Nigeria: The Area around the Niger – Some thoughts going forward
The right to self determination is a very fundamental human right which we seldom see as fundamental or human. At some point, every man must be given a choice and a chance to determine himself and his destiny; whether he wants to be a woman or what and ultimately how and when he wants to go to heaven. Same way, a people must be given a choice as to whether they want to be a part of another people or a whole with divisible component parts. It's a natural right. Ultimately, every boy or girl branches out from under the parents to become a man or woman of his or her own. Self determination is itself a work of nature. Once there is an obvious and unmanageable difference, self determination is inevitable. When the right of self determination is refused, nature has a way of presenting that opportunity all by itself. For many, it's been years of mindless, needless civil war and avoidable loss of life, property and potential. Like they say, we can hardly cheat nature. I am convinced that every constitution of every free country must within defined parameters; enshrine the right to self determination.
There is a civil war going on already in Nigeria and we are not even aware. There is a genocide going on in Nigeria and we are pretending that we are fine. Like, Asa would say, there is fire on the mountain and nobody seems to be on the run. I am convinced that, more than any time in the history of Nigeria, the component units of Nigeria must be given a chance to determine who and what they want to be. They must be given the chance to determine if they want to remain a part or become a whole. That's one of the first ways to start to genuinely confront and solve the problems that have beset us for over 50 years now. We need stop shying away from reality. We are not a do or die affair. Nigeria is not an at- all-costs affair! What exactly are we afraid about?
Most of the thinking and thought leaders in this area suggest strongly that there is something negative or bad about self determination. That's not true. There's nothing innately wrong with you going separate ways. It doesn't mean we would become enemies. They often suggest it would. It won't. It just means we would change the rules of engagement. It means that for the first time, we will take our destinies in our hands.
That Nigeria is a geographical expression and for now, nothing more is trite. What is today known as Nigeria is without more a colonial decision. It's the area around the Niger. We are not a people. We are many peoples. Those that christened us Nigeria did not do so, because they thought we look alike or we talk like or because they carried out a sociological study to determine the similarity of cultures or language. They had more selfish considerations!
For the umpteenth time, division does not mean dis-unity or rancor or rivalry. It does not mean war. It does not mean that the igbo man will be the enemy of the Hausa or a the Yoruba man the enemy of the Niger Deltan. It's the same Myopia we attach to divorce. If two people found out too late they were not supposed to be living under the same roof, let them go their separate ways. Why should religion compel them to stay together! What is the morality in compelling them to stay together? Its the weaker sex that would always suffer. Some of us are herbivores, some are cannibals. Must we leave together bound by the same rules? It's just stupid. Plain milk stupidity! We like to pretend or assume that there's something holy, sacrosanct and untouchable about the landmass today referred to as Nigeria. I don't think so. What we know as Cameroun today or even Ghana could have easily become a part of Nigeria!
The point really is we need to go back to the drawing table. We need to bold enough to take our destiny into our hands. Let's decide. Let's take our destiny into our hands for once; for once, since our contrived independence. By the way, I have often wondered and tried to find a basis for Independence Day celebrations. The celebration of independence by Nigeria or by any country is pure intellectual failure. Independence day celebrations should be scrapped, really. Moving on, we need to decide if we want to be Nigeria. Clearly, what we call Nigeria today was actually foisted on us. The decision to be Nigeria was taken on our behalf. We need to now display some intellectual courage. It's late but not too late. It's plain foolishness to keep continuing as Nigeria without giving ourselves a chance to determine if we want to continue as such. A good chance is the very least we can do to reduce of the intellectual failure that we now typify. We must take that decision and fast. If we decide to stay together, we must draft new rules for co-existence as Nigeria based on our peculiar experience in the last 50 years. If some people want to leave, we must allow them leave. We must draft appropriate legal framework for their exit.
I have also come across some thinking that suggests that self determination will not work because some regions are perceived to be more viable than the other. That again is a intentional misconception perpetrated by those whose pockets are greased by the white elephant project called Nigeria; The wealth of a nation is not in its mineral resource. The wealth of a nation is in its human resource. Every other measurement of development responds to the human factor. The poverty of any region is always a result of the intellectual laziness and poverty of its leaders and people. When ideas stop, the economy grinds to a halt! Whether as Nigeria or otherwise, If we cannot think, we cannot change our circumstances for the better. Possibly, if we give ourselves a chance, perhaps we may find out that there are indeed alternative sources of energy in these parts! Singapore is the most recent example that the circumstance of one's birth does not diminish the capacity of one's potential for greatness. We can all relate with that on a personal level. Presidential Jonathan is advisedly a shining example of that reality; - assuming posterity will adjudge him to be great- Singapore has no known natural resources. All it has are human resources. Today, Singapore is a First World, Asian Tiger! Singapore is today known as one of the freest, most competitive, most innovative and business-friendly country in the world. The country is the only Asian country to have AAA credit ratings from all three major credit rating agencies- Standard & Poor, Moody's and Fitch. They don't have crude oil. They don't have natural gas. They have no iron ore. No Bitumen, No Zinc, No gold. No bauxite. No tantalite! I am more than convinced should Nigeria decide for self determination, we would all be better for it. Self determination would inspire the much needed innovation and efficient leadership that we so badly need. And if this was Ojukwu's dream, we must give credit to him. If we decide against self determination, we will also be better for it because then we can renegotiate the basis of our co-existence upon more results-oriented terms
Not electricity, not good roads or health care would be Jonathan's greatest legacy. This will be his greatest legacy; that he gave the component units of Nigeria a good chance to self determine. A good chance is the least we deserve now. Call it a sovereign national conference, call it a national conference or call it town meeting or a roundtable. It doesn't matter. We need to sit down and do some serious talking.
Well, I hope Jonathan reads this by himself.
Olubunmi Ogunkunle is an innovation practitioner based in Lagos, Nigeria