By Philip Omenukwa
History is simple, but its simplicity bears enormous force. History is beautiful, it is uncomplicated, it is naked but it is stubborn. The beauty of history is inextricably interwoven with its stubbornness. You cannot easily severe its beauty from its stubbornness. History simply presents itself in its naked manner uncontaminated without any adulteration and corruption. It resists every pressure of intimidation and suppression. Often, the problem is not with history as it is, but with humans that analyse these events as they unfold. To survive and be successful, man has only but one option and that is to learn and be taught by history. To do this, is to be simply ruled by the truth. Developed nations labour assiduously to learn from their history, although they know that there is the other option of disregarding the tutorship of history. Such disregard portends danger and has never done any good to any who has attempted to take such a path. They know that history has a force and this force cannot be easily neglected without the unpleasant consequences that will necessarily arise. Germany, for instance, wastes no time in reminding her citizens of her history not minding its unpleasant sides. This means courage and identification with the truth, no matter how painful it might be. One can simply say that they have learnt from their history and are determined not to repeat their mistakes.
But can this be said of the Nigerian state? The answer of course is in the negative. Strong efforts are made in the Nigerian state to resist history by not identifying with the brutal truth it presents. A typical example is the blatant lie of Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who shamelessly told the world how the northern economy was used to develop the south; an injury to history. How on earth could the Nigerian government banish the study of history in the schools and consciously prohibit her offsprings from learning about the unfortunate event of her life; the Nigeria-Biafran war. What acutally is she struggling to hide? And why must she do that? Such anomalies characterize the Nigerian history. However, since history by its nature is forceful and stubborn, Nigerians, especially the ruling class, have only pitiably ended up wasting their time, since it is not within their competence to suppress the reality of history. I did not experience the Nigeria-Biafran war, but I have read some historical works concerning the war. Unfortunately, in all of these, there are great pointers to the fact that the Nigerian state has refused to learn from history and is on the verge of a repeat of an ugly experience. Are the factors that led to the war not tangibly present and concretely felt by the Nigerian citizens presently? Are the agitations for either secession or restructuring not enough indicators of pariah state of the nation? Are we not once again standing before a similar picture that unfolded before the unfortunate event of the 1966 pogrom and the 1967-1970 genocidal war? Secession and restructuring, in my opinion, express one and the same reality: – a discontinuation with injustice and unjust structures and a plea for equity. This in itself may not be too difficult to be accomplished when there is honesty, goodwill and sincerity of purpose. But, do these exist in the entire Nigerian polity? The answer of course is ‘no’, because of so many vested interests, both nationally and internationally. This is the situation, and this has never done any one any good, especially the poor masses who remain the major victims of the political imbalance and of the unjust structures. Consequently, and very regrettably too, the courage to chart a new course has continued to elude us, because of these inhuman interests.
For whom is the Nigerian state structured to benefit? For the masses or for the select few who belong to the political class, who, as it were, do not constitute up to five percent of the Nigerian population? Of course, it is not for the common people, the masses, who have been and are still oppressed, raped and dehumanised and are daily violated to bear the brunt of wicked policies and the administrative recklessness of their leaders. If the only people comfortable with the Nigerian structure are the insignificant few of the political class, does that not send a danger signal to anyone who cares to listen, that sooner or later the fragility of the Nigerian state will collapse.
I always read with amusement and shock how the northern political elites resist every attempt at restructuring the Nigerian polity, with the singular excuse that it is not to the interest of the North. One must pause to ask; is the present structure, the way it is, to the interest of the North? If yes, what accounts for the harassing poverty that has dotted the northern landscape? The Northern interest here refers not to the entire northern populace but the interest of the very few, who have held the entire northern populace to ransom. The presentation of the northern interest is only a guise to hide their dangerous ulterior motives of further domination and exploitation of their gullible citizens. As it stands now, all other regions of Nigeria: – the Middle Belt, the Niger Delta and the South West clamour for a restructured Nigeria or even for self-determination, except a very high percentage of the core northern elites, who are majorly the beneficiaries of the unjust structure.
It is one thing to get independence and another to drive the wheels of nationhood. Why are we afraid of restructuring Nigeria? Have we ever discussed our terms of mutual relationship in the Nigerian contraption? Everywhere in the world, states or regions manage their resources and contribute a certain percentage to the centre. It simply makes them responsible, industrious, creative and hardworking. Why must we continue to do the same thing repeatedly and expect to see a different result? Only an ignorant and foolish student does that and we are vehemently proving to belong to this class.
