Editor’s note: Emmanuel Ezeagwu, a writer and public analyst in this piece argues that Nigerians saying the unity of the country is not negotiable in response to threats and agitations lacks credibility.
On June 10, 2017 I read in the Guardian Newspaper:
“The Senate has resolved to take steps to curtail all threats to the continued existence of Nigeria as a united and peaceful country. The resolution came at a time of numerous agitations in the country.” In the words of the Senate president: “We must stand clearly and act clearly to defend this country. The unity of this country is not negotiable.”
The Senate’s insistence on the indivisibility of Nigeria represents exactly the kind of outdated and outmoded thinking the nation cannot afford right now: the thinking that led to the gruesome civil war, the thinking that sets us back thousands of years to the Dark Ages.
Decisions are not made indiscriminately as there are consequences. In the same vein, decisions are not just made because similar decisions were made in the past. Times change, and an understanding of the present times, crucial factors, and eventual results and consequences is an unavoidable step in arriving at a good decision.
But considering the intellectual ineptitude and laziness of Nigerians, well-thought plans like this are more or less nonexistent in a nation that not only smacks of ignorance and illiteracy, but also celebrates ignorance and mediocrity even among so-called leaders and scholars.
Truly, our founding fathers agreed on “One Nigeria”. But let’s not be quick to forget that “One Nigeria” was a needed mantra while the nation was in a tedious struggle to break out of British imperial rule. Great Britain was a great nation, to say the least, and it had to be an almost equally great nation to challenge it. Individual colonies, protectorates, regions, and ethnic groups were definitely not prepared for this challenge.
All these disparate groups had nothing in common but a distaste for British exploitation, extortion and imperialism. It was this single commonality that unified them in their quest for independence. Their ideological, economical, geographical, cultural and religious differences were overlooked, all in a bid to address a more pressing issue.
However, in the wake of the independence, after the concerted and laborious effort and the celebrations that followed the success, it gradually began to dawn on Nigerians that there are more differences than similarities among themselves. These differences allowed for marginalization. This in turn led to strife. This culminated in the Nigeria-Biafra war. The country was torn apart by civil strife for some years.
The war ended only as a result of the superiority of the Nigerian forces. Though the Biafrans conceded physically, their beliefs and grievances remained intact. They believed they were not one with the Northern people, and they were grieved because of their being marginalized and maltreated in what was to be an inclusive and free society.
These beliefs and grievances have remained since then, and the Northerners, who make up the majority of the theoretically federal government (but in practice central government) have helped in sustaining and fueling them by their aloofness.
If this Senate is practical about tackling issues, then it cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the persisting ethnic and religious tension, to the circumstances leading to the independence of the state and the formation of the government, and even the amalgamation of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria Protectorates to form the single colony of Nigeria, in the first place.
As this unification was done, I understand, for economic reasons rather than political—Northern Nigeria Protectorate had a budget deficit; and the colonial administration sought to use the budget surpluses in Southern Nigeria to offset this deficit. In light of these, the Senate needs to ascertain if this project: “One Nigeria” is still feasible, instead of just chorusing Nigeria is indivisible like it were an angelic and a saintly act to do so, or like it would fetch them some Nobel Peace Prize or win them a smile from the faces of the founding fathers at the other side.
This is an oversimplification of troubling issues, nay, this is the height of foolishness and intellectual laxity. What makes Nigeria indivisible? What makes any state, say Lagos, indivisible? Abia State was divided into Imo and Abia States. So were a number of other states. On what constitutional grounds were these divisions or separations made? What prevents Nigeria from dividing constitutionally or otherwise?
There was no scientific study, no academic research done before we hastily came together to pretend to being a country. Therefore, saying that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable, is too simplistic and lacks credibility. It’s the kind of statement one would expect of a small child, yet it is made again and again by notable people in response to threats and agitations in the country.
It is illogical and fallacious in many ways because it is an argument from ignorance, second, it is an appeal to authority, and finally, it assumes the initial point, providing what is essentially a conclusion of the argument as the premise. So it begs the question: Why?
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Watch video of Nnamdi Kanu addressing followers in Isiama Afara, Abia state: