LAGOS, July 14, (THEWILL) – The recent statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable has attracted mixed reactions from across the country. While some have argued that the country must remain as one indivisible entity, others are agitating for its restructuring on account of various instances of injustices and marginalization suffered by some ethnic and religious groups that make up the federating units.
Incidentally, the president’s statement, made in response to the growing militancy in the Niger Delta has reinforced diverse calls for some kind of restructuring. Nigeria as a federation has come a long way but, in reality, it has been described as a mere geographical expression concocted by the British colonialists to achieve their selfish desires.
Those who believe in the country’s unity as Buhari, subscribe to the famous statement by erstwhile Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, during the 1967-1970 Civil War, that “To Keep Nigeria One is a Task That Must Be Done.”
But several decades after, the political and economic soul of the nation has been hijacked by cliques from various parts of the nation, at different times, while the rest follow with no sense of belonging. The call for restructuring was made loud by the lopsided appointments made by the President which were done in blatant disregard for the sensibilities of other sections of the country. This, among other factors, has placed a question mark on the much-taunted unity.
While the presidency tries to launder one Nigeria, the barrage of reactions faulting it has assumed a groundswell. The Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, said in separate statements that Nigeria would soon “suffocate,” given the way it is presently constituted. According to them, “The circumstances of the present day demand a renegotiation of the future unity and existence of Nigeria.”
As the matter assumes ethnic colourations, concerns are higher that Nigeria is truly not one. The North, where the president hails from, has been accused of overpowering the rest units by way of undue domination and marginalization. But the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, expressed support for the president’s statement, despite the obvious signs that there are incongruities here and there.
We consider this sweeping support as insensitive to the plights of the ethnic groups who are yearning for true federalism. ACF should rather advise the president to address the issues that threaten the nation’s unity. The pan northern group has wittingly reduced the country’s seeming artificial unity to the same regional ideology that has continued to threaten the collective responsibility of incompatible peoples.
Under the circumstance, individuals and regional blocks have sharply condemned the president’s stance. The Yoruba Afenifere Group and Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, said Nigeria’s “Problem has more to do with President Buhari’s conducts; his utterances and perceived lopsided appointments, which appear to portray him as a north-centric president, instead of a pan-Nigeria President.”
Stakeholders are worried that Nigeria’s unity appears to be more divided under Buhari’s government than ever before. In calling for the renegotiation of Nigeria’s unity, the way out is to adopt fiscal federalism because the existing system is simply unsustainable if the country is to come out of the woods.
THEWILL urges the Federal Government to address the real issues threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence. A supposedly united country that has only one section dominating the rests in federal positions and other opportunities cannot be excused from renegotiation, that is if it was negotiated in the first place. The growing demands for restructuring have ostensibly been heightened by the president’s leadership style which has created sectional fears and problems.
It is absurd that at a time like this when the president ought to build bridges across the six geopolitical zones, he is rather seen to be perpetuating tendencies that call the country’s unity to question. Already, the growing wave of sectarian killings in the country by street urchins and suspected Fulani herdsmen have been linked to the lopsided appointments as the masterminds believed that “we can kill and our brothers in power will protect us”.
THEWILL believes that the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference may be the panacea to the nation’s problems; the president should therefore revisit the document and commence its immediate implementation.
The recent referendum in Britain that exited the country from the European Union, EU, has become a test case. That action goes to show that the oneness of a people in a union is indeed negotiable. There have also been instances where countries decided to break up, like the North and South Sudan, or reunited like the East and West Germany.
Since the peoples’ consent was not sought before the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 1914, it is critical that if after a century, exigencies on ground show that that action of the colonial masters is no longer tenable; it is important that that marriage, which many see as forced, be revisited.
It is ironical that President Buhari who fought in the war to keep Nigeria united as a soldier cannot see clearly that the fault lines that caused the war are the same issues that his government is showing insensitivity to. This, we believe, is the more reason Nigeria’s continued unity should be renegotiated as it is often said that no country ever survives two civil wars.