What exactly is a nation?
Is it the geographical entity, or the people who constitute it?
Anyone reading the recent comments in the media, or listening to comments from people on the street, would have discovered that there are two dominant views on where Nigeria should go!
One is that this country should be divided along ethnic, and religious, lines: into different countries!
Another, is that Nigeria must stay together, no matter what it takes, without changing!
The centripetal, and centrifugal, forces are equally matched!
For the most part, those calling for the balkanisation of Nigeria are mostly from the Southern part of the country!
They complain that the North is the reason why this nation has not developed!
They vociferously contend that the hold of Islam on the North, has led to Northern backwardness in formal Western education!
This, in turn, has led to the nation's backwardness!
They claim, to rub salt in a very unfair wound; the uneducated North, has managed to rule the educated South for so long!
And the put they blame at the doorstep of Lord Luggard, the man who amalgamated Nigeria in 1914!
One of my very respected friends calls it a relationship in which the poor, uneducated Northern husband, needs to find a way to an amicable divorce with his rich, educated Southern wife!
The North, on the other hand, recognizes a good deal, and is unwilling to change the status quo, and I would not blame them!
In between these two gladiators, is a no man's land peopled by those who cannot clearly define, or articulate, what they want!
They know they do not like the nation the way it is, but do not have a clear answer to the problem!
One of the solutions they have proposed, is a sovereign national conference! They want it as a platform for solving the nation's "obvious fundamental flaws"!
For those who seek the disintegration of this nation, the Sovereign National Conference, would be a perfect way of putting this nation down peacefully!
For those opposing the conference, it is a Pandora's box, a bad game-changer!
The problem with Nigeria did not just start with Lord Luggard creating a new nation from disparate ethnic nationalities: it continued with the founding fathers of the nation!
They were more of ethnic champions, on the national stage!
They did not see themselves first as Nigerians! They saw themselves first as Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, Efik, Urobo, before they grudgingly accepted their Nigerianess!
This parochialism, or ethnicism, has led to the killing of any national fervor that probably greeted the creation of the new nation called Nigeria!
The civil war,corruption, injustice, military rule, and subjugation of certain tribes like the Igbos in the civil service, and military hierarchy, has attenuated an already tenuous nationalism!
Moreover, the institution of policies like the federal character principle, has not gone down well with ethnic groups who feel they are getting the short end of the stick!
I saw a mock-up map of what entities would emerge from the break-up of this nation!
The armchair "cartographers" divided the nation into five different nations,Arewa Republic, Oduduwa Republic,Niger Middle Belt,United Niger Delta, and Biafra Republic!
For them, that is the panacea for the ills plaguing this nation!
Arewa republic is supposed to cater for the needs of the Islamic/Hausa speaking North!
The Oduduwa Republic for the Yorubas!
Niger Middle Belt for the people who occupy the no man's land of Nigeria's politics, the United Niger Delta for the oil producing states, and Biafra Republic for the Igbos!
Right now, Nigeria looks like a group of skydivers in free fall!
To compound matters, each individual is selfish, and is not working for the overall good, of the group! It is in the middle of this insincere free-fall, that they want to discuss the way forward!
They are shouting at each other, and the wind is at the same moment, obliviating their every word!
If they had been sincere with each other, perhaps they would blindly trust each other!
But the lack of trust, is an obstacle! Eventually, they will need to go their separate ways, or endure a crunching crash to the ground!
Trust is a very rare commodity in Nigeria today! Every action is viewed through multiple prisms of ethnic, and religious, consideration!
When, finally, a "consensus" ( read confusion) is reached, the project has already failed! This is because commonsense is sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, and ethnic, /religious considerations!
I must confess that I used to place the blame at the feet of government for the inability of this nation to work!
That is just a part of the truth! The whole truth, is that Nigeria is not working as a nation; not because it cannot work, but because her people are not allowing the nation to work!
When I was growing up, we were told repeatedly, that order was the first law in heaven!
And it is true!
What I never deduced from the statement then, was that order actually created heaven!
In the same manner, one can contend that hell, is a product of chaos!
What, do you think is our national ethos?
What is the gyroscope that informs, guides, directs, and plots our course as a nation?
It is chaos!
Everything that currently plagues this nation, can be accurately placed at the feet of chaos!
We are so enamored with it, that we would not have life any other way!
All you need to do, to confirm this, is to look at the visible, and latent, symptoms!
How we drive, how we conduct ourselves when resources, or opportunities, are scarce, and even in our daily activities!
A few years ago,I was returning from a late dinner in Cotonou, the capital of Benin Republic, and I observed a strange phenomenon!
Strange from the Nigerian perspective!
I observed a group of seven commercial motorcyclists, waiting at a traffic light, for the red light to change!
