“As it stands, the issue of River State is largely unresolved because certain egos have refused to be massaged”
Recently, a new report titled Nigerian Unity in the Balance, which was authored for the United States Army War College, warned Nigerian leaders to beware of another civil war or an outright break-up following what it called ongoing divisive trends in the country. The report was written by two former American servicemen – Gerald McLaughlin and Clarence J. Bouchat and released by the Strategic Studies Institute of War College.
The report observed that divisive forces were becoming far stronger than uniting forces in Nigeria. It then warned that unless this debilitating trend was reversed, Nigeria`s existence could be jeopardised. According to the report, “Parochial interests created by religious, cultural, ethnic, economic, regional, and political secessionist tendencies are endemic in Nigeria.” The report warned that, “under such stresses, Nigerian unity may fail.” The report stressed further: “Should Nigeria’s leaders mismanage the political economy and reinforce centrifugal forces in Nigeria, the breaks to create autonomous regions or independent countries would likely occur along its previously identified fault lines.” The report observed that, “having already experienced one brutal civil war, Nigeria is at risk for a recurrence of conflict or dissolution, especially since some of the underpinning motivations of the war remain unresolved.”
While detailing many fault lines speeding up disintegrative tendencies in the country, the report said: “Indeed, East Timor, Eritrea, Croatia and Somaliland indicate that the weakest point of failing states is along colonial borders. Of more interest for Nigerian unity is that this may also occur between regions separately administered by a common colonial power, as occurred between Malaysia and Singapore, and North and South Sudan, where differences proved irreconcilable after the departure of British administration”. The report projected that “at least, some of the resulting regions and states of a possible Nigerian devolution may divide along such internal lines.”
While conceding that Nigeria’s fate is primarily in the hands of Nigerians, the report noted that such could be positively affected by actions of the US, adding that “Nigeria’s future is hanging precariously on the balance and the United States should help tip the scales.” Furthermore, the report particularly warned that religious differences were taking the centre stage in the emerging conflict situation in the country, disputing repeated reports that economic reasons were to blame for the insurgency and other conflicts in the country.
There is every reason why Nigeria cannot afford to dump this report in the trashcan. SSI is part of USAWC and is the strategic-level study agent for issues related to national security and military strategy with emphasis on geostrategic analysis. It would be recalled that a former US ambassador to Nigeria had, last year, warned of a possible break-up of the country, if the growing trend of disaffection is not curtailed. The government’s reaction to this advice was in the least shocking and disappointing. Rather than view the opinion with the seriousness it deserved, the government merely threw unprintable expletives at the ambassador. Since then, everything has been done to disparage the report.
However, going through the SSI report, one could perceive its genuineness in view of recent happenings and events. Our so-called politicians, whose patriotism is ever in doubt because they look more like fortune seekers, have largely been toying with the security and stability of the country. It is as if they have zoned the entire country to themselves as things are done within them at their whims. To them, the people are secondary whenever issues bordering on the unity and stability of the country come up for discussion.
The country was almost stripped bare at the demise of former President Umaru Yar’Adua. Throughout his sick period, various pranks, I mean, ‘official pranks’, came to play. At a time, a cleverly conceived dummy was sold to the public; at another time, the greatest hoax was foisted on the people. That was the time many of us really sat back to think whether the country belonged to Nigerians or only the politicians who were ever so meticulous with their lies and fairy tales.
When eventually the former President gave up the ghost, attempts were made from many quarters to‘re-write’ the Constitution. We all know what it took the nation to arrive at the “doctrine of necessity” before an acting President emerged. We can also remember, too, the various schemes and shenanigans brought to the fore to make sure that the new President, when he inevitably emerged, could not function.
By and large, like some Nigerians are wont to say “we are individually successful but collectively a failure”. What this means is that Nigerians, as a people, are very dynamic, industrious, except that selfishness rules them most, if not, all the time. While we all crave for individual, family, tribe and clannish excellence, we are the least patriotic when it comes to the issue of national question. Take for instance, the build-up to the 2015 elections, which has started in earnest. Everybody, every section of the country, is angling for the coveted number one seat: the Presidency. It is no longer what the Constitution says but the unwritten doctrine of “turn-by-turn”. In this new craze, brothers have become enemies overnight in the mad race to undo one another.
Now, let us take the issue of Rivers State. Today, that once peaceful state is in turmoil. And many people believe the problem with Rivers has many things to do with 2015. The sitting governor, Rotimi Amaechi is believed to have incurred the wrath of Abuja because he is suspected to be nursing an ambition to become the Vice-President of the country under the rulership of a candidate presented by the North. Many permutations have come up to the effect that Amaechi might pair up with Sule Lamido, his counterpart in the north-west state of Jigawa, to wrestle power from President Goodluck Jonathan.
At a point, the posters of a Lamido-Amaechi presidential ticket flooded Abuja, the nation’s capital. It is strongly believed it was the handiwork of fifth columnists who are bent on wrecking that ticket if at all it exists. The next thing was that the war was taken to the Governor’s Forum whose election was truncated after the votes were counted. Amaechi is believed to have emerged as the winner of that keenly contested election, but the powers that be are not favourably disposed to that. The belief is that the number one spot at the forum for Amaechi will give him an undue advantage over the incumbent president.
To stop this, the Presidency threw up a puppet in the name of Jonah Jang, the confused governor of Plateau State. Since then, logic has been made to stand on its head. Or what do you call a situation where 16 could be adjudged to be greater than 19? Amaechi scored 19 votes out of 36, while Jang scored 16 votes. Today, Jang enjoys the undue privilege of getting the President’s ears as he has been officially recognised as the chairman of the Governors’ Forum to the chagrin of the Amaechi camp and many right-thinking Nigerians. And where do we go from here?
The other day, the floor of the Rivers State House of Assembly became a battle zone when elected parliamentarians and leaders of the various communities in the state, who were elected to serve the people, turned the whole place upside down. Again, there was a mathematical infraction in which five was adjudged to be greater than 23. In a melodramatic move, five members of the House met and purportedly impeached the Speaker. The bedlam that followed speaks volumes of how much we cherish the unity and stability of the country.
As it stands, the issue of Rivers State is largely unresolved because certain egos have refused to be massaged. And from what several commentators have said, this protracted issue that has been allowed to fester for too long might as well be the beginning of the end for the country’s fledgling democracy or even the country itself. The ominous signs are there for all to see!
*Last week, there was a mix-up on this column in the story titled ‘Harry, the Soldier prince’. The error is regretted.
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