call anywhere they reside in the country home.
There was the case of the man who left a Southeastern town just after the Second World War to settle in a village in the Southwest. When his people from the Southeast came to take him “home” to the East in his grand old age he refused to be relocated, stressing that moving him from the land where he was known as “Baba Ode” amounted to lifting the land!
Nigeria urgently needs men now. It’s all so cheap and cool believing that one could easily withdraw to one’s ethnic enclave. These matters are easier said than done. Once division starts, there is really no end to division. History cannot account for all the fatalities begotten from wars that ordinary dialogue could have stemmed in the first instance.
In the rousing words of Governor Fayemi, “Another Nigeria, a better Nigeria, a more united Nigeria that we can all stand up for and be proud of, is ahead of us. We all play a critical role for the ties we all have; we still have a long way to go, it is a journey not a destination. And in that journey, we will always find undulating lands, valleys, hills and potholes, but ultimately, what is important is to just continue on the journey. I know that God, in His infinite mercy will help us overcome these challenging times; we must continue to strengthen the ties that bind our country and these are ties that predated colonialism. In spite of the challenges, Nigeria will triumph.”
This is the way to go.