Identity and the “North Central” Nigerian – Part 1
Despite America’s independence and Democracy over hundreds’ of years, her people are still attached to their roots. You hear varied names like Irish Americans, African Americans, Indian Americans etcetera. The race distinctions notwithstanding, all Americans contribute, fight and die if need be for her national development. In the Armed forces you find all races protecting the sovereignty of America. In industry, people of all races are keeping the American dream alive. Interestingly immigrants can aspire for elective positions in that country.
Quoting the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo on Nigeria, he says,” Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. The word ’Nigeria’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.” This arose because the country was and is still bedeviled by a crisis of unity, heterogeneous in very many languages, diverse in religion, culture and with different values and aspirations. From available records this great nation has over three hundred ethnic groups from the North to the South. Our strengths as a nation are numerous. We have good land for Agriculture; our people are peaceful and accommodating. Natural disasters are rare. Minerals abound everywhere in this country i.e. Barites, (In Yobe, Enugu, Taraba,etc) ,Bentonite (In Anambra, Edo, Imo, Ebonyi, AkwaIbometc), Columbite (In Plateau, Kano, kogi, Kwara, Kaduna etc), Coal (Benue, Enugu, Edo, Abiaetc) Gold (In Cross rivers, Edo, Kaduna, Zamfaraetc) Iron ore (In Kogi and Nasarawa) to mention but a few. Our strengths notwithstanding we have too many weaknesses. Part of this, is that we have not harnessed our diversity properly or positively for national development.
A cursory look at Northern Nigeria reveals that it is not made up of the Hausa Fulani’s alone but you have the Igala, Idoma, Tiv, Birom, Gwari, Lang-tang, Nupe, Bachama, Jukun, Kataf, Kaje, Kanuri, Shuwa-Arabs, Bassa, and others too numerous to mention. I wonder how these tribes manage the crisis of identity. Today we have six geopolitical regions. North -West, North-East, North-Central, South- South, South-West and South-East, for ease of identity and development (I guess). Before the Civil war, Nigeria was seen in a simplistic term of just a North and South with vibrant personalities who helped develop their regions in sync with the central government. The impact of this leadership gave people a sense of identity, and identity makes the man. A man without an identity is lost. That is the crux of this matter.
Leaders of thought in the North Central region are not promoting the North Central Identity as much as they should for the people of that region. This is alarming and disturbing. The near absence of regional pride affects National pride; this is why we fail to appreciate our national agenda. Pride comes with serious conscious responsibility to self and the nation.
Identity is necessary for national development and should be sacrosanct in the minds of our leaders. What plays out every day is that elder statesmen from the North Central region are used to further the ambition of politicians from the other northern geographical block. This makes me come to the conclusion, which may be erroneous, that some in the Northern block do not want the North Central people to have a strong consciousness of themselves and the region.
This would keep the region constantly in conflict (especially political) diluting her identity. Wouldn’t it be fair for our people to have a regional voice and agenda? As an Igala from Agaliga-Efabo, I am referred to as a Hausa by my southern Nigerian friends but I am not Hausa. Who are the North Central People? The Igala, Tiv, Idoma, Nupe, Bassa, Birom, Ankwei, Angas, Lang-tang, Ebira etc. The region largely was responsible for ensuring that Nigeria remained stable and united. Her sons in the Armed forces fought the civil war and many thousands of brilliant men died in that war. We expect today that the North Central leaders will use their energies to fight for the development of their states, the region and the country. The region needs vibrant leaders who will lobby government to help develop the region. Our leaders need to preach development with the vigor they used to fight wars and make our region the envy of others.
To be continued tomorrow.