By FREDRICK NWABUFO
“Onye Nigeria, I told you one day, there will be job adverts for positions in the federal civil service, and there will be a clause: ‘No candidate from the southeast allowed’; the exclusion of Ndi Igbo from the leadership of the three arms of government is just the beginning.”
That was the message of an Igbo nationalist to me.
Nnamdi is a “sparring mate”, who scavenges for daily upsets and annoyances about Nigeria. He has been dutiful in this enterprise. We spend some time arguing the place of the Igbo in Nigeria and related subjects. He believes the Igbo cannot reach the acme of their potential with the current structure of the country. And he says they will always be seen as a threat to be put down.
I knew he sent me that message to taunt me. I did not respond to it because I had no perfect “clap-back” to his dig. I had often fended off his ultra-nationalist arguments with my own arguments, but this time, I was as empty as a spent cartridge on what to say logically.
As matter of fact, I am unbending about the unity of Nigeria. For me, it is a fossilised conviction that Nigeria is more convenient as one country than as a fragmented non-entity. I have given reasons for my position in other essays; so I will focus on the tugging matter of “Igbo political marooning” in this one.
Really, how do you build a united country, when one of the joints on which the tripod stands, is deliberately and arrogantly being chipped away at? How do convince the Igbo that there is no agenda to keep them under? How do you curb internal strife when an ethnic group, as large and pivotal as the Igbo, is loudly excluded from the leadership of the arms of government, and even being gibed for it? How do you say “Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable”; yet you do everything to put a knife to the umbilicus?
Do we really want Nigeria to work? Are we making it work? I doubt it. The current insensitive leadership ordering, which is brazenly destitute of geographical diversity, will only deepen distrust, enmity and inflame passion. It will give secessionists ammunition for agitation and yield recruits to the cause. And it will be a reference point for future political injustices. The southeast has been put under the pecking trough now; it could be the southwest or the north tomorrow.
Let me address the ignorance of those advancing the vacuous argument that positions of leadership in the three arms of government bear no meaning to the wellbeing of the state or the region of their occupiers. President Buhari is from Katsina; is the state the better for it? No. But is the north satisfied that he is president and will want to have him there even for a “third term”? Yes. Why? It gives them psychological security. This is the reason there is feeble or no opposition to his government from the region despite the insecurity ravaging the area.
The point is, Nigeria is a complex country and sensitivity is vital in governing it. Inclusion and political equity are not a luxury, but a necessity. Equity is not about niceties or farcical and politically correct arguments; it is about inclusion and being sensitive to divergences and interests.
There is psychological warmth a people enjoy knowing that they are not shut out of the kitchen and that someone from their axis is at the decision-making table; someone they can cry to, summon to village or group meetings for censuring when necessary. This is beyond corporeal benefits; it is an emotional need and valid. Inclusion is how you abbreviate the fears of ethnic domination. It is how you allay the fears of religious hegemony.
As I said in a previous essay, a country as enormous, diverse and delicate as Nigeria cannot evolve organically when a part of it is deliberately marooned and confined to the fringes.
As a believer in Nigeria, I am speaking out against this imbalance and insensitivity because there is no peace or progress when the country feuds.
Let us not lay more landmines for tomorrow.