BY BAMIDELE JOHNSON (PM NEWS)
In the last one year, even the most drunkenly optimistic promoters of the idea that Nigeria is a nation have had to question the validity of their belief. Perhaps more than before, the basis of the country’s oneness is being interrogated. This has led to a steep rise in ethnic, religious and regional agitation.
Naturally, these conditions have given rise to tension, intolerance and destruction of lives and property, which appear potent enough to bring down the poor structure the British constructed through the amalgamation of 1914.
On account of decades of perceived political, economic and social injustices, there is belief in some quarters that the welding of the Northern and Southern protectorates is nothing but “the mistake of 1914″. Nigeria, as the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo described it in 1947, remains “a mere geographical expression.”
Constitutional initiatives to allay the fears of marginalisation, exclusion and oppression by various groups–especially ethnic minorities–and engender true federalism were launched to no avail. These included the constitutions of 1951, 1954, 1957, 1959 and 1960. There were also constitutional initiatives yielded by the constituent assemblies of 1979, 1989 and 1994-95.
Despite these, the flames of communal and sectional grievances continue to burn. The country’s history since independence in 1960 has delivered pages blighted by turbulent communal struggles for empowerment, security and participation in sharing the “national cake”.
These struggles were illustrated by the Isaac Adaka Boro-led uprising in the Niger Delta, the Tiv revolt, the military coups of 15 January and 27 July, 1966 and the failed secession attempt by the Igbo between 1967 and 1970.
In the present times, various ethnic nationalities and cultures, bearing a posse of grievances, are showing up Nigeria for what it really is: a mere geographical expression. The oil-rich Niger Delta has and still quakes with tension. Nationalities like Ijaw and Ogoni continue to rage over perceived political and economic, social alienation as well as environmental degradation. Until the amnesty programme of the federal government in 2009, youth militancy defined the area.
In the South-West, epicentre of the chaos that accompanied the cancellation of 1993 presidential polls, won by the late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, self-determination has returned to the top of the political charts. Prior to now, it was largely championed by the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC. The northern part of the country has witnessed minority anger, marked by the strident campaign for political and cultural rights by non-Hausa/Fulani Christian and animist communities, including Southern Kaduna people and the Seyawa of Bauchi State.
Within the same region, tolerance between Christian communities and their Muslim Hausa/Fulani neighbours is at an all-time low. The introduction of the Sharia legal system, with which Christians are irritated, has been blamed for this development.
On their part, the Hausa-Fulani believe that their fate in the current political power structure, coupled with perceived poor revenue allocation to their constituent states, make their anger licit. The latter has been listed as one of the causes of the current unrest in the North, including the Boko Haram insurgency. The Igbo of the South-East continue to complain of historical injustices since the end of the civil war.
In addition to these are the country’s unitarist political arrangement–an inheritance from the military era–, resource control, fiscal/revenue allocation formula, secularity of the Nigerian state, residency rights of non-indigenes and existence of the boundaries that split ethnic and cultural groups across states or local councils. As a result of these boundaries, there has been agitation by the Yoruba in Kogi State and Tiv in Taraba, Nasarawa and Cross River states.
Other issues are power rotation, state police, constitutional ambivalence over matters like Sharia and spread of groups like OPC, Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB; and Boko Haram.
With such variety of combustible issues, calls for a national conference have grown considerably louder, even from the section of the country that was once opposed to such. The drawable inference from this is that many parts of the country of the country feel insecure in the subsisting structure.
But as far as evidences go, there are other very big problems slowly killing Nigeria.