Let’s Celebrate What Unites Us

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Guest Columnist: Magnus Onyibe

The admonition of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar Ill that God does not make mistakes, must have struck strong chords with members of both the Islamic and Christian Faiths in Nigeria.

The assumption above is underscored by the fact that people of the two major religions believe there is one God. That is a fundamental and critical point of convergence and common ground.

The main point of divergence in both religions is that Muslims believe that Muhammad is the Prophet of God while Christians believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God.

As individuals in our homes or offices, people differ in their views and beliefs, yet they, more often than not, remain same family or colleagues.

Apparently, President Muhammadu Buhari shares the belief because in his Sallah message he attributed Nigeria’s unity to God and underscored it with the African proverb, which states that “ A family tie is like a tree, it can bend but it can’t break”.

So, in my considered opinion, bringing the omnipotence of the almighty God into the issue of a United Nigeria by the Sultan of Sokoto, is a master stroke that’s bound to resonate with the protagonists and antagonists in the current war of words over the vexed issue of whether to restructure or break up Nigeria.

The eminent Sultan seem to have brought in a new perspective which could be referred to as a paradigm shift in the dialogue which has so far featured incendiary comments from both sides of the debate that have frayed nerves.
And all these happened during a recent Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC forum in Abuja, where the leader of the Muslim Faith in Nigeria sued for a peaceful resolution of the schism through dialogue. He made the case that the formation of Nigeria is divine by stating, “Because we didn’t fall from the sky, we came from somewhere. We became Nigeria in 1914 through amalgamation. People are shouting that our coming together as a country in 1914 was mistake, but God doesn’t make mistakes. If God doesn’t want such a thing as Nigeria to happen, nobody could ever have made it happen.”

He added: “If restructuring will make life better and convenient, then the think-tank, after their work, would call for stakeholders dialogue for the way forward.”

In a nutshell, what the sultan is advocating is that as a nation, Nigerians should celebrate what binds us, not what divides us as we are currently doing by driving a wedge between the various through hate speeches. On the first day of October every year, we celebrate Independence Day. That’s because on that date in 1960, Nigeria secured independence from British colonial rule. But in 1914, the north and southern protectorates of the British Empire were amalgamated by fiat. And Sultan Abubakar lll has now the union of the north and South by the Britain as God’s design, which is quite refreshing. As earlier stated, Sultan’s perspective is quite illuminating and offers a common ground for dialogue.

As we say in Christian marriages, “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”? And that’s what the highly respected monarch appearing to be echoing. That makes a God focused and sustained path to peace in Nigeria, now open for exploration. To that effect, it behoves of religious leaders of the two major faiths practiced in Nigeria, as well as traditional rulers from both the north and south, to seize the initiative from some unscrupulous politicians who selfishly exploit Nigerians by dwelling on what divides us more than what binds us as a nation. To build on Sultan Abubakar lll introduction of God into the initiative for peaceful and sustainable existence of Nigeria, l would like to recommend the cementing of the marriage between the north and south by proposing that Nigeria should start celebrating Amalgamation Day.

Obviously, Independence Day celebration became a prominent annual event marked with pomp and pageantry in Nigeria because our former colonial masters, Britain, initiated it. Since more often than not, our leaders were led by the nose by the colonialists and are still caught up in neo-colonial mindset, instead of having their own initiative of making 1914 an epochal occasion that marked our unification, October 1, 1960 Independence Day, has become one of the most important dates celebrated in our country.

Put succinctly, instead of Amalgamation Day being given a pride of place that it deserves and celebrated, as it should, Independence Day from Britain has been taking centre stage in Nigeria. As a pathway to national unity, which most Nigerians are yearning for, the presidency must without further delay send to the National Assembly, NASS, and a bill to proclaim national Amalgamation Day to be celebrated by all Nigerians. That is one way we can focus on the chords that bind us which are aplenty, as opposed to dwelling on factors that divide us. To confirm the socio-economic linkages between Nigerians across the northern and southern parts, apocryphal stories have been told of Okonkwo and Sons shop-a trading point established by an lgbo man in Kano state-several decades ago.

The shop grew to become a thriving commercial post that later transformed into a town now known as Kwakwanso. It is from that town that Musa Kwakwanso, a former two times governor of Kano state and now a serving senator hails from and origin of his name. As a reporter in Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Newline in the mid 1980s, l followed a cattle trail from the northern to eastern parts of Nigeria and met a Hausa man, named Musa in Enugu who was born there when his parents were located there several decades ago, in the cause of trading their cattle. He spoke flawless lgbo and without Hausa accent or inflections to the extent that, l could not have known that he was Hausa, if he had not been identified as such. He too had started bearing offspring that had become deeply entrenched in glob culture and way of life.

