Mar. 12, 104
By Amir Abdulazeez
The biggest problem in Nigeria is not insecurity, corruption, illiteracy or poverty. Forget about $20 billion, kidnapping, Boko Haram and fuel scarcity. Our biggest problem is disunity. Disunity has been with us since pre-independence while all other problems joined us in the course of our national journey.
Disunity among Nigerians has basically played and is still playing three negative roles in our development as a nation. One, it has directly and indirectly created so many problems that have prevented us from moving forward; two, it has refuse to allow us to understand our problems and identify those specifically responsible for such problems and; three, whenever there are solutions at hand to our problems, our disunity will never allow us to embrace them.
Nigerian disunity has spread like wild fire among men and women, rich and poor, old and young like never before. But the most unfortunate thing is that, it has spread among youths, educationists, elites and even Nigerians in diaspora. Nigerian disunity is being made worse by hatred. For a very long time, most Nigerians are aware that we lacked nationalism, brotherhood and love of each other which are integral to the survival of any nation. Infact, some are of the opinion that we were never really united right from the beginning.
It is true that we have a lot of divisions due to our different histories, structures and multiple ethnic groups. It is also true that national disunity is not a new phenomenon particularly in Africa and the world at large. But why can’t we express our divisions maturely without deadly hatred and irresponsible abuse? Why can’t we try to bridge the gap between us instead of widening it so that we can leave a fairly united Nigeria to the next generation?
I never knew how much and how severe Nigerians hate themselves until the advent of the social media. The social media in this country have been turned to a platform of spreading hate messages. News media blogs and public pages on Facebook are being used for character assassination and spread of abuses among each other. Most average Nigerian Facebook users cannot comment on a news topic or issue without abusing a southerner or northerner; a Muslim or Christian or an APC or PDP. It has reached an embarrassing extent to which administrators of public pages will write ‘please no abuses’ at the end of a proposed Nigerian topic of discussion. Our level of hatred for each other on the social media is just a reflection of the level of our disunity on ground.
There is no doubt that we are proving the late elder statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo right when he said: “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.”
This problem has gone beyond normal limits; it has gone to the dangerous extent that some people among us only need to know a person’s tribe, religion or region for them to judge him. They don’t need to know his character, level of education or family background. If some people are not followers of your religion, as afar as you are concerned they are destined for hell, as if you are not sure of going to hell yourself. At the height of killings in one of the numerous religious crises in Nigeria, Mahmud Jega had this to say: “Wherever you may think a man is heading to between heaven and hell in the hereafter, it is not your right to send him packing from here.”
A southerner is being seen as an enemy to the northerner and must be fought at all cost and the reverse is the case. This is indeed unfortunate.
I have made an analysis of hate messages among Nigerians on Facebook for some time and I am going to reproduce some few of them here. I have censored them to remove highly abusive words, therefore, I am not producing them word for word and I am not going to state the authors for obvious reasons. Here are some of them;
“All northerners are members of Boko Haram. It is only that some of them are doing the killings on behalf of others. They created this violence to make the country ungovernable for a southern president, but thank God that has not happened and they are killing themselves. By the time they finish themselves, we shall see what they will do next.”
“Southerners are kidnappers, hypocrites and oil thieves. Most of them are militants and now that they have power, they are impoverishing the north and enriching the south. They are doing that so that by the time they are done, they can call for the disintegration of the country and by then, the north would have been left with nothing to survive.”
“Most Muslims are terrorists not only in Nigeria but all over the world. Only few of them are not terrorists. Here in Nigeria, they have formed an Islamic party called APC and they will not succeed.”
“Nigeria has been Christianized. All major appointments are been given to Christians. Therefore Muslims supporting this government are not only the enemies of Islam but the promoters of Christianity.”
What do the above statements tell you about Nigeria and Nigerians? This is what some Nigerians are using the social media for, at a time when other countries are fighting bad governance, promoting positive change and advancing good religious teachings through the same platform.
If we were united in Nigeria, we would have collectively fought and defeated bad governance and unaccountability in leadership. A united Nigerian nation would have fought and defeated poverty, insecurity, illiteracy and corruption. A united Nigeria would have forced the National Assembly to do what is right. We wouldn’t have wasted valuable time and resources in organizing a fruitless national conference.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we are only united when the national football team is performing well and winning trophies. If the football team is not performing, you will hear the northerners claiming that the team coach is fielding only southerners, that is why we are loosing. The other situation in which Nigerians seem to be united is when there is increase in fuel pump price. You will see everybody from everywhere in Nigeria protesting. However, that also seems to have gone because in the last fuel subsidy removal protest, some people shamelessly refuse to protest not because they believe in subsidy removal but simply because the president is from their region or from their party.
My fellow Nigerians, let us stop fooling ourselves. We can go nowhere in this way. We can never move forward like this even if the whole world’s infrastructures and economic wealth would be deposited in Nigeria. We can only develop if we replace ethnicity, tribalism, religious bigotry, profanism and sectionalism with integration, religious tolerance, nationalism, education, dialogue and love. If you want someone to join your religion, it is not by abusing him but by embracing him. If you think your tribe is so important, teach other people your language and culture and make them develop interest in your tribe and not by abusing their own God-given tribe.
Fellow countrymen, we have tried disunity for over 50 years and we have seen the results; let’s try unity even for the next 50 weeks and see the results.
Amir Abdulazeez is the President of Foundation for Better Initiatives (FBI) and can be reached through [email protected]
Chedi-Ingawa, Dawakin-Tofa L.G, Kano.