By Onyeka Onyeibor
Reason persuades me to believe that when our founding fathers fought and won the battle for independence the struggle was not painted with the tribal brush.
We were one people, one tongue, one mind sharing one glorious destiny. Nigeria then and now is not a homogenous society. A common enemy – colonialism – kept us united. We conveniently forgot the artificial boundaries of East, West, North and South and warmly embraced an elusive hope in one Nigeria.
Fifty years after, we are further from the promised land than when we first started. In every measure of human development and social progress, we have recorded a decline. There is no colonial master to rally against. It is time to find a new enemy.
That path is easy. No vigorous search required. Locate where you are on the map. That is the hallowed ground. Every other region is enemy territory. I am Igbo. The problem must be the Fulanis, Hausas and Yorubas. Adamu is Kanuri. For him, the problem must be Igbo and Yorubas. Everyman has found the enemy on the outside.
Fast forward 50 years. Igbos are now Biafra; the North became Arewa and the West Oduduwa. All our problems varnish. We become a land of prosperity, the pride of all. Nothing is further from the truth.
If Igbos wake up one day and there are no other federating components to contend with, then it is time to find a new enemy. The theatre shifts to Anambra and Imo. Extrapolate this. When the Okonkwo family becomes a country, a sovereign nation, the war theatre shifts to father and son, one brother and another.
There may be enemies on the outside but the more dangerous adversary is within. The questions we currently ask temporarily shield him.
Years ago I saw an interesting clip that helped me understand that there is no right answer to a wrong question. Just underneath a bold print ‘ Jesus is the answer’ someone wrote, almost insidiously ‘what’s the question?’
Before we jump to Biafra is the answer, pause and ponder – what is the question? What should the question be?
The energy we invest in how to become an independent nation (in a world that has moved past independence to interdependence) can be channelled to how we can build a prosperous and just nation for Okonkwo, Adamu and Idowu.
That we live in troubled times is not in doubt. That the chants of war are an ill wind that blows no one no good is not in doubts also. What is in doubts is the clarity of thought of the drunk teenagers on a furious hate ride and the equally drunk middle-aged actors that viciously manipulate the deadly trio of selective amnesia, pervasive ignorance and delusive hope.
Our bigger problem is not what the Hausa man did or did not do. Our problem is a pervert value system that qualifies for all the sins Mahatma Gandhi called mortal – wealth without work, religion without charity, knowledge without character, politics without principle, pleasure without conscience…
If you are broke, find healing. Independence will not make you whole. It will make you independently broke. The pertinent question is not how do we create an independent country? The pertinent question is how do we create a nation that meets the dreams of our fathers, the hopes of our brothers and the aspirations of our daughters? (See, I am not gender blind).