FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeTuesday, October 4, 2016
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ON FEDERALISTS VS ETHNIC NATIONALISTS

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he campaign to restructure Nigeria is gathering momentum and soon will become unstoppable. It is no longer if Nigeria will be restructured, but when. Therefore, it is time to look at what a restructured Nigeria will look like and the values that drive those who want to restructure Nigeria.

I suppose it is appropriate to remind ourselves that it is the values and not ethnicity that makes a people or nation. My question remains, what kind of values will guide a restructured Nigeria?

Is it the character and competency of individuals or their ethnicity and religion that will define people in the restructured Nigeria?

Is it civil values or sectarian values as is already operational in North Nigeria that will define the new Nigeria? Will it be what people know or who they know?

Unless those who seek a new Nigeria first answer the question of the values that will guide her, she will suffer the same systemic disease that is killing Nigeria. Nations are about values.

Today in Nigeria, there are people who masquerade as Federalists, who are actually ethnic nationalist, propelled by the self consuming ambition to have a country made of people of their ethnic group. Not there is anything wrong with this, the danger is in what they do with their power and the risk they pose to people, who are different from them. We have seen too much of what prejudiced people can do in the name of ethnic nationalism to keep quiet.

My plea to them is that they should be honest with their intentions and say that what they want is an ethnic nation, made up of people of their ethnic group, instead of pretending that they can have two nations at the same time.

If Nigerians want Nigeria to exist in any form as a country, they should be prepared to subsume a degree of their ethnic identity, under a Nigerian identity and ensure that the rights and liberty of every Nigerian is secured and guaranteed in every part of the country. This is they minimum needed to have a country and build a nation. Anything apart from this, is self deception.

Nigerians must clearly determine and decide the place of ethnicity and religion in any arrangement we end up with. Every nation that has developed, did this.

If what some people want is their ethnic nation, where they will treat people of other ethnic groups living in their region as second class citizens, as the north treats its Christian minorities and non northerners, it is not progress, but regression. They have a right to do so, but they should be honest about it.

A new Nigeria, which cannot do better than the caliphate and be guided by the same sectarian constructs and values under a different guise, is not progress.

The ethnic nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland subsume under a greater and encompassing British nation and a Scot can settle in Wales and be treated the same as some one who speaks Welsh, without any discrimination of the type, which people who want their ethnic nations in Nigeria, are very proud to defend.

The sad reality is that all indexes point to the fact that Nigeria cannot survive in its present form, either as a federated ethnic states or unitary government, without a clear definition of the values that would guide her. There is not enough being said or done to ensure that the proposed restructured regions will go beyond either their religious or ethnic identities in defining themselves.

When I talk about a Nigerian identity, it is like a British identity. The Scots, English, Irish and Welsh are all proud of their British identity. There are English people living in Scotland, who voted for Scottish independence.

These are people who have risen above the type of ethnic nationalism and prejudice, which is destroying Nigeria and which would be unleashed in Nigerian ethnic nations, unless, we first find solution to it.

It is the same prejudice, which is responsible for the perennial pogroms of Igbos and Christians in the north Nigeria. The same prejudice was responsible for the Nazis Holocaust and Rwandan and Biafran genocides. It is the same prejudice that is fuelling the carnage in Syria, Libya, South Sudan, north East Nigeria, Yemen and Iraq.

To some people, one is an Igbo or Hausa, before one becomes a human being, but to enlightened minds, one is first and foremost a human being before one becomes a Yoruba, Hausa, Muslim or Christian. This is one of the differences between Federalists and ethnic nationalists.

The truth is that there is no difference between the man who hates and discriminates against you because of your religion and the one who hates and discriminated against you because of your ethnicity. Both are prejudiced against you because of who you are and given the chance, both will treat you the same. They both harbour prejudice against you, albeit for different, but the same primitive reasons, and are capable of the same evil.

