A Nation’s Elusive Unity By Enenim Ubon
“One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity,” the words of the last line of the first stanza of our national anthem; sadly I do not think ours is a nation where freedom abounds, neither are we living (or have ever lived) in peace and unity – at best we have only tolerated one another, each group of persons waiting for the perfect time to attack the other group, most times over issues that are both myopic and unreasonable.
Over the years we’ve kept chasing shadows, changing slogans(as if it would solve our problems) most recently from Nigeria, Heart Beat of Africa to Good People, Great Nation and now Fascinating Nigeria, yet none of these phrases has changed our orientation nor contributed in any way in defining our existence as a people. It is obvious that those who coin and project these slogans know that something is fundamentally wrong but deceive themselves that mere words can seal the fixed gulf which separates the North, South-West, South-East, South-South and Middle Belt in our minds or solve any of our numerous problems.
Right from the amalgamation, it was clear that the Northern and Southern protectorates have nothing in common and would have been better off as separate entities, albeit the British for reasons best know to them went ahead to bring together different ethnic groups without their consent under one name, (possibly to favour a few interest) a mistake which till date makes it quite difficult to find Nigerians who are more interested in what is for the greater good of the nation than their ethnic groups. We are a people constantly striving with one another. Our nation has always moved towards two societies: Ethnic/Tribal and National, both having separate and totally unequal loyalties. How we have managed to sustain this facade of unity thus far remains a mystery, when one considers countries like Somalia, Iraq and CAR that are in a state of total anarchy simply because citizen’s loyalties lie more with religious and ethnic sentiments rather than national.
For the 100 years Nigeria has crawled on, it has never been more obvious than it is now that the ‘marriage’ had a faulty foundation and its terms have to be renegotiated if we are to remain as a nation living in peace and unity. Otherwise, someday soon the entire house will collapse.
At the ongoing national conference, when most issues are raised or recommendations submitted, it becomes obvious that almost all the delegates are there to selfishly project the ideologies of their various ethnic/religious groups, non is willing to shift ground, leading to the throwing out of recommendations that ordinarily would have gone a long way to changing the economic situation of our country and its citizens. It is the North versus the South and most recently the Middle Belt and South-South versus the North. At the inauguration of the conference, the president stated that the ‘unity’ of Nigeria should not be discussed, I still wonder what the rationale for that pronouncement was, may be Mr. President is not aware that ‘this house is standing on one weak side of its foundation’. The truth remains that there is no unity amongst Nigerians and peace is either found in the dictionary or only read in books here. We can either sit or talk about the encumbrances to our national unity and why it is so elusive or keep deceiving ourselves claiming ‘one Nigeria’.
The UN and African charter in articles 1, 3-21(UN charter) and Articles 20, 21(African charter) deals with issues pertaining to control of natural resources of a people and secession. At the moment, the south west is asking for regional autonomy, same for the south east and middle belt while the south-south is asking for total control of her resources as practiced by other oil producing countries, (even the Efik minorities “have concluded plans to pull out of Nigeria due to undue interference, marginalisation, secret ceding of Bakassi Peninsular and attempts to cede more Efik territories…”.). If the above is not a pointer that the so called national unity can no longer be faked, I wonder what else will be.
Before it a too late (if it already isn’t) the 492 ‘wise men/women’ had better leave trivial issues and concentrate on the core matters that threaten our national unity. The foundation was faulty, that we have patched the unity to this day despite the many obstacles (including the civil war) is commendable but it’s obvious now that we have run out of luck, the foundation is giving way and something urgent must be done. The days of sweeping things under the carpet, just for peace to reign seem to be over. True peace can only be achieved and unity sustained when there is justice, fairness, and equity and equal rights. No region wants to play the fool anymore – we have come a long way BUT to move further we must do something urgent about the unity that has eluded us since 1914.
The labours of our heroes past should not be in vain BUT if we decide that it should, then so be it. The choice is ours.
Enenim Ubon is on twitter @enenimubon
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