By Saleh Bature
Sixty one years on, one would have thought that by now “we should have been talking about how to fine tune our agriculture; how to find more money to upgrade the education of our children; how to make sure that no one sleeps hungry or no one is without health care; and no one has to helplessly swallow any injustice, or to reduce our defence expenditure; how to more effectively fight crime or protect the entire environment; how to revamp the economy; run a profitable foreign policy or scale the pinnacles of IT. He further asks a rather rhetoric question: what are we doing? We are stuck at the low point where we are still thinking of, ‘to keep Nigeria one is a task!’-Jibril Aminu
It is very depressing and displeasing to nurse the bitter feelings that Nigeria is showing some signs of a state which is about to disintegrate. In his description of state, Niccolo Machiavelli, depicts the current difficult and intricate situation of our country. He says: “What physicians say about disease also applies to a state. That at the beginning a disease is easy to cure but difficult to diagnose; but as time passes not having been recognized or treated at the outset, it becomes easy to diagnose but difficult to cure.’’
The leaders, the led and the British colonialists who spearheaded what dissidents clamoring for the dismemberment of Nigeria called ‘’unholy marriage,’’ had recognized on the onset that Nigeria was built on a shaky foundation that could not stand the taste of time. This is the bitter truth which almost all Nigerians know but which is oftentimes denied or simply ignored.
Since her birth, Nigeria has been dancing on the brink (apology to Ambassador John Campbell). We have wasted too much time grappling with basic issues about our identity as a people. We cannot understand and accept our diversities. We cannot appreciate and manage the realities of our pluralism for peaceful co-existence, cohesion and national growth and development.
The deep chasm, rabid identity politics and irredentism we are witnessing today have their roots to pre independence Nigeria. Nigeria had at different times before and immediately after independence witnessed a series of succession threats by each of the three dominant tribes. Nigerians will continue to exist as a divided and acrimonious people so long as our young people grow up not appreciating the essence of understanding themselves as Nigerians but representatives of their ethnic groups. Unfortunately, these are the fault lines which those who are hell bent in destabilizing Nigeria used to divide us, and it seems the plan effectively works for them.
Since after the civil war, no threats have the potential to break up Nigeria than the Fulani question. Both in the north and the south, issues of Fulani as it relates to banditry, kidnapping and herding dominate the social and traditional media. While most of the perpetrators of banditry and kidnapping in the north are Fulani; it is not so in the south. Nigerian papers are silent on crimes committed by other tribes in the south and harp only on the crimes perpetrated by the Fulani. Their reportage is always almost about Fulani, as if the Fulani are the only people who commit atrocious crimes in the south. There is no justification for profiling any ethnic group in the country.
It is not also true that the Fulani or northerners own all the cattle in Southern Nigeria. According to Professor Ishaq Akintola, “many important people in the south own hundreds of cows but choose to remain silent in the face of this controversy” because ownership of cow is now synonymous with crime in southern Nigeria. The revelation that the owner of the cows that strayed into Professor Wole Soyinka’s compound is a southerner of Yoruba extraction is instructive. He has been identified as Mr. Kazeem Sorinola, an indigene of Ijeun, in Abeokuta. As usual, news of Fulani herdsmen forayed into the compound of Professor Soyinka had gone viral on the social media before the revelation that exposed the lie.
Like the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria, the Yoruba of south-west are also desirous now more than ever before to have an independent Yoruba republic carved out from Nigeria. This is a matter so dear to the Yoruba people in Nigeria and in the diaspora. Like the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group in Nigeria and Indigenous People of Biafra (a separatist organization for the Igbo), the Afenifere, a leading Yoruba socio-cultural organization has strongly supported restructuring Nigeria with the agitation for a provision of a new clause in our constitution that guarantees the right of secession and self-determination.
The Yoruba tribe is the most educated tribe in Nigeria and it also has the added advantage of being monolithic and a close-knit community. This tribe believes that “there is a serious question mark on Nigeria as a Federal state.” They have what they called “Yoruba Referendum Committee” that “invites Yoruba people to sign a petition to the governors and speakers of Houses of Assembly of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states to pass into law, THE BILL FOR REFERENDUM, to allow Yoruba people govern themselves in accordance with their time-honored values as the only viable response to the clear and present danger facing them”
In line with their determination and resolve to achieve their agenda for self-determination, the Yoruba has found a veritable voice. Arise news recently reported that the “Yoruba speaking tribe in Nigeria has been accepted as the 46th member of the United Representatives Nations and People Organization (UNPO).” This is an international organization established to facilitate the voices of unrepresented and marginalized nations and people worldwide.
With this weapon in hand, the vociferous Yoruba people in Nigeria have got a platform and a launchpad to articulate their position to the international community. The silence of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the watch of Mr. Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama to speak to the world body about the “marginalization” of the Yoruba in Nigeria is questionable and condemnable. This is a slap on the face of the Honourable Minister and a sign of failure. Marginalization is the most abused and battered term in Nigeria. Every tribe in the country uses the term casually to drive their point home. The burden is on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an institution of the Federal Government to respond and convince the world body that the Yoruba is not a marginalized tribe in Nigeria. And there are many reasons to support that.
Recently, a professor in Bayero University said in a radio phone-in program in Kano, that the governor Akeredolu quit notice to Fulani and his accusation of “president Buhari’s emotions threatening national security, Afenifere’s attacks on Buhari for protecting only Fulani interest, the Alaafin’s warnings and strongly worded letter to the president, the Sunday Igboho reckless, irresponsible, arrogant and insensitive declaration of violence that led to the pogrom in Ogun State, the last unfortunate episode at Shasha Market in Ibadan that caused loss of lives, property and businesses will have a negative impact on the APC “political marriage’’ between the north and southwest in 2023. With these bitter feelings of doubt in the minds of the people and the failure of politicians and Yoruba elders to calm the frayed nerves of northerners, it will now be very difficult for any politician in the north to convince his people to vote a Yoruba president in the next election.
If this renewed violence, hate speech, apportioning of blame, mutual mistrust, ethnic profiling, media biased reportage and incredible level of small-minded immaturity and spitefulness among some sections of the country continued, the disintegration and dismemberment of Nigeria is not in doubt but only a matter of time. A stich-in time saves nine.