Quit notice as catalyst for resolving the national question

Arewa Youth Consultative Forum

The concept of balance of power has assumed a practical or, even, empirical signification in Nigeria regarding the recent internecine face off or verbal exchanges. Known in international relations discourse or practice as a state of equilibrium of forces in which no nation or group of nations has the resources to go to war with another or others with likelihood of success, the truth value of the phenomenon has proven itself demonstrable or visible here. Neither side in the Nigerian quit notice imbroglio, for instance, has the resources or the monopoly of violence for effecting or achieving their respective aims or agenda. The brashness or visceral disposition of one side is counterbalanced by the tendency for vicious sanguinity of the other and so a situation that is akin to the fabled meeting of the lion and the tiger replicates itself: the one waits for the other to take the first false step. Waiting for each other in this instance may be likened to the metaphoric waiting game in Brecht’s Waiting for Godot.

The quit notice issued on June 6, 2017 to Ndigbo residing in the 19 states of the north by a coalition of Northern youth groups on account of what the youths deemed or perceived as the relentless, distractive, destructive or rude demand by the Igbo for an independent Republic of Biafra has racked raw nerves. The northern youths have reportedly found intolerable the rising popularity of the idea or of the leading lights of the quest for secession. They have cited with dis-approval the massively- obeyed shut down order or of the paralysis of the economic and other activities in the whole of the south-east zone on May 30, 2017. Not to be outdone, their peers among the Igbo have also issued an equal and opposite notice to northerners living among them. Their notice received a boost from their regularly- combative Niger Delta colleagues who challenged the northern youths’ audacious assumption that Nigeria belongs to them alone. From all over the country came a barrage of denunciations or dis-approval of the quit notices, of the inherent unconstitutionality of the whole idea and, of their objective potential to further heat up the polity which, in any case, is under enormous strain and stress regarding its skewed or giddy socio-economic and political structure. Even the usually-reticent and languid South-West zone decried a situation whereby a part of the country holds the rest to ransom by assuming that its own world view should be the ruling ethic in Nigeria which the other parts must share or remain irrelevant. The notice to the Igbo, according to the South-West, is condemnable as a belligerent stance against all southerners living or residing in the north. The North-Central zone, which by sheer force of geography is trapped in the middle of the affray, has dissociated itself from the so-called northern agenda, saying it has nothing against the Igbo. So, all over Nigeria is a cacophony of strident voices representing ethnic and religious bigotry, chauvinism, insularity, smugness, villainy, nihilism or even, fascism.

Emerging from all these confusion of sorts is the reality that a new Nigeria befitting her ordained glory is in the making. The country is on the threshold of a new and vigorous phase of her socio-economic and political development. The clamour for the political restructuring of Nigeria has assumed a new, refreshing and effervescent life with calls from unexpected quarters for the urgent or immediate establishment of the processes of a restructured polity. It is gratifying to observe that this revolutionary upsurge regarding the direction of a new Nigerian nation has been kick-started by the youths of the ordinarily- conservative or supine northern Nigeria. The critical, emotional or maudlin responses to their quit notice have combined to produce a strategic reaction to the country’s debilitating status quo. Devolution of power, fiscal independence, and the acceptance or understanding of the dialectics of the Nigerian condition and of the people’s awakened consciousness in the contemporary situation have magically become matters on the front burner of national discourse. Questions are now being boldly asked regarding the existential propriety or necessity of a Nigeria that is unfair, unjust or unfeeling towards her constituent units or her ordinary citizens.

It is however a tragic irony that some of those who were in the forefront of the struggle for the political restructuring of the country have either taken a back seat or are utterly opposed to their erstwhile catechism. Notable leaders of the APC have conveniently forgotten a cardinal position canvassed by them during the campaigns for the 2015 general elections. They had promised in their manifesto to return Nigeria to the cherished ethos and values of a true federal state through the agency of a strategic political and socio-economic re-engineering or restructuring. Today, however, restructuring is not top on the agenda of the party. It is not a matter on its list of priorities as its leadership has curiously identified more engaging issues of state. Alas, the chicanery or private purpose of some of the earlier campaigners for Nigeria’s political restructuring has been exposed! The APC government has unwittingly declared itself unwilling, unable or reluctant to remove the root cause[s] of the underlying failure of governance or of the dearth of the ennobling values of integrity, propriety, accountability, etc. in Nigeria.

All over the country, there is a general sense of restiveness regarding livelihood even as there are plaintive or mournful pleas for the political restructuring of the country. The militant agitations in many parts of the country must be understood as natural human responses to an objective or perceived unfair or unjust political or social order. They are a stark reflection of how remiss successive administrations have been regarding the requirement to resolve the contradictions in the Nigerian contrivance. The APC government is well advised to be on the side of popular history with grace and sensitivity. There is observable, in the party, a seeping re-invigoration of a conservative strain. This resurgent conservatism has the end of isolating the party from the forces of progress now visibly at work. The only place left for all those who allow themselves to be stranded as the train moves inexorably in the direction of a just, rules-governed and egalitarian Nigerian society is the dunghill of history. May the place or portion of the APC be more exalted and salubrious.

• Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affairs commentator, wrote from Abuja.

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