14 December 2018

Nigeria: Towards Paradigm Shift for a Nigeria

There is power in unity. There is power in dialogue. There is power in prayer. As much as there is power in brotherly love. A family in crisis comes together and everyone joins hands in prayer. We look onto the heavens asking God to intercede and bring peace and healing in our time. We fast and meditate and take steps backwards to re-tune the mind and a temperament juiced with anger and on this premise come together as one united family to bring the best out of one another and march into the future like brothers and sisters on a common cause, overcoming the embers of war in this trying moment of our history as a nation.

This should be our prayer and mantra in this phase of our national discourse, when multiple forces of hegemonies fuel a centrifuge of destruction and carnage at a time when our nation should be consolidating on the gains of diversity, religious tolerance and national unity.

The birth of any nation has never been an accident of history. The amalgamation of the North and South by Lord Luggard in 1914 was not an accident of history. Rather it was a remix of the biblical tower of Babel with new instructions to seek God in spirit and love rather than earthly sustenance.

The proponents of a Biafra nation are fine men and women who mean well for the ideals they pursue. They are our brothers and sisters and we share the same blood. They must not be disparaged. We must not forget the words of our progenitor, the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu. In paraphrasing his words, wars are an aberration. Across the world, wars have never solved any problems but have ended up creating more problems than solutions.

True reconciliation comes with revisiting history and performing a root-cause analysis of what went wrong and taking responsibility for one's actions. True reconciliation comes with holding each other's hands as we build a bridge across our void of differences.

As mortals we have permitted the vicissitudes of earthly and human sentiments to overshadow our innate spiritual endowment, the power of love, acceptance and accommodation. We are losing grip of a torch passed on to us by our forbearers, men and women who fought and died that this nation may live.

It is true that 48 years after the civil war the Igbos, as a group still feel excluded from the centre of our political discourse. It is also true that the Igbos are the least united when it comes to civil discourse and dialogue. This has come at a huge cost to the Igbo ensemble, as we have been unable to present a common ideology and framework at any national conference. We have used the cloak of freedom of expression to sabotage each other, as the pursuit of political relevance is one often built on a template of egocentrism.

The chronology of events preceding the civil war and leading to the coup of 1966 need to be revisited and form the bedrock of our national reconciliation. We must have the courage to explain under what circumstances the North lost Prime Minister Balewa and the Sarduana of Sokoto in one day in a coup primarily spearheaded by an officer of Igbo extraction and if this was to sanitise Nigeria, why the East did not pay a similar prize.

It is true that in the sixties the South had more opportunities with respect to western education. But this was not so until the British colonial master decided to partner with the African, teaching him his language, building schools and churches, using him as court interpreters. However, the same colonial master who introduced religion to the East, South and West of Nigeria, hopped over to the North and introduced politics and the essence of dominating power, hence the emergence of a militarised north. This divide and conquer apparatus has been Nigeria's nightmare for decades. It is the enemy within created by an external force that never had the interest of the Nigerian nation at heart.

A similar legion of white explorers had sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean and upon arrival found a new haven. This time, this newfound land was too far to operate from Europe.

The scramble and partition for Africa has continued to bear fruits of discord amongst our people as neocolonialism employs covert mechanisms to destabilize emerging democracies in Africa by pitching brother against brother.

Until the black man wakes up from slumber, he will continue to be a victim of a well-orchestrated vicious cycle, which continues to exploit his areas of vulnerability, namely language, ethnic heritage and religion. The call for the emancipation of the Indigenous People of Biafra( IPOB ) is one such example.

It is a call to destroy 58 years of independence. It is a call to set the hand of the national clock backwards. Indeed many of the protagonists of IPOB had not been born at the time of Biafra. None ever heard the sound of a machine gun, never saw a limb severed, nor watched a comrade fall in battle. The war songs by this young brigade may be melodious, nostalgic and emotional but beyond the melody is nothing but utter destruction, of precious human lives, of a lifetime of investments, and infrastructure. At the end there will be no victor or vanquished but bereaved families on both sides of the isle.

Even amongst the Igbos who cry wolf, there are all forms of discrimination perpetrated by the Igbos against their own brothers. For example, when Theodore Oji was Governor of Abia State, he drove out all civil servants of Imo origin asking them to return to Imo State and find their feet. Yet, his Lagos State counterpart, Governor Fashola appointed Igbos in his cabinet. He did not ask them to return to their state of origin.

