Nigeria at a crossroads: Which way to go?

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By Dr. Dons Eze

Nigeria is now at a crossroads, with no clear route to follow. For the past 106 years, the fragile relationships that have existing among the various heterogeneous groups that make up the country, have failed to cement. In 1914, two British West African territories known as the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the Southern Nigeria Protectorate, were brought together as one country, but with no deliberate effort to unite or make them one people.

Nigeria was kept apart by two Rs – Region and Religion. The country was divided into three regions, the North, the East, and the West, while two religious faith: Christianity and Islam, were promoted as best for the country.

While the North, which was more than three times the size of the whole country, was grouped together as one region, with their traditional and cultural institutions preserved or left intact, the South was divided into two regions, the East and the West, with seeds of discord sowed between the two regions.

In 1914, two British West African territories known as the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the Southern Nigeria Protectorate, were brought together as one country, but with no deliberate effort to unite or make them one people.

Thus, while the British colonialists had allowed the wind of change to constantly blow in the South, the North was shielded from the influences of Western civilization. The result was differences in social mobilization and political awareness between the North and the South.

In the North, in spite of the existence of hundreds of tribal and linguistic groups, the entire region was grouped together and forced to come under the political influence of Hausa/Fulani feudal oligarchic system, while the Islamic religion was given preference over other religions in the area. In the South, even though that Christianity was the dominant religion, the East and the West were however made to views each other with tainted eyes, suspicion, lack of trust and hatred.

The consequence of all these divisions is that Nigerians now see themselves through the binoculars of region and religion: Where does the person comes from? Is it from the North, the East, or the West? Is he or she, Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba? What religion does he or she profess? Is it Christianity or Islam? Is the person a Christian or a Muslim? Competence and ability, now take a back seat.

That is why, in Nigeria today, once you are elected President or Governor, you will begin to look for people from your area or region, people who belong to the same religion with you, or who profess the same faith with you, to appoint to sensitive positions in government, whether they are qualified, or not.

Nigeria has failed to work because people no longer get appointed to offices based on qualification, competence or ability, but based on nepotism and religious bigotry: where one comes from, or the religion he professes. This seems to have worsened under the present administration, which is unfortunate.

We sympathise with the Christian minorities in the North who are caught in the web between region and religion. While many people group them as belonging to the Northern Region, nevertheless, in the same North, they are segregated, maltreated, annihilated, subjected to all sorts of injustices and indignities, and made to suffer discriminations on account of their faith.

The introduction of the Sharia (Islamic religious legal System) by some northern state governments, shortly on return to democracy in 1999, while being targeted at these minority Christians in the North, was also aimed as a protest against political power shifting to the South, when Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southern Christian, was elected President.

Sharia later metamorphosed to the present Boko Haram insurgency and the jihadist Fulani herdsmen that kidnap people, kill, maim, burn down their houses and farmlands.

Nigeria is now deeply divided by both region and religion, which made outspoken and celebrated cleric, like Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, to begin to lament that the country was long dead, and was not worth dying for.

According to Bishop Kukah, “The impression created now is that to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim, than a Nigerian.”

Delivering homily at the burial service of a slain seminarian, Michael Nnadi, Bishop Kukah stated that Nigeria was now at a crossroads and that its future hung precariously in the balance.

“Our nation is like a ship stranded on the high seas, rudderless and with broken navigational aids”, he equivocally stated, stressing that “Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and Pharisaism have caught up with us”.

The cleric further stated that with the current situation, Nigeria was not worth dying for, explaining that “Nigeria is at a point where we must call for a verdict. There must be something that a man, nay, a nation should be ready to die for. Sadly, or even tragically, today, Nigeria, does not possess that set of goals or values for which any sane citizen is prepared to die for her.

“Perhaps, I should correct myself and say that the average office holder is ready to die to protect his office, but not for the nation that has given him or her that office”, he stated.

Bishop Kukah also said that President Muhammadu Buhari had remained the only President in the history of the country that had run the “most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history.”

“Today, in Nigeria, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed. It has become associated with some of worst fears among our people. Muslim scholars, traditional rulers and intellectuals have continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from this chokehold. This is because, in all of this, neither Islam nor the North can identify any real benefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government has unleashed on our country.

Furthermore, he stated that “The Fulani, his innocent kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy. His North has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.

“Why have the gods rejected this offering? Despite running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, there are no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria, the north still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution,” Bishop Kukah unapologetically stated.

That is the objective situation in Nigeria today. We do not have much to add, except to say that since the marriage is proving difficult to manage, the best thing would be to be bold enough to call it quits. There is no need pretending.

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