By Sunny Awhefeada,
I choose to stand with Nigeria at this moment and always. I stand with her armed forces. I stand with her people who make up the immediate humanity I know. Let us stand with Nigeria. Ours is a nation in distress, but I am sanguine that no matter the turbulence, we shall wake up someday to a new dawn, glorious and brimful of greatness. Yes, this too, this storm, shall pass! And we shall say lo here is peace! But this optimism will be in vain if we do nothing. We must all sign up for the rebirth of Nigeria. Yes, the present turmoil symbolizes the birth pangs that must herald another beginning and that beginning must be new and convincingly so. Nigeria has had too many false starts. One of them was in 1960 when we had our independence. Next was 1963 when Nigeria became a republic and fully self-governing. The Nigerian Civil War which collapsed Nigeria’s columns was to engender another beginning when the internecine conflict ceased in January 1970. All of these moments were greeted with relief, but something was missing. That thing was the “national interest”. Our founding fathers, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, at different points negated what should have been an ideal in the framework of a “national interest”. The three men never built a genuine consensus. That seminal lack of faith in a cohesive ideal remains Nigeria’s undoing.
The trio of Azikiwe, Awolowo and Bello, belonged to another epoch, but the consequences of their actions and inactions are hunting us today. Nigeria’s many failures derive from the trio. Yes, so much has been said about their contributions to the making of Nigeria, but when fully interrogated, the three avatars undid Nigeria from the very beginning. To start with, Ahmadu Bello demurred at the thought of independence and opted for it “as soon as practicable”. His stance, which resonated across the North, delayed Nigeria’s freedom for four years.
Awolowo on the other hand sneered at Nigeria as “a mere geographical expression”. What country is not a geographical expression? So, why did the great Awo rub ours in our face? Zik who initially demonstrated traits of Nigerianism fled to the East after Awo pulled the carpet off his feet in the Western Region House of Assembly in 1951. There was also the reported spat between Zik and Ahmadu Bello about “forgetting” and “understanding” our differences. The first six years of independence were turbulent. The sentencing of Awolowo, the Tiv riots, the wild wild West phenomenon which culminated in Operation we tie and emergency rule in the Western Region all shook the foundation of the Republic.
The collapse of the First Republic in January 1966 was due to the monumental failure of the trio in handling the affairs of the new nation. When the soldiers shot their way into power in 1966, they thought it was their own way of cleaning the Augean stable.
They were wrong. Many of the soldiers were politically exposed and they took advantage of the crisis to entrench themselves in power. The Civil War came and the blood of over a million compatriots flowed across the land. Even the lordly River Niger had a surfeit of blood. Fast forward to the 1970s, 1980s through the 1990s to the present. Nigeria has been as it was in the beginning marooned on an island named catastrophe!
Sixty-two years after independence, fifty-two years after the disastrous civil war, the very foundation of Nigeria’s unity is being assaulted by centrifugal forces. Nigeria’s cauldron is boiling over. Nigeria is in the throes of something akin to death. Frightening insecurity fanned by merchants of death is ravaging the land. The pallbearer is busy as the grim reaper daily decapitates citizens. Nigeria is overwhelmed as almost everybody is at the mercy of hooded men. When are we as a people going to rise and say enough is enough? Certainly, government has failed. Let Lai Mohammed hear the Defence Minister crying “Nigeria is bleeding”. The Sultan lamented the collapse of the social space in the North West in late 2020. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has also called out the elite to speak truth to power and salvage Nigeria. Can mealy -mouthed Femi Adesina, foulmouthed Garba Shehu and irascible Lauretta Onochie, still come out with the verbiage that all was comfy with Nigeria?
As I write the North East is being pounded by Boko Haram terrorists daily. Governor Abubakar Bello has cried out that Boko Haram has hoisted its flag and in charge of fifty communities in Niger State. Governor Ortom has cried out again and again about the genocide being unleashed on the people of Benue State. The story is not different in other states. The vagaries of the failures of yesterdays have caught up with us. Our inchoate beginning is here to torment us. The loud voices and deadly hands undoing Nigeria are aimed at so much that will not augur well for the republic. The voices are crying secession and the hands are dealing death blows. The cries for secession speak to decades of injustice. The deathblows arise from the dubious claim to political suzerainty by a section of the country that wanted to establish overlordship on the rest.
Nigeria is the world’s poorest nation. It is also one of the three most unsafe places on earth. Nigeria is a bedlam and it is fast becoming ungovernable. Our rulers, actually ruiners, lived in self-denial for too long and left Nigeria unattended. Olusegun Obasanjo is all over the place advertising his “incurable optimism”, but he should be reminded of how un-statesman-ly he acted as president. His policies were half-hearted, skewed and he fancied himself as life president. The good of Nigeria was distant on his wish list. The daily harvest of deaths is a testimony to a nation that has gone mad and that madness goes back to Obasanjo’s second coming. The signs were there, but he didn’t rise to the occasion to address and redress them.
Today, we are all victims. Students, worshippers, police, soldiers have all become cannon fodders in the hands of gunmen. Education is ruined in many parts of the North. University campuses have been invaded and military camps overrun. Terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers have taken over Nigeria. The police have become helpless if not useless. The armed forces are having a tough time. Our armed forces have been gallant, especially the rank and file who are in the frontline. Let us stand with them. They have also become victims of the ravages of today. Many families are mourning and in trauma. Their loved ones have been killed in encounters with the marauders. Let us stand with them. Let us be counted on the side of Nigeria. Let us stand with Nigeria. I pledge to Nigeria, my country to be faithful loyal and honest….. Yes, let us stand with Nigeria!