How can such a political circumstance, atmosphere, and environment not be as toxic as we are currently witnessing?
Most significantly welcoming to me is that the 17 southern governors restated their call for a United Nigeria. It is contrary to the position of Nnamdi Kanu led the Independent People of Biafra Movement, IPOB in eastern Nigeria fighting for the creation of a country of Biafra and Sunday Igboho’s pursuit of the establishment of the Oduduwa Republic in southwest Nigeria. That simply vitiates the allegation by some northerners that the governor’s action was a rebellion simply because they did not first of all consult their northern counterparts.
After dilly-dallying for so long, the verdict reached by the 17 southern states governors include a call for the president to approve the establishment of state police and convene a national dialogue, as well as reconfigure the revenue sharing formula now skewed in favor of the federal government, has now given a fillip to the overwhelming calls by concerned individuals from across the political and ethnic spectrum of our beloved country irrespective of political affiliations or creed for a viable and lasting solution to the violence that has been allowed to fester in the past six years: Particularly after the highly ethnicity and religion drove and therefore polarizing election campaigns in 2015 and 2019.
Since the case had been made by the presidency and even by a fellow governor such as Nasir El-Rufai to governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, whose state in the middle belt had banned open grazing with dire consequences via unrelenting attacks on the good people of Benue state by violent herdsmen, (with Ortom himself reportedly being targeted and escaping death by whiskers) the stage is set for the hitherto ethnic fault lines in Nigeria to become as wide as a menacing gulf.
And if that happens, it would be as if time had stood still in the 107 years period that the southern and northern protectorates got amalgamated into one country by Lugard, the merchant turned agent of imperialist Britain.
That the merger of the northern and southern protectorates which were more or less strange bedfellows with no cultural or religious affinity before the forced combination is being re-enacted via the constant convocation of northern and southern governors forum to chart separate ways forward for the two regions that are supposed to have fused together by now is rather perplexing and unfortunate.
In an uncanny manner, the 2013/14 merger of five opposition political parties to form the All Progressive Congress, APC with the sole objective of ousting then ruling People Democratic Party -PDP in 2015 appears to be a throwback to the 1914 amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorate by the British simply for the sole purpose of enhancing commerce for the imperialist that was extracting natural produce and solid minerals from the colonies which they started laying claim to after the partitioning of Africa at the end of the world war and during the Berlin conference in 1884.
Before dwelling further on the present, it is imperative that l delve a bit into the past to enable me to contextualize how our country by omission or commission got sucked into the narrow ethnic and religious vortex currently draining Nigeria of blood and oxygen for continued sustenance as one country.
To be fair to the current rulers, violence arising from hate and other prebendal issues has never been anathema in Nigeria. That’s because our history is replete with needless blood-letting as signposted by the list of massacres that have taken place either between rival ethnic groups over land, government against ethnic nationalities agitating for statehood or environmental rights as well as non-state actors like terrorists in pursuit of religious extremist agendas and bandits driven by greed as catalogued by Wikipedia.
Let us start from the 1960-64 Tiv riots resulting in the death of an unknown number of victims which occurred during the protests against the NPC-led northern region government’s anti-people policies. There were also anti-Igbo pogroms in 1966 in revenge of the 1966 coup tagged ‘Igbo coup’. This was followed by the Asaba massacre of 1967 whereby an estimated 500 men were assembled by the Nigerian army and shot to death during the civil war. On the heels of the Asaba tragedy in Delta state was the 1975 Ugep massacre in cross river state that took place when soldiers accused the town’s people of the murder of a drunken soldier.
Another orgy of blood-shedding happened in Bakalori, Zamfara state in 1980 when the government of then Sokoto state (before the creation of Zamfara state) decided to build a dam in the town. The authorities offered to relocate the inhabitants who refused and the police moved in to forcefully do so resulting in massive blood flow before any drop of water could come out of the dam.
We can not also forget the Umuchem massacre in 1990. This happened when the youths from Umuchem in Rivers state staged a protest to Shell’s office demanding electricity, water, roads, and compensation arising from environmental degradation. Instead of meeting their demands, the police applied excessive force in managing the crisis resulting in a massacre of the youths.
A similar situation occurred in Odi, Bayelsa state in 1991 when Nigerian soldiers literarily razed down the village in a reprisal action against inhabitants who allegedly killed some soldiers during the conflict in the Niger Delta.
In the year 2000, there were the Kaduna riots between Christians and Muslims after the sharia law was introduced in the state. It was followed in 2001 by Jos riots also between Christians and Muslims and bothering on the matter of sharia.