Nigeria and Biafra are Negotiable
By Clem Aguiyi
2nd September 2017
I wrote ‘Before the Deluge’ not because I am against IPOB’s agitation for self determination. Far be it from me that I will be against any man or group fighting for freedom. I admire IPOB’s tenacity of and respect their right to agitate for self determination even though I am for a restructured and better Nigeria.
The points where I differ with IPOB borders not on the right and merit of their struggle but on strategy and approach. I find our people rightly or wrongly making the usual and common mistake of not defining our problem in the context of persistent and prevalent injustice in Nigeria, and allowing ourselves to be divided on the cause of our problems and the right way to address them, forgetting that there are many ways to reach our goal. We fail to realise that the problem is the iroko tree and not those who are arguing about the best way to cut it down.
The Nigerian problem like the iroko tree is huge enough for anybody to use whatever that is available to him or her to attempt to resolve it. Those for one Nigeria, those for restructuring and those for self determination can canvass their opinions freely without losing respect and dignity. Liberation struggle is not a piece of cake or tea party. It costs lives, generations, resources and often consumes the best of the people. I doubt if the majority of us realise this fact.
In spite of our frustrations we should always understand that we are not alone in this mess, that we are not people without sin and that the status quo is not our private headache, hence we must calm down, get real and leave emotions aside and face the hard nose politics of a multi ethnic nation that we are part of.
As lovers of freedom and democracy, I believe hate speech and hurtful rhetoric will not advance our cause, it will rather worsen it. I also think the decision of IPOB to boycott the Anambra November 2017 Governorship election is not a well thought out idea and should be jettisoned.
The boycott will serve no useful purpose other than scoring a point that we can physically sit at home rather than exercise our right to elect a leader that share in our values. As a people, our voter education and responsibility ranks very low. Why then create voter apathy when we should be encouraging our people to vote and vote massively for a candidate that believe in the causes we believe in.
To enforce the boycott, IPOB based on the euphoria of the moment may be tempted to either physically restrain and obstruct people from participating in the election. This will be dangerous because it will bring the movement in direct confrontation with the political elites who will not hesitate to conspire with the federal government to crack down on the group.
Whereby the boycott is total, peaceful and successful which is farfetched, the Federal Government may declare State of Emergency which will enable her appoint a sole administrator to superintendent the affairs of the state. You do not cut your nose to spite your face. Certainly, this is not what IPOB intend to achieve hence the group’s leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who has done so much to put the Igbo question in the front burner must be guided so that out of exuberance he does not cross the line of decency which may result in tragic consequences.
I have heard several arguments advanced against the continued corporate existence of One Nigeria and against the restructuring of Nigeria to make it better. One of the leading narratives is that the restructuring we need is mental restructuring, not the physical restructuring of Nigeria. My take on this is that we need both mental and physical restructuring to survive the future. The worse thing that can happen to Nigeria is to maintain the status-quo which has successfully bred millions of disgruntled citizens. Nigeria needs to change to the right direction not because of the Igbo but because of Nigeria itself.
Another argument against restructuring is that Nigeria has already been restructured and does not need further restructuring. This is the argument of some members of the ruling party as championed by Governor El-Rufai. To an extent El-rufai is right that the current regime which he is part of has already restructured Nigeria, but at whose expense? Nigeria has been restructured for the worse and at the expense of the South East , South-South , South West and to a large extent to the disadvantage of the minority groups scattered across North, hence the widespread rising tide of agitations.
A cursory look at PMBs appointments, and the 2016 and 2017 capital Budget which reflects his 97% and 5% principle will reveal how not to lead a multi ethnic nation like Nigeria.
There is something fundamentally wrong if we continue to let ourselves to believe that in Nigeria happiness and prosperity is reserved for the lucky and select few who gets what on account of their language, religion, tribe or partisan political affiliation. We need a Nigeria that is fair to all and worthy of every citizens patriotism.
Those clamoring for restructuring are not looking for appointments as insinuated by some quarters neither are they looking for settlement. A Nigeria restructured at the expense of others is not the Nigeria of our dream. In this country merit and hard work must count and we must at the same time lend hands to the weak and the powerless in the true spirit of nation hood and also being our brothers keepers.
The time we live in is ominous. It is not the time for name calling or shutting any voice out or down on the pretense that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. This is a fallacy and we must correct ourselves on that wrong notion. The unity of Nigeria will be a subject of interrogation and debate so long as there are injustice, marginalization, lack of equity in our structural existence. Those deprived by Nigeria will continue to agitate and question their loyalty and patriotism to a nation that violates and decimates their right and equality.
Like many modern nations Nigeria in my view is a work in progress . We will keep evolving until we get our rhythms right. We begin to die as a nation the moment we stop evolving. Sometimes I feel that the problem with Nigeria’s unity are not those that seek self determination but those that champion One Nigeria without meaning to dispense equity , fairness and oneness when it comes to sharing our commonwealth.
If you are in a marriage that has become problematic, it is the right of any of the party to seek dialogue on the direction of the union. The consequence of such an open and transparent dialogue does not mean the end of the union. With openness, truth and forgiveness the union can get better and stronger, so would Nigeria if we truly love to remain one people and one nation under one God.
To say Nigerians cannot discuss their differences or engage each other on a roust debate on issues affecting its corporate well being is a complete disservice to the soul of the nation. Those who think they hold some undue advantage today should remember that yesterday it was palm oil and groundnut pyramids, and today it’s Oil and Gas, the Future may well belong to clean energy and sold minerals. No condition in life is permanent. Because nothing lasts forever, the advantage we have today may disappear in less than no time when the children of the oppressed rise in one voice with a great battle cry mighty enough to loosen their shackles and down the walls of Jericho that had for long held them down.