At the close of the Nigerian civil war(1967-1970),the victorious Nigerian government launched a program of reconciliation and reconstruction,under the banner of “one Nigeria : no victor,no vanquished”. The idea was to conciliate the vanquished Biafrans and ease their re-entry into Nigeria.42 years later,Nigeria is still one.In that regard,the reconciliation program has to be adjudged a success.However,it would be naive and dangerous to take the continued corporate existence of Nigeria as one country,for granted.For,Nigeria’s continued existence is not a given.It’s question is still unsettled.Various groups continue to harbour strong resentments about it’s structure.Some of these groups are apparently now,willing to resort to extreme measures to press their claims.Think “Boko Haram“. Or “MEND”,the movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta.
Stitched together by the colonial master in 1914,to promote their interests,Nigeria boasts some 250 ethnic groups and 510 languages.Majority of these tribes had nothing in common : not language;not religion;not culture;not ancestry and not history.Nigeria started life as a mere “geographic expression”.And has largely remained so.Mutual suspicion,distrust and recrimination are the norm.Which is why you would struggle to find many “Nigerians” on it’s streets..Instead,what you will find plenty of,are tribesmen and indigenes.Everybody is self-identified as an indigene of some tribe rather than as a citizen of Nigeria.Apparently no meaningful relationship,social or professional,can be contemplated without the all-important question “where are you from ? “,being posed,and satisfactorily answered.
Nigeria may have remained one,but it’s various peoples have not achieved oneness.And with good reason.Nigeria is not historic.It is man-made.It is not a “natural” country,with national borders that are coterminous with racial,ethnic and cultural barriers.”Natural” countries are founded by the people themselves or their kings.Nigeria,instead,was “created” by colonial fiat;by rank outsiders without consultation with,and approval of,the natives.People woke up one morning,only to be told that they had become “Nigerians”,overnight.It should not come as a surprise therefore,that “Nigerians” have no emotional attachment to Nigeria.To be emotionally attached to any nation,it’s citizens usually have certain things in common : ancestry,language,culture or history.
Created unilaterally to further colonial commercial interest,Nigeria has remained a community of interest.Today,that interest is the exploitation of it’s oil.Since the discovery of oil,the attitude of the powers-that-be has been that as long as the oil-money continues to flow,Nigeria’s tribal and religious differences are irrelevant : “After all,who needs blood-ties when you have oil ? ” .Even ordinary Nigerians subscribe to this view : they would put up with anything as long as their “right” to “cheap” fuel is guaranteed.Witness the upheaval that trails any attempt to breach this “contract”,as Nigerians take to the streets every time the government tampers with the fuel subsidy.I agree that blood-ties are overrated as the basis or life-blood of a nation,as the USA has proved.But oil is an even more dangerous substitute,simply because it cannot be sustainably supplied or managed.Nigeria needs more.Something guaranteed to last.
Something that makes Nigerians enthusiastic about Nigeria,even without racial and cultural affinity.Something like an idea.Even without blood-ties,citizens can still enjoy a unique bond with their country,if it embodies an idea,one that resonates with them.This is usually the case when differentiated groups,having agreed terms of association,choose to unite together,in a federation.For a clearly defined reason.To be successful,a federation has to be based on consensus,and clear definition.The people themselves must be the only ones to determine the structure of the country.The absence of consensus and definibility in it’s founding,is the main reason Nigeria continues to flounder.Government should heed the calls for a sovereign national conference,SNC.The debate is already raging on Nigeria’s streets.
Every day,every where,people are discussing Nigeria’s fate.The diversity of “solutions”,unsurprisingly, reflects the Nigerian spectrum.The only group absent from this discussion is the government.In it’s absence,groups such as Boko Haram are beginning to dominate the discussion.The danger is that otherwise peaceful groups may conclude that,in order to be heard,it is necessary to engage in the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent citizens.To avoid this,government should do what governments are designed to do : organize and coordinate.Government should take charge of proceedings.That simply means moving the debate from the street to the conference hall.Make no mistake about it,the “debate” is already here.The question is whether the government would acknowledge and regulate the process,by convening the SNC or ignore the debate,which then remains on the street unregulated,with likely disastrous consequences for Nigeria.The coffee is already on the fire,government should wake up and smell it.