Why I’m Afraid of Nigeria’s Break-up

Regions of Nigeria 1960–1963/ Wikipedia

A few days ago, a friend asked me to explain my aversion to the idea of secession as championed by the neo-Biafra advocates of Southeast Nigeria. He had assumed it was the fear, as simplified in a certain series of propaganda, of the North’s foreseen inability to sustain itself economically post-breakup.

Since it was a private conversation, I elected to present my actual reason bit by bit, some of them I can’t express in public, and offered him a mirror which, when we were done, reflected a possibility that scared him too.

He saw that I was afraid of the break-up for the very reason a part of Nigeria seeks to leave. For cultural hegemony. This calculated domination of our diverse society by the elite using ethnicity, religion and all the binary identities, sentiments, affiliations and values available, to hold on to power, and to forestall criticism of them and revolt of the masses.

Founding fathers of independent Nigeria (L — R): Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe (Eastern Region), Sir Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region) and Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Western Region)/ Tori.ng

How has cultural hegemony held Nigeria together? The reason Nigeria hasn’t degenerated into full-blown autocratic regime is because of these conflicting cultural hegemonies that exist like a tripartite coalition government – an ethnic arrangement that restricts the tyranny of the three parts, the “Hausa-Fulani,” the Igbo and Yoruba. And as a diarchy constituted by the “Muslim North” and “Christian South.”

So, yes, there’s a mechanism of checks and balances of cultural hegemony as Nigeria stands today, along the ethnic lines of these three dominating ethnic groups, as there is along the lines of Islam and Christianity. This multiculturalism is, in my estimation, our most undermined stabilising factor.

What happens after the breakup? I’ll address the question of struggle for power in the North instead, even though this danger of political monolithism applies to the other two ethnic nationalities and geography. The region’s cultural hegemony, which the federating South has tackled, albeit not successfully, levers around Islam and the so-called “Hausa-Fulani” super-group.

A dissolution of this religious diarchy or ethnic tripartite government means, in Northern Nigeria, an unrestricted evolution of this cultural hegemony. The masses left deprived for too long and denied privileges of quality education are ever around to serve as willing foot-soldiers of perpetual manipulations that only serve as conduits to political power and relevance.

This arrangement favours characters like Senator Ahmed Yerima of Zamfara state, who as Governor introduced a gimmick he called Sharia simply to protect his political capitals. His friends, realising the success of such arrangement in building and sustaining a political force and financial aid pouring in from oil-rich Arab nations, joined him in that smokescreen to enrich themselves. Some of them are parties to pending cases of corruption at the Court or still under the radar of our anti-corruption agencies.

What saved Nigeria then was the existence of a member of another cultural hegemony, a Christian and Yoruba from the political South, as head of the national government. He was not only opposed to the northern political chessboard that was alienating him, he was challenged to protect the interests of the Christian, the Yoruba, the Southern and, very importantly, the minorities, in the political “coalition.”

The Yerimas of Northern Nigeria may be local champions now, but the moment their allies from other cultural hegemonies withdraw, a new order of tyrannical rule, in connivance with religious clerics and socio-cultural “ambassadors,” will manifest. And there won’t be a balancing part to protect the minorities in this outright distortion and manipulation of Islamic jurisprudence, an Islamo-fascism, to institutionalise oppression and enable corruption. One can only imagine the extent of its devastations with personality cults forming around some ascetic criminals.

I think this fear explains the convergence of some self-elected leaders of northern “minorities” who, calling themselves “Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum,” met last week in Abuja to debate their place and prospects in Nigeria, now and later. It’s not a coincidence that the Professor Jerry Gana-led gathering was dominated by Christians (and “other minorities”) out of political offices, and gasping for attention.

As a Muslim, there’s nothing that scares me like an attempt to police my private moralities in a secular political arrangement, especially when it does not evaluate and redeem the pseudo-religious Police. It’s fascism manifesting, and I’ll rather die fighting it than be consumed in silence.

So, my dear friends from the South, it’s not untrue that I do not want you to leave. But it’s not for your resources. Having assessed the welfare of my people, it’s sad to declare that these natural resources are inessential to us. We, and I include you too, have neither access to decent hospitals nor schools, neither good network of roads nor security. I only want you to stay to sustain the checks and balances of this hegemonic order. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

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