9th February, 2012
“If Nigeria must disintegrate, then in the name of God, let the operation be short and painless. It is better that we disintegrate in peace and not in pieces.” the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, fondly known as “Zik of Africa”, Nigeria’s first indigenous President and Commander-in-Chief, was reported to have made this momentous, landmark assertion in the thick of mounting socio-economic and political upheavals plaguing the nation’s landscape way back in December 1964.
It would be recalled that TIME Magazine, in its edition dated Friday, August 12, 1966, with nostalgia had quoted the late Owelle of Onitsha’s earlier forewarning when, Azikiwe in January of the same year, was overthrown in a bloody military putsch that rocked the nation to its very foundation, precariously pushed the nation on the edge of the precipice, and eventually terminated the First Republic.
Ever since then, it is becoming more conspicuous vis-à-vis the daily realities in the nation’s system in recent times, that Nigeria, once derisively described by a foreign mass medium of information as a country “traditionally torn by regional rivalries”, has continued to experience one violent uprising after another. The nation, once more, seems terrifyingly near disintegration. It is quite incontrovertible to state that activities of various socio-political and ethnic nationalities, in words and deeds, predominantly fuel the pervading aura of imminent breakup.
While it is apparent that the country has been contending with all manner of ethnic uprisings from across the length and breadth of Nigeria, as sometimes reflected in the unsettling activities of groups such as the Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC) in the Southwest; Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in the Southsouth; Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the Southeast; and Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and several other ethnic-oriented organisations, yet, the latest unmitigated attacks being unleashed on the country by the Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalist sect in Northern Nigeria nonetheless, have exacerbated the already dicey situation and pervading eerie peace being enjoyed by Nigerians.
In his personal assessment of the distressing socio-economic and political developments in the country, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in a recent presentation in Lagos, titled: “The Quest For Justice, Tolerance And Non-Violent Change”, submitted that “despite the fact that there is no formal breakup of the country, the nation was already disintegrating due to the refusal of the government to embrace national dialogue.”
As regards the increasing, outright propagation of ethnic consciousness as against national consciousness being exuded by scores of Nigerians these days, which Soyinka tacitly coded as “Monologues” in the said presentation, the ethnic nationalities’ tendency to get their fair share of the proverbial “National Cake” baked via crude oil earnings in billions of dollars at all costs has been attributed to several factors. Such reasons include widespread corruption in governance, maladministration, outright injustice, festering poverty, unhealthy ethnic rivalries, and collapsed societal value system to mention a few.
However, the largely upsetting approaches being employed by these ethnic agitators to attract the attention of the Government so as to address cases of alleged injustices are fast becoming demoralising, and worsening the already tensed atmosphere across the land. In the newest violent assaults by Boko Haram sect members on thousands of innocent people, resulting in untimely deaths of several people as well as private property, businesses, churches, mosques, Government security institutions, including military and para-military outfits and apparatuses worth several millions of Naira have been bombed. Sources of livelihood of many homes have been equally displaced or completely destroyed in these crises.
Sadly, amid the growing social tensions and continual dislocations instigated by the Islamic sect’s shattering bombings, thousands of surviving non-indigenes resident in the North are feeling compelled to take flight and return home in the South en masse. Apparently concerned about further loss of precious lives of their affected kinsmen hitherto residing up North, the MASSOB leadership’s recent arrangement to dispatch 20 luxury buses to each of the 19 Northern states and Abuja respectively, to convey the Igbo back to the South East clearly speaks volumes of the enormity of the scary security situation in the region as of now.
Even for fear of any reprisal attacks on them in the South, scores of Northerners are said to be leaving for the North for “safety” as it were. To exacerbate the social apprehension in the country at the moment, most prospective members who the NYSC Directorate Headquarters, in Abuja, had slated for participation in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service programme in Northern states for the Batch A, 2012 Service Year are purportedly rejecting such postings to the areas.
However, going by the fundamental objectives of the NYSC scheme, the young educated minds and tomorrow’s leaders who the Corps members are, are expected to foster the weakening cord of unity and harmonious relationships among the diverse ethnic groupings in Nigeria. Many are already getting discouraged from serving their fatherland “Under the Sun or in the Rain, With Dedication and Selflessness” any longer, as no one is sure of the security of their lives in those Northern states, at least against the backdrop of the ill-fated deaths of some Corps members, shortly after the Presidential poll in April 2011.
In view of the above, therefore, it is definite there are real crises in the country today. And, there are equally fears that these could threaten the future of Nigeria if not tackled decisively. One believes with unity of purpose and visionary leadership, despite all manner of disconcerting predictions about the continued survival of Nigeria as a sovereign state by 2015, Nigerians themselves irrespective of ethnic backgrounds, religious and political leanings must come together, and devise proactive measures to save their country straight away.
It is only when relative security of lives and property is guaranteed that Nigerians can reside anywhere and do their legitimate businesses, attract increased investments from within and outside the nation’s shores, grow the fledgling economy, and enhance deeper ethno-cultural relationships and real integration of the component units making up the Federation of Nigeria. It is high time the country convoked a (Sovereign) National Conference, so that under a peaceful atmosphere, burning issues of national importance could be thrashed out in order to make sustainable progress. After all, who says there cannot be unity in our diversity?
•Kayode, a media and communication professional, writes from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]