Friday, November 28, 2008

The Benefits of Nigerian Unity and The Perils of Disintegration

The Benefits of Nigerian Unity and The Perils of Disintegration
By: Paul I. Adujie
New York, USA

April 5, 2003

Nigeria is not a perfect society, I have never in my private or public comments stated otherwise, Instead I have often stated that there are no perfect societies anywhere else, hence the discussions about the good and the bad in the context of Nigeria�s situations should be in comparative, must not be in vacuum; And that the challenges that Nigeria is facing should be measured in global or universal human perspectives; I strongly believe that violence, war or disintegration are not the ultimate or desirable solutions to our national challenges, notwithstanding suggestions to the contrary.

In the recent past, critics have called me simplistic, naïve or even worse, is the erroneous accusations and painful charge that I am anti a particular ethnic group or region, despite these painful charges that I am anti any Nigerian, I am still optimistic and enthusiastic about all that is Nigerian and positive about Nigeria, the unfair labels and castigations are therefore distractions from meaningful dialogue which is all that I advocate.

I am saddened by the names that I have been called regarding an ethnic group, Because my comments are motivated by sincere, pure and honest intentions, it is a surprise to have managed to elicit and engender labelling and castigation of my person by some; Being anti any Nigerian represents the exact opposite of what I advocate and stand for in relation Nigeria; Ironically, some of my critics admit that they have not bothered to read the article written by someone else about Nigeria, which I had criticized to warrant their wrath. Give a dog a bad name in order to hang it?

But still, there were these reactions to my criticism of the said article, how can those who are critical of my response honestly do so? Their actions are exactly like reacting to a book critic�s comments about a book that they have not read?

My criticism of the author arose from his comments on page 100, but you do not know the contents of the book or particularly issues raised at page 100, It is as if you are saying, I have not read the book, I detest your criticism of the author and the contents of his her book, what logic could explain the interpretations of the unknown?

Nigeria and Nigerians united and prosperous and greater, is all that fills my heart and this belief in one Nigeria remains my motivation in all I write about Nigeria.

It is too common these days for some Nigerians to want to impose their views about the so-called sovereign national conference and other sundry matters on everyone else and insist on why disintegration of Nigeria is the only choice that Nigeria and Nigerians have and any disagreements with their ideas or concept is an invitation to be labelled anti East West South North.

Again and again we are told that a sovereign national conference is a panacea or a be all and end all or the magic pill that Nigeria needs or that disintegration will be the next best alternative, I vehemently disagree and must add that in Democracies, Dialogue, Debate and Discourse are key elements for success.

There are so many examples of disintegrated republics that are full of anarchy and lawlessness, Nigerians should take a look at these failed republics and be more cautious in their advocacy for violence, disintegration and war cries, these tattered republics abound in Africa and Europe Somalia, Liberia Sierra Leone the Congo the Hutu and Tutsi of Rwanda and Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Burundi and more recently the Ivory Coast etc. Shouldn�t the human catastrophes in these failed republics deter warmongers and advocates of disintegration of Nigeria?

Why are some Nigerians so desperate for violence, war or disintegration of sorts? And anyone who disagrees is promptly called anti East anti West anti North? Why can�t the motivations be nationalism and patriotism? Or desire for constructive dialogue and debate and desire for peace?

Why can�t Nigerians negotiate their differences, even if it means Nigerians holding their noses while negotiating, so long as there are some negotiating going on or taking place? Some Nigerians seem hell bent on spilling some blood, but seems to forget that war is not a friendly undertaking or pleasant endeavour; And as is usually the case everywhere in the world, those who usually suffer or die from the vagaries of wars are often not involved in the clamour for war

The Nigerians who are abroad, who like myself, ran away from Nigeria when the economy made life very difficult as it broke, should be the last group of Nigerians asking for disintegration or war. In the event of war, are these warmongers in the Diaspora going to volunteer as foot-soldier if and when the war starts?

Who amongst us can foretell how a war would turn out? Who will be the victor or vanquished? What domestic or foreign intrigues that will surface? Until you punch a person, you never can predict his/her reaction or level of strength.

Who can foretell what the human cost and consequent catastrophe and attendant conflagration may spiral into? Who among Nigerians can foretell whose views and battle-plan in the national dispute will prevail? Who can tell the human cost and how many republics Nigeria will become or end up when all is said and done?

