By Clem Aguiyi
We were taught we were one country, that we were one people and that we were one nation under one God. We were taught about unity and strength and why we must under all circumstances stay united as one people. We were taught that a bundle of stick cannot be easily broken but that a single stick can be broken effortlessly. We grew up knowing there was joy in being at one with each other. We boasted of our numerical strength and proudly declared our country, ‘the giant of Africa’. We are blessed abundantly with all kinds of minerals and resources so much so that we are the envy of other nations. But just look at our sorry state.
For some years now we are under attack by some foreign enemies, and instead of uniting as one people to fend off the enemy, we are busy fighting each other, killing each other and destroying each other. Our case is made worse because we are unfortunate to have a president who loves his foreign cousins much more than he loves us. When it comes to addressing the atrocities of his foreign cousins against our land, our laws and our people he speaks loudly but carries a twig, and when it comes to our minor indiscretion, he wields the big stick. It’s a fantasy for him to expect that his foreign cousins cum bandits would stop banditry or change their behavior without our imposing significant costs for their actions. Our inability to deal with these criminals who have invaded our country shows how divided and weak we have become.
A house divided against itself, cannot stand, so says the Holy Book in Mark 3:25 and Mathew 12: 22-28. Similarly, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city (nation) or house divided against itself will not stand. These words were not just idiomatic, but words spoken by the Lord Himself, which is similar to saying ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’
A divided house does not get its share of happiness and does not know peace. Like a divided house, Nigeria is wobbling. It is sharply divided by politics, religion, tribe, and other extraneous factors. The atmosphere is fouled by threats of war, cries of secession and disintegration. And you ask, ‘Where is the unity, faith and patriotism upon which the foundation of our country was founded?’ Why did we allow tribalism and nepotism to take the centre stage instead of the back seat? Why are we at war with each other at a time we should be united?
Any nation where the component members are constantly at war and on each-others throat can hardly stand, however strong her army might be. Like a divided house that nation will fall, and the citizens will scatter because when unity is absent, peace and security also become absent.
Not that Nigeria is about to fall anytime soon, which I don’t want to see though all the signs of a failed state are very obvious for even the blind to see; but most certainly her internal contradictions will not allow the current system to endure for too long. Our constant warring will not allow us to know peace and stability, which are essential for growth and development. And we can’t go on like this. We need to pause, pull back and build back our nation.
Though we privately agree on our common problems yet building consensus around major issues has remained a mirage because the things we admit privately are the things we publicly deny. I call on the president as the leader of the country to quit shrieking his responsibilities. He needs to take charge and initiate an all-inclusive dialogue. Instead of fighting and killing each other, we need dialogue we need to build consensus on such issues as equal citizenship, restructuring, true federalism, and rotational presidency.
Take the issue of equal citizenship for example: Since after the civil war, which was fought primarily to bring back the breakaway Eastern Region back to the fold of ‘One Nigeria’, the Igbo has been unfairly treated. Successive governments, both military and civilian had been unfair to the Igbo, thus causing frustrations among the people. With little or no assistance, Igbos have built back their cities and built other parts of the country. They are arguably the first and second largest property owners in any part of the country. They are everywhere in Nigeria making honest living. They ask for nothing but to be respected as equal citizens. They want to live in peace and prosper as free men. These are no too much things to ask from your country.
If you have ever been to any of the cities in South Eastern Nigeria, you will find a beautiful commercial place and enterprising people. You will not believe that all of the well- built-up cities were ones theaters of war about fifty-four years ago. The entire SouthEast with a population of nearly sixty-five million people is not up to the size of Niger or Kogi State in land mass, yet the people are happy. It has been expressed in many quarters that there can be no Nigeria without the Igbo because they are the soul of the nation. They account for nearly 60% of taxes collected in major cities and contribute to sizable portion of the national GDP.
Because of the sweat and blood, the Igbo has contributed in the development of Nigeria, you will think that those that run the system will be kind, nice and polite to them, but the opposite is true. Instead of being nice, or respect them as equal citizens, they are instead made to go through several hurdles and to accept that they are second class citizens. They had endured all that was thrown at them until the coming of President Buhari in 2015.
The president who told the nation that he is for everyone, suddenly reduced the Igbo to five per cent who didn’t vote for him, and thus began a systemic exclusion of them from the scheme of things. Many objective minds saw the danger and frowned at the systemic profiling of the Igbo and vigorously spoke against it. You don’t divide your citizens between a privilege class on the one hand and less privileged class on the other hand and expect peace and stability.
Those in the know insisted that the ill-informed policy of marginalizing over sixty-five million people is a recipe for anarchy and something that will not augur well for the wellbeing of the country. But the more the cries of marginalization, the more the regime tightens the noose around the neck of the Igbo, thus keeping the country more divided than we’ve ever been.
The questions are: ‘What’s the moral in keeping the Igbo in Nigeria if we cannot allow them equal citizenship? Why did Nigeria fight a civil war where over three million lives were lost just to keep the Igbo in Nigeria, if we won’t be nice to them? What’s the big deal in treating the Igbo the same way the Hausa and Fulani are treated?
The Igbo citizenship question is a question Nigeria must resolve much sooner than later so that the country will make meaningful progress. I think, it’s unfortunate for the President to profile all Igbo as IPOB. Such extreme prejudice is beneath the office of the president. It’s wrong of him to refuse to address the core issues fueling separatist agitation in the SouthEast, but instead scornfully referred to over sixty- five million citizens as a dot in the circle. What he forgot is that without the dot, the circle will be blank. He forgot that without the Igbo Nigeria will cease to exist as a nation.
As father of the nation, he forgot he owes a duty to all sections of the country including the ‘inanimate’ dot that he sees in the circle. This government will not endure if we continue to neglect issues we should address or remain divided when we need to come together and pose a united front against our common adversaries; the terrorists, the bandits, the insurrectionists, the militia herdsmen and all the outlaws tearing down our nation. God has blessed and given us everything we needed to be a great nation. History will not forgive us if we allow this beautiful country to be destroyed.
Clem Aguiyi the writer can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org