By Bobson Gbinije
“I look forward to the day, not in the distant future,
when Ijaw would be President of our Republic
and a Berom his running mate or vice versa.
Hence, in our politics of today or tomorrow,
there would be neither north nor south,
neither Igbo, Yoruba nor Hausa”.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo (House Debates: 1963)
The Phoenix-like juvenescence and elasticity potentials of any nation, shell of the coconut, calabash, egg and carapace of the armadillo are perpetually destroyed when they are cracked through natural, socio-economic, political, tribal, religious and cultural etc imbroglios. Hence, most nations must tread with cardinal circumspection and caution, because they are fulcrummed on a diaphanous and delicate balance. Nigeria is a quintessential example.
The Berlin conference of 1884/1885 led to the arbitrary delimitation of the continent of Africa into puppet states. The principles of the negation of the negation further led to the formation of the Nigerian Nation as a result of the agglomeration of different heterogeneous ethnic group of peoples and an appendage of the British Colonial Master’s Sphere of Influence.
The Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 consolidated the march to Nigeria’s Nationhood, through Constitution building, culminating in Independence in 1960 and Nigeria became a Republic in 1963. But, the Sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo then still called Nigeria a mere geographical expression because of the short fall of the foundational equipoise and ingredients of a full blown nation. After the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War, Chief Emeka Odumegu Ojukwu observed in his book ‘Because I Am Involved’ that, “the Realists have gained by virtue of being aware that there is/was no such nation as Nigeria, but a Nigeria is yet to be created as a Synthesis of divergent and often conflicting interests”.
The Sisyphean albatross and bone of disunity in Nigeria has often been multi-dimensionally attributed to our Colonial Masters and their self-serving administrative Organogramme and selfish policies during their colonial rule. Some historians have argued that it is mainly due to collective amnesia, religious bigotry, political parochialism, social injustice, tribal prejudices, neo-colonialism, psychotic corruption, primitive ethnocentricity, leadership idioglossia, political Party’s distrust/mistrust, lack of National orientation and patriotism etc.
During the struggle for Nigeria’s independence the murky political landscape was further compounded by the uncompromisingly disunited stand and primordial antics of our politicians. It will be recalled, that the motion calling for Nigeria’s independence by 1956 was tabled by the Action Group (AG) in the House of Representatives in 1953 by Mr. but later Chief Anthony Enahoro . It was this motion that stimulated the crisis which led to the constitutional conference of 1953 in London, at which Regional Self-Government was promised for any Region that might desire it at any time after 31st March, 1957.
This Singular political action was the coup de grace that precipitated and compounded the disunity of Nigeria through regionalism, tribalism and rascality in Nigeria’s political firmament. The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) opposed the choice of independence in 1956 as sponsored by the Action Group (AG). The West and the East under the AG and the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) administrations respectively opted for regionalism or Regional Self-Government in 1957. The North did not do so until 1959. It is unquestionably obvious that it was the tabling by the AG in 1953 of the motion for Self-Government that accelerated the process of Nigeria’s attainment of independence in 1960. But, it brought with it all the negative forces of disunity, nepotism and consummate malversation.
In his own submission after the Civil War, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu observed in his book “Because I Am Involved” that “To Attribute Nigeria’s predicament to the fact that the various groupings did not come into Nigeria as Sovereign entities is not only erroneous but also a falsification of history. I believe we were sovereign in our groupings and it is that sovereignty that each group should be prepared to negotiate in order to obtain a superior Nigerian Sovereignty”.
Since Independence in 1960 the political engineering process in our march to Nationhood and Unity has being sunken in a roller coaster of unbridled political massacres, social schisms, religious insurgencies, terrorism, tribal wars, community decimations, civil war (Nigeria/Biafra 1967-1970), shameful carnages, military interregnums, military putsch, students unrest, labour union’s strikes, constitutional amendments, introduction and re-introduction of Democracy, revamping and refurbishment of the electoral process, the NYSC programme, constitutional provision for recognition of rights, freedom, federal character, political parties recognition of Geo-political zones and Rotative Presidency, unity Schools, citizenship Right in every community etc to no avail.
