As Nigeria celebrates another year of independence, we remind ourselves once more that we have only come this far by sticking together all this while. Now, more than ever, we have to keep living in peace and oneness if we do not want to become another split up nation.
In the last year and a couple of previous years, Nigeria as we know it has been anything but peaceful. We are riddled with all sorts of violence; we have communal clashes in various parts of the country; ethno-religious crisis in some regions; Fulani herdsmen menace in the middle-belt and of course, the Boko Haram crisis mainly in the North Eastern part of the country.
It is estimated that at least 600 people have been killed in the Tiv/Jukun crisis of Benue and Taraba States, many more have been displaced; this has reduced economic activity in the region, reduced household income, and caused trauma for victims. This is just one of such crisis and like this one, every crisis leaves bitter spill over effects on those it affects, wrecks the economy and stunts the growth of a nation.
Every great nation is built on the unity of her citizens. When citizens do not see themselves as brothers and decide to fight themselves to death, more often than not, a nation splits up. We have had enough of the fighting; Nigeria should not become another split up nation. We should learn from the histories of countries that split up and not repeat the mistakes they made.
With an increasing number of South Easterners joining the Nnamdi Kanu-led Biafra struggle, it is clear the use of force cannot break the IPOB spirit. Perhaps, instead of using the “Operation Python Dance” strategy to force supporters of the movement into backing down, the government should try dialogue, hear what the South Easterners want, and reach a reasonable agreement.
Recently, there was an FBI case that implicated about 77 Nigerians involved in internet fraud in the United States, trending on social media. Apparently, the list released by the FBI was dominated with names from a particular region of the country, and this garnered a lot of unappealing reactions from Nigerians. On the streets of Twitter and Facebook, Nigerians were making deriding and insulting comments on the said region. Somehow, the fact that the world saw us as one entity, not as a different part of a giant pie eluded these commenters. Before the world, we are one people, not Hausa, Efik or Igala; before the world, we are Nigerians.
At 59, we still need a reorientation that our growth as a nation is hinged on how peaceful and stable our nation is, we need to learn that the peace and stability of our country transcend the lines of our ethnic and religious divides.
We have chanted “One Nigeria” for 59 years even as bigotry has continued to reign supreme in our private and public spaces; it is time, we as a people take a step back and resolve to do better, first for ourselves, then for the generation set to come after we are long gone.
Happy Independence Day and God Bless Nigeria!