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Nigeria: Imprisoned in the past

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Nigerian army soldiers stand at a base in Baga on August 2, 2019. Photo: AFP

The Nigerian story is a never-ending mixed bag of comedy, satire and tragedy depending on individuals leaning or perspective. After 60 years of independence and 51 years of a genocide civil war, Nigeria has different descriptions and meanings for different people. It is either comical, satirical or tragic. This is because most Nigerians, especially those who should know are imprisoned in the past and have decided to keep Nigeria and Nigerians in the prison of their dysfunctional views in hatred, wickedness, revenge, ineptitude, greed, ethnicity and nepotism.

Recently, I listened to an online conference organised by some patriotic Nigerians aimed at discussing and reviewing the many troubles bedevilling the country. Perhaps with a view to genuinely proffer solutions to the problems of a nation that is near failing in every ramification. Credit for this noble course goes to Nzuko Umunna – a group focussed on bridge building across the many ethnic divides and groups in Nigeria. Led by Mr.Ngozi Odumukor, Mr.Dele Momodu of Ovation TV, and Mazi Uche Ezeoke of Njenje Media TV anchored the conference with several participants from across the country like Bishop Hassan Kukah, Pa. Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Mbaezurike Amaechi, Dr Akinbaba Ahmed, Elder Uma Eleazu, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, Prof. Pat Utomi – Planning Committee Chairman, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Senator Shehu Sani, Onyeka Onwenu – The Stallion, Prof. Ladi Hamalai, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, Lady Ann-Kio Briggs, Mrs Charity Shakari, Ambassador Igali and others.

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The theme of the conference is Never again: 51 years after our civil war. The objective of the conference is to attempt to articulate measures that may be acceptable to Nigerians on how to save the country from sliding into another civil war based on the evident high level of insecurity and other internal threats staring the country at the face. However, the conference brought to the fore the stark realisation that time may never be able to heal our national experience of the past and the present. This is obvious from the tilted presentation of some participants at the conference who chose to present our history in an abridged form, essentially cutting it from the portion where it favours them with a view to justify why governance and government structure are the way they are in the country today and those so vexed by the blow the country has dealt them. Time ought to be a great healer but revelations from this conference is quite disturbing, and indicative of the fact that the wounds and hurts in the hearts and minds of most Nigerians have yet to heal from our post independent days conflicts, coup, war and subsequent travails that have followed till date.

The essence of the Never Again Conference is to galvanise thoughts and ideas from different parts of Nigeria with a view to finding panaceas to the numerous problems drowning the country. It is not because we have not had such conferences in the past, but because the whitepapers generated from such summits were discarded owing largely to the deep division and disagreement among various regions and ethnic nationalities in the country, dishonest and weak leadership, and greed and corruption on the part of critical state actors who should save the country from drifting. Therefore, it behoves on concerned Nigerians, to in all sincerity keep on pushing for the independence of Nigeria and the emancipation of Nigerians to ensure peace and development.

Speaking at the conference, Pa Adebanjo clearly defined the issues and solutions to the challenge of the Nigerian state. What the country requires is truth based on historical facts, the will to accept such facts, government’s willingness to implement same and the determination of Nigerians to demand and insist that the right things must be done. My postulation is aimed at ensuring politicians do not hijack the process and make the citizens believe they have no part to play in such serious matters of national importance. The reasoning is to save the elites from what our presumptuous political leadership may label opposition force, and scuttle a worthy initiative thriving on the docility of ordinary citizens.

This consciousness is important because some discussants at the conference, drifted, became emotional, dishonest, subjective and unrealistic, and sealed their ears and eyes to the truth and our today realities. Such persons probably think they have attained some levels of relevance; therefore their views must be accommodated. To such characters, I think it is important they release themselves from the prison of the past, review history of other nations and understand that it is either we save Nigeria now or we lose it forever.

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I will attempt here to present the views expressed by most participants at the conference. Their views were as divergent, as they are similar. However, in my opinion they reflect the fact that we are very far from the truth, and are not ready to address the challenges confronting Nigeria truthfully and administer the medication urgently needed for speedy healing, peace and development in the country.