Those who are fighting for a restructured Nigeria should know that as long as Nigeria remains a country, in whatever federated form, any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion, would be unjust, immoral, illegal and unjustifiable and those so discriminated against, will fight for justice.

This is why I say that people should be clear and honest about their intentions and reasons for wanting restructure of the country and the values that would guide in the new restructured Nigeria.

Nigerians cannot afford to have one country, with enclaves, where some people can justify discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion as some people argue or currently obtains in the north.

Every Nigerian, if the identity still means anything, must be safe and secured in every part of Nigeria. It would be unsafe, for the struggle to restructure Nigeria, to become a vehicle for ethnic nationalists to gain power and open the flood gate of hate towards those, who are different from them.

It is not difficult to imagine what area boys emboldened by ethnic nationalistic spirit or Bakkassi boys intoxicated with spirit of Biafra would be capable. We have seen enough of what Arewa boys indoctrinated with toxic Islamic orthodoxies are capable in Boko Haram and the evil Fulani militia emboldened by Buhari are capable.

We cannot forget that it is the declaration of Sharia by the north that finally convinced some die hard one Nigerians that Nigeria has to change. It followed therefore that ethnic nations, where discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion is justified, will be the death nail to Nigeria as a country. It will herald the birth of ethnic nationalistic countries, where discrimination and injustice would be endemic. The nearest thing to Nigeria, would be Iraq or Syria.

I believe in a federated Nigeria, where significant powers are devolved to the regions to develop at their pace, address the current injustice of marginalisation and every Nigerian has a right to freedom, justice and equality in any part of Nigeria. I respect, but do not overvalue ethnic and religious identities. They have always provided the convenient excuses some people need to prostrate evil against others because of who they are.

Therefore, it is imperative that the liberty and rights of all citizens are guaranteed within any Nigerian arrangement and, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion made unlawful, to forestall injustices.

No people can claim to be civilised, when they do not accept civil values, which ensures equality, justice and liberty for all, irrespective of religion and/or ethnicity.

When, people argue that difference should be recognised I say, I agree. But for what purpose? I ask, is it to use it as a basis for discrimination? Is it as a sectarian construct on which to segregate and see others as different or inferior?

We are yet to find anything good that results from factoring in ethnicity and religion into democracy. We now know enough to conclude that the universal value of equality, tolerance liberty and justice for all are the only valid and sustainable basis for enduring societies. Great societies are built on civil values and rule of law and not on ethnic identities. Only societies that embrace civil values and due and democratic processes advance

I cannot be part of any people that seek to value human beings according to their ethnicity or religion. I have no place in my life for ethnicity and/or religion as reasons for discriminations. While they remain and rightly so, the primitive constructs on which humans segregate, the urge to use them as justification for discriminations must be resisted by enlightened minds.

In my world, whatever is good for Igbo man is good for a Yoruba man and whatever is wrong to do to an Hausa is wrong to do to an Ijaw. People are first of all, human beings with rights before they become Igbos, Yorubas, Christians, Muslims etc.

The values of Liberty, equality and justice as fairness are sacrosanct and a good government and enlightened people guarantee the freedom and liberty of all, irrespective of religion or ethnicity.

This is what is currently lacking in the thinking of many Nigerian ethnic nationalists, who masquerade as Federalists and clamouring for autonomy for their ethnic nations, where they would treat others differently because of who they are.

In fact, nobody, who is an ethnic nationalist can be a true federalist because federalism supposes that individuals have the same rights in every part of the federation and it gives no place for discrimination within the federation on the basis of ethnicity and/or religion. This is the sin of those who declared sharia laws in north Nigeria, practice nepotism in Abuja, exploit the oil in Niger delta for their own benefit and instigate ethnic cleansing in the middle belt.

Any governing unit, be it mono or multi ethnic, where people find reason to justify discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnicity would be problematic.

The civil values of liberty, equality justice and all fundamental human rights must be secured for every people, irrespective of their religion or ethnicity and, the courts sufficiently empowered to defend and enforce them, for any society to developed and remain peaceful. This is how developed societies evolve.

