One detraction to the national rapport is the hackneyed lies. Lies told and retold many times as truth. Lies told deliberately to tinge a past of acrimony in brushstrokes of harmony. Nigeria never had a glorious past and the “founding fathers” never envisioned a congenial future for the country. There has never been such a thing as “Nigerian unity”; it only exists in the tomes of make-believe. We would rather parrot this fiction than work at achieving a national accord. The first step to unity should be discarding the lies and embracing the truth about our past while seeking collective concurrence.
We must pursue national unity with truth and honesty about who we are; where we are from, where we have been and where we are headed for.
In 1950, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, “a founding father” and young politician from the north at the time threatened a ‘’holy war against the southerners rather than join them in one independent nation’’. “There is no basis for Nigerian unity. It is only a British intention for our country,” he was quoted to have said in Time Magazine of October 10, 1960.
Also, in “The Biafra Story”, the book by Frederick Forsythe, Balewa was quoted as saying in 1947: “We do not want, Sir, our southern neighbours to interfere in our development. I would like to make it clear to you that if the British quitted Nigeria now at this stage; the northern people would continue their interrupted conquest to the sea.”
Another founding father, Sir Ahmadu Bello described Nigeria as a “mistake of 1914”.
He infamously said: “The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future”.
In addition, Obafemi Awolowo, a founding father of Nigeria, never pandered to the illusion of a united Nigeria. He was forthright about the true visage of the entity. He classically defined the colonial outfit as a ‘’geographical expression’’.
Also, Nnamdi Azikiwe, even though he held nationalistic beliefs and tropes, and was more expansive in outlook, admitted that national unity was not ‘’quite a reality’’. ‘’Tribalism is a reality. National unity can be a reality; but at present it is not quite a reality,’’ he said in a lecture delivered in 1964 at Princess Alexandra Auditorium at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Clearly, the founding fathers were not absorbent of the idea of a united country. The political parties they led trailed regional filaments. So, why do we cite them as some symbol of concord? In fact, they laid the groundwork of the present topsy-turvy.
So, situating President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day speech where he said: “Our founding fathers understood the imperative of structuring a national identity using the power of the state and worked towards unification of Nigerians in a politically stable and viable entity,” and examining in it through the microscope of our history, it is obvious this statement is patently false.
Another whopper – or rather confutation of reality — in Buhari’s speech is his statement that the “underlying cause of most of the problems we have faced as a nation is our consistent harping on artificially contrived fault-lines that we have harboured and allowed unnecessarily to fester.”
Well, Buhari has been dutiful in accenting these “artificially contrived fault-lines” since he became president in 2015. His nepotistic propensity is unequalled. None before Buhari has been more provincial. In all facets of the national life, the president has obtrusively shown preference to people of his native complexion and religion. The evidence is littered in the lopsided appointments, sectional recruitment in the DSS, separatist promotion in the customs and other institutions.
The president also spoke about “national healing” and banishing the stereotype of seeing ourselves as coming from one part of the country. Fantastic, but it is all platitudes. What is the president doing or what has he done to rouse the incandescence of “oneness” among Nigerians? It is true Nigerians have always been divided, but Buhari has widened the chasm and tended the furnace by his deliberate pursuit of an insular agenda.
Buhari said it is necessary for Nigerians to “support the enthronement of the rule of law by avoiding actions which compromise the judiciary”. I agree. But I would like to remind the President that it was under his watch that agents of the DSS invaded the residences of judges in the dead of night in Abuja, mauling doors and breaking walls. Judges were abducted and some cast before courts on sudden charges. Was this not an attempt to compromise the judiciary through intimidation and fear?
Also, the nation’s chief justice, Walter Onnoghen was removed in vexed circumstances in the build-up to the 2019 general election, and another from a section of the country where the president comes from, appointed in a very murky affair.
Again, I would like to remind the president that he once slighted the “rule of law” when he said it “must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest”, to justify his extra-judicial exertion on citizens.
So, again, it is all platitudes. The President’s Independence Day speech is simply a contradiction in lines and paragraphs.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist