By Fola Ojo
The demands for secession from mother Nigeria by aggrieved ethnic groups, and the rallying calls for the balkanisation of the Giant of Africa are no new drumbeats. The beastly belch has peregrinated the Nigerian atmosphere for eons. One of such demands for self-determination eventually led to a bitter civil war that engulfed Nigeria for 30 months. Since the no-victor-no-vanquished declaration that climaxed the unfortunate war, Nigeria has walked on thin ice and trodden dangerously in the pursuit of peaceful co-existence that has been a mirage. Splitting up Nigeria with each ethnic group finding its way to its own tent remains the same singsong even in this 21st century.
Before now, it was the South- East that wanted out of the flummox. Now, it is the South-West clamouring for a way of escape out of the contraption. Why the shrill cry for secession? Are the people making the demands crazy? No, they are not. The playing field in the Nigeria game is not even. Vital organs of the economy are controlled by an ethnic group. Leadership in the military, the police, the immigration, the customs, the ports, the oil sector, all dominated and highhandedly administered by a recycled clan. And they think it is fair and equitable because they wildly and weirdly believe that God has put them in charge of Nigeria for Nigerians’ sake. What hogwash!
As marches for an independent Oduduwa Republic continue to hit the ground hard, a few people will erroneously quickly tell you that the Yoruba have no reason to complain because the present administration has done better with the ethnic group in ministerial appointments than the previous one. The facts portend different imagery. Ministers from the South minister only in titles; not in power. All of the South-West ministers occupy vast offices with many departments under them that they cannot command. They walk around carrying out their duties as if they are navigating a field wired with killer-landmines and brutish booby-traps. The guys who run the show are powerful directors who load up the workforce with their own kind. And big chunks of these directors are from the North.
It is obvious that the South-West house is divided regarding secession from Nigeria. But what unites the Yoruba is the acknowledgment that “One Nigeria” is a bellow from the pit of hell; a jocose jabbering by a few who control and dominate almost everything today in Nigeria.
For those of us who were born shortly before or after Nigeria’s Independence, our perspective of a coexisting Nigeria is different. We want a peaceful resolution of the anomalies that make some Nigerians feel like second-class citizens in their own country. But for those who were born in the 70s through the 90s, they want to secede from Nigeria through war. Their experiences of Nigeria are gruesome. They are in pain. Their rights have been taken by characters who occupy lofty positions not because they are qualified, but because they are connected to people in power who speak their languages. Eighty per cent of the Southern youths are unemployed in spite of their educational attainments. They roam the streets with no hope for tomorrow. And today; with Nigeria’s economy tanking terribly, there is dryness in the land. To these folks and many, the idea of “One Nigeria” is self-serving. It serves only an ethnic group and few grumpy, grabby, and gluttonous individuals whose life ambitions are to cling to power.
It’s time we all woke up to the reality of the gross divisiveness among Nigerian ethnic groups and make Nigeria serve everybody, and leave none behind. Otherwise, it ain’t going to be pretty. When you push a people against the wall, the wall breaks. We must hear out those who are crying for secession.
“Ajakuta’ is a word in Yoruba land which means “let’s duke it out and scatter everything. Go your way and I’ll never in life talk to you again”. This is not the Yoruba way of life. It’s easy for an average Yoruba man to make a best friend out of an old enemy, and you’ll never know they were once at each other’s throats. The Yoruba’s spirit of friendliness and accommodation is unequalled. God created them with big and loving hearts. In spite of the extant rampaging rumpus, the Yoruba still have hopes that the lopsidedness in the corridors of power will be flipped and the nation will not flop up in an environment of preventable ethnic Armageddon.
However, this must be clearly understood by all. That many of us prefer a path to peace through commonsense negotiation is not a lovey-dovey embrace of foul factors that are causing the drumbeats of war to hit hard and fast in Nigeria. Most Yoruba, as most Nigerians, want a United Nigeria. But they want fairness in power distribution. They demand it by right if “One Nigeria” is not just mere rhetoric.
There are many evil forces contending with Nigeria’s destiny. But Godly forces are at war with them too. They aren’t giving up on the country. I pray we have more people sign up with Godly forces so that we can together address our wrinkles and smoothen out the wrinkles. Nigeria will be best served if our leaders confront the truth. But to flat-out ignore the grievances and think it’s just in the imagination of the people crying foul is tacit approval of the protraction of the melee. I wish we had a president who is not pachydermatous to sensitive discourse like this. But that’s who we have as captain. And he is who he is. Personally, I have given up on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), resolving sensitive ethnic wrangling. It’s not in his DNA to do that.
Nigerians love Nigeria. Many oppose a balkanised nation. But the relationship between ethnic groups must be fair and equitable. One ethnic group can’t continue to dominate and control a country’s vital Organs and expect the rest of the nation to just fold up, put up, shut up, and shout Hallelujah and Allah Akbar.
What else does Nigeria need that God has not given us? We have it all in human and natural resources. Nigeria’s problems aren’t unsolvable. She can be easily remoulded into a nation beneficial to everybody. But there must be a level-playing field for all players in the Nigeria game. These are the wrinkles we face in Nigeria. They are why many are crying secession.
To my brothers wanting to travel the path of war, we hear you; and you need to hear us too without considering us wimps or antagonists of your demand for an equitable and fair Nigeria. Consequences of war aren’t inconsequential. They are fatal. At the end of a possibly endless war, we will all be vanquished; there will be no victor. Let’s beat down on the drumbeats of war. In conclusion, I throw out this challenge to all political office holders and those aspiring to run for something in the next election cycle from the South-West. If you decide to stay quiet in these times pretending that the agitations for self-determination will fizzle off, I’ll invoke the counsel of Michelle Obama in your hearing ears: “If you are afraid to use your voice, give up your seat at the table”.
On Twitter @folaojotweet
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