If the recent political tensions in Nigeria are anything to go by, they clearly show the heterogeneity of the infamous political marriage amongst different Nigerian ethnic groups, forcefully moulded together as an entity by the colonial master, Britain for its selfish reasons. With more than 300 ethnic groups, speaking more the 500 languages, the obvious cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic differences of the groups, the union, called Nigeria seemed more or less, a stillbirth from its birth.
The result of this incompatible alliance has led to ethnic consciousness, tribalism, nepotism, political (dis)advantages, which has consequently resulted in socio-economic and political (dis)advantage of some groups at the expense of others. Instead of prosperity, the Britain’s formal decolonisation of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963 brought about economic, ethnic, religious and cultural tensions, which consequently led to the first military coup (1966) in Nigeria, followed by a terrible civil war (1967 – 1970) that took millions of innocent lives.
The war which ended in 1970 with “No Victor, no vanquish” declaration would have ushered in a new era of harmony, socio- political and economic assimilation and growth, ethnic and religious tolerance, prosperity etc., but alas, clearly, Nigeria never learned from the blunt side of the civil war. Nor did it pay attention to the cause of it. The marginalisation of certain ethnic groups still persists. Political power monopoly is the order of the day. Ethnic consciousness has not been dusted in the bin of history. Thirst for strategic control of oil production in the Southern region of the Niger Delta and developmental negligence, coupled with economic distributional inequality have indeed given some sections of Nigeria, the reason to question the rationale behind what they consider a disadvantaged union. This perceived unfairness has given rise to agitation for the reconstruction of the entity called Nigeria, while some have expressed their intention for secession – the very element the led to the bloody civil war. Will Nigeria learn from the history? Hardly not.
The decision of the people of the South East to declare in the south, 30th of May, 2017 a sit-at-home action in remembrance of the Igbos that died during the war, did not go well with some Northern elements, who see the action as an attempt to whip up the civil war sentiment. As a reaction to the sit-at-home action of the Southeast, the Northern region of Nigeria gave all Ibos living in the north a three-month ultimatum to leave all Northern regions of Nigeria. The Northern group followed the ultimatum with an announcement that all the Ibo -owned properties and investments in the north ( Ibos have invested heavily in the North) will be confiscated by the Northerners after 1st of October 2017 – the expiration date of the ultimatum. Does this bear a trademark of the genesis of the Nigerian civil war? Not entirely wrong to say yes. In the face of the recent dicey debacle, many questions have come to mind.
Many have wondered why the government of Nigeria has not done enough to address the concerns of the groups, who feel marginalized in the political marriage, rather than allow the situation to escalate to perhaps another civil war. Presently, the 15th January of every year is set aside as the Armed Forces Remembrance Day; would the expansion of this National Remembrance Day to include the remembrance of all men and women who died in the war, including the Nigerian civil war, please some sections of Nigeria, who feel neglected?
Others question where the so-called “Northern Borders“ are. Would Abuja fall under the “North” having in mind that it was massively built from the oil money from the South? Yet other group of people questions both the moral and constitutional rights of the North to not only demand that other Nigerians should leave the northern region, but equally intimate their intention to take over Ibos’ properties and investments in the north.
Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly guarantees unlimited access, freedom, and rights without any hindrance or molestation to all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic, religious group, to live wherever they wish in Nigeria. By giving the Ibos the ultimatum to leave the north, are we committing a serious unconstitutional act here?
Yet others see some hidden attempt by the North to hang on to power through the ultimatum. With President Muhammadu Buhari seriously sick and away in the UK for treatments, some have argued that the northerners do not want to take any political chances. The Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who is now the acting President in President Buhari’s absence, is a Christian from the South; constitutionally, if anything happens to President Buhari (May God forbid!), Professor Osinbajo will automatically and constitutionally become the President until another election takes place. Incidentally, all the only three former Presidents/head of the state from the South, who ruled Nigeria, did so by accident. General Obasanjo became the Military Head of State after his superior, General Murtala Mohammed from the North, was assassinated in a military coup. Former interim President Ernest Shonekan, a southerner was appointed by President Babangida, a Northerner after unbearable pressure was mounted on him to resign. Dr. Shonekan who ruled for only three months was overthrown by General Abacha from the North. Former Southern Vice President Goodluck Jonathan took over as President after the death of his boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (North) who died in the office. With this in mind, coupled with the coup rumour last month, some strongly believe that the northerners are looking for an avenue to create political crises or make the government ungovernable for the Southern vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo. This group believes that in the midst of the political unrest and escalation, the military, which is largely made of the northerners would effectively step in and take over the government for a while, pending on an election, which many believe would be manipulated to keep power in the North.
Whichever camp one belongs or whatever the story one chooses to believe, the undeniable facts remain that Nigerian is entangled in the irrational web of ethnicity and religious jingoism, which has seriously impeded development and created distrust amongst fellow Nigerians.
Regardless, the big question at present is: Is the union called Nigeria coming to an end or can it still be saved?