In real life, people are told that quitters never win and winners never quit. That aphorism has proven true at the level of individual entrepreneurship and endeavour. Most people have often found out to their chagrin that just after they quit, success arrives. But how far nations can carry on, from what has been perceived as an unholy and uneven matrimony remains to be seen. The same is true with Nigeria, especially after the recent and successful stay-at-home call made on the people of the South East by their de-facto leader and the reactions which followed.
Before we log on to the question for today’s discussion, let me quickly affirm my love for my fatherland. Nigeria is a great country. Foreigners boast that our mangoes are some of the best in the world. Our women are beautiful and our young men strong. Our Jollof rice beats the Ghanaian and the Senegalese. I have had the privilege of travelling to the North, South, East and West of this great country. I have met Northerners, Easterners and Westerners, and if they don’t speak their language they don’t look any different from the dudes on the other side. As a matter of fact, when I found myself in the North for my NYSC, I wanted to add a Northern aka to my name because of its phonetic and semantic affinity with my local name. Therefore, today, I manage to find my way with a dash of Hausa, Yoruba and some Ibo, and though I am bothered that this triumvirate do not speak my language, I have carried on nevertheless. Sometime ago in Germany, I was asked to teach a group of journalists how we say good morning or afternoon or evening in Nigeria. At first, I was stuck with what to say. Here I am, a thoroughbred prince of the Niger Delta, born within the dense foliage of the South, and with the ancestry of my forebears deeply etched in my medulla oblongata, knowing that in spite of the contribution of my village, Uzere to national menu, I cannot tell the Oyinbos that ‘Merigwue’ is how Nigerians greet each and one another. So, I settled for ‘Bawoni’, instead of Ekaaro, ‘Kedu’ and ‘Sannu’, instead of ‘Inaa Kwaana’, as greetings for morning, afternoon and evening. How in the world was I going to tell them that Nigeria has over 350 languages, each with its distinctive linguistic, ethnic and political cleavage? It would have been possible to tell them that our strength lies in our diversity. But the opportunity was brief.
Outside our shores then, all that it takes for me to get the attention of my African brethren together with that of other races and peoples is my nationality. Heads turn, for good or for the bad, whenever I’ve identified myself as Nigerian. Most of the times, I get stares, but hey, who the hell cares if these stares arise from the negative things which Nigerians are known for? Is there any nation or people out there without skeletons in their cupboards? Are there no nations and peoples out there without challenges of imagery and thematic focus? Why then are we hell bent on messing things up with these frivolous quit notices we are hurling at each other?
Just after that successful sit-at-home call by the South-Easterners, an ultimatum from youth of the North asked the Ibo to leave in 90 days. Most of all saw the confirmation video by some elderly Babanriga-wearing folk saying that they have already triggered a programme to carry out a census of all lands and landed property belonging to the Ibo, to be eventually taken over immediately the 90-day ultimatum expires. Perhaps seeking a piece of the limelight as well, a group of militants has asked all Northerners in the Niger Delta to pack up and leave by October 1, 2017.
But this is not the way to go. Because of space, I would have loved to tell you the story of how the matrimony between the Belgians and the Norwegians (which used to be one country) was eventually dissolved. Therefore, instead of meandering through the tunnels of history, let’s consider that the UK left the EU without firing a single shot. What they did was a simple referendum, and which established the desire of the British people to leave the EU to determine their own destiny. They have called another general election, which seemed to have put the capacity of Prime Minister May, to conduct proceedings leading to the final exit of the UK from the EU to question. I believe that the option of a referendum is a better choice than the very primordial methods being used to address issues of our continued existence as a nation. If the Igbo or the North or anyone else wants to quit Nigeria, I think the agitation, really, would be to call for a referendum rather than address the deep issues which affect us with hot air, braggadocio, foul language and an acquisition of bayonets. We should opt for diplomacy, and the kind of tact which ensures that a relationship can still be forged if we decide to have a divorce.
I want to admit that although I love Nigeria, and would prefer that we stick together as one nation in a just and fair system, I must confess that the chances of my people ever becoming president or Speaker of the House or President of the Senate in the present political and economic arrangement is very slim. The political templates where certain tribes and tongues in Nigeria take the lion’s share of our cake on the grounds of some imaginary figures subsist. As a matter of fact, the rhetoric being peddled around town, and which encourages many Nigerians to want to go their own way is the tenuous argument that our region was developed from funds from the North.