Lately, the clamour for independence from Nigeria by the Arewas, the Igbos, and the Yorubas has been resounding. The diverse requests testify more to incompetence of political elites than to the efficacy of balkanization itself as a lasting solution to the disunity endemic both across and within the so-called homogenous groups.
Cutting off a head just because it aches is no solution! Can an Oduduwa Republic reduce competition among the Ijebus, the Ekitis, the Egbas, the Owus, the Ondos, the Oyos, the Modakekes and the Ile Ifes? Would social exclusion of the ohus and osus among the Igbos not make a Biafra Republic an international pariah? And would the Hausa-Fulanis be finally rid of minority challenges in an Arewa Republic? Indeed, balkanization is a centrifugal force that would whittle down Nigeria until there were nothing left! Otherwise, Southwest Nigeria should have experienced neither Operation Wet E nor Koloba Koloba of the 1960s.
THE FORCES THAT BIND
Across and within Nigerian ethnic groups, there are progressive and recessive forces. Strengthening the first and completely emasculating the second should be a unifying goal. In addition to a highly competent Northern teacher of Geography, several of my brilliant colleagues at school and at work are Northerners and Easterners. Numerous Northern and Eastern mentors treat me no less than a sister. I cannot imagine any of us lopping off the head of another!
As Nigerians, we need each other. Each region has been blessed with resources to complement those of the others. We should be working together to make the whole great instead of belittling and castigating one another.
For all of us, how can we rage against White policemen killing George Floyd when Fulani herdsmen lop off the heads of Southerners with impunity? And how can Southerners complain about Northerners killing Southerners when some Southerners use human body parts for money-making and power-grabbing rituals?
NO OSTRICHES MUST WE BE
We must never gloss over national failings including some Fulani herdsmen wrecking havoc in the South, pillaging rural areas, raping rural women; nonsensical attitudes of certain Northern agitators who regard Southerners as their God-given slaves; the anachronism that the Al Majiri system in the North represents; the refusal of some in the North to embrace merit over patronage; unwillingness of the Buhari administration to diversify its cabinet and to employ his Deputy gracefully.
Let our emotions be tempered with facts and vice-versa. Northern educational achievements still lag behind Southern ones. Yet, affirmative action without merit would drive all of us to the brink of disaster, as former Emir Sanusi of Kano recognizes. North and South need to embrace the excellence that should unite us all. We must find common solutions.
Many Northern problems echo in the South: for instance, the plagues of cults, of Area Boys and Omo Onile in the South parallel those of the Northern Al Majiri system. Aside from kidnapping not being an atrocity committed by Fulanis alone, the problem dates back to administrations before Buhari. We must tackle it together.
Nigeria’s problems are with impunity of the powerful; with the taciturn preferences of a citizenry that shies away from civic responsibilities; with fear of the governed to test their mettle against those governing them to ensure probity.
Our founders recognized that a confederacy is the solution to the diverse centrifugal forces besetting the country. The 1956 discovery of oil at Oloibiri whetted appetite to seek satisfaction at the centre rather than from the individual regions. Yet , in addition to being despotic, ruling from the centre has proven unwieldy. So, back to the basics: we are peoples that think about prosperity in terms of those immediately close to us—our families, our clans, our states, our regions and then the entire country. Given this competitive aspect of our national character, a strong confederacy is what Nigeria needs; not weak states with a despotic centre.
Let us with courage insist on a confederal United Republic of Nigeria rather than a balkanization that would only breed unending subdivisions. Long live Nigeria!
Lola Fabowale Male, B. Admin. (Trent University); M.M.S. (Carleton University), Canada.