n the words of Martin Luther King Jnr., “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.”
Fifty years after Nigeria was plunged into a deadly Civil War on July 6, 1967, which terminated in January 1970 with an unprecedented massacre of over two million people in the nation’s history, there has been a resurgence of strange drumbeats of war across its geopolitical zones. As a result, many people have been left to wonder in utter despair, asking: “Can Nigeria really afford one more bloodshed?” This is against the background of recent events in the country which tend to suggest that the nation may once again be thrown into another needless war, if the gale of hate speeches and violent messages being freely circulated among ethnic nationalities is allowed to go on unchecked.
It will be recalled that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, had directed that all the people in the South-East and indeed, those residing in other parts of the country should sit at home on May 30, in remembrance of their compatriots who died during the civil war as well as other pro- Biafra activists killed in different rallies across the country. In what appears to be a counter-reaction, a so-called coalition of Northern youth groups on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 gave all the Igbo in the 19 states of the North an ultimatum of October 1 to leave the region or be forced out.
In a related development, a coalition of Niger Delta youths also issued an eviction notice asking northerners living in the oil-rich region to leave. According to a statement, “All northerners living in the Niger Delta have been given a three-month notice to quit the Niger Delta before October 1, 2017. We still stand by our previous decisions and we demand the immediate return of oil blocks owned by northerners to the Niger Delta people.”
Indeed, the issue of eviction notice in the body politic is agitating the minds of a large number of people across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, a majority of the people agitating for the actualisation of self-determination, like MASSOB, IPOB, Niger Delta militants as well as those issuing notices and so on are perhaps young adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s respectively. Certainly, those within these age brackets were born long after the civil war. Based on this fact, they lack a vivid experience of the brutal war and are furiously touting for violence. This must be dissuaded by all and sundry. However, observers have argued that the Arewa youths were perhaps merely acting out a script, orchestrating a northern agenda. Otherwise, how would one unravel a situation where a statement issued by the youths purportedly after a meeting received immediate endorsement by some of the northern elders, who were not part and parcel of the Arewa House resolutions? The conclusion was that they share in their frustrations. So, it could have been premeditated.
A case in point also, they say, is the statement credited to an elder statesman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi. He was quoted as saying, “Whoever feels Nigeria is not conducive to him should quit.” Interrogating further the emperor perception of the north by the former Vice Chancellor, many have equally asked on whose approval the Professor relied upon to make such a declaration, and if the Arewa youths’ threats as we are made to believe, did not enjoy the express backing of the northern elders.
Words, they say, are like a glass cup of water and once poured on the ground, can never again be scooped into the cup. To this end, political watchers have held that the elder statesman’s utterance is seriously deficient of a standard behaviour and must not be condoned. This, they say citing the constitution which is the ground-norm, as provided in Section 43, “That every Nigerian citizen shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.”
As if this was not enough, while the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, was making frantic efforts to engage the leaders of the North and South towards finding lasting solutions to the myriads of agitations being thrown up by tribal and religious groups in the nation, the Arewa youths again on June 19, 2017 issued a statement urging the Federal Government to let the Igbo go.
The northern youths said, “As the Igbo agitations persist and assume threatening dimensions, we submit that there is a need to ensure that they are given the opportunity to exercise the right of self- determination as entrenched under the aforementioned international statutes to which Nigeria is a signatory.”
But come to think of it, in a heterogeneous society such as ours where every move or pronouncement by an individual, group or section is viewed with utmost suspicion, does it not call for concern that such acts can be inimical to the country’s growth and well-being; or be seemingly courting controversy? In other words, why should any individual, group or section behave as though it were simply accommodating others? There is a saying that “a butterfly that is dancing on the surface of a river has its drummers beneath the water.” Who are those beating war drums for these willing tools in the polity? We all must exercise restrain so as not to allow history repeats itself.
In view of the above, many are swift to attribute our diversity, ethnicity, languages, cultural and religious differences to be the bane of our national unity. But, this cannot be entirely true. For instance, Somalia is the only nation in Africa that is truly homogenous. It has a common identity, language, history, doctrine, culture, mores and values; yet, it is impossible to keep alive the dream of unity. In a nutshell, homogeneity is not synonymous with development, stability and peace.
Therefore, it is instructive that we learn from the experience of other countries like Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. These countries have repeatedly treaded the path of war and become worst for it. In the words of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “Violence never settles anything right. Apart from injuring your own soul, it injures the best cause. It lingers on long after the object of hate has disappeared from the scene to plague the lives of those who have employed it against their foes.”