Nigeria as a nation is still horrendously steeple chasing in the cesspit and the precipitous oubliette of total disunity, so much so that some analysts and political alarmist predicted that Nigeria as a nation will be no more by 2015. But 2015 has come, like the ides of March “not gone”. Unity is the sublime pedestal on which Nigeria can be super-structured to enable it make constructive march to Nationhood and take its respectful place in the comity of Nations. In its Editorial submission of 17th June 1966, the New Statesman Publication page 869, posited thus, “for no one doubts that to build a strong Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country – demands unified direction. If the base for unity is not there then Nigerians must seek another rationale for co-existence as citizens of the same country”.
The New Nigeria Newspaper of 20th January 1966 quoted the then Major Hassan Usman Katsina on his assumption of office as Military Governor of the then North after the riot, “Everyone must realize that we are one nation irrespective of the tribe from which each of us originates. At our present stage of development, we need not be divided by tribal unions, political parties or trade unions. It is our experience in the past that such bodies had not worked for the common good but for sectional interest”.
It is unequivocally clear that Nigeria is in desperate need of unity in its continuous march to Nationhood. We therefore call for strategic repositioning through political renaissance, social integration, religious tolerance, economic destructuralization, cultural rebirth, ethical renascence, patriotism, leadership zeitgeist and a total love of country. Hence, the essayist Lord Schiller (1759-1805) said in his book Maid of Orleans that “that nation is worthless which does not joyfully stake everything in defence of her honour” corroborated by George Washington (1732-1799) in his letter to Congress in 1778 that “it is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest”.
We need a new orientation in leadership that will refocus our concentration on national rebirth and unity of Nigeria. The indivisibility, indissolubility of Nigeria as one united sovereign Nation must remain the mantra, ethics, desideratum and canticle of all Nigerians from play group, primary school, through secondary school to university level. There must be a New National Orientation Body that will pursue a policy of systematic and strategic indoctrination of Nigerians on the fundamental imperative of unity in diversity in Nigeria.
We must introduce patriotic classes and amend areas in our constitution that tend to encourage disunity. We must encourage inter-faith and multidimensional religious dialogue especially the Christians, Muslims and Family Units as pedestal to concretize the drive for National unity. Unity of Nigeria should be taught in our schools.
The leadership must create a political, socio-economic, religious and cultural ambience of justice, egalitarianism and fairness. There can be no peace and unity without justice and ethnic groups must have a sense of belonging and shared values. The aftermaths of the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War (1967-1970) must be squarely addressed. The issue of Reintegration, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (GOWON’S 3Rs) must be revisited to ensure justice and fairness to the Igbos. On the issue of Boundary Adjustment, State Creation, Abandoned Property, Biafra Currency Delimitation, Hate and Discriminatory Posturing must be addressed.
The clauses on Federal Character, Indigenous/Indigeneship Status, Tribe, Religious, Local Government and State of Origin must be re-worded and re-orientated to propel unity amongst Nigerians. There must be the proper and explicit articulation of Rotative or Rotational Presidency in all Party Manifestoes and in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The minorities or minority ethnic nationalities in the North West, North Central, North East and that in the South East, South West and South South must be accorded due constitutional recognition and representation to give a sense of belonging.
The National Youth Service Corps objectives must be expanded to include military training, discipline, love of country, patriotism, unity and oneness of Nigerians and the Nigerian Nation. A true and sober National Reconciliation Campaign/Colloquium and Dialogue must be organized to re-acculturate our minds, bodies, psyche and National Lebensraum.
The Report of the National Conference must be properly scrutinized and where apt, relevant and necessary implemented. There must be a vertical and horizontal integration of all interests in Nigeria to ensure balance and all vestiges of dissatisfaction, murmurings and grumblings addressed with soldierly brevity and democratic panache. There must be the immediate introduction of a Unified Civil Service (UCS) which was rejected during the brief administration of General J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966.
