April 24, 2021

Nigeria: A country that lives in denial - Sunday Onyemaechi Eze

NIGERIA is a country living in denial of its division, challenges, and troubled chequered history. Anybody who lays claim to the fact that the country is united now is living in illusion or is outrightly delusional. Right before and after independence, there was already a misunderstanding and suspicion accompanied by regional power intrigues which characterised that era. People could not see the cold war brewing among the regional trio. The three regional leaders of Azikiwe, Awolowo, and Ahmadu Bello did not buy into the same thinking and understanding of what Nigeria should or ought to be. One should have seen that from their dress codes, mannerisms, regional policies, and commentaries. While the South East and West were ready for independence, the North took another three years to be ready. The pre and post-independent political events and the unfortunate civil war were sore reminders of our continuous troubled history. Since then, there has been this growing suspicion and mistrust among the major ethnic groups. Besides, no government both military and democratic has made a genuine effort towards resolving Nigeria’s lingering problems.
Committed leaders of war-torn nations were able to make history by uniting their people and returning to the global arena, but what did our leaders do? They were more interested in setting up cosmetic committees and conferences designed abinitio to feather their political nests rather than addressing the governance deficit, general societal malaise, and decadence.Until someone is willing to address the numerous demands and grievances of all and set out a genuine mechanism of peaceful coexistence, the nation will continue to be in disarray. One finds it often laughable when those in government echo their commitment towards ensuring that to make Nigeria one is a task that must be accomplished. In fact, the government is gradually losing or has lost its credibility with the way events are unfolding. Emergency regional leaders like Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho, and even leaders of Boko Haram and banditry groups are creations of a clueless government. These emergency regional leaders stand for their people and render those services government ought to have rendered but refused to.
Nature abhors a vacuum. We seem to underestimate the power of these non-state actors but it is becoming glaring that despite labelling them and their groups as terrorists, many people still believe in them. One could imagine that the government’s seeming commitment always comes in form of generic press statements issued by Garba Shehu and co. who I am quite sure are tired of doing one thing all the time to expect different results. Who takes the presidential media aides seriously now? When it was obvious that the ex-service chiefs had run out of ideas to tackle insecurity in the land, the same government left them on the saddle for additional years with a reward of non-career ambassadors after retirement. Someone says the bonus was a canopy to escape the waiting dragnet of the International Criminal Court. Never in the history of Nigeria have the recruitment processes into key government offices become a sore point of controversy and conflict. One section of the country has enjoyed major patronage than others. The facts and figures are available for people to see but government, like the ostrich continues to hide its head in the sand, offering its body for the doubting Thomases to take selfies as evidence. 
Issues of leadership and recruitment processes, constitution amendment, revenue sharing formula, good governance, restructuring, resource control, insecurity, and fiscal federalism have been at the heart of Nigeria’s problem. However, people in and outside government who are beneficiaries of the old order will suffocate every proposed change that seeks to confront their inordinate desire or interest to accumulate power and wealth.
The #ENDSARS protest had widened the already existing divide between the North and South. While the protest against the high level of impunity among SARS units and general police brutality in the country was successful in the South, the North seemed not to be bothered. Most states in the North did not participate in the protest giving credence to the fact that something was amiss. There is a general consensus that SARS activities have gone overboard, therefore, a country not decimated by the contours of tribe, ethnicity and religion should have stood with one united voice in the quest to end the atrocities of SARS. Today, the quit notices issued to Fulani herdsmen living in other parts of Nigeria leave a sour taste in the mouth. 
The killings and burning of Hausa businesses in Ibadan have added another ugly dimension. It is condemnable to kill the innocent and stereotype a group. The stereotyped group should wash off such elements which gave them a bad name, but is it a coincidence that almost everybody is pointing accusing fingers against Fulani? Government officials and individuals concerned are feasting on the rage of the moment; some are threatening fire and brimstone. Fanning the embers of violence with our monthly data plans while in our cozy homes is misguided. Every region now has its own narratives championed by those who have no business in leading. But the question is: have we really addressed the generic problems and issues? The answer is no! Those who should seek the balm of Gilead are the trouble makers themselves. Having spent most of my adult life in the North and still counting, I can authoritatively say that the North is a fertile ground for businesses, growth, and development. Many are those who had nothing upon arrival in the North but are millionaires today. People of the North are very accommodating, trustworthy, and very friendly. The life of an average northerner is simple and lived for that day because tomorrow will take care of itself. The expanse of land in the North is an asset yet to be tapped by both government and individuals. The import of rich assets like land for agriculture and agri-businesses has not caught the attention of northern leaders. Nigeria more than ever before is comfortably seated on a tinder box. When leaders chose to genuinely address most of these known contending and conflicting issues, peace will definitely return.
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