It seems the prediction of a former United States Ambassador to Mr. John Campbell that Nigeria was going to break may not be a misplaced one. We have come a long way for us to be divided along ethnic lines with some people regarded as northerners, southerners, indigenes, settlers and so on.
I wonder how long we are going to continue this disunity. Many lives are lost as a result of our inability to become united as one people, yet we still have an ethnic and tribalistic outlook. It is often said that together we stand, divided we fall. Nigeria is no doubt dancing on the brink with the North-South divide as evident in the voting pattern during the presidential elections.
The issue of zoning or rotation of power is not only happening at the federal level but also at the state levels with governorship positions also zoned among the different tribes in a state. Nigeria leaders seem to see this as the best way to ensure cohesion and integration among the diversities of ethnic groups in the nation as well as the fall out of the elections.
Many countries on the continent look up to us as the giant of Africa that we claim to be but we have failed to be a good example for these nations to follow. We have not been able to integrate the various ethnic groups and regions of the country, the reason why the objective of uniting Nigerians have not been achieved neither has difference in ideologies, tribalism, political rivalry, disagreement, conflicts and political intolerance been addressed so that we can focus on nation building.
Past and presented administrations have not been able to foster unity among over 150 million Nigerians that come from over 250 different cultures and ethnic groups. Many government laws, regulations, policies, programs, structure does not help to change the outlook of Nigerians but have further caused division among them.
Many have said we should abolish state of origin and give every Nigerian the right to live and own a land in any state of their choice.
That may be a part of the solution. But there is a need for governments to carefully consider our diversity, differing origins and opinions as well as beliefs and interests all of which are fast becoming an obstacle to our unity. Political parties and politicians who are instrumental in ensuring that Nigerians become united needs to cooperate in the interest of the nation.
And now that the unity of our country demand urgent attention, leaders of government need to rise up to occasion and be alive to their responsibility of achieving national unity because tribalism, ethnicity, sectionalism, partisanship, religiosity, federal character, zoning etcetera are inflicting pains on the people. The fall-out of the presidential elections should teach us that our continued disunity is capable of breaking the country unless we address the stereotype about one tribe or the other.
We need to have a sovereign national conference as proposed by some nationalist where all Nigerians will decide on what basis they will continue to co-exist.
Politicians can no longer run away from this. Many Nigerians no matter their religion, ethnic group or tribe will be glad to have a forum where the future of the country will be discussed. This will offer all aggrieved and marginalized Nigerians the opportunity to vent their anger and express their grievances with a view to finding a lasting solution to the division among Nigeria.
Before now, there have been different calls by concerned citizens for true federalism and national unity. But insufficient attention has been paid by leaders of government to the major responsibility of achieving national unity through cohesion and integration. Government signed an amnesty agreement with militants in the Niger Delta but there is no amnesty for the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram in the north. Boko Haram opposes PDP government, they believe the northern region of the country has been economically marginalized and this is the reason why some northern youths protested the loss of General Buhari at the last presidential elections. On the other hand, MEND believe the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen from them. This ethnic outlook also made them vow to defend the mandate of President Jonathan because he is regarded as their own. It is not enough to condemn attacks/violence by aggrieved Nigerians or blame it on a particular group but it is important that Nigerian leaders make sure that Nigeria work even though it is the believe of some people that Nigeria will never work.
While President Jonathan should be commended for the delisting of Nigeria from the terrorist list, the activities of Boko Haram which have become a group of terrorists in Nigeria need to be checked. It is high time leaders of government took seriously the assertion that terrorist now have a base in Nigeria. The United State may have looked the other way in order to safeguard the supply of oil from Nigeria but Nigeria may split if nothing drastic is done.
The division between the North and South as well as within the different ethnic groups of country has always been there but the fall out of the presidential elections further exposed the extent of this division so that Nigerian politicians can take proactive steps towards saving this country from breaking up. Violence in the north affects economic growth, likewise MENDS protest which have cut oil output because of the sabotage of oil facilities in the Niger Delta. The spate of bomb attacks have increased since Dr. Jonathan was sworn-in as the substantive president.
We need to bring to an end the constant waste of lives and properties. It was reported that more than 500 deaths were recorded as a result of the post-presidential election violence besides over 75,000 persons were displaced with many properties burnt.
In the interim, governments must provide good governance and develop the northern part of the country in order to address the immediate grievances of the youths and Islamic sect who have vowed to make Nigeria ungovernable. We have allowed these agitations to continue without addressing them.
The deployment of military personnel and the use of force every time there is violence or attack by protesters in Nigeria has not helped to solve the cultural and ethnic crises that has been with us since independence.
All the reports of the seven judicial commission of inquiry that were set-up to find out the immediate and remote cause of the Jos crises have not proffered a lasting solution to the over 17 years of maiming and killing in the once peaceful Plateau State. The escalation of violence in Jos over the past five years is a testament to the fact that our leaders have failed to ensure the protection of lives and properties of the citizens. The spate of bomb attacks also shows that governments need to take decisive actions towards ending ethnic, religious and political violence in Nigeria.
The number of lives lost during these crises and the attempt to always downplay this number every time there is an unfortunate incidence of violence by government speaks volume about our leaders concern in protecting the lives of the citizens.
Nigerian political parties and politicians need to work towards ensuring the unity of our country so that the prediction of some people that “Nigeria will break or divide along its cultural/ethnic boundaries” will not come to fruition.