Amalgamation, Nigeria and poor leadership
I refer to the article ‘Why 1914 amalgamation is Nigeria’s bane’ by Charles Ogbu published in The Guardian of February 6, 2017 and all I could say was “here they go again.”
Opinion pieces such as his, instead of educating, informing, analyzing critically and providing solutions ended up with the same oblique thumping of regional and ethnic pabulum. The shifting of blame without introspection. Cessation of state or a system of government (true federalism) for most writers is the answer to Nigeria’s problems not failure of leadership and of domestic governance.
Homogeneity for most people is a fanciful model. A parley between the South West and South East and the North on its own. The falsity in such argument is that no part of Nigeria is monolithic and homogeneous. I will come back to this later. And how has the relationship been between the South West and South East since the infamous spat between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as a result of the election into the Western House of Assembly? Don’t the people in one region see the other as quislings? The suspicion between the two regions rages on in our day. What ideology even binds the two regions together?
While I concede the North has its problems that need to be lain, and which sadly have not, it is out of character for a writer of opinion pieces on a world class medium to stereotype northerners as killers. You would get the impression that all northerners are good at is serving Molotov Cocktails. We need to be able to distinguish between mob actions encouraged by bad people, made worse by a weak state and the actions of very civilised people. Wouldn’t it be out of place for me to stereotype the people of ALUU community as murderers because a senseless mob in that community with royal blessings carried out by royal flunkeys scorched the lives out of four University of Port Harcourt students in 2012?
Amalgamation isn’t the cause of the glut of problems that this country has.
Colonists all over the world never asked the views of subjects they planned to colonise or had already colonised. The Roman empire subjugated the British people without their consent for more than three and a half centuries. Regardless, that country (Britain) is great today despite not being homogeneous. The people in that part of the world are of mixed heritage, the Belgae as well as members of Germanic tribes who immigrated into Britain such as Jules, Angles and Saxons. The Greeks were even once rumoured to be in Britain courtesy of archaeological discoveries.
Unlike many a country – our founding fathers even though they didn’t pursue independence on ethno-religious sentiments – never fashioned a national philosophy for Nigeria like the founding fathers of the United States of America.
That is the major problem and the lack of that philosophy instead of being corrected, has now birthed the destructive sentiments that are taking us under. This is the reason that even in so-called homogeneous enclaves there is fierce competition among people who should supposedly be one. We need to also differentiate between state policy and the policy of a few irresponsible people heating the polity which governments over time have not been able to use the bully pulpit to deal with.
Allow me share a personal story. I got married a decade ago. Shortly after, I went to Enugu for the burial of a friend’s wife. He introduced me to his kinfolk as “our in-law.” “Really?” They chorused. “Which part of Igbo land, did you marry from?”
“Ngwa” I replied. They looked at me pitiably and hissed. I blanched and had to ask what the matter was.
The group took time to educate me. “We Igbo, the sensible ones don’t marry from Ngwa and Mbaise. Marriages only work best amongst themselves. We are also wary of marrying from Umuahia and Owerri, they are a fun loving people who make Cuckolds of their husbands. The best place to marry from is Enugu State.” That was the first culture shock I have ever had. Even now, folks that way say the same thing. I have stopped letting drop where she is from.
You know I met a clergyman from Owerri not long after and recounted my shocking experience in Enugu.”Don’t mind those Enugu and Anambra traders. We (Owerri) people are more educated than all other people in Igbo Land. Outside Osu, the Anambra people have an outcast system called the Oru. Who discriminates more than them?” I expected a lecture on unity but got a raucous claque. My friend in her mid-sixties is hoity-toity despite being an evangelist. She is from Anambra. I engaged her on “oneness” and she told me heart-on-hand that the Anambra people are more urbane than all other Igbo and that the “Ebonyi and Abia Igbo are not well-tamed Igbo.” I am an Igala, a cultured one. But for the age difference between us I might have asked her, “who tamed you” “should accident of birth make you superior?”
Do you know that the Egba man doesn’t like the Ijebu man and vice versa? Are you aware of the wars between the Oyo and Ibadan people or those of the Modakeke and Ife people?
Which is the perfect city in Nigeria where non-natives aren’t called strangers? Is amalgamation responsible for why companies are closing shop in Nigeria?
Do we have an interstate commercial policy so as to have an integrated economy? Except Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, how many governors invest in states outside theirs? What does a state in the South South produce for the people of the South East in commercial quantity in a 360 degree manner?
America was only a colony of 13 states until they land-grabbed the rest from Mexico. Today she is the greatest country in the world despite its checkered history. Homogeneity didn’t make America great. Thought leadership provided by people who aren’t future-blind did. Yet America is a country of many nations.
When people bandy federalism I ask them: How many countries in the world practice federalism? Out of the more than 200 countries, less than ten practice federalism.
Indonesia, a unitary state, is the tenth largest economy in terms of GDP. System of government doesn’t develop a country but the ingenuity of her people and the quality of leadership provided.
The solution to the problems of this country is simple: The establishment must fashion a simple national philosophy, not a gobbledygook. The political parties must throw up people with openness of character, well-tested and with integrity only for elective offices. The candidates must be leaders with values ready to propagate these values to the new-fangled generation. Leaders who know their purpose and whose reason for being have been revealed to them. Leaders who ought to be insiders and not outside – those that have succeeded in industry, interacted with different bodies of men without discrimination and understand importance of thinking and living towards ‘Heaven’ where our sublime/ spiritual, infinite self-dwells, and where all enduring inspirations come from. The parties must be strong and idealistic, and the citizens of this country must have the will to demand accountability.
To think federalism, homogeneity, cessation are the answers to our problems is an imaginary Shangri-la. Nigeria is not beyond repairs but must groom leaders who accept responsibility.
Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.