File Photo: Delegates at the National Conference, Abuja in 2014
When Saturday Vanguard engaged delegates at the on-going National Conference on the question of whether or not Nigeria should remain united on account of the unceasing bloodshed, their responses were diverse, interesting and thought-provoking. However, most of them are against the break-up of the country.
There is nothing good in separation —Tanko Yankassai Alhaji Tanko Yankassai, 87, Second Republic presidential adviser to President Shehu Shagari, who leads the Northern Elders Council (NEC), is one of the delegates who kicked against disintegration of the country.
His words: “I don’t see anything good in separation. We have seen what happened to Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and nearer home, South of Sudan. It has never brought peace in any of those places. Many lives were lost, in the end nothing positive was achieved. So I don’t see any better solution than keeping Nigeria together.
”Apart from that, Nigeria is a country where the people benefita from one another. There is so much interdependence among Nigerian people that even if we scatter it is a matter of time before they come back together to continue to work as a team.
”If you go to all the markets, Balogun market, Jos market, Onitsha market, Kano market, you will find Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and others interacting with one another. We have never heard for one moment, a situation where trouble started in any market in Nigeria among the ethnic groups in Nigeria because of their ethnic differences.
If you hear any trouble, it is a trouble engineered by selfish politicians who use politics, ethnicity, religion to achieve their aim because they are lacking in philosophy, ideology and what to present to the people. God created Nigeria and I believe that even if the British did not come to bring Nigeria today, God in His wisdom will create something like Nigeria or something even bigger because if you take half of Cameroon, half of Niger, half of Chad, half of Benin that are our neigh bouring countries, they were all together with us before the British. If the British hadn’t come, we would have been together and put together we would have been greater or bigger than the present day Nigeria in terms of population, size and resources.”
Asked if he was insisting on Nigeria remaining united amid the increasing violence, he said: “63 years ago I went to prison on account of national unity. I still prefer to go to prison on account of national issues because I believe it is better for the Nigerian people to preserve Nigeria as it is than to split it.
If you split it, there will be inter-tribal wars, ethnic wars and religious wars and nobody will live in peace. I cannot be thinking in terms of that. I have done my own. I am almost 88 years now. I am fighting for my children and grand-children. I have 20 children and 45 grand-children; I am thinking of their future. I don’t see their future in a divided Nigeria.”
Splitting is not a solution — Lekwot General Zamani Lekwot (rtd), 70, who hails from Southern part of Kaduna State was military governor of Rivers State. At the confab on the platform of Retired Army, Navy and Airforce Officers (RANAO) Association of Nigeria, Lekwot, who is the chairman of Southern Kaduna Elders Consultative Forum, shares Yakassai’s views, arguing that splitting is not a solution to Nigeria’s problems.
“I will continue to cite Yugoslavia which was once a powerful non-aligned country under the late Marshal Tito. Following his death, the country split into two countries and they are still fighting. So a lot of serious work has to be done for Nigerians to recognise and accept the fact that God created us together to live in harmony,” he said. Instead of dissolution, he said the grievances such as marginalization, system of government, etc should be addressed.
”When you talk of split, you are talking of breaking up into different republics. That will never be a solution because whether anybody likes it or not, there is prosperity in every part of Nigeria and we all need one another. The intellectuals are responsible for the kind of tension we are witnessing. Go to any market in Nigeria, you will see that Nigerians at that level are happily buying and selling from one another and there is no problem. Go into the streets, anywhere, you will not find any problem at all; the ordinary Nigerians are basically happy people.
”But some dishonest intellectuals, whenever they need something, they either apply tribal or religious cause and there is no need for it because we have a very fine constitution that guarantees all manner of freedoms. But while exercising your freedom do not disturb your neighbour. If we all do these with discipline and stability, Nigeria will be at peace and once we are at peace, our neighbours will also be at peace, he added.” On the rising wave of insecurity, he attributed the problem to long years of neglect.
“The main cause of what is happening is we neglected security for too long. Law and order has broken down. Some people break the law and nothing happens. So the principle of the rule of law must be put in place. Our courts must be made to work. The judiciary should be granted the independence they are looking for. The Nigerian police force should be reorganised. I am in favour of empowering the local government to set up their own local police if they can.
”Some people are asking for state police. I see nothing wrong with it, if the combined efforts are going to ensure a more secure Nigeria for everybody. To me, security would be better handled at the grassroots because in the village, everybody knows everybody. When a strange face appears at the grassroots, it would be detected immediately because the local people there know one another. If something gets lost, finding it would not be difficult.
What is more, this large scale unemployment is a contributory factor. So create more job opportunities so that the many teaming youths that have nothing to do will get something to do. Everybody will be kept busy. At the end of the day, security would return.”
If we can’t agree, let’s go to the round table and decide on what to do — Ezeife Hausa – Fulani must know that they will lose most if Nigeria breaks Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a third Republic Governor of Anambra State and Presidential Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Political Matters, said a Nigeria where is equity and injustice will suit all Nigerians
His words: “Nigeria, in the interest of Hausa Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo all tribes of Nigeria should be reorganised so that it doesn’t break. Every group hails from one Nigeria and Nigeria can be arranged to work. What is happening is the non-acceptance of equality in Nigeria. Some people think that they are born to rule and others are born to be ruled and that is the root of the violence.
”A Hausa Fulani must know that they will lose most if Nigeria breaks. We the Igbos have buildings all over the place, losing them is painful but we can make another one and it will force us to go home and develop a super country.
”Yoruba is dominating the commerce, finance and industry in Nigeria, they need the market so they wouldn’t want to go if things have been made to work. The small ethnic groups have the feeling of being in a big country and can make things happen. So we must know the roots of the problem and attack them.
Some will say they will make Nigeria ungovernable if we don’t win, there is nothing happening now that is outside that. The Boko Haram violence and all of it arose from one thing: making the country ungovernable for Jonathan.
Now some people are saying if President Jonathan goes for second term and wins, they will make Nigeria ungovernable and will break Nigeria and the people who are saying this are the people who will lose most, if Nigeria breaks.
”So, what we should do is to appeal to ourselves, dialogue with ourselves and let people come out and not pretend. If we find out we cannot resolve the issue, we can peacefully and quietly go to a round table and decide what to do.