The Nigerian leadership at all levels must be people-oriented, altruistic, patriotic and “people’s-interest-compliant”. The Niger Delta matter must be accorded due recognition through the addressing of the issue of Fiscal Federalism, Derivation Formula, Revenue Allocation, Gas Flaring, Sea Ward Boundary of a Littoral State, Relocation of Oil Multinational Company’s Headquarters outside the Niger Delta, Local Content, Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB) and other matters. Nigerians and our leaders must heed these flashes of inspiration by Chief Obafemi Awolowo “(1) fear is the offspring of either ignorance or impiety or both. (2) Political subjection is one of the characteristic manifestations of a soul in Bondage. (3) Power is a thing held in trust. To treat it otherwise is fraud. (4) Political power has in it an ingredient which destroys those who have sought and attained to it by dishonest means and personal gains. (5) Those who do evil, do harm to none but themselves. In the time of harvest they alone will reap what they have sown. (6) Contest is the essence of growth and survival”.
The Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri said while delivering a sermon at the 55th Independence Anniversary Inter-Denominational Church Service on the theme “Making Nigeria Function as a Family :Panacea to Healthy National Integration” held in Abuja that “we have since our amalgamation in 1914, all through our independence as a sovereign state not been successful in harnessing our plurality, diversity into a rainbow of peace and sustainable development because, instead of allowing ourselves to be guided, to be propelled by national interest, we are bedeviled by blind pursuit, self-centeredness and parochially partisan considerations. What we should struggle and make sacrosanct is the survival of our nation which is bigger than everything. We need Nigeria first before the other contending needs that we are fighting for”.
In his contribution during the occasion the Vice President said “it is our duty not to pursue narratives that divide us. It is our duty to do everything that unites us. We must ensure that we don’t create further divisions, but that we bind together these divisions. That is our duty”.
The Nigerian Nation must learn to give accolades and recognition to our patriots and our Heroes past to stimulate and rekindle the spirit of devotion and commitment to Nigeria’s Unity and Nationhood. To continue to remain funereally silent about the contributions of each and every Nigerian is gravely wrong. It is fundamentally important and critically crucial to recognize their contributions, thereby creating a normative standard and fulcrum for National Unity and love.
The English playwright William Shakespeare observed that “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones….” But, let us do a complete reversal by allowing the good that men do to be praised and applauded to stimulate bandwagon effect on Nigerians to continue to fight for the good, greatness and unity of the Nigeria Nation.
Some of Nigeria’s immortals (living and the dead) are: Herbert Macaulay, Sir Abubakar Tafewa Balewa, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Michael Okpara, Chief S.L. Akintola, Mallam Aminu Kano, Dr. J.S Tarka, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Chief P.A. Gbinije, Alhaji Adegoke Adelebu, Chief Sam Warri Esi, Sir Louis Mbanefo, Akanu Ibiam, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. P.C Osadebay, General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi, General Murtala Mohammed, President Obasanjo, Chief M.K.O Abiola, Dr. A.A. Nwafor Rizu, Sir Mobolaji Bank Anthony.
Others are: President Mohammadu Buhari, General Babangida, Prof. Ambrose Alli, General Yakubu Gowon, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Orhoro I Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, Sir. Jaja Nwachukwu, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Dr. Michael Ibru, Mr. Paul Akpakpa Gbinije, Prof. Alele Williams, Dr. Ezekwesili, Prof. Dora Akinyuli, Madam Elizabeth Anuwe Igberadja-Abeke, Prof. Jega, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and others too numerous to mention. May God continue to raise Heroes, Heroines and Patriots that will continue to unite our Great Father Land, Nigeria.
At a political rally in Owerri on 18th Nov. 1978, late Chief K.O Mbadiwe said, “unity has become very important in our lives, in the life of this great country, in the life of this generation, and in the life of the future generation. Without this solo-word ‘UNITY’ nothing can prosper, nothing can go forward. ONE NATION, ONE DESTINY, ONE GOD. A unity born out of faith- a unity born out of diversities- a unity born out of common experience and the desire to be one united nation”. God Bless and Unite Our Dear Native Land Nigeria. Though tribe and tongue may differ but in true brotherhood and unity we MUST stand.
Chief Bobson Gbinije is of Mandate Against Poverty (MAP), Warri
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