By Azuka Onwuka
At a time Nigeria was marking her 60th independence anniversary last week, it was strange that rather than rolling out the drums of celebration, what was on the lips of most Nigerians was “break-up”. The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, was the first top official to mention the word “break-up” during the events marking the 60th independence anniversary of the country.
Speaking at an interdenominational church service to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th Independence anniversary at the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja, the Sunday before October 1, the Vice President, speaking through the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, warned that there were “obvious cracks that could lead to a break if not properly addressed.”
On the day of the anniversary, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), reiterated the issue of unity. In his speech, Buhari said among other things:
“We need to begin a sincere process of national healing and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are.
“The stereotype of thinking of ourselves as coming from one part of the country before seeing ourselves as Nigerians is a key starting point to project us on the road to our deserved nation’s evolution and integration.
“To start this healing process, we are already blessed with the most important asset any nation requires for such – OUR PEOPLE – and this has manifested globally in the exploits of Nigerians in many fields.”
Buhari’s emphasis on unity pointed to the same fear of a break-up.
Other prominent citizens like the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rt Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah, mentioned the issue of a break-up.
In its news story about Nigeria on October 1, the BBC, owned by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (which colonised Nigeria, gave her independence and has helped to ensure that Nigeria has remained one country) ran a story with the headline: “Nigeria turns 60: Can Africa’s most populous nation remain united?” The first paragraph of the article was: “How to keep a multitude of ethnic groups united and satisfied? This was the greatest hurdle Nigeria faced in the first decade of its independence – and continues to be the case 60 years later.”
A few days after the October 1 anniversary, an unusual voice mentioned the issue of break-up: Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Adeboye, who has not been known for such messages, warned: “It is either we restructure or we break up. You don’t have to be a prophet to know that.” He was speaking at the 60th Independence Day Celebration Symposium organised by the RCCG and the Nehemiah Leadership Institute.
Less than three weeks before Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, former president Olusegun Obasanjo had decried the parlous state of Nigeria. He said: “Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state. Economically, our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.”
In addition to the various groups in the South-East that have been talking about secession, a new group recently emerged from the South-West talking about secession. The group, focused on the emergence of the Oduduwa Republic, announced that it was partnering the Indigenous People of Biafra from the South-East.
However, there is no sign that shows that Buhari realises that all is not well and that something serious needs to be done to pull Nigeria back. He just seems to assume that all that needs to be done is for Nigerians to see themselves as one, love the country and forget about their differences.
Buhari had said in his speech that “an underlying cause of most of the problems we have faced as a nation is our consistent harping on artificially contrived fault-lines that we have harboured and allowed unnecessarily to fester.” As was quoted above, the President had noted that “the stereotype of thinking of ourselves as coming from one part of the country before seeing ourselves as Nigerians is a key starting point to project us on the road to our deserved nation’s evolution and integration.” Ironically, no Nigerian president has worked towards dividing of Nigerians through ethnicity and religion as Buhari.
On September 17, the media published the story about some appointments and redeployment of senior officers in the Nigeria Customs Service. The story said that the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd.) had appointed two new acting Deputy Comptrollers General of Customs, five acting Assistant Comptrollers General of Customs and effected redeployment of five senior officers. The Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, listed their names and positions as follows:
DCG Abdullahi Babani – HRD
DCG Mohammed Boyi – NCS TRADOC
ACG Saidu Galadima – ICT/Modernisation
SM Modibbo – Zone ‘B’ HQ
ACG Uba Mohammed – E,I&I
ACG Hamza Gummi – T&T
ACG Usman Dakingari – Doctrine & Development (TRADOC)
Those redeployed include:
DCG David Chikan from TRADOC to FATS
Comptroller Mohammed Auwal from PHI to PHII
Comptroller Yusuf Garba from Kebbi to PHI
Comptroller Hafiz Kalla from FATS (TS) to Kebbi
Comptroller Bello Jibo from Bauchi/Gombe to Seme
Again all of them were from the North in spite of the diversity of Nigeria as well as the fact that the literacy rate in the North is much lower than that of the South. Despite all the complaints raised about the blatant abuse of the federal character principle enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution since he came into office in 2015, Buhari has carried on with his cronyism without a care. It seems as if the more people complain about his cronyism on national appointments and projects, the more he does his thing.
In September the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) published a report that listed many skewed appointments made under Buhari in favour of his Northern region. The report read inter alia:
“According to revelations from media reports, official documents and contributions of senior intelligence officials showed that the North had a massive share of the roughly 1,300 Nigerians currently undergoing cadet training at two different camps of the secret police in Lagos and Bauchi.
“According to recruitment filings, of the total 628 cadet trainees, who had resumed at the Bauchi facility as of September 23, 535 identified themselves as trainees joining the service from either the North-East or the North-West. Only 93 were from the South-East, South-South, South-West or North-Central.
“More worrisome is that findings also showed that at least 71 of those currently undergoing cadet training hailed from Bichi Local Government Area, Kano State; the Director-General’s home local government area.”
For a country like Nigeria that is seen as increasingly divided and under the threat of a break-up, one wonders what Buhari’s true mission is. Is he helping to heal or kill Nigeria? There is no sign that he is concerned about peppering those cracks and uniting Nigeria. It is surprising that it is the President that should unite Nigeria that is dividing Nigeria.
— Twitter @BrandAzuka