BY KAYODE KOMOLAFE
0805 500 1974
As political parties and their candidates unveil their manifestoes, it is important to stress the point that the answer to the question of national unity should be part of the various agendas.
The answers could come in various ways; but no political party or candidate that takes the future of Nigeria seriously can ignore the question. In the last few decades, the emergent issues of Nigerian federalism have been brought to the fore by the burgeoning obstacle to national integration.
Hence, the voices for the restructuring of the of the federation for the purpose of geo-political equity have become more strident. In the debate, there are those who believe that the legal basis for power devolution and resource control could be achieved by amendments to the 1999 Constitution. On the other side of the debate are their compatriots who insist that the present constitution is fundamentally faulty and therefore a new constitution should be made to give the legislative basis for the proposed restructuring. Yet, some other patriots posit that the answers to the question could be found in the implementation of the 2014 Conference organised by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
It is a good thing that no political party presenting candidates for the 2023 elections is campaigning for the separation of any part of the federation from Nigeria.
So, a possible way of persuading the separatists and their political mutants to embrace Nigerian unity is to point to the prospects of national integration and how they could be deepened.
One of the mega trends in the sociology of Nigeria that could brighten the prospects of national integration is the reality of inter-ethnic marriage. The products of inter-ethnic marriages are hardly considered when threats of inter-ethnic wars are recklessly issued by those imbued with the separatist impulse. More often than not, hardly is any thought given to the natural dilemma of a Nigerian whose father and mother belong to different ethnic groups in the event of a bloody conflict between the two groups.
Although there is no official statistics about the population of Nigerians whose parents belong to different ethnic groups, yet the potential of their formidable presence for national integration cannot be denied.
Separatists are quick to dismiss those who advocate national integration despite the problems of the federal structure as being unrealistic and even naïve. On the contrary, it is extremely unrealistic and insensitive to imagine that the population of the products of inter-ethnic marriages could ignored as a force for national integration.
The family of Senator Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu is a perfect metaphor of the positive force that could be generated for national integration by the reality of inter-ethnic marriage.
A quintessential officer and gentleman, Nwachukwu retired as a major-general from the Nigerian army. He was the first general of Igbo origin to be appointed after the civil war as the General Officer Commanding of the strategic 1st Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army. An urbane military officer, he was military governor of the old Imo State. Nwachukwu was appointed minister of labour and later foreign minister in the military government of President Ibrahim Babangida.
In the current democratic dispensation, Nwachukwu has represented the Abia north senatorial district in the National Assembly.
Senator Nwachukwu’s father, Moses Maduka Nwachukwu, an Igbo man from Ovim in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia state was a member of staff of the Nigerian Railways, who in 1939 married his mother, Binta Fatima Mohammed Diko, a Fulani lady from the Katsina Emirate.
Nwachukwu, 82, speaks Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba fluently. His diction as an English speaker is excellent.
Reflecting on the pair of Nwachukwu and his wife even makes their family more metaphorical in talking about national integration.
Nwachukwu’s wife, Mrs. Gwendolyn Tonyesia Yoyinsola Nwachukwu, is also a product of inter-ethnic marriage with a father was from the Ejiwunmi family of Ofada, Abeokuta, Ogun State, and a Kalabari (Ijaw) mother from the Bob-Manuel Ruling House of Abonema, Rivers State.
The products of the marriage of Nwachukwu and his wife are also married to Nigerians from all parts of the country. So the integrative trend continues in the family.
One question for those who say the breakup of Nigeria is the solution is this : what position is the unique Nwachukwu family expected to take in a Nigerian conflict involving the Igbo, Fulani, Yoruba, Ijaw and other ethnic groups?
The story of the remarkably Nigerian Nwachukwu family isa well-known one. There are, of course, many similar stories of the oneness of Nigerian. Those stories should, therefore, be deployed as an appropriate metaphor in the amplification of the voices for national integration.
The products of inter-ethnic marriage could constitute a critical mass to speak for the integration of Nigeria as a united, just and peaceful nation that is politically primed for development.
Perhaps, next time a conference on matters of national unity is called, the products of inter-ethnic marriages should take front row seats.