According to statements attributed years ago to the retired General Danjuma (the current Defense Minister) �No nation fights two civil wars and remain intact� he was quoted as saying so some 25 years ago and that is still relevant and correct today; Warmongers beware, Lets ponder.

In previous public comments, I emphasized repeatedly that the way forward for Nigeria is to improve the economy, nurture our national resources without leaving any group or component part of Nigeria behind; Instead of fighting each other over what we currently have.

Some Nigerians are currently too consumed with mutual disdain and mutual suspicion based on religion, region and state or ethnicity; I am not unaware of the enormous diversity of our nation and the inherent conflicting interests within our republic, but these interests are not mutually exclusive ; Is it now impractical and impossible to emphasize the positive?

Why are the vocal minority so determined to compel the rest of us to accept that war and disintegration are the only options that all Nigerians have. Why is it that those who are screaming with their screeching tongues, as to how the sky in Nigeria is falling, are the ones with the correct and only opinion?

Yes, we have challenges and we have national issues that needs to be addressed and resolved from meaningful dialogue, negotiations and constructive engagement; In my opinion these are the only reasonable and responsible options; Not resort to more violence, war or disintegration..

These analogies that follows, comes to my mind as I think of Nigeria, they are about rivalry and the decay of valuable properties of some deceased politicians in Nigeria of the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s, these politicians left immense wealth to their Children, this great deal of wealth was allowed by default to rot, because of sibling rivalry and battle royal between widows and the children, these families, instead of sharing the wealth or getting together to manage the wealth or appointing an objective third party manager or company, allowed their rivalry and schism to becloud their best judgments and so for upwards of 40 years, the properties decayed and the wealth deteriorated and disintegrated

The family above allowed pettifogging to get in the way of great opportunity to have great fortune with little efforts at managing them and the properties were in the best parts of Lagos, and with time, became dilapidated and lost significant value. This is similar to the disagreements and squabbles, mutual suspicions and disdain that Nigerians currently have regarding revenue sharing and derivation debate, issues that are now in the way of Nigeria�s singular opportunity, more than ever before, to use and enjoy our national fortune in a democratic setting.

Secondly, a personality that was associated with the June 12 political imbroglio, also had left a huge amount of properties and the surviving children and family are currently engaged in a bitter dispute, and their disagreements has by default caused the properties and businesses to lose value or become bankrupt due the lack of a concerted effort to resolve issues amicably and absence management, of the said wealth or properties he left behind.

These examples are similar to what might happen to Nigeria and Nigerian resources; Because in the event of more violence, war or disintegration, we will suffer and neither the favoured parts or the marginalized parts of Nigeria will be able to benefit from the fabled resources from which comes the derivation principles or the, On-shore/off-shore dichotomy; I do not want this to happen to Nigeria; But some Nigerians appear to be unwittingly and stridently working too hard to make war and disintegration become fait accompli for Nigeria, by their utterances and commentaries, and constantly predicting doomsday in Nigeria that they forecast will occur before during or after the 2003 general elections.

Our national quarrels and squabbles over power sharing and the distribution of resources are normal and expected and are not unlike other societies or unlike incidents of other human interactions and interrelations outside Nigeria, but what is unacceptable, is allowing our family quarrels deprive us of collective good judgments, and then head to violence , war and disintegration, so that, Nigeria, like the deceased politicians� families in my above analogies, will neither have country nor resources to argue or squabble over and none of the current component parts of Nigeria will get to enjoy our country or our prized resources.

We should reflect on these, it is very easy to destroy and it takes gargantuan efforts to build or rebuild. anything anywhere in the world.

For those of us, who are far away from home, We should be recommending positive improvements for our country based on our positive experiences and beneficial exposures in our new environments as to how some things are made effective and efficient in the different parts of the world where we now live and how Nigeria can replicate such effectiveness or efficiencies for Nigerians in Nigeria, mind you, not everything I see in America that I want for Nigeria, I do not want Nigeria to ape other models.

Our Nation endures, nationalism and patriotism is not a fleeting experience, whereas, resources can be fleeting, leadership can be fleeting, but the corporate entity Nigeria should not fleet or wither.

Remember, �:If they drink the oil, Nigeria go survive� Nigeria namu ne, naka ne, obu ikem, obu ikeghi, Nigeria temi ni, ti iwa ni, so an old Nigerian song goes! Resources may come and Resources may go! Nigeria is yours and mine!

