It’s been 100 years since the nation began to exist as Nigeria after the almagamation of the Northern and the Southern protectorate by Frederick Lord Lugard. Many have argued that it was against our wishes that we were joined together in those years. Some other people have said that the nation Nigeria is a creation of the colonial masters and so it should not exist. In all of these debates, one strong undertone is the issue of who comes from where and their intolerance for each other which is why we are still debating the possibility of secession – breaking apart – even after 53 years of independence from those we claimed have forcefully brought us together!
The Northerners are still fighting for dominance and the Southerners are claiming they are still being marginalized and that should be a good reason for them to produce the president of the nation. The South Westerners have their cultural inclination which they believe is the best, and also arrogantly, presumed to be the most educated – another perceived ground to be given more opportunities.
While the bigger society sees us as a developing nation with a lot of challenges, some intellectuals are beginning to define us by the extremely limited insight of the foreigner not realizing that we have become blind from the ink of tribal colouration that we threw up several years ago. Before we became independent as a nation, the segregation was about being black or white. After we got our independence and we took charge of the nation, the debates moved from who is black or white to who is Hause, Igbo or Yoruba.
In 1966 to 1970, there was a blody civil war in the country led by Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu who recently passed on and the major issue was about the Igbos trying to break away from the nation to form a nation of their own. Many lives were lost and many who could find their way out of the country left hurriedly. The debates still went on silently till 1999 when we regained democracy and now the issue was about producing a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa president. We keep talking about a federal character where people from all the regions of the country are accommodated in the politics even at the expense of merit or proven skills.
Several cases have been reported about one tribe fighting the other because very mundane issues. I remember there was a case of Hausas fighting the Yorubas in Sagamu, Ogun State and there was another one between the same sect at the popular Mile 12 Market in Lagos. In the Northern part we have seen and heard of restlessness between the Hausas and the Igbos and worse still, in the heart of Jos, Plateu state there has been prolonged fighting among the people that Yorubas and Igbos generally refer to as Hausa. Sometimes it is also about one person being a Muslim or the other being a Christian. The tribal intolerance has extended into religious intolerance.
Regardless of the fact that the world indices say that literacy level in Nigeria is low, I refuse to be deceived and also suggest that any other person, especially Nigerians should not be deceived. Nigeria has enough educated people to move this nation forward. Some of the best universities around the world have Nigerians as their professors and they are making significant contributions. When you hear some Nigerians talk then you will not be able to argue the fact that we have some of the best and also the most enterprising people you can find anywhere in the world. In the field of computer engineering, Nigeria has Philip Emegwali to boast about. In the field of English and Literature, we have late Professor Chinua Achebe, Professor Wole Soyinka and in the younger generation we have Chimamanda Adiche and Tolu Ogunlesi. In business we have Aliko Dangote who is reputed to be the richest man in Africa and one of the richest in the world. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is our current Minister for Finance was an MD at the World Bank who worked there for more than 20 years. Rcently at the just concluded Platform organized by Pastor Poju Oyemade of the Covenant Christian Centre, Pastor Itua Ighodalo said he had just returned from London where he took his wife to see a doctor. Guess what? They left Lagos, Nigeria and paid so much to go and see a doctor in London. By the time they got there it was a Nigerian doctor that they saw. The list goes on and can make an entirely new book which will also be very voluminous.
Despite the intelligence and amazing individual successes that we have recorded as a nation, I think we are 100 times slower than we should be moving simply because of the tribal lines that have been clearly drawn. Until we break or clean up those lines, we will not move forward as a nation.
I see a prosperous nation without limit in resources and potentials not just in my imagination because the facts are there. We have nearly 34 mineral resources spread across all the 36 states well enough to be exported. And now I see a nation without the tribal walls that separate us. I anxiously wait for that time when there will be no argument on marrying from another tribe. Our speed as a nation will more than triple at that time. It will happen and you and I have a part in that reality!
Fola Daniel Adelesi
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