New Telegraph

Nigeria: Are we divided in unity?

I thought before now, that we’ve been able to patch up our cracks until the recent decision by the Federal Government to move some departments of the Central Bank to Lagos, for more than obvious reasons, sent many tongues wagging. For two weeks now, I have watched some Northern Leaders grant interviews on television disclosing their displeasure at the decision to move two departments of the CBN to Lagos. This was most benumbing for me. It exposed the division in us, the lack of national cohesion, the absence of a common goal, and the depth of our ethnic chauvinism. It ridicules our unity in diversity and further underscored our pretense at nationality, portraying it as a mere fluke. Every part of Nigeria should be proud to be a part of the union but the reality of the situation does not convey what should be the ideal. Nigeria is fractured and whatever appears to be our unity presently, is just on paper. The geopolitics of the country is tailored along ethnic consideration. The energy with which some Northern Leaders are discussing the relocation idea also goes to underscore the high level of suspicion and distrust that dominates our consciousness as a people.

The recent CBN and FAAN relocation directives betrayed the realities of Nigeria’s backward progression very badly. This mentality that certain things belong to the South, and others to the North, and not Nigeria, is the reason why the ownership structure of the country is still a subject of concern to all rational minds. Nigerians have not yet attained the status we preach; unity in diversity. Each time we talk about Nigeria, we look at it from the prism of our ethnic conclaves. We see ourselves more as members of our clans and not as members of the union. We see the Northern part of Nigeria as belonging to Northerners ONLY, the South East as belonging to the South Easterners ONLY, and the south south as belonging to the people of the oil rich region ONLY. Nigeria is heavily partitioned in our hearts.

We seem to pretend on the surface about our unity; there is no showing of that unity. Nigeria seems like an awkwardly overgrown adult, bugged down by hatred, acrimony, insecurity, ethnicity, nepotism, cronyism, cor- ruption and selective amnesia. The Former Minister of Trans- port, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, in trying to cajole former President Muham- madu Buhari to support his ambition, sited the University of Transport in Daura. A southern state would have been most ideal; but Amaechi, played dubious politics by taking the University to Daura. The natural habitat that would drive the university is not in Daura, but that was not enough to persuade Amaechi to change his mind. All the Northern leaders didn’t see anything wrong in the location at that time. They kept conspiratorial silence.

Today, a functional and progressive relocation exercise is drawing them out of their shells to condemning the exercise. The hub of our aviation busi- ness is Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial headquarters. Any sane mind would concede to having the administra- tive body in Lagos without drawing blood. The Central Bank of Nigeria is located in Abuja, understandably so, because all arms of government operate from Abuja. Added to this is the fact that Abuja has enough space for so many outlets, for expansion and others. But the real business of banking supervision is in Lagos, where all the banks are headquartered. Ditto for airlines and the real business of aviation. Decentralising the business in Abuja to allow for proper supervision was another way to decongest the CBN headquarters to create a reporting line where the real job of supervision will be much easier.

That shouldn’t draw any flak. But the poli- tics of Nigeria’s unity in diversity will always rear its ugly head each time decisions are to be made. We read meanings into every intention of government without allowing room for any altruistic intention. The CBN has to up its ante to ensure that its fiscal and monetary policies and responsibilities, are maximally met. Moving the CBN’s Risk Management, and Banking Supervision Departments to Lagos for effective coordination and execution of its statutory mandate is in order. The Minister of Aviation for the same reasons also, relocated the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to Lagos for proper execution of its mandate.

Talking about Nigeria and her destiny, we truly need to face the real issue of ownership, within our geographic space, and build national integration and cohesion that will envelope our common identities. We shouldn’t just be mouthing unity in diversity, and still see happenings around us from the pin-hole of ethnicity. As a nation, we are very conversant with the fact that there are sub-nations, many of who view our nationality as mere paper work. We have not fully bonded together as a country with shared commit- ment and vision; little wonder we still complain about the North-South divide. The CBN scenario easily exposes the cracks in our system.

The CBN should be a work environment for all; but those who populate it are individuals drawn from the elite club, whose parents dominate the Abuja pantheon and who are now unwilling to relocate to Lagos for reasons best known to them. In Abuja, there is too much of inertia and laziness; these children of the rich are not ready to work during the official hours. They sit in their homes to undertake their daily assignments. Once they heard of relocation of some departments, they shouted blue murder and introduced the ethnic colouration to spice up their discourse. But Nigeria cannot be detained by the labyrinth of ethnicity.

It must break those barriers and set out to look at the bigger picture of where we intend to be. Whatever reforms that can be carried out to make our system more functional and effective would be much desired. We must commence the process of attitudinal re-orientation to set the right tune for a robust engagement across the landscape without digging into those sentiments that often explain the reason for our antecedents. Nigeria’s chequered political history, as well as its journey to nationhood is still work in progress; but, we should consciously educate our upcoming youths to properly imbibe and implement the right attitude and mindset. Corruption is eating into our national fabric, dishonesty has become a norm, ethnic parochialism is flourishing, religious bigotry is having a foothold, while federalism is skewed.

We need laws that are complementary to support Federal laws and consolidate on our comparative advantage in specific areas of our national life. We can’t continue to transfer unhealthy and unpatriotic behaviour to our younger generation instead of allowing them imbibe the right attitude that will deepen our communal solidarity. The North is Nigeria. The South East is Nigeria, the South West is Nigeria, ditto for all other geographic spaces within our territorial boundaries. What we should be talking about now, is how to deepen the conversations around our nationality, and promote a sense of belonging for all among our cultures, languages, and peoples, instead of reading political meanings to every attempt at re-engineering our processes for optimum service delivery. I feel ashamed that mere relocation of offices to Lagos for ease of doing business became a subject of discussion on television and public commentaries. It further exposed our lack of unity, and cohesion. Our leaders must please embrace patriotic indulgences rather than pushing us to be detained by parochial sentiments that will only push us backward to long forgotten years of mutual suspicion. The world is changing by the day into a global village, we must consciously drive friendships and relationships that would enhance our solidarities to build our nation of many tribes and tongues. That should be the direction henceforth.

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