Nigeria as a coat of many colours – Part 3
In concluding the ‘Coat of many Colours’ reflections, I should say that the experience of driving through memory lane clears the mind and prepares it for the future; in other words, it has been therapeutic. To be sure it may be offensive to some, those who want the atrocities of the past buried forever, not to be recalled, not to be mentioned in contemporary narratives. But we should know that just as a man is a sum of his memories, so too is a nation too. An incursion into the past is a marker of sorts, a reminder of milestones created and surpassed or never attained. While some of us are conscious of history, of what could have been, and what should be, quite a number do not see the total picture.
Sadly, at this time of our history persons who fall into this latter category seem to control the narrative because they have seized the national space. There are some too who are fixated in some imaginary ideas of superiority of religion or ethnic group, the ‘born to rule’ figment of imagination. This wild view has no place in a democracy; it is atavistic and insulting.
A ‘pastiche’ is a beautiful design for those who appreciate art, those with an elevated mind. For the non-initiate or the plain-minded it would just be an image of jagajaga, meant to be discarded, even annoying in the first place. Why should anybody think of placing contrary images side by side, the question would be.The modern State, governed by democratic ideals sometimes poses a danger to itself, particularly when the tyranny of the majority sees things from a narrow prism, as the current American experiment with President Trump has demonstrated. On the lighter side, I have attended burial ceremonies of some confirmed polygamists in Delta State and was amazed how the wives and children from different ethnic background was able to give colour to a funeral. Perhaps we should reflect on this; how diversity can be a beauty if properly harnessed.
The moral burden of ensuring ethnic cohesion and harmony is on the leadership class. Justice and fair play are crucial. Either by design or default no ethnic group, big or small, should be left out of the political equation. The Niger Delta conflict remains unresolved. Their demand that the oil majors should relocate to their base of operations has been ignored. They sit in the comfort of their offices in Abuja and Lagos while sucking the earth dry in the beleaguered region. One of the greatest sore points therefore in the coat of many colours is the injustice in the Niger Delta. Billions of dollars have been extracted from the soil of that oppressed region yet there is no infrastructure on the ground to show for it. Oil wells from my backyard have made billionaires of some persons who live thousands of miles away, who have never seen the well, who have never visited the region. They have become billionaires because they come from a particular ethnic group!
Another sore point in the pastiche is the crisis in the North East. Boko Haram has waged a war against the Nigerian government from Maiduguri. The ground for this was prepared by the Maitasine Sect in the 1980s, a foreshadowing of what was to come. Around 1999 Sharia was introduced in certain parts of the North ostensibly to destabilize the Obasanjo administration. It would seem to me that the people of the area want sharia laws. Nothing stops us therefore from drafting a regional constitution for the North that would recognize Sharia as the operational law for Muslims. Christians will be exempted and their matters will go to regular secular courts.
The key to this is a well thought-out Federal system that works for us, and not the imported model. My only worry is that persons of the Awolowo/Ahmadu Bello/Azikiwe model who are ready to deep-think about the country are NOT in the corridors of power currently. If I recall that the Sardauna Sir Ahmadu Bello in his own words wanted ‘each region to have a complete Legislative and Executive Autonomy with respect to all matters except External Affairs, Defence, Customs;, if he wanted ‘no Central Executive or policy making body for the whole of Nigeria’, then he understood the ‘coat of many colours’ better than most of his successors in office.
The resurrected spirit of Biafra in IPOB after the 1970 ‘No Victor No Vanquished’ proclamation by General Yakubu Gowon has made it clear that there is a crack somewhere, even if we argue that there are subterranean hands behind the agitation. Indeed some retired Generals have argued that it was wrong to treat the vanquished as equals. The post-World War 2 Nuremberg trials show that the defeated must know that there is punishment for rising up against the State. In a sense this is correct. However Gowon sincerely saw the end of the war as a coming back together of brothers. In my view after the genocide that was the federal policy against their Igbo brothers further punishment could have backfired. It is also true that the Igbo suffered for fighting the war; they have been effectively prevented from producing the President of the Federal Republic!
Finally, President Buhari who has vowed that the ‘Coat of many Colours’ should be a permanent source of pride needs to go beyond the declaration. He has to perform acts capable of strengthening the loose corners of the tapestry. Too many people and groups including Arewa are questioning the basis of the Nigerian Federation. The Fulani herdsmen matter which has not drawn enough action from him is a sore point. His silence promotes the narrative that he is sectional as a President, a man who is determined to protect his ethnic group as they perpetrate atrocities across the country. If he has not become President to preside over the liquidation of the Nigerian Federation he should calmly and prudently provide stitches through dialogue so that the ‘Coat of many Colours’ may endure.
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