By Ayodele Fagbohun
“The breaking up of Nigeria into a number of sovereign states would not only do permanent damage to the reputation of contemporary Nigerian leaders but would also usher in terrible and agonizing disasters which would bedevil us and many generations to come.”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s stern and daring warning to Nigerians as far back as August 1966, shortly after his release from 10 years’ imprisonment on the phantom charges of treasonable felony and conspiracy to overthrow Alhaji Tafawa Balewa federal government in the First Republic.
The historic June 12 event as a landmark political watershed in the annals of the country’s chequered political and electoral history should be observed in deep sober reflection to see Nigeria’s problem in its proper perspective.
Hence the need for painful and realistic reappraisal of Nigeria’s demography as per the linguistic and ethnic compositions in the country, with a view to remedying the past injustices, inequity and wrongness of obtuse, purblind and inept political leadership saddled as fait accompli on the country since independence.
Over 250 ethnic groups in the country, ten (10) of them are identified as principal or major. However, for this essay, three of them are pertinent for mention as follows: Hausa 5.6 million; Yoruba 12.8 million, Igbo 7.7 million and Fulani 3.1 million.
It is instructive to note that the Fulanis who are in the minority, do not at all occupy a continuous territory or contiguous territories to the exclusion of their hosts, the Hausa for the Fulanis live a pastoral life. They migrated and roamed around from their homeland in Futa Toro in the present Sene-Gambia in Sub West Africa.
The success of Jihad revolution of 1908, led by a Fulani Muslim cleric, Uthman dan Fodio, was a dramatic climax in the expansionist conquest to overrun the Northern Nigeria. The Hausa (Habe) ruling class was overthrown. Feudalism and Fulani hegemony was installed as the order of the day to fully exploit, oppress and repress the Hausa in the majority under the pretext of evangelizing the ‘heathen’ Habe ruling class.
Having overthrown the existing ruling class the Fulani imperialists vowed to dip Quar’an to the sea that the political conquest of Southern Nigeria was imminent and as sure as day follows the night. What an arrant nonsense, a mid night summer dream and gratuitous affront on the intelligence of the more advanced enlightened, educated and articulate Yoruba and Igbo ethnic extractions.
In 21st century, we must jettison the ante diluvian anachronistic and pernicious style of government now surreptitiously imposed on the country.
We must strive hard to douse the present panic stricken situation, anxiety, flux and dilemma hanging precariously on the nation. Giving vent to frustration, despair and negativity that may provoke free for all and fierce suicidal bid in armed struggle against the territorial integrity of Nigeria as a sovereign republic.
It is high time the country was liberated from petty bourgeois, naked native tyranny, callous autocracy of a primitive obdurate and notorious cabal steeped in Northern oligarchy.
We must pause and ruminate on the epic and yeoman struggle of the three famous frontline and redoubtable builders and heroes of our nascent democracy and nationhood at independence viz. Zik, Awo and Bello.
In retrospect, the great Niger River and its area re-christened Nigeria by the wife of Sir Lord Frederick Lugard, the adept British Colonial administrator, in a boisterous spirit for the unqualified success of his experiment in India. He was drafted to replicate the feat in the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914.
As alluded to in the above, the early political exploits and escapades of foremost nationalists earned them the well deserved laurels of founders of a united, indivisible and indissoluble nation. The British Colonial overlords there and then formally handed over the beautiful bride, Nigeria, to the great pathfinders Zik, Awo and Bello at independence.
Other men of brains and brawn made of sterner stuff emerged and were thrown into political arena by the exigencies of time to prove their mettle in the nationalist activities which culminated in independence era in the First Republic politics.
These titanic men include: Hon. Anthony Eronsele Enahoro, member of Action Group (AG) in the House of Representatives representing Ishan Edo. At 30, he moved the historic motion of self government for Nigeria in 1956.
Hon. Michael Adekunle Ajasin, member of AG, House of Representatives, Owo. He wrote policy papers on free education which led to the introduction of free universal Primary Education Scheme (UPE) in 1955 in the Western Region.
Malam Aminu Kano, founder of Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU), a political party of the left, championed the good cause of the “talakawa” the less privileged and the downtrodden people in Northern Nigeria.
Where are these men of public spiritedness, bright ideas and political will to continue with the work of administration and purposeful governance that could effectively put the present insecurity, youth restiveness and criminality into abeyance?
The unfortunate set back and reverses in the January Revolution of 1966, designed to wipe out the corruption, regime of fascism and mounting political tension, exacerbated the innate failure of the political leadership which still remains albatross and food for thought under the fragile and badly managed economy.
Some hot heads and petulant young Northern Army officers, led by Colonel Murtala Muhammed, a favourite son of Muslim Hausa/Fulani oligarchy, struck in another bloody counter coup to carry out reprisal attack and their nefarious act further weakened and ethnicised an otherwise nationalist armed forces devoid of partisanship and ethnic or tribal colouration.
Captain Theophilus Y. Danjuma, a Northerner in the mutiny arrested his boss, the supreme commander, the head of state, major General Ironsi and had an altercation.
General Ironsi and his host, the military governor of Western Region, Colonel Fajuyi, were abducted in the government house. Agodi Ibadan and were dragged to the nearby forest where Theophilus Danjuma and vicious men murdered Ironsi and Faju in cold blood.
The counter-coup of July 1966 did more harm than good to compound the anxiety of a divided country. The feudal oligarchy and establishment of the Northern Nigeria by virtue of sheer tyranny of preponderant number in the army over and above rest of the country combined.
It tried concertedly to neutralise the erstwhile domination of Igbo in the public service and in the commanding heights of the economy to further pursue aggressively the overall conquest of the entire country.
The bottom line is the enforcement of fundamental human and inalienable rights of the peoples of Nigeria and by extension peoples of the whole wide to self determination without let or hindrance. The people deserve the type of government it gets. It stands to reason therefore that Nigeria should identify right political leadership with right kind of character and background without recourse to religious, tribal and other primordial bias in the course of good governance.
To cap it all, it behoves Federal Government to insulate armed forces from the contagion of ethno-religious virus. The more every ethnic group in the country is represented almost equally in the armed forces, the more fears of mutual ethnic hostility and suspicion are allayed for the good of the country.
It is humanly impossible and unrealistic for any government, no matter how fair or good intention, to ensure equal representation of over 250 ethnic groups in the armed forces. However, it stands to reason again that the ruling government must cultivate positive broad outlook and right ideological orientation to rejig security architecture of the country; to set up people oriented militias for up to date intelligence gathering, and to involve every other ethnic group not in regular armed forces, to have a sense of belonging in the survival and political stability of the country. A stitch in time saves nine!
We shall by the grace of God celebrate the subsequent June 12 event, not necessarily in sober reflection as a result of anxiety hovering over the nation, but in convivial peaceful and satisfactory atmosphere to savour the beauty and fruit of democracy.
This will be engendered in the individual freedom, rule of law, security of lives and property; and full rehabilitation of the victims and unsung heroes of June 12 electoral debacle.