Among the Igbos the Osu caste system is rife and other Igbos are prohibited from inter-marrying with this group. The emergence of western religion has not helped terminate this inhumanity. The use of house helps in Igbo land is another form of modern day slavery as these house helps are subjected to dehumanising treatment. Many Igbo businessmen employ house helps who run their business for seven to 10 years hoping that the Master would help them stand on their feet having learned the nitty gritty of the business. They end up of being falsely accused of one wrongdoing and expelled without any benefit. It is among the Igbos that a major accomplishment of a serving vice president was building six prisons within four years in office. Since the civil war the Igbos have produced state governors, Ministers of Health, Education, Aviation, Ambassadors, just to mention a few. Let us take stock of their accomplishment. We spend state money erecting the statue of individuals who have no relevance in our daily lives while workers' salaries are not paid. We masquerade as labour leaders, run for public office only to end up as wolves in sheep clothing. We claim we have a government, yet the Enugu-Onitsha expressway is now grazing field for cattle. The Enugu- Port Harcourt expressway is a habitat for armed robbers and kidnappers.

We have a government yet no local government chairman has ever built or repaired a road, school, hospital or civic center but instead left their communities barren, with youth unemployment reaching rooftop. This has resulted in restiveness amongst our youths and the outcome is the emergence of groups like the Niger Delta Avengers, MASSOB, IPOB and the like. At the other end of the spectrum is the Ohaneze Ndigbo, a group saddled with in- fighting and political gimmickry. Without a constitutional conference to define separation of powers, an emerging Biafra nation will be a conundrum of blood bath.

There was once a Nigeria where men and women who walked the corridors of power, had a vision of a variegated national fabric, and saw leadership as a responsibility rather than an instrument of suppression and oppression.

They were leaders who believed that "The only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction." They were selfless in their service to this country. They belonged to an era when Nigerians could inter-marry, live in any part of the country, vie for public office in any state and be accepted based on merit rather than ethnic affiliation or other sentiments. And so, the renewed call by activist groups like IPOB for Igbos to abandon their civic responsibility and not participate in the 2019 elections calls for public scrutiny. Politics is an act of participation and not isolation. You win elections through dialogue rather than rampage. Democracies are run successfully through civil discourse where dissenting views are exchanged with measured decorum rather than from hidden microphones filled with indiscretion and diatribes.

Where are the likes of Azikiwe, Balewa, Shehu Shagari, Aminu Kano, Michael Imoudu, Samuel Manuwa, Alhaji Barkin Zuwo, Solomon Lar, Murtala Muhammed, Ibrahim Rimi, Michael Okpara, Aderniran Ogunsanya, Margaret Ekpo, Isa Kaita.

Did they live and die in vain? When Elijah was lifted up into the heavens by the chariot of fire, his mantle fell on Elisha.

Who picks up the mantle from these great Nigerians? Since their exit from the political arena, Nigeria seems to be wandering through a void created by lack positive agenda to move the country forward.

Nigeria has remained stagnant like a frozen lake and there is total collapse of our work ethics and vision.

Africa awaits the emergence of new leadership in Nigeria to again restore the course of African Unity. Africa laments the sorrows of Nigeria; a big brother crippled by apathy, lack of motivation, drive and optimism.

And so this is a moment of reflection as we critically examine the Atiku-Obi candidacy in the upcoming Presidential election of 2019.

For more than 40 years Nigeria has not moved upward exponentially compared to nations with similar natural endowments.

However, I am delighted to say that the Atiku- Obi candidacy is like the emergence of the lame Prince Sundiata to the hierarchy of the ancient Mali Empire echoed by the song of the Buffalo woman.

Nigerians from far and wide must be excited in this phase of our political history. Nigerians will witness what may well be termed pragmatic leadership and a predictable administration.

One that will immediately set up a task force to arrest the problem of power supplies across the country and provide a lasting solution within one year.

Nigerians will witness a task force to re-position the health centres in the 774 local government areas into 24-Hour functional centers where people can get comprehensive healthcare round the clock.

Nigerians will witness traffic decongestion through a revision of our inter-state highway system with local government inclusion on the maintenance aspect of these roads.

Nigerians will witness a new order in our public service where merit and hierarchy supersede politics and nepotism; where prudent management of public resources is the norm rather than the exception.

Nigerians will witness a revised security apparatus that is a friend rather than foe of the people.

The Atiku-Obi regime will lay the foundation for a system of education that promotes harmony amongst Nigerians, and the concept of shared technology and nation building against a background of moral suasion

Our national healing begins with casting our votes based on conscience and not mere political rhetoric. If records and precedence are anything to go by, this will not be a difficult choice for any Nigerian who wants to return this country to her hey days of Africa's most promising democracy.

Pandit Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India who despite inheriting a country with many religious subsets inspired the emergence of a secular state.

As we approach the 2019 elections, his words ring true, I urge you to vote for Atiku-Obi in order to bring about national healing and reconciliation.

Onuogu, a Consultant Psychiatrist resides in the USA

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