The Governor General of Nigeria between 1920 – 31 , Sir Hugh Clifford, described Nigeria as “a collection of independent Native States, separated from one another by great distances, by differences of history and traditions and by ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers.” (Nigeria Council Debate. Lagos, 1920).
Nigeria has been a big mistake right from the beginning; the infrastructure on which Nigeria stands can´t hold a superstructure because of its shaky nature. When a foundation is shaky; it will be useless to put on its top an imposing superstructure. Suffice it to say that what is up is being determined by what is on the ground. There is fundamental problem that must be tackled before Nigeria can stand on its feet” (Chima Ubochi).
The purpose of this short and timely article is to inform, warn and encourage Nigerians and their leaders over the dangers of underestimating and brushing aside the will and aspirations of the ethnic groups and regions that make up the country. Anyone familiar with my level of patriotism, nationalism and work will testify to my staunch belief in the section of the Nigerian constitution that affirms Nigeria a united and secular nation. Recent developments and memories of past and continuous carnage in the North of Nigeria, on the innocent and for reasons beyond comprehension, are beginning to sway the position of many who previously frowned at the thought of alternative systems of coexisting. In other words, while believing and hoping on a united, progressive, secular, and God fearing country, more staunch Nigerian nationalists are now open to the possibility of a different form of mutually agreed arrangement – e.g. the breakup of Nigeria to accommodate the conflicting regional, religious and tribal aspirations of ethnic groups. The Governor General of Nigeria between 1920 – 31 , Sir Hugh Clifford, described Nigeria as “a collection of independent Native States, separated from one another by great distances, by differences of history and traditions and by ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers” (Nigeria Council Debate. Lagos, 1920). This description seems to vividly capture the problems of today’s Nigeria. A united people or nation is unattainable through force or coercion. To many concerned citizens, a time for sovereign national conference, North and South, is much overdue in the interest of Nigeria, its people and security of life and assets.
There are worrying trends that are beginning to raise concerns over the authority of the President, his security and the unity of the country. At the 2012 Armed Forces Remembrance Day ceremony, the President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebere Jonathan, made a revelation that sent shock wave across the country and the rest of the world. Speaking about the terror being unleashed by Boko Haram, he said “he thinks sympathisers of the Islamist Boko Haram group are in his government and security agencies” (BBC).
The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought..During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from, but the challenge we have today is more complicated.. some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in the judiciary”…”Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies.”
When the President and the commander-in-chief of the national armed forces raises concern over the loyalty of some members of the armed forces and his cabinet, every patriotic citizen should be alarmed too. Such scenario is a major threat to the presidency, the government of the Federal Republic of \Nigeria, democratic institutions, national security, and national unity. It is equally a shameful development to the people and government of Nigeria. The Islamic religious sect, Boko Haram, meaning “Western education is forbidden”, is fighting to overthrow a democratically elected government and create an Islamic state (BBC) and has warned Southern Christians to leave the Northern region. This raises two issues. The first concerns the right of individuals and groups to pursue agenda of interest freely but without endangering the lives and freedoms of others. Individuals and groups have the right to worship who they choose, and associate with organisations set up legally in pursuit of their personal or group interests. When such organisations employ violence as a means of communicating and enforcing their will, it becomes a matter of national security importance and an issue for rule of law. As violence is unleashed and the innocent pays unmerited price, emotions flair up, the anger of a nation rises, the conscience of citizens is challenged, individuals become dangerously judgemental, suspicion and mistrust deepens, and patience runs thin. Overnight, a nation can be thrown into chaos. It is therefore important that our friends and brothers in the North, influential personalities in particular, should make use of their good offices and advance ways to bring the current situation under lasting control. Secondly, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (Section 1) emphasised the supremacy of the Constitution and the binding force of its provisions on all authorities and persons throughout the Federation. The section 10 of the Constitution unequivocally declares, “The Government of the Federation or of any State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.” In Subsection 2, the Constitution emphasised that “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.” Put it bluntly, Nigerian Constitutions, past and present, decree the secularity of the Nigerian state, the separation of church and state and the freedom to practice religion of one’s choice without fear of persecution and prosecution. Therefore the actions of Boko Haram are unlawful and unconstitutional. Providing they are Nigerians and have the full support of their people, they have the right and the freedom to negotiate their requirements with the Federal Government of Nigeria. They should be aware too that any demands that violate the constitution of Nigeria may result in the breakup of the country.