If both Okonkwo in Kano and Musa did not find their far-flung locations from their native homes accommodating, they would not have flourished. And if the instances of integration between the Okonkwo in Kano and Musa in Enugu could happen without facilitation by government through any significantly coordinated effort, you can imagine how culturally blended Nigerians could have been, had strategic efforts been consistently made by the authorities to cement the relationship which Sultan Abubakar has declared as being divine. And l wholeheartedly agree with the highly revered monarch, because l can relate to the fact that nothing happens without God’s knowledge. To be fair, putting Nigerian youths through National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) to blend culturally by being posted to areas different from their natural habitats, was aimed at getting them to understand through integration and appreciation of the lifestyles of fellow Nigerians in distant locations from home.

But the policy, which was introduced in t 1973, now appears to have been derailed from what the initiators had in mind because the principles have been compromised as youths now dodge it by bribing government officials who supervise the scheme. Also, it did not help that NYSC members were engaged in the conduct of political office election processes as it endangers the lives of the youths who have suffered lynching and other untold murderous incidents during and after elections in some northern states. As such, parents are justifiably, no longer releasing their children to serve in environments where their lives are endangered.

It may also be recalled that the concept of Unity Schools where students from across the geo-political zones were admitted into schools far from home, was also introduced to encourage cultural integration amongst Nigerian youths. But all those noble objectives and initiatives of the golden days of Nigeria have now become memories of the distant past. So it boggles the mind that authorities are acting surprised that our youths are spending their idle time cursing out one another on social media platforms. Do we need a rocket scientist to teach us that the way we make our bed is the way we will lay on it? What the foregoing kindergarten rhyme indicates is that we are reaping what we sowed by not preparing our youths to understand and respect each other’s culture and beliefs. That’s partly accountable for the resort to trading hate speeches in social media platforms coalescing into lgbo youths Biafran state agitation and Arewa quit notice to the lgbo. At the height of their governorship of Delta and Bauchi states, some ten years ago, Governors James Ibori and Ahmed Muazu, led traditional leaders from their states on cultural exchange visits. The initiative which was a positive step towards building of friendship between people of both states was discontinued after both Governors left the scene at the completion of their tenures in 2007.

The Governor’s forums of both the APC and PDP, the two leading political parties, and the various regional governors forums, should consider reigniting that positive initiative by the pair of lbori and Mu’azu. If such forum for enlightenment was in existence, perhaps, the youths from across the north and south would understand each other better and not literarily be at each other’s throat as they currently are. It is disheartening to know that, it is the fallout of the negligence of youths that has so rankled the authorities, and as an antidote to the unedifying activities on the Internet, government is now toying with the idea of stymying of freedom of speech in the social media via monitoring by the military.

Clearly, curtailing the freedom of youths on social media platforms is a threat to their fundamental human rights. Democracy is fragile, so we can’t afford to handle it harshly with military force. As Thurgood Marshall, one time Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America, USA once posited “We must dissent, be cause America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better” It is high time authorities eschewed militaristic governance style reflected in their crude and poorly formulated draconian policies. Our leaders must start engaging in critical thinking with a view to coming up with democratically acceptable and sustainable solutions for progress in the society and prosperity for all Nigerians. Why don’t we dig deep to see how our leaders past steered the ship of state from falling off the precipice of prejudice and inequality?

For instance, the NYSC and Unity schools were formulated by Nigerian technocrats and l believe such people are not in short supply in today’s public service system, so they should be engaged. President Buhari and the ruling party APC should make it part of the change they promised Nigerians. Not many people remember that several years ago, Japan colonised China. That’s simply because it has remained a sore point which the Chinese are not proud of, so the experience is bitter, and as such, it is not celebrated. On the other hand, the example of Germany, which recently reunified after tearing down the Berlin Wall that hitherto separated the West from East Germany, is worthy of emulation by Nigeria.

In conclusion, Aso Rock villa in collaboration with the NASS must dedicate time and resources towards nurturing the peaceful and egalitarian Nigeria that most of us are clamouring for. Merely romanticizing it by our leaders won’t make it happen. Only purposefully designed and implemented policy actions that reflect equity and justice will make peaceful co-existence happen because equity, justice and peace go paripasu. So our leaders should stop equivocating and do what they were elected to do-put on their thinking caps in order to come up with ‘out of the box’ solutions and stop being pedantic.

• Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, USA is a former member of the Delta State Cabinet

  • Chux

    Mr Onyibe you wrote, “As we say in Christian marriages, “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”? And that’s what the highly respected monarch appearing to be echoing. That makes a God focused and sustained path to peace in Nigeria, now open for exploration”. This is utter blasphemy.
    A marriage is agreement between two people who would have seen the good and the bad of each other and then go on the journey together. Nigeria was brought together for the good of the colonialist, unity was the least in the minds of the British, knowing with unity their divide and rule tactics of governing would not materialise
    The only time there is unity in Nigeria is through sport, sorry football and that’s even when we are winning, less this you would have the case of when politicians are sharing the nation’s wealth, as you right stated, which was the case between James Ibori and Ahmed Muazu
    What sort of unity is to there to be celebrated when some parts of the country are being treated so badly, they don’t feel as if they are part of the group? These same people are treated so well when they go abroad which make them even wonder more
    If you want to see unity in diversity, look back at the old Midwest/Bendel state where people felt they had more affiliation to the state than their tribes. I guess you would remember the phrase “Bendel no 1”. This was a state no matter what, no tribe was above the law. It was always a great honour to represent the state. It is about time that Nigeria realises that no tribe is more important than the other just because you have your man at helm of government.
    I am really scratching my head to see what unity is to be celebrated when we are not united

  • gohen

    Nothing unite us. It is only the free flowing oil from the south that unites us. I think it would have been appropriate to say ‘lets eschew what divides us’,. So many things divides us. The recent appointment of 80% notherners into NNPC Board is one of such things.

  • Jon West

    In all honesty, very little unites us in Nigeria, except perhaps our common humanity and Black/African heritage. However this commonality is not enough to create a great an sustainable country. This simple reality should encourage the purveyors of all this hypocrisy about Nigerian unity, to search for a sustainable relationship between the incompatible ethnicities that Frederick Lugard and his mistress Flora, forced together in a marriage of convenience for the British, which is now an impending global disaster.

    There is and has never been a Real Basis For Nigerian unity, except the lure of the capture of other peoples resources. The Sultan and his Northern clique have oil wells in the Niger delta, but no Niger delta potentate has a single oil bloc, even if a marginal field, in his own domain. This is the reality of the unity that the Sultan, Dullard from Daura and genuflecting Niger Delta clown, Magnus Ibe, are advocating. Thankfully, they have all been outed by the current reality of Nigeria. As in July 1966 as this moment, Yakubu Jackass Gowon, was right in his coup speech; There Is No Basis For Nigerian Unity.

    • power

      Jon west. You have stated the obvious in clear and lucid terms. I don’t see any reason why we should be united. We have been subjected to extreme pains; both physically, mentally, and financially for decades by these “Almajiris and Northern Illiterates” for too long. What beats my imagination boils down to the fact that why are the Niger- Deltans always docile and subservient to these animals in human skin? Why do they control our resources and yet we are folding our hands and acting like slaves? Why are we allowing them to destroy our generations yet unborn?

      • Jon West

        The answers to your very important and intelligent questions are really quite obvious. It is a little matter of ignorance ,and especially ,pettiness. The ethnicities of the Niger delta would rather the North treats them as slaves and loot their patrimony, than unite with the Igbo for real freedom and progress. Instead , they hark to a period,where they claim that the Igbos dominated them, whatever that means, since the Igbos usually “dominate ” everyone with hard work and sheer application of intelligence.

        But even assuming that the Igbo “dominated” them 50years ago for a period of about twenty years, why is it impossible to forgive the Igbos for a twenty year crime, when you are proud to announce your “natural alliance” with an inferior slave driver for the last fifty years? These are questions that our Niger elta brothers have to answer, but the answer is quite clear.

        When you are petty, lazy and fixated with hedonism, you are most likely to ally with someome of similar or inferior status. This is human nature. When you leave Yenogoa, Benin City, Warri, Calabar, etc and travel through the Southeast, which was devastated during Biafra, you get a sense of inferiority for what these people have achieved, in spite of obvious marginalization by th Nigerian State. It even becomes worse when you see their stranglehold on commerce and investments in all areas of Nigeria .

        You wont love people who can get something from nothing, such as water out of stone, when you live on the banks of a river , but are dying of thirst. That is the basis of the slavish and nonchalant disposition of our Delta brothers, and it wont change soon. However, the sad thing is that , in twenty years time, they will wake up to see that their pettiness cost them environmental devastation of an unimaginable scale, and that their oil an gas patrimony had been stolen and they have been left high and dry. Both Ken Saro Wiwa and Isaac Boro were unmitigated Igbo haters, inthe service of Nigeria, but the same Nigeria killed them.

        Now, who do you think the Deltans will blame for their nightmare reality, as it must surely come? The Igbo, of course, couched in a blame for the oppression of “majority ethnic groups”, a euphemism designed to rope in the innocent Igbo into the oppressive circle of the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba victors of the Biafran war, where Niger Delta oil was the prize, even when they know that the Igbo were bigger victims of the Nigerian Government’s viciousness and marginalization.

