BUT, WHICH WAY, NIGERIA? This poser has been put severally to Nigerians and I ask again, like in the days of one of Nigeria’s popular musicians, the late Sunny Okosun, “Which way, Nigeria”?
Each day, we are lucky to wake up from sleep by the special Grace of God, without being invaded by armed bandits, Ak-47-carrying blood+thirsty herdsmen or even kidnappers for ransoms, we thank God Almighty. Of course, these days, what we hear are “sounds of evil drums” here and there, reminiscent of what we heard before the 1967-70 civil war in this country.
For instance, these days, you hardly listen to radio stations or see a newspaper headline story that does not jolt you or tend to spoil your whole day. The stories you hear or read like the attempted assassinations of two serving State Governors, remind one that all is not well. Those who witnessed the last Nigeria/Biafra civil war, have a strong feeling that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder and that indeed, Nigerians learnt nothing from that three years of civil war. At that time, we witnessed pogrom. Millions of innocent people lost their lives just as more than three million Biafran children died out of malnutrition as well as billions of Naira worth of properties destroyed. As a result, Nigeria’s advancement as an emerging giant among commity of Nations got retarded.
As a victim of that senseless civil war, I recall with nostalgia how we residents of Enugu Capital City were horridly sent packing with the intensity of mortar shellings into the city from the 9th Mile Hill Top end of Enugu indicating the approach of the Nigerian troops. It all started about 8 pm in the night,that 1967. As the shelling continued through the night,we were forced to quickly move out of Enugu and with that State of confusion and uncertainty, we marched out of Enugu without a pin of our personal belongings. Some mothers who had kids,were tempted to abandon some as the trecking became so unweary. If you had any heavy bag, nobody would advise you to abandon it by the roadside and save your head first.
Personally, I managed and ended up at Port Harcourt, now capital of Rivers State. Before now, my employers then, the famous Daily Times Group of Newspapers, has shut down their offices in the then Eastern Region even as all communications between the Region and the rest of Nigeria had been disconnected.
So, very little did I know that had my stay in the then Garden City, Port Harcourt, was also going to be temporal as Gen Olusegun Obasanjo and his commando troops soon invaded Port Harcourt thus sending the reidents also packing. From the Garden City, I managed to relocate to Aba now in Abia State which also subsequently fell into the hands of the enemy troops then. My next alternative was Umuahia, now capital of Abia State where at 7 am every morning, the dreaded Russian Mig jet fighters woke up the residents from sleep and tormented us with drops of bombs. The final straw that broke the carmel’s back was that noon day when Umuahia also fell and I saw our political heavy weight, Dr. M. I. Okpara, former Premier of the defunct Eastern Nigeria and National leader of the defunct NCNC, was camouflaged in a Volkswagen Car and driven out of his Nkwoegwu, Ohuhu Umuahia ancestral home to an unknown destination for his safety.
At the end of the three years civil war, in early 1970, I recall how I trecked a distance of 18 miles then from my home Ezeanyike, Eziama in Isiala Mbano LGA, Imo State to Okigwe on my way back to Enugu, my former station. So, in the face of all these, who wants to experience another civil war in Nigeria?
Would it not have been better for Nigerian leaders to keep aside their egos and try to avert these “sounds of evil drums”?
Recently, a Nigerian Pastor, Adewale Giwa was quoted as saying that the “current Nigerian politicians are eating their last cake” because, according to him, “Nigeria will cease to exist as she would soon disintegrate.”
So, if this “marriage of convenience” forced on us by the colonial masters no longer sustains, why don’t we quietly divorce without any further stress or blood she’d? Apart from the obvious fact that the demand for a Biafra Republic has been on going even from the days of Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu, a larger group under the aegis of Nigeria Indeginous Nationalities Alliance for Self Determination (NINASD), has also raised issues on the continued validity of the Nigerian Amalgamation of 1914. The group is made up of representatives from the Yoruba, the Middle belt, the South-South and the South East. Prof. Banji Akintoye, a Yoruba leader of the Ilana Omo Oodua in Yoruba land, has also been quoted as saying “going to another round of elections in 2023 under the 1999 Constitution will simply mean that you are part of the enemy mechanism for inflicting death, misery and impoverishment on your people.” Also, trending in the news is the “quit notice” which the Arewa youths have extended to the popular Yoruba leader, Sunday Idogho, to arrange for a he mass movement of his Yoruba nationals out of the northern States, just a similar quit notice they issued to the Igbo resident in the North earlier. So, where is our togetherness? Is the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria or “marriage of convenience” still sustainable in the face of all these altercations? So, which way Nigeria?
Apart from our daily experiences of bad governance, Nigerians are also daily weighed down with funny experiences of open display of hatred of one ethnic/ religious group or the other. Lives and properties of people are no longer guaranteed even with the recent change of guards. Hunger now even poses more draidful danger than gun battle as prices of essential commodities go up daily. Nepotism and calculated marginalization of a particular ethnic group are also part of the bane heating the polity.
Over 100 years ago, Nigeria got schemed into an ill-fated marriage officiated by her colonial masters; those grey-haired white coloured nationals. That makeshift kind of marriage, from all indications today, did not witness the usual “pre-marriage counselling.” That marriage only witnessed the usual cutting of cake and wine toasting hence, one hundred years after, things are falling apart and the center can now hardly hold. Does our present situation as a nation, even after 61 years of independence not confirm that there is no graduation in marriage? Yes, Nigeria’s marriage since 1914 is like a well designed mansion built on a porous ground without a solid foundation. God blessed Nigeria with people and all sorts of mineral resources but Nigeria has refused to lift up and fly.
Which Way, Nigeria?
Sam Amaku, an octogenarian, popularly known as SamPen during his active years as a columnist with The Daily Times in 60s up until the 80s, is a veteran Journalist