The theme of the conference unequivocally defines two countries; the states of Nigerian and Biafra. Biafra was indeed a country; yet in the past. In his keynote address Bishop Hassan Kukah spoke about the need for speed to enable Nigeria catch up with other nations of the world, the need to agree on what our challenges are, confess our sins and errors of the past, express regrets for those sins, ask for forgiveness and make commitments not to sin again. Unfortunately, half sins were confessed at the conference by some, and those who admitted to their sins are perhaps not considered sober or remorseful enough therefore cannot be forgiven.

Ridiculously, some participants tend to agree that we do not have Nigeria’s history properly documented. I disagree with such views. We may have or hold divergent views on how different people and regions perceive or remember our history orthe civil war and how they have documented them, but the truth is that the Nigerian civil war and the events trailing our history are well known and documented. To suggest anything to the contrary will mean some spirit of amnesia and denial are at work and this could create fresh confusion, because I believe that it is a well known and clearly remembered history that is at the root of what we suffer today as a nation. The consequences of which are; hate, inequality, injustice, resentment, anxiety, agitation, unprecedented corruption, poor education and infrastructure development across the country.

Bishop Kukah blamed present and past administrations for the nation’s woes, and advocates the need for the Nigerian story to be produced as a documentary or movie for ease of access and consumption. The reasoning is that this will help reduce the anger and level of blame among ethnic groups. He lamented the fact that religion is used for division in Nigeria instead of fostering peace and unity. He canvassed the need for equality under law irrespective of who you are or where you are from, and stressed the need for appropriate consequences or rewards for individual citizen’s actions.

Prof. Pat Utomi noted that deficiency of trust and truth is at the heart of our national woes. He supports the view that proper documentation of the civil war from various perspectives is important for a better understanding of what really happened so as not to repeat past errors. He pointed out the fact that we need to alter our modus operandi in order to ensure we do not create the type of frictions that led to the civil war. These sentiments are pitiable expressions of Nigeria’smode of imprisonment in the past after 51 years of a civil war that ended on a note of no victor no vanquish, one Nigeria.

Pa Ayo Adebanjo addressed what I consider ‘the truth of the matter’ in his contribution, which is the need for a constitution agreed upon by Nigerians. He agrees on the need to know our history in order to correct our mistakes, and recommends Nigeria’s history should be taught from the elementary levels in our schools. He stressed the need for us to advance from analysis and rhetorics to policy implementation, churn nepotism, begin to put square pegs in square holes, stop denying others their right, demonstrate good intentions and stop paying lip service to one Nigeria. He harped on the need to act now and fast too, and made clear his position that to continue denying a section of the country the right to the presidency, and a section arrogating monopoly of the right to decide who becomes president in the country is unacceptable and could spell doom for Nigeria.

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He assures of adequate knowledge of our history, so we really do not need analysis because all the analyses over the years have not changed anything. He lamented that fact that Nigeria is not working otherwise there will be no agitations. For him, the critical issue is how the country should advance and get out of this quagmire through a peoples’ constitution. Therefore, he argued on the need for Nigeria to return to the constitution we had before the war.

Pa Adebanjo cautioned about the bluff of the north, listening to Alhaji Yakassai and the perspective from which he delivered his presentation. He also informed the conference that our constitution is a fraudulent document because we did not make the constitution and we are not practicing true federalism. He lamented the killings across the country and blamed it on the Fulani Miyetti Allah and the dominance of our armed forces by northerners, especially the top echelon of the military.

He affirmed his support for Nnamdi Kanu, but stands for the unity of Nigeria if we urgently restructure the country and return to true federalism, believing that this will stop agitations in the country because restructuring and our return to federalism, which is essentially a constitutional matter will settle all the contentious issues that provokes agitation. In his words;“all the trouble we are having now are a product of our skewed constitution, once we have a constitution that is agreeable and acceptable to all there will be peace, and there will be no ground for Nnamdi Kanu or anybody to want to break away from Nigeria.

To be continued on Opinion page tomorrow.

Anonyai, is president, Truth, Peace & Development Network Initiative, Lagos.

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