By Abubakar Bello
The recently expressed position of southern leaders that conditioned stemming “tide of separatist feelings and agitations” to the president’s assertion that the nation’s unity is not negotiable is to say the least disheartening especially looking at the personalities that made the utterance and what they stand to represent. Put simply, their expression has kicked against the sanctity of Nigeria’s unity even if for political correctness they chose to use different wordings for it.
It is true that dust of friction raised by religious and ethnic gladiators across the country is unsettled and vendors of violence are trading their stock freely. But having “perceived elders” dabbled into dysfunctional approach of treating issues with national importance is not ideal. A federal entity like ours gives room for expression of grievances in a constructive manner devoid of poisonous undertone or colouration that in anyway will endorse activities of some criminal agitations or actions.
Sustaining a federal arrangement is a collective effort that is even more demanded from opinion leaders and statesmen. All parties involved must share in the sense of accommodativeness while engaging in constant dialogue to straighten crooked areas. It is not the president alone that will fix the country’s problems especially the ones that are more or less ideological and structural. Our previous leaders fought civil war to keep the unity that we are today toying with carelessly. Most irresponsible elements that try to set the country apart by pitting one section, region or religion against another are miscreants that will run away when reality down on us. Because recent history has revealed that with the Nigerian Civil War.
While they are free to vent their position, but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of Nigeria’s unity. The country is in dire need of our collective positive inputs now than ever before. Which is why southern elders or any other regional champions must desist from politicking with serious national issues that will breed unnecessary malice and spite in the land. Issues of national importance are very delicate and should be treated with diligence because of their nature and the dimension they could take if mishandled or ill-perceived. No one should understand this principle better than the people that claim to be statesmen and opinion leaders. The separating line between fanaticism and forthrightness on certain issues is very thin.
Choosing to sweep away under the carpet burning issues of secessionist movements in the South even when it has terrorized a lot of peaceful civilians and attributing unrests in both the South and Middle Belt to farmer/herders is unfortunate. Instead, all criminalities across all divide must be condemned while uniting to fight against it. By the look things, no any part of the North is free from herder/farmer clashes, so one should not be myopic to limit it to Middle Belt alone talk less of the South.
Every part of the country has its own challenges peculiar to its inhabitants, but we must collectively speak against criminality regardless of whoever is involved. Whether it is Boko Haram in the North East, Bandits in the North West, herders in the North Central, IPOB in the South East, MEND in the South South or OPC in the South West, they must be condemned and classified as anti-social formations for whatever they stand to represent because they have at one point or the other tormented or perhaps are still tormenting some sections of the country. Covert authorization of unlawful activities in the name of agitation must not be encouraged hence the need for professor Nwabwuze to recant his statement that Nnamdi Kanu would cease Biafra agitation if the country is restructured. This is a disgusting statement as a condition and even worst coming from an elite tongue.
Southern leaders/elders should be fair enough to others, away from trivializing issues of serious national concern because focusing on herder/farmer conflict and explaining it from a perspective that seems as if only “Southerners” and “Middle Belters” are the victims is inappropriate and alarmingly misleading. Almost all the northern states are battling with sporadic conflict arising from herder/farmer clash often with scores of casualties. It is gross injustice to weep sentiments in favour of one section/region when we are all suffering from the unpronounced activities of miscreants amongst us. So the image should not be painted in the colours of North against South but rather as negative development that both North and South should fight side by side against.
Though the media feasts on such confusion and at certain times fuel it, southern leaders are not supposed to allow themselves to be pulled into such game of blame-shoving and false accusations if truly they are statesmen as they appear to be. No doubt numerous systemic problems have over shadowed the country and harbouring grudge or making inappropriate utterances will only compound the issue. Using vague term such as “restructuring” to disguise malice against one section of the country is horrible to say the least.
No doubt Nigeria as it is today has tons of problems that call for review in the existing formation. A better arrangement that solve our current predicament and iron out grey areas that are associated with population growth, resource control, social interaction, among many others. The present constitution has many flaws as pointed out by its inability to keep the federal contraption functional and harmonious. But correction should be done via the National Assembly being the legitimate body saddled with such responsibility not some extra-constitutional formations that sound intimidating.
Almost every section of the country is screaming foul or being marginalized in some respect. Whether it is really true that a particular region is dominating another or the respective elites of each region are the ones marginalizing their peasants is an issue to be debated.
Conspiracy theory is easy to sell by elites when their interest is at stake and gullible subjects are cowed to support egocentric interest perhaps unknowingly. Hate speech and blame game will never avail us a thriving atmosphere without peaceful dialogue. Well-meaning elders must be vanguards of constructive inputs that will solve our national problems for good.
Abubakar Bello wrote from Jos and can be reached at email@example.com