Nigeria and separatists: Is the nationhood negotiable?

Idea, conception, or opinion is like an object in a space, which can be watched in thousands of different directions. Imagine a 1-point object that has 360 directional views, a 2-dimension (X-Y) object has 360X360 directional views; 3-dimension (X-Y-Z) object has 360 multiples compared to the 2-dimension object.

However, in all these thousands of directional views, there is one, which is better, focus and shortest in distance and effort to reach the target and there are many other directional views in the opposing direction of the target.

This is the guiding principle on how opinion should be treated irrespective of the opinion originality; religious, ethnic, nationalist, or other socio-cultural directions. The target for a nation should be in line with the vision and aspirations of the citizenry. What is Nigeria’s vision as a country?

There are crafted visions being circulated for Nigeria such as vision 2010, vision 202020, Vision 2030, and vision 2050, which are similar but yet to find a well-defined, articulated, coherent, and comprehensive vision for the nation.

This might not be a surprise as those who conscripted the amalgamation of the two British Protectorates did so for exploitative convenience of Nigerian resources not to produce a dream Eldorado as a nation.

Thus, national mission and vision were their least concern. With the benefits of hindsight, evidence abounds, even after the independence, the colonialists were not interested in the progress of Nigeria. At the uphill of the political crisis of the first republic that transformed to military conflicts, which eventually led to the Nigerian civil war, Federal Government sent out a delegation to International Community for support and possible resolution to avoid bloodshed.

A member of the delegation, Dr. Yusuf Maitama Sule of blessed memory, reported in a media interview that the delegation met a European scholar who bluntly told the delegation “the international community was not particularly interested in Nigeria as such all that people are interested in were the resources (in Nigeria) and further said if they could get robots to exploit the resources to develop our economies we wouldn’t mind the whole lot of you being eliminated”. Perhaps, it was a joke, he further said, “Nigerians are very hardworking and very intelligent and they have got resources most of which they know next to nothing about, if this country, Nigeria has an uninterrupted period of 20 years of peace and stability, it would be another Japan, it would threaten the economy of the West and become a thorn in the flesh…..“. The interview indicated that the statement was made in 1967, more than forty decades ago.

While it may be difficult to verify this statement but the events chronicled from 1990 to date leave much to be desired. These events have been instigating calamitous internal crises and constraining national development, which is a clear testimony of powerful forces within and outside the country responsible for the events. What and who is responsible for the devastating and unending insecurity, and ethnoreligious crisis engulfing thousands of innocent Nigerians?

Lack of a lucid national vision is still the bane of the national unity of our diverse nationalities. A national vision should be an inspiration for the citizens, creating hopes and aspirations, and making people die for their country. Even where the vision is stated, people could view it in 1,000 directional views, what more, where it is lacking. This may be responsible for hatching separatist ideology.

Governments over the years have talked about the conceived national vision at different forums. Recently, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the 61st independence Anniversary Inter-denominational church service on September 26, 2021, talked on national vision. He said, “61 years ago, our founding fathers laid out a vision, that the many nations and ethnicities, north and south of the Niger, 300 languages or more, differing tribes and religions, would by the grace of God become one nation. That, their diverse strengths and gifts would coalesce into a formidable economic and regional force, And that these united nations may become the largest aggregation of black people on earth. A beacon of hope to all peoples of African descent, long bruised by the afflictions of slavery and colonial exploitation. Nigeria will be the reaffirmation of their dignity and a tonic to their spirits”.

With all the commitments of both religious and political leaders over the last six decades of nationhood yet separatist agitations have refused to disappear. The stability of the federation of Nigeria has often come under threats by separatist agitations by diverse ethnic groups. The ethno-cultural diversity of the peoples as well as the mutual fear of domination among the ethnic groups, accentuated by divisive colonial policies is responsible for the persistence of separatism. In addition to the fear of domination, nepotism and corruption have heightened and intensified the agitation for dismembering the nation.

The origin of the agitation started immediately after independence but the nation continued to witness increasing socio-economic factors fanning the ember of the agitation by the day. Isaac Boro, an Ijaw was declared the secession of the Niger Delta Republic. He said “ Today is a great day, not only in your lives but also in the history of the Niger Delta…..This is not because we are going to bring the down but because we are going to demonstrate to the world what and how we feel about oppression….., remember too, your petroleum which is being pumped out daily from your veins and then fights for your freedom”.

From then, till date, Nigeria has passed through cutthroat challenges of nationhood with severe consequences of losing properties and lives across the nation. Today, the separatists are becoming bold and daring. The main agitators of today, the IPOB should deeply reflect the events of the late 1960s, which the country cannot afford its repetition as many Nigerians might not survive it. Can we reflect and find an amicable solution to address the raised by the agitators? Can we discuss nationhood with agitators? To be continued next week