Perhaps at no time in Nigeria’s history, since after the civil war (1967-1970), had the country’s unity been more challenged than now. Agitations and protests bordering on marginalisation, underdevelopment, inequity, unfair treatment, ethnic and religious differences have continued to threaten the fragile peace and foundation of the country.
So also is constant threat to lives of Nigerians living outside their indigenous states and regions. The ‘unity’ seems to be getting weaker by the day as echoes of ‘restructuring’, ‘regionalism’ and ‘true federalism’ reverberate across the land.
They are same issues that aggravated the crisis that snowballed into the civil war. Forty-seven years after the war ended and the pronouncement of “No Victor No Vanquish”, by the Federal Government, Nigeria is still searching for national cohesion.
Nothing captures the national discontent more than the recent ultimatum by the Arewa Youths to Nigerians of the Igbo stock to leave Northern Nigeria before October 1, 2017, and the unending agitations by the now proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for secession from Nigeria.
Cheta Nwanze, a political analyst and head of research at SBM Intelligence, says although the issues referred to above may have been contained by the withdrawal of the ultimatum by the Arewa youths and proscription of IPOB by the Federal Government, the tension created still poses a threat and there is the need to watch.
“If improperly managed, the current tensions are a huge threat. Nigeria is currently unstable, and a spark could ignite a flame,” says Nwanze.
According to Nwanze, the Niger Delta is another keg of gun powder. Although the government has been able to douse tension in that region through the instrumentally of the Amnesty programme, but the militants are still around and watching.
There is also the threat of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North. The terrorist group declared war on the Nigerian government in 2009 with the stated aim of establishing a radical Islamist caliphate in the region. At its strongest point in early 2015, Boko Haram insurgents took control of vast territories in the North East, and wasted thousands of lives.
Although the group has been largely decimated by the President Muhammadu Buhari- led Federal Government, it remains a menace still. The group has so far this year launched over 50 attacks despite the heavy presence of the military in that region.
There is also the menace of the murderous of herdsmen who roam the length and breadth of the country with AK47 rifles, killing, destroying farmlands and sacking communities, especially in Benue, Kaduna, Enugu, and Delta among other states.
Worried by the spate of attacks and agitations by various groups, Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice president, recently lamented that the country’s unity was under threat, and called for the re-strengthening of national values.
An analyst, who wants his name left out, says the proscription of IPOB and the heavy militarisation of parts of the country by the Federal Government may not truly offer a solution to the agitations across the land and secessionist bid. According to the analyst, Nigeria can overcome the cries of marginalisation and discontentment by engaging the various ethnic nationalities and agitators on ‘productive talks’.
“We mustn’t see the killings by the Boko Haram insurgents in the North only as a terrorist group which takes pleasure in bloodletting. I believe they are pushing an agenda. Across the ethnic minorities both in the North and South, there growing discontentment. In the Southwest, the calling for restructuring of the polity is widespread. I really think that it is an issue we can no longer continue to ignore. The time is now,” says the analyst.
Bobboi Kaigama, president of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) laments the backwardness of Nigeria. According to Kaigama, with the attainment of independence on October 1, 1960, many thought that progress and development would be rapid but it has not been so.
“Our tale is that of a conundrum with insurgencies, collapsed educational system, gross unemployment, ritual killing, cultism, prostitution, mass emigration, de-industrialisation, tribalism and nepotism, inept leadership, environmental challenge, infrastructural decay, gender issues, Badoo, kidnapping, corruption and anti-graft.
“I challenge the leadership and Nigerians to see this year’s independence anniversary as a vintage opportunity to reflect on our polity, economy and society at large. We must all look at the reality in our country dispassionately.”
Against the background of the increasing threat for secession, Yakubu Gowon, former military head of state, recently appealed to the youths to avoid anything that threatens the unity of the country.
At a national security seminar on “Unity in Diversity: Security and National Development”, organised by the Department of State Service (DSS) in Abuja, Gowon urged the youths not to allow a situation where Nigerians would fight one another again.
“You are the future of this country. In all that you do, ensure that we build the country in the interest of all. Ensure that you do better than what we have done for you. This is my plea to you. My view and call is that all Nigerians should like their country, right or wrong, but yet demand a change for good and better’’