The facts of Nigeria�s past are that, first, there was Groundnut/Peanuts in the North and Cocoa pyramids, Coffee pyramids in the South West and Midwest and then the Coal and Cashew pyramids in the East, Rubber pyramids in the South East and now the current mother of all resources, the black-gold aka petroleum oil and its derivatives in the Niger Delta.

Nigerian resources that became national income earner at one time or another have been derived from different regions and different states or ethnic grouping locations and in all of these, there has been inequities in distribution and sharing of resources ala unfairness to the chicken that lays the golden eggs

We are all aware also of all the environmental impact, pollution and spillage of fish ponds, farm lands and communities that are ruined in the process oil prospecting and exploration and why these communities have been deserving of adequate compensation from time immemorial, it amounts to preaching to the converted to re-state the worthiness of the case of proponents of derivation; Schools, Hospitals, Roads, Employment and other social amenities are all in order to say the least.

However, all of us Nigerians should learn not to take absolute positions on national issues, including derivation; Life is not comprised of graph of straight lines, there are always variables, such that, sometimes, life goes in spirals and meanders and change is a constant in life, change will come and if we bear this axiom in mind, perhaps Nigerians will then, and should ask, what will happen if geologists find plutonium and uranium and some other precious metals/minerals in my hometown tomorrow?

Now, assuming that my state has no oil, and so my hometown is neglected, will I not be vengeful and spiteful with my new found plutonium/uranium/precious metals/minerals wealth when it is discovered in my hometown?

Nigerians should be magnanimous and be their brothers� keepers or fellow citizens� keepers in the circumstances, we should not seek to operate like the biblical prodigal son, products fall out of favour, out of fashion, prices fall and more, new technologies emerge. Nigerians should behave like the profound Christians and profound Moslems as everyone often claim.

If Nigeria disintegrates, you will need an import license and visa for the privilege of paying more for cattle from Jigawa and Adamawaa or Cross Rivers and hence the slippery slope argument, everyone will demand more for their products, I charge more Naira for my cattle, you charge more for your oil.

Niger Delta deserves adequate compensation for national wealth derived from the soil in the geographic part of �the whole� which Niger Delta is sub-sect of, meaning Nigeria.

So now, why don�t we have equitable distribution with particular deference to the oil producing states but without minimizing or compromising Nigeria�s national interests which requires all Nigerians to be willing to sacrifice to protect the states that do not currently produce Oil as in the Niger Delta, or produce Cattle as in Obudu, Yola and Damaturu, Groundnut/Peanuts as in Gboko and Kano, Rubber as in Edo, Cocoa as in Okitipupa, Plutonium in Bauchi or Uranium as in Langtang and Diamond as in Jos or Safire and Rubies from Abagana or Umuazare?

Let suppose for a moment that some new sort of resources becomes Nigeria�s new major Export or foreign exchange earner or new energy source that relegates oil? This is quite likely and very possible; What if the new resources and products are not what we now know? Produced from different region or states?

In the United States, a special tax or levy is imposed on citizens, so that those American who live in rural areas are provided affordable telephone service, that means, those of us who are residents of major cities in America, subsidized the telephone services of our American brethrens in the rural areas! Otherwise, connecting them with telephone service will not be cost effective or economical for the telephone companies to obtain a fair market price or to make profit, phone service will be so expensive in rural America and rural dwellers could not afford telephone service without the subsidies from us city dwellers! Most rural dweller in America are poor.

Lets look out for each other�s interests in Nigeria. Some of these resources mentioned above and others mentioned above, are all present in Nigeria and are many more likely, there are infinite possibilities for all. Why can�t we get along, We should get along, some people have even said that Nigeria is holding the black race back, Nigeria success it is said, is Africa�s and the black race�s success, Nigerians should focus on what is positively beneficial to Nigeria.

Where are the Nigerians who are superbly enthusiastic about Nigeria? Whose infinitude of patriotism is beyond reproach, whose luminosity of vision is precise and clear, whose sense of appreciating national interest is immense, and unblemished and spotless,

Where are the Nigerians whose love for Nigeria we dare not question, where are the Nigerians whose commitment and passions and dedication are steadfast and unflinching and unwavering in the pursuit of Nigeria�s national interests?

I am for one Nigeria, united, greater, better and more prosperous and occupying our pride of place in the world!

Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and an Information Technology Professional

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