Ensuring national unity beyond rhetorics
Sir: Rising from the Joint Governors’ Forums meeting in Port Harcourt recently, the 11 chief executives of the South-South regions and their South-East counterparts have insisted on continuing to promote the unity of the country. At no time in the country’s political experience would this assurance have been more pertinent. Nigeria is currently polarized and balkanised by sundry amplified grievances from these regions.
While some of these claims cannot be swept under carpets by the government, others are just attention-seeking or a pursuit for relevance. For instance, over the years, there have been several conscious attempts to bring to fore areas of obvious marginalisation but successive governments clearly suppressed such demands.
For instance, the struggle against devastation of Ogoni land orchestrated by multinational oil corporations and the deprivation of its people formed the basis for the agitation for which Ken Saro-Wiwa- a foremost environmental right activist in that region and eight of his compatriots were executed in 1995 by the ruling military junta of the time. Since it was suppressed and not addressed, the same issue kept resurfacing and eventually culminated in the militancy and concomitant destruction of oil infrastructures in the region.
Earlier on, the civil war of 1967 to 1970 was the culmination of many social injustices and perceived persecution of the Igbos. The agitation led to the pogrom which claimed many lives. Today, Igbo still have genuine reasons to complain as they have the least number of states among the geographical zones in the country.
The fact that successive federal governments have not yet fully implemented the post-war resolution of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction for the war-ravaged people of the East is also a genuine cause for concern.
Again the lop-sided federal structure which tends to give an undue advantage to a section of the country over others was the bequest of repressive and dictatorial regimes.
Itaobong Offiong Etim.
For instance, what is the justification of Lagos with the population estimate of over 20 million people having 20 local government areas and Kano with an estimate of about 15 million people having 44 local government areas? According to the latest release by FIRS, Lagos State alone contributes over 50 per cent of the country’s VAT.
As genuine as these agitations may be, however, it is still not enough reason to clamour for secession under any guise. There is therefore an urgent need for their excellencies to close ranks and foster a harmonious working relationship with their elective representatives at the National Assembly irrespective of party affiliations or leanings. Members of the National Assembly on their part should do intensive lobbying by reaching out or forming alliances with their colleagues across the country.
The proposed South East Development Commission is one of such platforms to canvass for attention to the decaying social infrastructure while the Niger Delta Development Commission should be repositioned to address the needs of the South South people.
To ensure peace in these regions governors should look beyond politics in addressing the grievances of the youths, many of whom are jobless. Separatist groups and all such organizations threatening the peaceful co-existence of the nation should not be pampered or surreptitiously used to score political goals. There is an obvious need for peace to guarantee effective governance as all democratic structures may crumble in event of war or an emergency rule.
Let nobody play an ostrich here. Looking the other way while illegal groups are allowed to carry on with activities likely to plunge everybody into needless upheavals and senseless blood-letting is not acceptable. There should be vociferous statements and actions by state governments to condemn all forms of extremisms whether political, ethnic or social.
Itaobong Offiong Etim.
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