Permit me to ask: Who is presently in charge of the Nigerian state? Your guess is as good as mine. Is it the Federal Government? If yes, then the Federal Government ought to swiftly address itself to the challenges of the moment. Unfortunately, the Information Minister discloses to us without any hesitation that restructuring was never part of their plan and agenda. What a lame excuse. Or is it, the Attorney General of the Federation, who, to everybody’s shock and astonishment remarked, that no amount of agitation can lead to restructuring, as if the present structure is the best Nigeria can offer. What a pity. Or has power gone to the governors of the various regions? That is also far from the truth judging from the events of the recent past where youths were able to make strong declarations in the north. And in defiance to the orders of those who called for their arrest, they went ahead to dare the Federal Government to arrest them. And till today, nothing has happened. Can we even say that the South Eastern governors are still in charge in their respective states and region? I sincerely doubt. If yes, then how can one explain the events of 30th May 2017? A vote of no confidence appears to have been passed on them, since the masses decided to respect the instructions of the Indigenous People of Biafra to sit at home in commemoration of their fallen heroes in the unfortunate Nigeria-Biafran war against the wish of their governors. It is clear, therefore, that Nigeria currently swings along the pendulum of “to your tents Oh Israel”. But unfortunately her supposed leaders pretend that all is well with Nigeria. The truth is simple; Nigeria is seriously sick and needs serious medical attention. It is not in doubt, that most of the agitations that we experience almost from all the geo-political zones of the country could have been addressed, had the President in all humility implemented the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. In all sincerity, may it be said that the President’s insensitivity to this reality has caused us much harm. His unguarded and impolite speech that the Confab report is simply a product for the archives is majorly responsible for our present woes.
Take it or leave it, the Confab report just like the Aburi Accord has laboured to harmonise our cultural divergences, creating as it were a perfect blend of our cultural differences which forms the strong base of identity management. Diversity ought not to scare anyone, but ought to be rather appreciated and admired, since variety, they say, is the spice of life. The decimation of identity or uniqueness or a false pretext or denial of its existence is a seedbed of disaster. It paves way, of course, to the enthronement of anarchy and disorder. In the developed Nations, the individual plays an important part in the collective running of the enduring system. The common good is, here, highlighted and given that prominence that it rightfully deserves. But this common good is not an aggregation of amorphous and anonymous entities. The common good expresses the summation of the concrete diversities that the individuals embody. It enables the individuals to attain their fullest expression within this defined structure, of which any attempt, in whatever shape, that is tailored towards its denial and negation becomes atrocious and must be resisted. A perfect identity management exudes an outstanding beauty, no wonder many have argued that Nigeria would be better off, when its unity is kept intact. Unfortunately, a unity that cannot be discussed and restructured to satisfy its component units is more or less a cracked cave that will eventually collapse upon its inhabitants. There is nothing wrong in creating out of the present Nigerian state six different states and each state can enter into friendly relations with her neighbours. Just imagine the beauty of having a “united federation” or “a United States of Nigeria.”
How long shall the people be oppressed and be violated by unjust structures, policies and measures before their oppressors have a rethink? Have we not seen enough of bloodshed? How many more people do we want dead before we do the most needful? How long shall we still wait before responding reasonably to the challenges of the moment? Or have we gotten rid of every sense of perception and become incapable of seeing the inferno that is mounting up to envelop us? Can we actually pretend not to hear the cries of the oppressed all across the streets of Nigeria? Why is Nigeria oppressing her citizens? The situation becomes more horrific, when the oppressor disguises himself as the saviour. In addition to the oppressive structures in place, which he consciously nourishes and grows, he presents himself as the angel of light, whereas he is in concrete terms agent and emissary of darkness. How sad it is when some disgruntled political office holders, basically from the northern part of Nigeria, insist that the sit-at-home protest ought to have been first presented to the Lawmakers in the National Assembly for permission before its legitimate execution. Well, this is laughable. The entire Nigerian structure as it is today is already being perceived by the majority of the people as a symbol of oppression and the oppressive system expects the oppressed to seek permission from these oppressors on how to express their feelings. This is simply ridiculous. Revolutions are often very spontaneous depending on the factors that give vent to their eruptions.
Nigeria is presently sitting on a keg of gunpowder with a lighted match, and in obedience to the lesson of history; it will definitely explode if one insists on keeping the match very close to it. To insist on maintaining the present status quo because of the selfish gains of a select few of the political class and to foolishly pretend that all is well, is the height of folly and irresponsibility. Unfortunately, history repeats itself, when humans refuse to pay heed to her warnings. Chinua Achebe, in his beautiful work, There was a Country, remarked that Nigeria is not ready or willing to face her problems and the consequences are bound to arise. In his work, A Man of the People, Achebe, after examining the events of the sixties and strongly criticising the government in power, simply noted that only one thing remains to happen and the cycle of evil would have been completed in the then Nigerian polity: COUP. And shortly after the publication of this prophetic book, the first coup happened. History appears to be repeating itself in Nigeria, because we have, more or less, experienced all the events that precipitated the first coup. However, obedience to the voice of reason can still save us from the impending danger, and this constitutes the beauty that history embodies. However, disaster becomes inevitable, when men and women pay deaf ears to the warnings of history. History has a force that offers one some possible options of either identifying with the truth it presents and positively exploiting it to one’s benefits, or neglecting it and facing the consequent shock, devastation and humiliation it brings. The choice is ours to make. Let us speedily rescue the sinking ship before it is too late.
Philip Omenukwa writes from Germany