With the daunting security challenges of the Boko Haram sects in the North-East and the discord between the Southern and Northern delegates to the defunct National Conference, there is urgent need to negotiate the unity of this country. Nigerians are not oblivious of how the various nations that presently constitute Nigeria came into the country through the amalgamation of the Colony of Lagos and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria in 1906, that of Northern and Southern protectorates to form Nigeria in 1914 by Lord Luggard which were done by a political fiat without the consent of the various ethnic nationalities that constituted the protectorates!
People do not come together under a union without first discussing and agreeing on the terms, modalities and conditions under which they will coexist. So far, it is only the multi-ethnic and religious people of Nigeria that were foisted into a country without according them the right to discuss the terms and conditions under which they would coexist. This is why after 100 years of coexistence and 53 years of independence, there is no national interest as Nigerians are divided along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
The continued coexistence of Nigerians is in doubt because the National Conference which most Nigerians thought was a veritable platform to discuss the way forward for this country recently came to an abrupt end as the same primordial factors already mentioned above reared their ugly heads once again. The 492 delegates to the defunct National Conference could not jettison tribalism, ethnicity, regionalism and religion to pursue a patriotic and common goal that would have bound Nigerians together but took the path of tribalism, regionalism and religion which beclouded their sense of judgment and could not take patriotic resolutions that could have put the country on a firm footing.
The aforementioned are pointers to buttress the fact that there is no unity in the country. This is why it has become imperative to negotiate the unity of Nigeria. It is an open secret that the only factor compelling Nigerians to coexist in this marriage of convenience is crude oil. It is evident that if the crude oil should dry up today, the country will disintegrate with ease without a gunshot or bomb blast! It is true that the few Nigerians who benefit abnormally from this incoherent and directionless country called Nigeria do not want to hear talks about the breakup of the country. But we cannot continue to pretend that we are united when in actuality we are not. Also, we cannot continue to coexist in a disunited, disquieted and disharmonious country just because of the oil and gas that are domiciled in the Niger Delta. This should not be encouraged as every state in Nigeria has innumerable natural and agricultural resources it can develop to generate revenues.
The inability of the National Conference to take a stand on derivation as delegates from the South wanted derivation increased from 13 percent to 18 percent but their Northern counterparts opposed this position as they wanted derivation to remain 13 percent will be counterproductive. This hardline stand taken by the delegates from the north will not foster unity in the country. How can the north that does not own the crude oil from which the country derives about 85 percent of her revenues determine how much derivation the Niger Delta region should receive? The north was audacious to insist on 13 percent derivation but was glad to receive 50 percent derivation from their groundnuts and cotton in the First Republic. How can there be peace in this country with this uncompromising position often taken by the north on national issues?
No other country except Nigeria practices the type of federation we practice here where the whole country depends on only one section of the country for survival. Every state of the federation has multiple natural resources to explore and exploit and generate enough revenues for self-sustenance. One provocative statement often made by people from other regions of the country is that they always say that the people of the Niger Delta are only lucky to have the crude oil under their soil and that they did not do anything to put it there. They say since the people of the Niger Delta did not do anything to put the crude oil there, it therefore belongs to all Nigerians! Let us also say that since the Libyans, Angolans, Saudis etc. did not do anything to have crude oil in their soils, it should also belong to all the people in the world! To the people in this school of thought I ask, did the Yorubas, Hausas or Fulanis whose land is fertile for the growing of cocoa, groundnuts, cotton, rice etc. which they abandoned for crude oil do anything to make their land to be fertile? Their land is fertile for growing of these crops just by the benevolence of God so also are the Niger Delta people!
Since religion is an individual thing, the Southern delegates to the defunct National Conference recommended an end to the sponsor of pilgrims by the three tiers of government but Northern delegates insisted the status quo should remain. How can government continue to use the wealth of all Nigerians to sponsor some Christians and Moslems to Jerusalem and Mecca respectively? Who will sponsor the traditional worshippers on their own pilgrimage? Why does the north always oppose any law or policy that will put the country on the right direction?
It is worrisome that the 30,000 newly delineated polling units were created to favour the North which has 20,715 as against the South with 8,414 polling units. But more worrisome is that Abuja has 1,200 polling units as against the 1,167 of the South-East. The deliberate award of more polling units to the North by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Prof. Atahiru Jegal is a repeat of history. In 1952, late Sarduna of Sokoto and leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, driven by the will to have control over the South, requested the Nigerian Colonial Secretary, Mr. Oliver Lyttleton that “If you want us (the North) to be part of this Nigeria you have in mind, then we want 50% of the membership of the National Assembly”. It will interest you to note that in the 1954 National Assembly election, the South won 83 seats (51.23%) of the 162 seats while the North won 79 seats (48.76%). However, in 1959, the British yielded to the demand of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and created 312 seats for the National Assembly without any election or new census conducted to determine the population that warranted the new seats.
Thus, the North was allocated 174 seats and the South had 138 seats in preparatory for the parliamentary system of government in anticipation of Nigeria’s independence. Alhaji Bello asked for 50% of the seats in the National Assembly but got 55.7% of the seats! So, the South that originally had majority seats than the North suddenly became the minority in the National Assembly! This was how the dominance of the North over the South began and Prof. Jega is poised to perpetrate same hence the delineation of the polling units in favour of the North! If it is not so, how can Abuja have more polling units than the entire five states in the South-East? Does Abuja have more population than the South-East? The entire process of the delineation is a fraud because polling units are based on population distribution and not landmass. The North has always claimed to have more population than the South; this is not true as it is known all over the world that deserts which usually have harsh weather conditions do not have more population than the coast and mainland. Though, the North has more landmass than the South but large landmass is not tantamount to a large population. No fault is attributed to the North but to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo who in 1957 chose the waiting option when the North was not ready for independent! Why did the south have to wait for the north before it got independence? If the south has embraced independence in 1957, the north could have attained independence at their chosen time or remain a colony of Britain rather than this dysfunctional marriage!
It is evident that the things that divide us are more than those that unite us. It is also true that our differences are more than our similarities. Obviously, no country constitutes people from one ethnic group but such countries have been able to harmonise their differences and coexist harmoniously as against our disharmonious people who have failed to harness their diversities. Considering the fact that Northerners and Southerners can’t agree on anything that concerns the forward movement of the country the only option left for Nigerians at the moment is to work out modalities for a referendum that will determine those who want to remain in Nigeria and those who want to opt out! To this end, the different ethnic nationalities that make up the country should be allowed to part ways through a referendum instead of this marriage of convenience that is not functioning properly.