In France, Britain, Germany etc., every person has the same right and it is the duty of government to protect and govern for all. People can also earn the citizenship of the countries and be treated by the government and law no less than those, whose ancestors were indigenous to the region; for that is what ethnic identity is in the end.

However, wherever ethnicity or religion becomes the construct on which people and government segregates, as is the case in countries, where ethnic nationalists or religious extremists have power, they justify discrimination and injustices towards people, who do not belong to their ethnic group or religion. The evil of this is too glaring in the Middle East and Northern Ireland to waste more time on it.

Nobody has right to stop people, who choose to narrowly define their humanity by their ethnic or religious identities and use them as the construct to limit their idea of justice and goodness or reasons for discriminations. However, it must be said that such people are unfit to govern and power in their hands would always spell doom for those they despise because of either their religion, ethnicity or both.

History is full of the damage such people do. From Hitler through Idi Amin to Buhari, such people lack the mindset and ability to see people first and foremost as human beings and their worldview cannot go beyond their ethnicity or region, depending on the construct they overvalue.

The problem is ethnic nationalist or religious extremists wanting a country, where people of their ethnic or religious group will rule, dominate and discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or religion. This is dangerous. It always end in tears.

A country, whether mono or multi ethnic, which finds reason to justify discrimination either on the basis of ethnicity or religion is doomed. This is why I say that Nigerians must first choose the values that will guide their lives and politics.This is the first step.

For once, let us have the civility to debate our intentions so that we will have no doubt about the type of future we will have because of the values we cherish and what we justify.

A people will end where the road they are walking in ends, no matter what they believe or how honest they consider their intentions.

Religion in Nigerian schools.

There is an alternative way of looking at the problem Rev Kukah discussed recently. The problem is not that Buhari is an ex-General. It is what type of person the ex general is.

The issues are Buhari's (leaders) mentality, prejudices, worldview beliefs and assumptions, which informs his attitude and behaviour to the rest of Nigeria and non-Muslims.

For instance, why is Buhari retiring mainly officers from the south from the army?

Bishop Kukah is a Christian, who believes in the teachings of the Bible in exactly the same way Buhari believes in the teachings of the Quran.

Kukah and Buhari are diametrically opposed, when it comes to ideas they consider as truth and very important, but operate with the same software, religious mind.

Each believes the other is misguided in his religious beliefs and each believes his religion is the right one.

Both make use of dichotomous (black and white) and magical thinking and believe in cosmos dualism of God and Satan and good and evil and heaven and hell. They both believe that these ideas are true.

When this is the construct on which people segregate, unity of purpose is impossible. They may tolerate each other, and can even be pretend to respect each other, but once they have power, almost always, such people seek to impose their world views and beliefs on all for no other reason, than that they believe that they are right about God. This is one reason why Nigeria needs a civil society.

It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria has found itself in the present problem. It is a problem rooted in mistrust, ethnic and religious prejudices and lack of consideration for the rights and liberty of others.

The problem that confront Nigeria is problem of governance and development of a civil society.

Unfortunately, , the country is segregated along two very divisive primitive constructs of ethnicity and religion. Therefore, both must be solved to give Nigeria a chance.

In my view, to make a civil society out of Nigeria, religion and ethnicity must be made irrelevant in governance and civil values, Liberty, rule of law, equality and justice as fairness enthroned.

It would therefore seem to me that introducing religion in schools and attempting to promote one religion over and above others or impose one ethnic group on all by appointing them into strategic positions, would seem to be the wrong strategy.

Without addressing the two monsters of ethnicity and religion, , Nigeria is doomed. No amount of praying and fasting will save Nigeria, if the country refuses to return to the part of civil society, rule of law and liberty.

In a multi ethnic nation, divided by religion, there is no alternative to building a civil society.

It would therefore seem to me that Nigerians are asking the wrong questions and getting the right answers

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