Opinion | Can Nigeria be fixed? ~ By Azuka Onwuka
These days, whenever one reads articles written by Nigerians about Nigeria or listens to analyses on TV and radio, one feels the unmistakeable helplessness, hopelessness and despondency that dot all such discussions. The words of Nigerians drip of pessimism and cynicism.
In the past, even though Nigerians felt disappointed and sad about the fate of Nigeria among the nations, there was an air of hope that Nigeria would overcome its teething troubles and rise to become great “soon”. Today, it seems Nigerians have resigned themselves to their helplessness, and have chosen to wait with the hope that “something” will happen. What that “something” is remains unclear. It reminds one of Waiting for Godot, a play written by Samuel Beckett. Who is Godot? What will he bring? When will he come? Why is he being waited for? The waiter has no answer to any of the questions.
Two options are frequently presented as possible solutions to Nigeria’s problem of retrogression and lack of direction. One is fixing it through restructuring the country, while the other is peacefully winding the country down, thereby freeing up its parts to pursue their respective fates in peace. These two options are also resisted by certain strong interests within Nigeria and outside Nigeria.
Looking at the bigger picture, I believe it is best to fix Nigeria. However, the challenge is whether Nigeria can still be fixed. Certain things are making me fear whether Nigeria can be fixed to become what it should be. And these fears are issues of having opposing worldviews and value systems, especially between the South and major parts of the North.
There are non-negotiable issues Nigerians from different zones don’t joke with. They cannot compromise on these issues. Trying to make them accept certain issues that run against their worldviews is like asking them to commit suicide. It is like forcing Iran and Iraq or India and Pakistan or Israel and Palestine into one country and making them run the same policies. Their worldviews will simply clash and ensure that they never progress.
The South and much of the North-Central have similar worldviews and can sit down and discuss and agree on critical issues of life. Whatever issue is placed on the table for discussion will not elicit completely opposing views from the different parts. But the worldviews of the Northeast, the Northwest and some parts of the North-Central are opposed to the worldviews of the South and some parts of the North-Central.
Interestingly, these points of divergence are critical issues of life like attitude to Western education, attitude to religion, attitude to democracy, attitude to population control, attitude to competition, attitude to business, attitude to respect for human life, attitude to technology, attitude to modernity, etc. These are crucial issues that determine whether a country has progress and stability or not.
What a Fulani man can die for is not the same thing a Yoruba man or Igbo man can die for. What is extremely important to the Efik is the opposite of what is extremely important to the Hausa. These are issues nobody has shown Nigerians how they can be resolved to the satisfaction of all the parts of the country.
Let us discuss one or two of them to help us understand the enormity of these issues. Let us start with education.
The entire South sees education as a means to enlightenment, prosperity and attainment of life goals. Therefore, parents tax themselves to give their children education up to university levels. Parents deny themselves food, clothes, and other good things of life to save money to give their children good education. In some cases, landed property is sold to send children to good universities abroad, because of the belief that education confers huge advantage on people.
On the contrary, the North sees education as a tool of the Christian West to pollute its Islamic way of life. Consequently, education has been rejected in the North, in spite of the billions of naira invested in education by the federal and state governments over the last 100 years. Education is described as “Western education” and viewed with suspicion and disdain. While the South and the Middle Belt are making all efforts to acquire it, the North is making all efforts to reject it. Even the unofficial name of the terror group, Boko Haram, means “Western education is a sin,” because that is the thrust of its campaign message to the people. It wants a total rejection of Western education, religion, civilisation, democracy, human rights, etc.
Now note that without education, the opportunities for career development of people are grossly limited. Only unskilled jobs (labourer’s jobs) are available to such people. So the South will end up filling most important positions in Nigeria and acquiring more money than the North, thereby making the North to feel cheated and angry. The only way to solve the imbalance is to entrench some form of affirmative action known as quota system and federal character in the Nigerian context in admission into schools and universities as well as in all employment positions and also reduce the standards required in all spheres, to ensure that the North is accommodated.
The result of that is disaffection and anger among those who feel they are being denied opportunities based on their ethnicity. But most importantly, the consequence is that the progress of the nation is stymied. So while other nations are progressing by using their best, Nigeria is stagnated or regressing because it has to apply quota system in everything. Imagine going to the World Cup and using your reserve team to face the world! That is what Nigeria has been doing in all spheres of life for decades with catastrophic effects. Sadly, there is absolutely no way to make the North change its attitude to education, because it is a matter of strong religious conviction.
However, if the North had its own country, it would create its peculiar type of education that is Islam-compliant. That will make it satisfied that an abominable way of life is not being imposed on it. Consequently, it will also progress at its own pace.
This issue of educational disparity is the same with other fundamental issues of life. What drives the North in most things of life is the opposite of what drives the South. But Nigeria is forcing each side to live a uniform life that is against its values.
The second option is to fully restructure the country to allow each state or region to create a system that suits its worldview. This will give each zone some measure of freedom to focus on what matters to it and live the kind of life it wants. No part would have to bury its needs and desires for the sake of other parts. Sadly, for some inexplicable reasons, most of our Northern brothers and sisters have been made to believe that they will suffer if Nigeria is restructured. Consequently, they resist this move aggressively, even though it is a move that will bring a lot of possibilities their way, making the North richer and more fulfilled.
As a result, the entire nation is constrained to fold its arms, watching and hoping for something to happen, while the country continues to bleed and grope in the dark. Meanwhile, each part is ferociously grabbing whatever it can grab, stripping Nigeria of everything it has, but still mouthing platitudes about how Nigeria will be great. It seems the plan of those holding Nigeria down is to wait until the crude oil dries up or becomes irrelevant globally and there is no more money to share. Maybe by then those who resist restructuring or separation will tell others: To your tents, o Israel.
— Twitter @BrandAzuka