Apparently fazed and confused by the spate of bombings of oil installations by the new Niger Delta militants called Avengers, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, spelt out the non-negotiability of the Nigerian unity. While playing host to a delegation of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents who paid him Sallah homage, the president had said that the unity of Nigeria would not be compromised. To tell the truth, the activities of the group are enough to get the head of a country into such unnecessary frenzy. The Avenger, at the beginning of its assaults on oil installations, had vowed to bring production level to zero. As it stands now, the amorphous, yet deadly group has almost halved oil production, sending jitters into the recessive Nigerian economy.
Thinking they were a mere dross or fluke, the president had talked tough initially. Threatening fire and brimstone, the president even said he would treat the militant group as insurgents. But as things later turned out, the Avengers were a group whose mind was made up at crippling the economy of the Nigerian nation and its hegemony over the oil that is explored in the Niger Delta. No one taught the president to eat the humble pie when he began sending emissaries to the group for a rapprochement.
President Buhari has sustained the language of autocracy in his slightly over a year of rulership of Nigeria, one of which is this statement of his. A few days ago, while lamenting an alleged subterranean intervention to cripple the anti-corruption stance of the government, the president had used that language that is the pastime of military autocracy which is the personalization of power. “I will fight them,” he had said, pardon the paraphrase. What happens to law fighting such malefactors? What happened to modesty in power?
On the unity of Nigeria that the president said was not negotiable, with due respect to the president, that language is too hackneyed to be relevant in the present age. While the military was in power, it was pardonable for its high-epaulettes heads to maintain that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable. This they exhibited in crushing coup plotters who took up arms against them. Major Gideon Orkah knew the essence in that statement too late. Decades after, it has proven to be a refrain that the 21st century cannot accept or can accept at its perils.
Happenings around us are proving that the unity of Nigeria is very negotiable and should be negotiated now or else, we would be pretending of the presence of unity and thereby walk down the precipice of our tragedy. Indeed, it is only those who are profiting from the skewed unity of 1914 who can go to town with such regimented statement. Those who are not benefitting from it are like the man who is down who needs no fall. Currently under the Buhari government, the North, a prong of the two spouses that came together in 1914 for the so-called unity, has been enjoying the matrimony, to the chagrin of the other spouse. Of the 17 security appointments made by the president so far, for instance, the North grabbed 14 while the South has 3. Dr. Junaid Mohammed has also recently told us of how a familial rhapsody is the tune of Nigerian administration at the Villa today. If there is an infraction which the Buhari government carries out with impunity, it is in embarrassing appointments.
Coming to the oil that has become the mainstay of the Nigerian nation, to which the northern hegemons pride themselves over, it is only rational that those who own that resource should kick at the you-may-go-jump-inside-the-river disposition of the conquistadorial group who lord it over them, in spite of their oil. No matter how long the lordship may last, someday, the children of the disenabled will gather their voices to protest their disenablement. This is clearly what is being done at the moment.
The current police recruitment is another example of this so-called unity that is being taken for granted. The recruitment process is said to be on the verge of being circumvented now due to the avaricious desire of some hegemons by taking the process through the local government, rather than the states. Of the 774 local governments plus the FCT in Nigeria, successive Northern-headed military governments have ensured that the north has unfairly skewed more numbers of councils than the south. Thus, recruiting the 10,000 policemen from the local governments would surely make the recruitment to be in favour of the lords of the Nigerian manor.
So, for the president to claim that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable is not only a language of autocracts, it is a self-centred argument that can only be spoken by those who are gaining advantage from the status-quo. As the marriage is being administered today, there is the need to interrogate it and see whether it still has the impetus, the trappings of the First Republic practice which made Obafemi Awolowos to insist that we all should appropriate the benefits of togetherness for the south and the north equally. As things stand at the moment, only a section of the country is benefitting from that togetherness and it is high time we negotiated our continued stay together or at best, interrogate the content or the context of our continued relationship.
Our colonizer, Britain, recently defied the tenor of the Buhari rigid abidance by an over a century-old unity. Even though they are regretting the referendum conducted to decide their continued stay in the European Union, the UK is better off after the votes as they at least have an understanding of themselves. Not to discuss terms of staying together can only widen the schism of a nation and further worsen the factitious and divisive voices within.
The president’s minders should take him through a refresher on the language and discourse of democracy. Even husbands and wives know that their spousal unity is negotiable and as such, on a daily basis, they wake up to concretize its strength through doing mutually beneficial acts. Once one of them continues to do acts that violate the sacristy of togetherness, they are cultivating the furrows of breakage.