Wole Soyinka, Ango Abdullahi And The Nigerian Question

Posted: May 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Remi Oyeyemi
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 –1860) German philosopher

I have been an advocate for peaceful break-up of Nigeria. An alternative is the regionalization of the country to allow each ethnic nationality to be in control of its destiny. Either of this would definitely have serious consequences for the existence of Nigeria. Ineffective accusations of tribalism have always been thrown around in vain to silence people of my school of thought. Rather than engage in serious debates on how to resolve issues that led to this kind of agitation, name-calling, intimidation and harassment have been resorted to by the protagonists of Nigeria as is.alt

But as the quote above suggests, TRUTH, more often than not, is not always acceptable, especially, if it hits us unprepared. Most of us like to be in denial. We do not like to face reality for a variety of reasons ranging from selfishness, naiveté, and insincerity to downright dishonesty. There are times in Nigerian history when the idea of autonomous entities within the Nigeria set up or total break-up of the country has been met with ridicule and or violently opposed. The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) and Gideon Orkar’s coup of April 22, 1990 are instances.

What history and nature has taught us is that Nigeria has little or no chance to survive, except we have the will. But obviously we don’t. Hence, Nigeria has become an exercise in futility. The next thing would thus be, to do what civilized people often do – sit around the table to discuss (a) How to restructure Nigeria to the satisfaction of all or (b) Break up peacefully with each and every ethnic nationality determining its own future, unfettered. Either has to be done peacefully to prevent unnecessary bloodletting that could result from forcing disparaging units to remain one.

Thus, when the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka in his speech to the South-South Economic Summit on April 26, this year, called on Nigerians to “drop lingering clamour for national conference,” saying “it is no longer necessary in view of emerging democratic liberties, ” it is a sign that the TRUTH about Nigeria is becoming “self-evident.” He had admonished that rather, Nigerians should begin to organize themselves on regional basis to devalue the Center and take their destinies in their hands.

Professor Soyinka has always demonstrated his faith in the survival of Nigeria as an entity. He has risked his life for Nigeria’s survival several times. What he has done with his comments above is to recognize, just like others that the present state of Nigeria is no longer tenable. His suggestion still protects the sanctity of the Nigerian entity but changes its structure.

I am however, more in tune with Professor Ango Abdullahi, former VC of Ahmadu Bello University, who told Nigerians on April 18, this year via a BBC Hausa Section interview that “no one is afraid of Nigeria’s break-up.” He said inter alia:

“But the southerners that are propounding dividing the country should know that it is also not something that the north will not want. We can be on our own; we have not seen what the north is eating that the south is not eating. That the north is keeping quiet doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are doing. We want peace and unity but no one can intimidate us, let Nigeria be divided, who is afraid if it is divided? We have nothing to lose, and have been on our own for long. We are on our own and not at the mercy of other people.”

On May 3, Professor Abdullahi reinforced this position in Abuja as reported by national media on May 4, 2012. This was at the birthday lecture of Sam Nda-Isaiah, the publisher of Leadership Newspapers. In his paper titled: “Nigeria 1914 to date – A Chequered Journey So far”, Abduallahi described the amalgamation of Nigeria by the British Governor-General Lord Lugard as the greatest error to have befallen the country and “a fundamental mistake.” He urged the nation’s leaders to take urgent steps to redress the mistake because “delay would be late and dangerous,” he reportedly cited other countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh who were also forcibly amalgamated by the British but had to go their different ways.

I have to admit that I am not one of Professor Abdullahi’s fans since his days at Ahmadu Bello as the VC when he decimated and mercilessly repressed the students. But at the lecture where so many stakeholders present spoke from both sides of their mouths, Professor Abdullahi earned my respect for being candid and honest about the Nigerian question. Others who were present but really did not tackle the issue candidly include Speaker Aminu Tambuwal of the House of Representatives, former Head of State Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma; National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Gen Jeremiah Useni among many others.

Professor Soyinka advocated regionalization as a means to forcing the restructuring of Nigeria and engendering further development for the people. Professor Abdullahi felt that once and for all, we should meet at the table to break up the country since no one is satisfied. There is the third view of latter day nationalists who want Nigeria to remain as is, at all costs and by all means.

Of the three views, it is easy to assume which option the majority of Nigerians might want. But more often than not, assumptions could be wrong. As a result of lack of statistics and means of modern scientific polls, assumptions would be inadequate. Assumption does not convey the exact position of majority of Nigerians as to whether they (i) want Nigeria to remain as ONE, (ii) break Nigeria into many smaller nations or (iii) restructure Nigeria to reflect true federalism.  In this kind of venture, scientific and empirical evidence would be necessary to determine what Nigerians want.  

This is where the issue of plebiscite comes in. All of us must be part of the decision making – taxi drivers, bricklayers, artisans, market women, students, workers, lecturers, doctors, journalists, lawyers, nurses, welders and others of their ilk. It is important that we allow a cross section of Nigerians of different ethnic nationalities to participate in the determination of the future of the country, through internal plebiscite. I do not want any unelected retired military man or self-appointed politician sitting somewhere, deciding on my behalf.

The need to restructure or break-up Nigeria, it seems, has become “self-evident” to all. We are now witnessing the early stage of the inevitable fourth stage of TRUTH – dealing with accepted reality – which Arthur Schopenhauer did not speak of. Gradually, we are involuntarily accepting the reality of Nigeria as a failed country. It has not worked and would not work.

Evidently, the stakeholders, consisting mostly of political office holders and ambitious “wannabes” have failed woefully to foist their illusion of a viable country on the rest of us. Nothing convinces more than empiricism.  They insist that the Nigerian question “is settled” and that they will “fight to die for Nigeria.” Their incentive is the illicit acquisition of wealth via uncouth means in this Hobbesian arrangement of the ruptured state.

But as Professor Abdullahi candidly posited, “we cannot…….pretend that this is a passing phase. The question of a likely disintegration is not a too distant future.”


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