For goodness sake, Nigeria is negotiable
The position of many Nigerian leader, particularly , those who precipitated and fought in the civil war that the future of the Nigerian state is not negotiable is naïve, full of mischief and utterly unprogressive. They have been dogmatic on the issue despite available empirical evidences that the variables on the essence of our union are changing and becoming more dynamic and complex, thereby warranting a review. There is nothing that belongs to more than one person that cannot be subject to negotiation. Moreover, a country that claims to run on the pedestal of democracy cannot be averse to discussion because, negotiation is the spirit and hallmark of democracy.
What is negotiation? In simple comprehensive language,” to negotiate “means to “obtain or bring about by discussion.” The English Cambridge Dictionary views negotiation as “the activity in which people talk about something and tells each other their ideas or opinion “while the English Oxford Living Dictionary, defined it as “trying to reach an agreement or compromise by discussion.” The Macmillan Dictionary, defines it as “to try to reach an agreement by discussing something in a formal way, especially in a business or political situation.” Therefore, when leaders say that future of Nigeria is not negotiable, they mean people cannot sit down to discuss issues pertaining to the existence of the country. The question is who decides the shape and form of Nigeria? Is it these former leaders who brought Nigeria to its present prostrate position who would decide or the people themselves who would opt for negotiation?”
If the United Kingdom of Great Britain which was unified on 1st May 1707 and which is regarded as the citadel of world democracy, can allow negotiation of its sovereignty by holding a referendum more than three hundred years after its unification in 2016, then Nigeria does not have any excuse to gag the proponents of negotiation.Why are the Nigerian leaders forcefully conscripting the constituents of the country into one unworkable unitary system? It is obvious that the union as it is, is fluid, dangerously dangling and hanging in the air with clear manifestation of an explosion. The fact that few men fought the war does not make them the decider of the destiny of the other millions who are yearning for change and better sociological- political arrangement.
Between the time of amalgamation in 1914 and the time of independence, the whole country openly focused on driving the colonial master through the door while regarding each other with suspicion and intense but secret hatred. No sooner was independence granted to the nation, than the inner ill-feeling bursted into untold hardship and crisis that killed millions of her people. Between that time and today, sporadic and senseless murder of people because of their ethno-religious affiliations had been the order of the day. Suspicion is so rife that no Nigerian belief in Nigeria except on the tip of the tongue.
This remains one of the few countries in the world where hundreds of people could lose their lives because of mere quarrel between two people while the only offense committed by those murdered in the process is that they share the same religion or ethnic affiliation with the two warring people.The Boko Haram, Arewa Youths, Odua Peoples Congress, the Egbesu Boys, IPOB, MASSOB and their likes are manifestations of a nation that needs to be placed on the surgery table for reshaping, lest, our generation would leave tragedies and gnashing of teeth for the generations of Nigerians yet unborn.
The question is “ What is propelling leaders like Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Yakubu Gowon and their cohort to belief that Nigerians should not sit on a table to determine a better tomorrow?” Who gave them the mandate to be the spokespeople for the teeming millions who are at the receiving end of a geographically distorted nation that couldn’t optimize its God given endowment because of the failure of the management of its plurality?” Who benefits from the oneness of Nigeria? Looking at it from a micro level, even, a marriage that is so bedeviled with crisis must necessarily bring the couple into a negotiating table where each person would state his grievances for the purpose of reconciliation or divorce. Why can’t the future of Nigeria be discussed, if only for purposes of improvement of its workability.This position which has been maintained by our national leaders for decades seems not to have been seriously contested by anybody or any section of the society, except those who are agitating for separation.
In this context, there is need to differentiate between negotiation and agitation for separation. Those who are agitating for review of the futureare granted the fundamental right even by the 1999,constitution which itself is a fraud concocted and design by this same set of leaders who would rather bond petrol and match-stick together with little recognition of the dangers inherent in the Association.
The truth is that those former Presidents and other vested interests who are averse to negotiation or opening of discussion on the Nigerian future are simply inconsiderate by refusing to review a fifty- seven year relationship that has brought more hardship than comfort to the participants. Nigerians should ignore these leaders because of their tendency to make “good” the enemy of “better”. Stifling the path of negotiation would tantamount to sacrificing the lives, comfort and peace of the generations of Nigerians yet unborn on the altar of secondary considerations.
If we work by landmass and size of population, then, countries like India and China are supposed be the leaders of the world while the United Kingdom, France, Israel would take the back benchers in the comity of nations. This is not to say that there are no benefits in size but what is in a size that brings only despair and despondency to the inhabitants. Also, if separation is a retrogression, then the Soviet Union and Chekoslovakia would still remain intact. The case of re- amalgamation of West and East Germany is also a good example of how countries could separate and remerge when there are clear evidences that their being together would optimize their gains.
Nigeria does not have the plurality of India with a population of about 1.2 million, 22 official languages, 1652 mother tonguesat least 10 recognised religions, seven Union territories and 29 States. Nigeria became independent, thirteen years after the independence of India from Britain. Yet, Nigeria is today nowhere near where India was in terms of her socio- economic indicators and technological achievements forty years ago when I attended a college in India. The difference is that God endowed India with leaders while our own country parades those who should ordinarily be under leadership tutelage as leaders. The Nehru and the Ghandis did not fold their arms to watch their country degenerate in the name of a non-workable unity.
It should at this point be clear to all of us that almost all the National Conferences on Nigeria have started on the premise that the country should remain one. Although, I do not share the view that our divisibility into smaller countries cannot be negotiated but the refusal of our leaders to make the output of these conferences available for endorsement, despite this clause is an indication that there is more than meet the eye in the position taken by them.
We cannot choose to face the explosives when all we needed to do is to detonate them. A sensible person cannot continue to contest his own handsomeness when all he needed to do is to stand in front of a mirror. Our country today is like a home where there is a father, a mother and their children and yet, there is no family.
Those who are persuading us to jettison negotiation are those benefiting from the confusion. It is not their fault because we, as a people have always played our games with our second eleven.Prof. Ojikutu is of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos.
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