There were no vehicles coming in the other lanes, and there were no police men to arrest them, yet they chose to obey the law!
I was amazed!
How many times have I seen people, in broad daylight,in full view of traffic officials, ignoring the traffic light with impunity!
Even uniformed personnel, and government officials, do it with glee! They see it as one of the rewards, or perks, of office!
How many times have I seen impatient drivers, not willing to simply join the line of cars on the road, but preferring to go off-road, and drive on the shoulder of the road!
Sometimes, in Abuja, they even drive on the sidewalk, scattering pedestrians who right of way there!
My friend, Zik Zulu Okafor, told me a story some years ago! He was returning from a film set somewhere in Accra, Ghana, at about midnight!
As they approached a very big roundabout, where they were to make a three hundred and sixty degree turn, one of the Nigerian actors, who also knew the way, told the driver to just make a left turn, and drive inside the roundabout, to save time!
The Ghanaian driver turned, and looked at him, and said " No, I will not, this is not Lagos!
Zik said he was so embarrassed, that he just kept quiet the rest of the trip!
The rebuke was lost on the Nigerian actor, as he argued that the driver was not sharp!
In Nigeria, when you break the law, you are seen to be sharp, or smart!
It is elegant to break the law!
What we do not like about our nation, what offends us, is just a manifestation of the general disorder, from the presidential villa in Aso rock, to the prison in Kirikiri:disorder is the order of the day!
We are a wantonly lawless nation! We have become so conditioned to lawlessness, that it is now the norm! To be law abiding, is to be an aberration! It is termed dullness, and slowness!
In our bid to address this problem, we have clutched at the straw of amalgamation, as the cause of our self-inflicted problems!
Is Nigeria the only nation on earth, with a multi-ethnic, and multi-religious population?
No, we are not!
India, a fellow commonwealth nation, has a higher diversity, but it is making it work for the nation!
We have central governments that are ethnic champions, hence every ethnic group fights for the presidency, since that is the only way they can guarantee their fair share of the national cake!
We fail to work for each other, and expect the nation as a whole to work: it is an exercise in deep self-delusion!
When I look at the proposed nations from the balkanisation of Nigeria, I laugh, because the very reasons for which we want to break this nation, are all localized!
In Benue state, the dominant ethnic group, the Tivs, have always been governors! The Idomas, who do not have the size, but have the same desire, have been shut out!
That is why the Senate President, Senator David Mark, has been pushing for the creation of Apa state for the Idomas! I am aware, however, that even among the Idomas, we also have Igede people, who are a sub-set, in addition to other minor ethnic groups that would be captured in the new state!
In Kogi state, the Igala people, have used their numerical advantage to ensure that the governor of the state is always an Igala man!
That has also prompted the call for Okun state!
And as you have already guessed, there will be more than one ethnic group making up that state!
The warped logic that claims that the North is Islamic, while the South is christian, is false!
There are some parts of the Northern Nigeria, like Zuru, in Kebbi state, that embraced Christianity, before many parts of the South!
Northern Nigeria is neither religiously monolithic, nor ethnically homogeneous!
I have gone to every state in the North, and there are strong populations of Christians in Kaduna, Adamawa, Taraba, Borno, Kebbi,and even Kano: and not all of them are Hausa, or Fulani!
In fact, some people in the North feel insulted, when they are referred to as Hausa!
So when people say let us split, so that the North can implement Sharia, it is the height of myopia!
The South too, is the same!
I suspect that there are more Moslems in Ogun, or Oyo state, than in some Northern states!
But we refuse to face the stark reality, dividing Nigeria will be separating petroleum jelly from butter!
The only way we can address the glaring injustice, and inequity in our land, is to enthrone the rule of law, equity, justice, reward for effort, and order in our nation!
If people are law-abiding, they will not corner the commonwealth, for themselves alone!
If we allow equity, people will be able to reap the fruit of their labour, without being told that they cannot be promoted because of federal character, or some other insane nonsense!
Our nation is sick! Very very sick!
The cure is not a denial of the sickness, but a bold confrontation of the cause!
We cannot pray a solution to our problem, we cannot divide our way to a just nation, neither will violence achieve it!
We must strive to ensure that our laws are just, and enforced!
If we were all to do what we ought to be doing, without someone running after us, we would suddenly discover that we actually have a great nation!
As we approach our fifty first anniversary as a nation, we must begin to ask our governments at all levels, to commit to what is right : to commit to equity, justice, fairness, and the rule of law!
To do otherwise, would be an invitation to chaos! And we all know, that order is the first law in heaven!
If we desire to live in a nation that is heaven on earth, then we must realize, that order, is foundation of heaven!
MAY GOD BLESS NIGERIA, OUR NIGERIA, FOREVER!