Nigeria was furious. It recalled its ambassador, told Libya off, and escalated what could have passed for hot air into substance for a diplomatic war. It forgot that its own security forces had failed to maintain peace in the affected area; that they were so busy passing blame among themselves for past failures that they did not detect nomadic herdsmen slipping past their dragnet to kill more Christians – and their babies.
Nigeria’s response amounts, therefore, to pretentious posturing. The focus should be inward, especially as some celebrated southern religious leaders agree with Gaddafi in principle that Nigeria should be divided. They differ only with regard to the number of countries that should be carved out of it. Gaddafi sought two. They seek six.
The dissolution of Nigeria at this point sounds like a game of Ludo between players who punctuate the clatter of dice on glass with “seeki-one… seeki-two…seeki-three…” The process of disintegration should be more complex than that. As the saying goes, the job of carving up an elephant for the entire community should never be left to apprentice butchers.
Seeki-six. Southern religious leaders agree with Gaddafi. Shall we recall all their pastors for “urgent consultations”? Only last week on the BBC, a certain Nobel laureate described Nigeria as a “failed state”, noting that the country was on the verge of breaking up. Shall we recall his Nobel Prize?
What then was the ruckus about? Nigeria’s ethno-religious diversity cannot be denied by any right-thinking observer. De facto divisions explain the adoption by national political parties of zoning formulae that guide the distribution of those to be elected, selected, appointed, or anointed into sundry offices. They explain the creation of bodies like the Federal Character Commission, Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board and National Youth Service Corps; adoption of quota principles in university admission; exclusion of information on religion and ethnicity from the 2006 Nigerian Population and Housing Census as a means of avoiding controversy; and, above all, the morbid Monopoly that some faceless handlers are playing with Yar’Adua’s body.
These are the hallmarks of a divided polity. To overcome them, governance should focus on the rights of citizens, not aggregate ethnicities. If democracy advances security, health, wellbeing and the pursuit of happiness at individual levels, the lines of sectional divisions would disappear.