Saturday, 6 October 2007

Is One Nigeria A Reality Or A Dream?

Peter Ihaza

(Vienna October 7th, 2006)

I must confess to you that this is one complex topic which requires fine dovetailing of a wide range of empirical examples and explanations of the nature of our country before one can arrive at whichever side of the argument one wishes to lean on. And having shaken this topic apart for analysis, I find no reason why Nigeria cannot be one united country.

I tell you something. I was born in Benin City, learnt how to count in Yoruba, had my first Sunday school class in Hausa and my “adopted elder brother “ is an Ibo , tell me who am I ? I AM A NIGERIAN!

You may argue that Nigeria is riven by social, economic and political imbalances that are correct! That Nigeria is a country where her leaders fight for political offices for no other reasons than to cater to their kleptomaniac desire of gleefully looting treasuries and diverting public funds into fictitious banks so that they and their families can live the lives of the most elegant traditions of comfortable thieves, I agree with that! That Nigeria is a country where politicians gun down their political opponents in a gangland-style and the perpetrators are free to contaminate all forensic evidence to frustrate investigations, which is unfortunately true! That Nigeria is a country awash with drones that rob the bees of their honey. That Nigeria is a country with a cocktail of corruption and unimaginable vices. That our system is a tangle of dysfunctional measures. You are right in all of these points. And you may finally argue that one of the aforementioned difficult problems or all of them have concurred into a totality of significant testimony in favour of a call to balkanise Nigeria. Here is where I beg to differ. The irreducible fact remains that all of these shortcomings are man-made. And they are solvable by man.

Yes, I beg to differ that the interest of Nigerians would be well served if a united Nigeria remains an illusion, a dream. I believe that Nigeria as a country exists and there are many inherent benefits that come along with this if the advantages are properly harmonised for the good of Nigerians.

You would agree with me that a nation's status in the power equation of the New World Order revolves around the size and dynamism of its economy. In the present world, politics is driven by economic and not the other way round. The tendency is for smaller economies to come together to be able to have impact on the world economy because of the fundamental change in the projection of power. Nigeria has all that it takes to be Africa’s largest economy with great economic potentials and with its vast resources and can also be in the league of the new regional super powers like India, China, Malaysia etc. Nigeria is a country of about 140 million with about over 100 tertiary institutions producing over 250,000 graduates a year, huge human resources the human capital is there. With the argosy of human resources, the large deposit of solid minerals yet untapped and of course, the fact that we have the fifth largest gas reserve, and being the eighth largest oil producing member, OPEC, the potentials are overwhelmingly huge.

There are about 250 different languages and cultures in Nigeria. It is not only the most populous country in Africa it is also the largest concentration of black people in the world. If I am right in my guess, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian, and one in ten of black people in the world is a Nigerian. Under normal circumstances, this would be a reason to be proud to be a Nigerian. Contemporary Nigeria is a state of nations and nationalities. It is, therefore, a multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious society in which differing socio-political systems were dominant before the emergence of the Nigerian-state. It is an axiomatic fact beyond the reach of denial that cultural commonalties and differences shape the interests, antagonisms and association of states. And the most important countries in the world today are made up of people of different cultural heritage. Nigeria has this potential.

It is unthinkable that in the event that Nigeria breaks up we can fine-tune 250 countries out of the present day Nigeria. A lot of today’s minority tribes will still be permanently condemned to live under the heavy weight of one of the present majority tribes. Even a lot of smaller countries in Africa are not known to know peace. Take Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, Cote D’voire, the Congo or Liberia as cases in parentheses. Have these countries been able to fare well? The answer is no. Then why should we break up Nigeria and end up in creating super poor countries? We already have enough poor countries in Africa It troubles my equilibrium when we only saddle ourselves with the thinking that the solution to our problems is limited to the scope of balkanization of our country.

It gladdens the hearts that we are fully aware of our chronic problems. This awareness can comprehensively throw us into focus and provide us with a better and more realistic perspective from which we can find permanent solutions to our social, economic, political and ethnic problems. Let me add this in passing that in a diverse and plural society as Nigeria, devolution, decentralisation and the assurance of freedom of choice are essential ingredients in the development of a common national goal. Switzerland and Canada will serve as eloquent testimonies. National unity and harmony are essential to assure and guarantee a sense of shared vision, and we must allow these to grow organically from a sense of shared destiny.

It is our duty to keep the nation together. Nigeria will be whatever we call it. We should not allow our differences to be stumbling blocks to progressives changes for our own good rather, they should be allowed to reinforce one another to form a formidable scaffold on which our national unity , a unity of common purpose can be sustained. This is a possible reality. Thank you.

Peter Ihaza is the immediate past President of Nigerian Union, Hungary

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