Cultural/Religious Diversity As Nigeria’s Greatest Weakness

By Osita Ebiem

Since the formation of the ill-fated Nigerian union (the infamous Amalgamation of 1914) by the imperialist government of Great Britain, the people of the Islamic North of Nigeria have never hidden the fact that they dislike the arrangement and would want to be left alone by the Christian South. Even Lord Lugard the man behind the unfortunate amalgamation acknowledged the impossibility of the experiment when he said;
“The North and the South are like oil and water, they will never mix”. And this is how Abubakar Tafawa Balewa put it a few years before he became Nigeria’s Prime Minister at independence in the October of 1960.
When Mr. Balewa spoke to the Northern House of Assembly in 1952, he said; “The Southern people who are swamping into this region daily in such large numbers are really intruders. We don’t want them and they are not welcome here in the North. Since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country. But the people are different in every way, including religion, custom, language and aspirations. We in the North take it that Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country they created. It is not for us”.

Indeed, the reality of the Nigerian situation could not have been truer then in 1952 than it is today, 2012. The dissimilarities and incompatibility of the diverse “religion, custom, language and aspirations” of the Islamic peoples of Northern Nigeria and the Christian Southeasterners (Igbo/Biafrans) have remained very dangerously opposed to each other. As a result, Nigeria’s diversity has remained its greatest undoing; its Achilles’ heel. It must be recalled that soon after Abubakar Tafawa Balewa made that statement in 1952 there was a political dispute in the Southwest city of Lagos the following year in 1953 and hundreds of Igbo people were killed and looted in reaction in the Northern city of Kano. And from that year till now as we write, the killing of the Christian Igbo in the North by the Muslim Northerners have continued unabated every year and in most years multiple times and, in multiple cities and towns of the North. The truth is that from Nigeria’s inception, every political/social dispute or malaise in the country has its root in Nigeria’s cultural/religious differences. And the only genuine and permanent solution to the senseless religious/cultural killings that go on endlessly in Nigeria is the division of the country along the existing cultural/religious divides. Experience has shown that the peoples can never exist peacefully together as fellow citizens of the same country but will make good neighbors as citizens of separate countries. Incidentally it was the Muslim North under Yakubu Gowon in 1966 that first flew a different national flag as a separate country with the conviction; “that putting all considerations to the test, political, economic as well as social, the basis of [Nigeria’s] unity is not there.”

The political/social structure of Nigeria as an artificial creation of the colonial Britain was merely for their administrative convenience while they were around. It therefore boggles anyone’s mind why such an ad hoc arrangement which was cobbled together without giving any consideration to the sensitive differences existing between the peoples inside it should still be held as sacrosanct even when it has been proved as a failed experiment and has continually worked to the detriment of Igbo People. It is a well-known fact that this one act of the colonial Britain has done more violence to human lives and property than any other colonial act anywhere and anytime. It is believed to be the greatest killer-colonial mistake that was ever made. It is sad to note that such an easily correctable mistake has killed more people than any other in human history, all because of human insensitivity to the pains of others. From 1945 till 2012, a period of 67 years, a conservative estimate has it that over 5,000,000 Christian Igbo/Biafra people have been murdered by the Muslim North and West of Nigeria as a direct result of that unfortunate political misstep by the colonial Britain.

So, over the years people have continued to ask; for how much longer and how many more Igbo people need die before that mistake is corrected and the unrelated peoples in Nigeria are re-separated into different and independently administered sovereign countries?

Only recently, amidst tears and cries of “never again” on February 3, 2012 twelve corpses of Christian Igbo people of Southeast were buried in Adazi-Nnukwu their native home. They were killed by the on-going Islamic jihad and campaign for the full shariarization of Northern Nigeria. They were victims of the deadly Islamic Boko Haram movement of the North of Nigeria. Till their death they had been residents of Mubi, a Northeastern town of Nigeria. Here is the list of the names of The Mubi 12 as they are now known: Amaechi Onwukaike, 42, Obinna Okoye Akukwe, 16, Osita Aforka, 52, Ukamaka Aforka, 35, Uchenna Okpala, 45, Ugochukwu Ezenwekwe, 48, John Obiakonwa, 62, Patrick Aghachi, 49, Job Mgbemena, 53, Bede Anagbado, 56, Simeon Asor, 47, Sunday Okoye, 54. All these were Igbo and Christians. Muslims of Nigeria have maintained that they want the entire North free of Christians and other non-Muslim believers. In a very clear language they have always declared that certain death awaits all Christians or non-believers in Islam who defy their wish and order to leave their territory. Before The Mubi 12 were mowed down with machine guns by the members of Boko Haram Movement for Islamic State of Northern Nigeria, (BHMISNN) the group had given a three-day notice to Southern Christians resident in the North of Nigeria to leave or face death. And because the North has been consistent with what they want so some people argue that The Mubi 12 became victims because they were among those Southeasterners who stubbornly fail to heed the warnings constantly being issued by the Islamists who insist that they want a pure Islamic society where they can practice an unadulterated form of sharia laws.

Just as The Mubi 12 of January, 2012 can arguably be said to be victims of their own stubbornness, the same thing can also be said about those Igbo of the Madalla Church bomb Massacre on the Christmas Day of 2011. To their pain and loss, the Southerners refuse to take seriously Balewa’s and those of subsequent Northern leaders’ and spokespeople’s clear warnings. From their actions it looks like the Christian Southeasterners have remained insensitive and unwilling to respect the wishes of the Islamic North. The Northerners want an Islamic state where sharia is the rule of law, and that wish should be respected. And for any people or leaders from the Southeast to insist that the people of the North have no right to demand for what they want or maybe that the North does not mean what they say is being foolhardy. Or, probably, the Southeasterners think the North is not smart enough to know what they want and what is in their best interest. Or maybe they have the wrong notion that Igbo people have equal rights in every part of Nigeria as the indigenous peoples of the places? Well if they should continue to hold that warped opinion then they must be ready to continue paying with the blood of their people or they can choose to move away from the Muslim North and go back alive to their ancestral homeland or to other safer parts of the world or they will always return in caskets or buried in unmarked mass graves out there in the North.

For so long it had been expected of Igbo leaders to take the initiative by taking steps to remove their people from harm’s way but it seems like those leaders prefer to go on condolence visits to the victims’ families, instead. And because these leaders could have done better their condolence pictures look quite trite and hypocritical when they stand side by side with the families of the victims of this endemic Islamic hatred and murdering. These leaders give to the victims a few millions of naira which of course can never compensate for the lost lives. They make their miserable handouts media events so they can be seen as standing by the people. But the truth is that they actually come across, without meaning to, as political sadists since they deliberately keep ignoring the old wise saying which is that prevention is better than the cure of all malaise especially in a matter of life and death as in the continued existence of Igbo people in the accursed one-Nigerian union.

By Osita Ebiem
These leaders fail to understand that the genius of true leaders is manifest in their ability to find lasting solutions to the people’s recurring problems and not when they come with tons of sympathies after the heads of members of their constituency are already cut off. The relationship between the leader and the led is contractual. There are expectations from both sides. It is in the interest of the leader to always find out what the people really want. What the people want must always override the political ambitions of the leader. In the case of the prevailing circumstances of the killing and looting of Christian Igbo of the Southeast by the Muslim Hausa/Fulani in the North of Nigeria, what do the Igbo people want? The honest truth is that the people want their leaders to lead them out of Nigeria into a separate and independent sovereign nation. The present Igbo leadership must face this challenge before them right now and boldly tackle it because they will never be able to wish it away, no matter how much they try. At this juncture the people, Igbo people, look up to their leaders for a lead in the right direction: The people expect their leaders to lead them out of the Nigerian quagmire into a safe Homeland of their own.


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