Most Nigerians acknowledge that Nigeria, as presently ran is not working as efficiently as it should. The same Nigerians will also be quick to tell you that the solution to the challenges we are facing cannot be quickly resolved by a break-up. It was, thus, interesting that Remi Oyeyemi’s piece, “Why Nigeria Must Break Up” was written while Nigerians were saying “Never Again” as we marked the 50 years to the end of the Civil War.
Ndigbo have a saying that if one does not know the place where a corpse was buried, he digs it up at the feet. Rather than digging for the problems of Nigeria from the feet, our myriad of problems will only be resolved with some 21st-century solutions. What we need in Nigeria at this point is an informed understanding of where we are today as a nation and where we should be heading.
Nigerians do now want to be traumatized by another Civil War. A quick lesson on the traumatic and life lasting effect of the last attempted break up of Nigeria was on display in Onyeka Onwenu’s speech at the ‘Never Again Conference’ organized by Nzuko Umunna, to mark 50 years since the end of the Nigerian Civil War. At the conference, Onyeka Onwenu’s uncharacteristic outburst and expression of pains over what Igbos went through, during the Nigerian Civil War, was revealing.
Listening to Onyeka Onwenu, I was reminded of the powerful Igbo proverb that “when we see an old woman stop her dance to point again and again in the same direction, we can be sure that somewhere there, something happened long ago which touched the roots of her life.” Here we are 50 years after the Civil War and Onyeka Onwenu, who has remained my go-to person for Nigerian music of unity, bitterly expressing the hurt and unhealed wound from the scars of the Nigerian Civil war.
My heart melted when she narrated her shock and pain over the abandoned properties in Port Harcourt. The pain in Onwenu’s voice when she recollected the betrayal made me believe that an apology from President Buhari on behalf of Nigeria and Governor Wike on behalf of Rivers State will not be inappropriate. That’s a subject for another piece though.
For now, let me circle back to why we should be saying “Never Again” rather than push for another break-up. Every Nigerian should pause and ask, what will happen to us after the breaking up of Nigeria? If the “contraption” will not give us peace, do you think that the rest of the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria will open their hands and welcome foreigners on a red carpet?
Without downplaying the worth of the abandoned properties after the Nigerian Civil War, pause, as Onye Igbo, and think of what will happen to the properties and investments of Igbos, worth trillions of Naira, across Nigeria after we are carried away by the seductive whisper of letting Nigeria break to pieces.
While I agree with Remi that “The Agatu is not satisfied”, “The Magale is not satisfied”, “The Lamang is not satisfied”, I disagree with his conclusion that “the silent majority are angling to extricate themselves from the contraption called Nigeria.”
Does it mean that the people of Agatu in Benue state, the people of Southern Kaduna, in Kaduna State and the people of Onitsha in Anambra State, for example, should “extricate” themselves and form their own nations because they are not satisfied with the “contraption” called Nigeria?
The truth is that it is easy to latch on the cleavages across the diverse and complex Nigerian cultural and ethnic landscape and advocate for the division. But, it is also easy, very easy, to latch on the same cleavages that could be found within regions, states ethnicities, subethnicities, clans, kindred’s, families, husband and wife, and even identical twins to promote violet breakups.
My question for people advocating for the breaking up of Nigeria is, at what point should one set the boundaries to the breaking to “pieces” as some of us are currently advocating? What should be the rationale? Where should we stop after we commence the disintegration?
As Igbos say, a woman who began cooking before another must have more broken utensils. Ethnicity in Nigeria is complex, interwoven with Nigerians of different tribes starving together; drinking unclean water together; fornicating together, risking their lives on bad roads together; struggling to make a living in the streets and markets together; sickening and dying together. These Nigerians already have more than enough broken memories; broken lives; broken relationships; broken hopes and broken businesses experiences. A broken Nigeria will only worsen their situation.
To my Igbo brothers clapping for breaking up of Nigeria, remember our proverb that he who kills his plantain tree with his own gun does not know that it is his own property being lost. Agitating for breaking up of Nigeria is akin to killing your plantain plantations in Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri Lokoja, Benue, Lagos, and even Asaba. One who throws away the seed pod does not realize that he has thrown away a basket of vegetables. Assisting to break Nigeria up is like throwing away the seed pod.
My people have a saying that an effective word is not long. I have written a long rejoinder, but permit me to end by first urging Nigerians to free ourselves from the trap of ethnocentrism.
Hot soup should be eaten slowly. Nigeria is hot soup. The complexity, interrelationship, interdependence has grown much bigger than pre-civil war era. I, thus, strongly believe that the solution to the problem of Nigeria will not come from its breaking up.
We are stronger together and together, we can.
I rest my case.
On Twitter @churchillnnobi