        My dear person, we have to tolerate our Deltan brothers and really feel for them, because when the nightmare reality of their stupidity dawns on them, we shall have them on our borders , a real terrible nightmare scenario for the Igbo, very frightening; hordes of dirt poor, ignorant, lazy and hedonistic people, right next to you and ready to blame you for everything. Better get ready my Igbo brothers. Trouble de come!!!

        • power

          What you stated moments ago is an eye opener for all and sundry. I Wish my brothers and Sisters from the Niger-Delta could read your ever valid points on various issues. I just want our people to know that it is high time they started wearing their thinking caps to enable them to live a meaningful life. I do not understand why we cannot unite to build our regions with global best practices. We are blessed beyond human comprehension and yet we are struggling. Most of the institutions in the Niger-Delta are destroyed beyond repairs. May be we should ask our Ibo brothers to teach us how to live a defined and purposeful life based on what they have been through, and yet they came out unscathed. How many of the People in the Niger-Delta have the intellectual stamina, courage, doggedness, clear cut goals, vision, and excellent people skills to steer the ship of progress in their respective states? The answers will forever elude us. SAD!

          • Jon West

            The Niger Delta people have all the qualities of the Igbo, except application of the intellect and hard work. All they need is to swallow their pride, pettiness and this stupid obsession with a fictional glorious past. As the Warri people say,” I get am before no be property”.

            There is hope, but not much time. The solution lies in a unity without conditions with the Igbo and the desire to work for a living, instead of this constant hankering after pipeline security contracts and community bribes disguised as Memoranda of Understanding. Either you look towards the Igbo and survive, or continue in your alliance with the North and perish. The choice is stark.

          • power

            God bless you brother. You have said it all.

          • Jon West

            Thank you.

        • ken ejiofor

          Good submission Mr. Jon West. They are really lazy.

  • KWOY

    A USELESS PIECE THAT OFFERS HUMANITY NOTHING! MERE POPULISM & SYCOPHANCY! WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING SERIOUS TO WRITE ABOUT PLEASE TAKE THE PATH OF HONOUR & REMAIN SILENT!… The so called ‘divine purpose’ of course should include the ceding away of Bakassi a decade ago? Ceding Bakassi away at a certain historical stage should be part of that plan! It should equally include the emergence of Boko Haram! It should include the salve trade & the civil war! It should include murders by fulani herdsmen!….Fatalism is the product of lazy african minds! Unity cannot even be an end in itself, but a means to an end. Yet here in Nigeria unity is the ultimate end to which even development, peace, Progress etc are secondary! Pls write what will uplift humanity!

  • Bishop

    God did not have any involvement in the forming of Nigeria and if you are able to think things through Nigeria must really be an embarrassment to him considering that other humans are finding ways to use the tools he handed over to them. Nigeria was formed from the orgasmic screams of Lugards girlfriend.

  • Olisa

    We are united by an unjust constitution, Is that worth celebrating?

  • Don Franco

    Dear Magnus,

    The last paragraph of this op-ed is clearly the only redemptive quality l see in your person; it is unfortunate that you have bought into the Caliphate propaganda of an oil-based One Nigeria. Here are 5 questions to perhaps set you back on the straight and narrow, lest you lead astray your few remaining die-hard followers, after your apologia for James Ibori:
    1) Aren’t you cognizant and mindful that the northern policies of quota system and federal character is responsible for the mess that is our educational system today; can’t you see the nexus between that and your personal bereavement?
    2) Are you aware that the Sultan whom you wrote so elegantly about was nepotistically promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, from Colonel; in the Nigerian Army on the very exact day that he was summoned to ascend the throne of Sokoto; is that fair to all; can’t you tell where his loyalties lie?
    3) Are you aware that the Sultan gets yearly pecuniary subvention from Saudi Arabia to subsidise the local Hisbah police across northern Nigeria for enforcement of Sharia Law; like public floggings etc?
    4) Why do you think northern traditional rulers, especially Lamido Sanusi, hasn’t come out to support their colleagues in the South, in their call for restructuring, that majority of us are agitating for?
    5) Dele Momodu and Simon Kolawole are against restructuring; advocating an ignoble position that even northern columnists like Yakubu Mohammed and Hannatu Musawa have distanced themselves from; why must you now join them and sit on the fence by saying that Nigerians have many things in common and mustn’t talk restructuring ?

    Magnus, you stand for nothing by your trying to stand for everything in this op-ed; tell your Sultan friend to ask his Daura Dullard subject in Aso Rock to recall his jackboots out of the SE; then maybe you’d have earned the write opeds that are contrary to good sense on the back page of ThisDay.

  • anthony oguejiofor

    Magnus, pls don’t bring God into the affairs of Nigeria. Can you list all the factors causing division in Nigeria? And which one does God approve?