Guest Columnist Atiku Abubakar
The number one problem plaguing Nigeria is not corruption or even the absence of regular power. The number one problem militating against the progress of Nigeria is her lack of unity. If we can fix this problem, Nigeria will herself be fixed.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, which Christians accept as the divine scripture, God spoke about mankind in Genesis 11:6 thus: “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
Similarly, the Holy Quran, the divine scripture of Muslims also states: “Do not quarrel among yourselves lest you lose heart and your momentum disappear.” – Quran 8:46.
From the above, it is clear that we can never have a Nigeria that fulfils her full potential when we have a divided Nigeria. Not only will we lose momentum as the Quran shows us, but we will also lose our possibilities as the Bible teaches us.
An objective look at history will show that without exception, all nations or regions that have expelled people from their landmass on the basis of race, religion or political affiliation have been the poorer for it, whether you are talking of the Alhambra Decree which purged Jews from Spain in 1492, or of more recent events like the purge of Asians from Uganda in 1972.
Nigerians may recall the ‘Ghana Must Go’ purge of 1983 which led to the forced departure of over a million Ghanaians from Nigeria. Nigeria lost many skilled workers and small businesses when the Ghanaians left. But they went home and developed their country and today Ghana is the top destination for Nigerians wishing to study abroad.
Because of how these immigrants helped develop and organise their country, there are today over a quarter of a million Nigerians in Ghana and the Ghanaians have coined the phrase ‘Nigerians are Coming’ to identify this phenomenon.
We must learn from history. We do not have to repeat history. We must learn from the mistakes of other people. As Albert Einstein famously said: the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect a different result.
It would be insane if a nation that once sang the song of ‘Go on With One Nigeria’ should be seen to be singing a new and absurd song of ‘Go on Without Some Nigerians’.
What that would mean is that the sacrifices of the millions of men, women and children who died in the process of keeping Nigeria one would have been a sacrifice made in vain.
This would negate the lines in our National Anthem which read:
The labour of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
It will be an even greater shame that if after we are all united to condemn the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, we hypocritically turn around and treat our own kith and kin even worse.
We have six geopolitical zones in Nigeria and I was one of those that participated in bringing this about at the 1995 Constitutional Conference. The reasoning behind this is the awareness that none of us is as great as all of us.
Our six zones each have six strengths, but our one Nigeria together has six hundred strengths.
You do not believe me? Look at the Nigerian football teams that have won the Olympic Gold Medal, The Africa Cup of Nations, the team that won the maiden edition of FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1985 and the team that qualified for our very first FIFA World Cup in 1994.
It took a combination of Nigerians from all zones to pull these feats. The struggle of Nigeria in 2017 is not a struggle between North and South, rather, it is a struggle between good and evil.
It would not be possible for Nigeria to exist as one corporate entity comprising the six geopolitical zones if this were not the plan of God. If this is the plan of the Almighty, and it evidently is, then whose plan would it be to cause division in what God has united?
What did Nabi Isa (Jesus Christ say) say in Matthew 19:6?
“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Let us think long and deep on this.
A while ago Emanuel Cleaver said there is more power in unity than in division. Some very clever people may have discovered ways in which they can divide Nigeria, but I am convinced that there are intelligent geniuses and patriots amongst our people who can discover ways to unite Nigeria and defeat their evil plans.
One of such people is Immaculata Onuigbo, a young Nigerian from Enugu, who was recruited by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation at the very young age 10 and given a scholarship which eventually saw her emerge as the best graduating student of the American University of Nigeria, Yola, with the highest cumulative grade point average score in the school’s history.
People like Miss Onuigbo are the future of Nigeria and the world, a product of pan-Nigerian collaboration. Incidentally, she was discovered in Enugu, that great metropolis that in 1956 elected a Northerner, Umaru Altine, as its first elected mayor.
It is our history encapsulated in Umaru Altine and our future in Immaculata Onuigbo that Nigeria needs. What Nigeria does not need is negative voices who are trying to uproot the shade-giving trees that people like Felix Okonkwo and Aminu Kano planted to provide cover for generations yet unborn.
One of the most inspiring stories I have read in recent times are those of Sariki Yaro Danladi, Chairman, Northern Traditional Rulers Council South-east and South-south and Ichie Uche Megwalu published in The Nation of last Saturday.
Danladi, who also doubles as leader of the Hausa community in Abia State, was born, bred and married in the state while Megwalu, a 77-year-old Igbo leader, has made Kano home for over 60 years. The stories of both men dot our landscape and bare eloquent testimony of the spirit of the Nigeria that beckons.
As I write this, I am certain that Nigeria will not be overcome by evil people, rather, the good people of Nigeria will overcome evil and Nigeria will be better for it.
• Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999-2007