Friday, October 20, 2006

National Unity

Almost every nation on earth at one time or another will go through an internal crisis which threatens its very corporate existence. The Americans (who shall serve as my prime example) had their Civil War, the French had their Revolution, various African nations have gone through civil wars, and even the English went through a phase where the King was as likely to be beheaded as crowned.

For Nigeria, the period from 1967 - 1970 will forever remain our darkest hour, for that was when "brother turned on brother" and we experienced our (only, I hope) Civil War.

For the Americans, their Civil War was about the southern farmer demanding his "right" to have his very own niggers picking his cotton while he lazed in the shade on his porch. Fortunately for black men everywhere, the south lost.

However, in the aftermath of the war, the issues leading up to it were faced squarely and strongly tackled. It was ensured that never again would any part of the country declare it "had no inheritance in the house of Jesse", and never again would American soldiers lose their lives in such vast numbers on their own soil. The south was fully reintegrated into the country, and all sins were forgiven. Today, the "vanquished" south can lay claim to both having produced more United States Presidents and being the deciding factor in American Presidential Elections than the "victorious" north.

Now, before certain persons try to transplant that last sentence, let me make one thing abundantly clear: At no time (and I stand to be corrected) in the history of American politics has the main issue revolved around whether a man born in Oregon can be allowed to contest an election in Florida when his parents are from Nebraska. Or the state of Vermont demanding its "turn" to produce the next President.

Nigeria's Civil War actually began shortly before Independence, on the day when Nnamdi Azikiwe stood for, and won, a seat in Lagos. Obafemi Awolowo was so incensed by this "victory of a stranger over a son of the soil" that he hounded Zik out of Lagos. Thus chastened, and awoken to the harsh realities of his country, Zik returned to the then Eastern Region with the statement, "There can be no One Nigeria." Not that he was calling for secession at the time.

Well, with Awo telling the Igbos to contest elections only on their home patch, the Hausas soon decided to give the Igbos the boot as well. For, if the Yoruba man declared the Igboman to have no political mandate in "Yorubaland", then why should the Igboman have an economic mandate in "Hausaland". Thus began the pogroms. Having been told by their brothers that they would not be allowed to enter their father's parlor, the Igbos decided to move to a new compound.

When the war erupted in 1967, the Federal Government was quick to deploy the slogan "One Nigeria" as its rallying cry. The Biafrans were bombed, blockaded, and starved into submission. With the war over in 1970, the PR Department went into overdrive. "No victor, no vanquished" was another choice slogan deployed by the government. The government initiated schemes to foster national unity such as the NYSC and the concept of Unity Schools.

36 years on, these schemes are yet to make any impact. The NYSC has been severely undermined (some say it should be scrapped altogether and replaced with one year of compulsory military service) with people refusing to accept postings to far north states, and vice versa, while the Unity Schools have been systematically looted and underfunded by the Government. And, true to form, rather than tackle the problem of corruption among the administrators of the schools, the Government is taking the cheapest and, most cowardly, way out with talk of "privatizing" them. This is, of course, in the keeping with the spirit of the IMF Poison Pills our rulers are bent on having us swallow.

Nigerians basically don't trust each other, and the stereotypes listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. As Peter Pan said in his book "The Complete Nigerian", it would not be unusual to hear Nigerians referring to each other as being from different countries. Which is actually true for the Bini, Oyo, Kanem-Bornu, and other Empires that existed here prior to the arrival of the British were as distinct from one another as England is from France. We were cobbled together as a nation by our colonial masters, and for good or ill, a nation we must remain. I do not subscribe to the "let's-all-go-our-separate-ways" slogan that some have touted. And I have no desire to take part in another Civil War. We do have problems, but we must solve them as a nation. As separate entities, our once weaker neighbors, and indeed the rest of the world, will be able to pick us off at will.


Whenever I think back to what happened in Lagos between Zik and Awo, I'm tempted to weep, for that was truly a golden opportunity to build a united, strong nation, and it was thrown away without a backward glance, or even a forward look. For, without that one colossal error in judgment, I could today run for office in Kano State without being told to "go home", while my brother could run for office in Imo State without being called a stranger. Then we could do like the Bush brothers, and he'd help me rig the election in his state so I could become President.

Is it too late for us? Not yet, but if we don't act fast, it might soon be.

7 comments:

Chxta said...

You really should blog more...

Chukky Eboka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chukky Eboka said...

yeah it was kool.

farouq said...

.... Bros,mornin ohhhhh!!!! welcome to Naija.....

Donzman said...

It's a pity but I'm quite sure it is standard practice in every democracy. You only run for local seats in your home state or home Local Government. I really cannot decipher what else you were complaining about. No, that did not cause the war. The war was way more than due to what happened between Awo and Zik.

The Law said...

@ Donzman, my knowledge of the world is shaky at best, but is George Bush from Texas? Is Jeb Bush from Florida? Because if one is from Texas, surely the other could not have dreamt of going to Florida to contest because that wouldn't have been his local area.

The war came about because Igbos felt they had no stake in Nigeria, and Awo pushing Zik out of Lagos was the first indicator of that. If Zik had kept his Lagos seat, and been welcomed with open arms, the war would never have occured.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is impressive and your writing style refreshing. However, on this specific issues, i'm afraid you need to cross check your facts. The issues leading up to the Civil war are way more complex than you have attempted to explain rather simplistically here. Awolowo caused the Civil War? Ridiculous....

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