The idea of having a near-perfect country out of a ruptured Nigeria is illusory. The composite parts of the country each contribute to the miasma of confusion that Nigeria is. No single entity is responsible for Nigeria’s problems. All the ethnic nationalities are equal shareholders in the failing of the Nigerian enterprise. There is enough blame to go around.
Splintering the entity has often been exalted as the remedy to Nigeria’s problems. But this is a defective reasoning because in this instance, Nigeria is defined by its geography and not its people.
Nigeria is its people. It is the same people that will occupy the emergent states not angels. There is no paradise anywhere. The problem with Nigeria is a people-problem. Recalibrating the map will not change anything – if the minds of the people do not conform to progressive values.
The assumption that there will be “divine concordance” if Nigeria breaks up according to regional lines is obtuse. That a people speak a common language does not put a stamp of camaraderie on group relationship. In the South East for instance, there is native discrimination among people of the same region. Some are regarded as “impure Igbo breeds”, while others consider themselves as “true Igbo scions”. There are areas sons of certain states are advised not to tread in search of love. Also, it is quotidian among the Igbo to describe people from certain areas in Ebonyi with the pejorative of “wah awah” – “impure breeds”. And there is a deep gulf among classes on the social ladder in the region.
So, what will change if, for example, there is a south-east state as some are campaigning for? Will the present social order be inverted? Will the internecine hate and wrangling dissipate? Well, for sure I think the current revulsion that some have for the entity “Nigeria” will be reserved for the emergent state. Elite corruption and abuse will still dominate the polity because the new order will be from the same predatory gene-pool. Non-ethnic predation will give way for ethnic predation because at the end of day class struggle is not resolved by the unity of language, religion or culture.
There is a classical example of a country in Africa steeped in economic and civil crisis after breaking away from the motherboard. The case of oil-rich South-Sudan rings a familiar bell. Today, South-Sudan is one of the poorest countries on the surface of the earth despite its oil wealth. All the hoopla and gyrations that followed the country’s severance from Sudan soon gave way for tears, sorrow and blood.
As of 2019, 400,000 citizens have been killed in the South-Sudan crisis. Four million refugees created and 1.8 million people internally displaced. The cause of these tragedies boils down to power struggle among the elite who quickly mobilised themselves behind the emergent state to capture power. A country fabled to be a lodestar in Africa and which was to be a compelling argument for splintering “artificially created” states on the continent is now a functional example of why breaking up countries in Africa is not expedient.
An often parroted argument for Nigeria’s dissolution is that the country is an inorganic fabrication of the British. True, but so are many countries on the planet, yet they are thriving and working according to a common purpose. Most countries in the world were created by accidents of history. It is nearly impossible to find a homogenous country. The problem with Nigeria, as we all know, is that we are yet to have a people’s leadership or as Chinua Achebe puts it, a leader “humbled by the trust placed on him by the people” and “willing to use the power given to him for the good of the people”.
We are stronger together. This is not a platitude but a fact. Ninety per cent of wealth of the Igbo is not warehoused in the South East. The Igbo are a peripatetic people gifted with extraordinary entrepreneurial abilities. They are among the most financially fortunate Nigerians. Nigeria and beyond are their trading arcade. They are in every nook, cranny and crevices in the country. It is unarguable that a united Nigeria is a more viable emporium for the Igbo than a fragmented Nigeria. It will not be the same for the business-minded Igbo with new states emerging from the wreck of Nigeria – the emergent states will certainly want to put up hedges that will protect their own people against outsiders. Where does that leave Chukwuma who has billions of naira worth of investments doting the north and the south-west?
The same theory applies to the north of which economy thrives on agriculture. Nigeria with its bubbling population is a consumer paradise for the agricultural produce of the north. In addition, there are bountiful benefits for the north from Nigeria’s oil wealth. The south-west as well cannot subsist as an island. It needs the commerce of the Igbo, the endowments of the north, and rich cultural and material resources of other groups to blossom. We need each other.
Our diversity should count for something. It should be our strength. We will be the biggest losers if the Nigerian enterprise is liquidated. We must make Nigeria work.
Nwabufo is a writer and journalist. Twitter @FredrickNwabufo.