FEATURE ARTICLE

Evangelist Isaac IvbazeSaturday, August 16, 2014
isaac500@live.com
Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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2015 ELECTIONS: UNITY OF NIGERIA MUST TRANSCEND TRIBAL SENTIMENT

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his is a message to all Nigerians with regards to the coming 2015 elections. Before I begin, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am neither a politician nor a partisan politics. I am a preacher of the word of God. My opinion on any issue, be it contemporary, politics, or religion is based on the truth from the perception of my religious convictions. I am not liable or obligated to anyone except my Lord Jesus Christ. The issues of Nigeria have been a very complex one and this is because Nigeria is a complex nation. I see Nigeria as a nation that has been divided and torn apart by the evil of tribalism, nepotism and corruption. My voice about the state of Nigeria is completely devoid of any tribal or ethnic sentiment. I am not a Yoruba, nor Ibo, or Hausa but an indigene of Edo State origin. I have Yorubas, Ibos, and middle belt as friends. The only group of Nigerians I do not personally have as friends are the Hausas. This is not because I hate them, it is simply because I have not had the opportunity to interact and live among them.

It is clear that General elections is fast approaching which means Nigerians would once again be given an opportunity to elect new leaders whose responsibility would be to drive the nation for another four years. Historic evidence has shown that one of the major reasons behind the failure of Nigeria as a nation had been the intrusion of tribal sentiment in the affairs of the nation. The history of Nigeria would not be complete without the remembrance of the civil war which took place between1967-1970 and Nigerians need to understand that the cause of the war was as a result of tribal and ethnic prejudices. Between the years, 1960-1964, just immediately after the independence, a British journalist was granted an interview by the Sarduana of Sokoto who was then the premier of the northern region and the leader of NCNC, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello.

In that interview, Armadu Bello was asked to express his opinion about the Ibos in the north. Here was the words of Sir Armadu Bello "the Ibos are the type of people whose desire mainly to dominate everybody, if they go to a village they would want to monopolize everything in the area, if you put them in a camp as laborers they will try to emerge as headman of that camp." In the past our people were not alive to their responsibilities, you can see from our urbanization policy. When I came here they were ten northerners in civil service but now all the important posts are being held by northerners." The British journalist proceeded by asking "Is this policy of fitting all people in the north, certainly not with other Nigerians temporary or permanent one?" Armadu Bello responded, "In actual fact what it is, is a northerner first, if we can't get a northerner, we pick an expatriate like yourself.", then the British journalist continued, "Is it that damage the idea that all people in all regions in Nigeria being citizens of one country?", Armadu Bello responded again, "There are probably no northerners in the west, and if there are, maybe ten laborers employed only in the region. These statements were not only a flaw in the spirit of Nigeria unity; it represented nepotism, tribal separatism, and of course a divisive incitation against the elements of Ibo extraction in the north. History has shown that other parts of the country were not left out of the same sentiment. Samuel Ladoke Akintola was an astute politician. He was the premier of the Western Region between1959-1965. In spite of his ideological differences and political dispute with Awolowo, Akintola was widely recognized as one of prominent Yoruba leaders.

This was Akintola's reaction in response to a question asked "Yorubas have university of Ibadan and University of Lagos and we still have Ibos dominating our institutions" It is very important to note that the genesis of Nigeria problems started as a result of these divisive utterances made by these leaders which were absolute disregard for the unity of the nation at the time. It was absolutely unjustifiable for these prominent leaders to create dissension among the people of Nigeria, by displaying such spirit of disunity in their expressions against the elements of Ibo tribe. Though their views did not necessarily represent the general opinion of their tribal group, they failed to understand that by virtues of their position in their regions and the nation as a whole, such statements were powerful enough to incite hate, resentment, and discord between their own people and the people of other tribes in Nigeria.

Though it was widely believed that Major Uzegwu's coup was as a result of corruption at the time, I strongly believe that the statement of Armadu Bello and the treatment of Ibos in the north prompted Major Uzegwu to mount a deadly onslaught against the government of Tafawa Balewa through which Armadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Samuel Akintola along with some prominent politicians were murdered. This would later degenerate into the Nigeria civil war. Records have shown that since the end of the civil war, tribal sentiment has continued to bedevil the nation of Nigeria. The current view and opinions of some Nigerians from different ethnic groups about the leadership of Goodluck Jonathan is in no doubt a clear manifestation of the fact that Nigerians have not learned from the civil war. It appears that vast majority of these groups are not necessarily looking for the progress of the nation but tribal separatism. I can visualize a repetition of the civil war and probably a more deadly one if the trend of things continues in this direction.

Again, the current wave of ethnic, religious and tribal tension in the country has become a dangerous recipe for national unity. Nigerians must be very careful in lining their opinions alongside tribal favoritism on national issues. The inclusion of the northern part of Nigeria is currently the reason why Nigeria still abounds as one nation. My prediction is that if by any reason the north secedes from the rest of the country, there is going to be more chaos, bloodbath, and killings in the south. The reason is simply because there is going to be serious conflict over who would gain absolute control over the oil resources. The south is going to fragment into political dissension creating ethnocracy. There is going to be various dissident groups along ethnic and tribal lines just exactly the same scenarios that have now engulfed the southern Sudan. Major and minor ethnic groups in the south are going to try to disintegrate from the rest of the nation by opting for their own sovereign state.

The hand writing is already on the wall. The memory of the event of the civil war which had tainted the relationship between the Ibos and the Yorubas cannot be eroded, it's still there. I am not surprised that both ethnic groups, though friendly, have continued to envision the creation of their sovereign states, the Yorubas' Oduduwa Nation and the Ibo's Biafra. Along the line, we have seen other ethnic minorities coming up to create movements which of course are to protect the interest of their tribal groups. In the face of this, there may be catastrophic damage to lives and properties in the south. Therefore I am appealing to all Nigerians that ethnic, tribal favoritism, and sentiment must not be allowed to continue. If Nigeria is going to survive the test of time and advance in the direction of economic and industrial development, ethnic and tribal mentality must be eroded. I believe education ought to take precedence over tribal and ethnic alignment by broadening the mental horizon of ones perception about leadership as it relates to effective governance. I strongly advice that the choice of candidates in 2015 elections must transcend ethnic, religious and tribal differences as the future of Nigeria nation ultimately rest in the hands of the Nigerian electorates.

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