A few weeks ago, in response to increasing separatist agitations by IPOB/MASSOB and Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), Buhari was widely reported to have declared “Nigeria’s unity non negotiable.” For all intents and purposes, that statement revealed the glaring defects of having a president who doesn’t understand the modern eclectics of governance nor the meaning of democracy. If not, how can one man declare the unity of a nation non negotiable? It’s even more ridiculous that such statement is coming from a president who has done more than any post-war president to destroy what is left of Nigeria’s unity through his antagonism, rabidly sectional government and overall insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity. No nation is non negotiable just as no nation is sacrosanct. As much as the maps and territories of nations have changed in the last 100 years, so will it also change in the next 100 years.
Nations will continue to be fluid, to face challenges, to disintegrate and to be continually renewed. Those that survive will be nations where nation building, justice, equality, patriotism, rule of law, mutual respect and dialogue are upheld while those that collapse will be nations where ethno-religious conflicts, tribalism, injustice, inequality, marginalisation, mutual disrespect, absence of nation building and absence of rule of law hold sway. Using these parameters, it’s easy to identify nations that stand a chance of surviving and Nigeria with its present trajectory is definitely not one of them. Between 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed without a shot fired and 2016; more than 30 new nations have been added to the comity of nations. There is nothing that says the next 25 years will not have its own addition of new nations especially from nations where ethno-religious diversity has been perpetually mismanaged as is the case with Nigeria.
Buhari’s idea of Nigerian unity being non negotiable mirrors a medieval mindset that has no place in the 21st century nor in a modern society. The underlying implication of such concept of “unity at gunpoint” is that Nigerians are colonised peoples who have no choice but to remain with it whether they like it or not. Indeed, if his historical “Apartheid” government of exclusion and his general crass insensitivity to Nigeria’s precarious diversity indicates anything; it’s that Buhari himself is the greatest enemy of Nigerian unity; and like all oppressors with a colonialist mindset, he now relies on force to keep Nigeria united. But how sustainable is that antiquated and illegal strategy? If force could keep Nigeria united, we wouldn’t be having record levels of separatist groups and increasing ethno-religious conflicts decades after the previous civil war. If anything, the lesson from the civil war, is that force does not nations make, it only postpones the evil day.
Thus, for Buhari or anyone to think of fighting another “illegal” war (no war to force a people against their will to remain in a nation can be deemed legal) when the one previously fought did not bring unity must be the height of insanity. If force were to be all required to keep a people under a given territory, we wouldn’t have gotten independence from British colonialists; neither would Scotland have held a referendum in 2014 for self rule when Britain is vested with the 5th most powerful army in the world. It’s only in the usual backwaters of humanity and other such failed states that you still hear talk of forcing unity at gunpoint when it’s obvious such barbaric and illegal methods are neither workable nor sustainable. Like slavery, colonialism, military coups and other evils; war for the purposes of forcing unity is immoral, illegal and patently absurd. For how can you logically kill in order to force unity? Most of mankind has moved beyond such medieval lunacy and the nation should better move along with other civilised climes.
Perhaps of greater import is the fact, that the noise about Nigerian unity particularly by the bigoted and thieving elite has been nothing but a great scam. Buhari himself does not in the least believe in Nigeria. Since as the saying goes “action speaks louder than words; his action since coming to power bears testament to these facts. The same is true of past Nigerian leaders and the apathy they always demonstrated to the very idea of Nigeria. Going down history lane—it was the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who in 1947 famously postulated that “Nigeria is not a nation but a mere geographical expression.” Likewise Yakubu Gowon, the then head of state had also in August 1966 declared “there was no basis for Nigerian unity.”Of particular note was the anti-Nigeria disposition of leaders who took over the reins of power at independence. Fast forward to 2005 and the Central intelligence agency (CIA) in the same vein broadly concluded that “while currently Nigeria’s leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja and lead to outright collapse.”
As is evident, the dispositions of even those who have been opportuned to steer the ship of state demonstrates the extent to which Nigeria was and remains the mere geographical expression Chief Obafemi Awolowo once called it. Every Nigerian leader has operated within a tribal prism without paying any attention to nation building. This crude resort to tribal primacy and the attendant domination, marginalisation and exclusion of other ethnic groups alongside other injustices which Buhari has today taken to unprecedented levels is at the heart of Nigeria’s fault lines and existential crisis. One Nigeria has therefore been a scam not even the leaders believe in, beyond the opportunity to pilfer crude oil resources it affords them. This is why massive looting has been the order of the day. A man cannot destroy his own house—by the same logic; no people who believe in their country can indulge in such massive looting and destruction of their country. Thus, the nation’s problems are not and have never been IPOB/MASSOB, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), Lower Niger Congress (LNC) and other such separatist groups.
These are only natural/legitimate reactions to a fraudulent nation that has offered them blood and death in place of civil rights, 2nd class and even 3rd class citizenship in place of full citizenship, hate in place of love, prejudice in place of brotherhood and compassion, incarceration in place of dialogue, domination/discrimination in place of equality, exclusion in place of inclusion, injustice in place of justice, double standards in place of rule of law, repression in place of persuasion and forced unity in place of nation building and mutual consent. The solution is simple: The unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu and all other IPOB, MASSOB/Niger Delta militants needlessly held in detention, facilitation of dialogue with militants/self determination groups, creation of a nation building commission, implementation of the 2014 Confab reports or alternatively the urgent convocation of a Conference of Ethnic Nationalities charged with amongst others delivering a nation building constitution complete with adequate restructuring, true federalism, justice, equality and the rule of law. It’s time for a deliberate and wholesome commitment to nation building, except this is done, Buhari and his cohorts will continually face an ebbing nation which neither guns nor bombs can halt.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu