By: Gabriel Onoja
On the western coast of the African continent is seated Nigeria, a large, sprawling country. Precisely, it is a land, which in Biblical terms could be referred to as “full of milk and honey”. Nigeria is multi-ethnic, multi-religious and displays a rich cultural heritage, which have been the envy of other civilizations around the world.
Endowed with fertile lands that enable farming nearly all-year round, this land is also home to the best specie of fruits and crops. It is rich in oil, much as in agricultural produce, with solid mineral deposits in most states of the federation.
Colonial influence berthed on the land in 1851, when British forces captured Lagos and years later, annexed it formally as a colony in 1861. Nigeria became a British protectorate in 1901 and colonization lasted until 1960, when the British overlords granted it independence.
Nigeria has had a staggered political history and from becoming a republic in 1963, the military putsch of 1966 ended democratic rule abruptly. It entered the phase of a civil war in 1967 which lasted until 1970. Nigeria became a republic again in 1979 after a new constitution was written and about four years later, it was again terminated by another military coup. And for three decades the country went through years of military rule until 1999, when democracy was restored with the enunciation of the fourth republic, which has survived till date.
But despite Nigeria’s enormous wealth, the country has continued to crawl to nationhood. The pace of development is not commensurate with the resources of the land. Years of military dictatorship plundered the rich resources of the land and unsteady policies seemed to have caged this African giant. But the people’s hope for a better country resurfaced in 1999 with democracy. Though, there have been setbacks, but nevertheless, the country has also made some significant inroads in development.
Like any other nation in the world, Nigeria has her own share of internal tensions. But it has been able to manage these mostly ethnic and religious tensions over the years, overcoming several uprisings that nearly threatened the foundation of her existence.
To recount, Nigeria survived a bloody civil war which lasted for three years; political riots such as the “Wild, Wild West;” religious rebellions from the Maitatsine uprisings of the early eighties to today’s Boko Haram insurgency and the renewed agitations for secession. In spite of everything, the country has been able to manage and effectively tame its internal monsters that had no foreign backing.
Nigeria has not slipped into absolute anarchy as in Sudan, Rwanda, Egypt, Liberia or Sierra Leone. Nigerians have demonstrated preference for peace and the capacity to absorb their differences without condescending to the violent quest for self -extermination.
The emergence of President Muhammedu Buhari (PMB) in 2015, as Nigeria’s democratic leader has given fresh assurances of a better and prosperous future to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion.
However, it appears some vested foreign interests in the internal affairs of Nigeria are unhappy with the unity and peace Nigeria continues to enjoy. The country has proved wrong, prophesy of its break-up in 2015. So, these foreign interests bent on disintegrating Nigeria have resorted to back-door tactics in fuelling voices of dissent in the country.
It is repeating the obvious to say the violent agitations in the Niger Delta for resource control has stretched beyond the normal. The militants’ violent obstinate engagement of the Nigerian state has raised more questions than answers. Militants who are dangling the swords of blood have rejected dialogue or mock the process. They have turned a blind eye to government’s efforts in addressing the problems of poverty and degradation of their land through years of oil explorations. They have advertised more, a tendency to listen to external voices than the government of their country.
Biafran secessionists, whether in the form of MASSOB or IPOB in the Southeast have also deliberately refused to subject themselves to the voice of reason. Instead, they unlawfully press for secession and very often, deploy violence to argue their grievances instead of dialogue.
The Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast which is at the cusp of total extinction by the Nigerian army led by COAS, Gen. Tukur Buratai, terrorized the nation for years in a manner that left many gasping for breath.
In all the instances of these insurrections, the masterminds do not exhibit their acts of devilry with bare hands. Sophisticated weapons are used to torment Nigerians and shatter the peace of law-abiding citizens. Yet, what foreign organizations like Amnesty International (AI) sights first is the alleged mass killings of unarmed protesters by security agents. It freely accuses security agents of war crimes and human rights violations, thus given vent to the speculation of their subtle back-up of separatists groups to destroy Nigeria.
And once AI echoes such baseless accusations, allies in western media amplify it to high heavens, crucifying the Nigerian government and its security agencies for alleged heinous crimes against humanity. This is the circle of viciousness against Nigeria.
But the soul-searching moment has come for all Nigerians, including the militants, secessionists or onlookers. A peep round the world, particularly in Africa where armed struggles against the state have been entrenched for years does no one any good. If allowed to simmer and intensify beyond reasonable limits, both the aggressors and the onlookers suffer same fate, by depriving themselves of the needed peace in their communities and countries.
So Nigerians should begin to resist the temptation of allowing external forces arm them against themselves, because when the crisis explodes beyond boardroom dialogue and Nigeria is set ablaze, the foreign sponsors would quietly retire to their safe countries and abandon Nigerians to lick their wounds.
Nigeria’s history is replete with complaints of discontentment, but it has never been stretched this far. Nigeria has always shown itself as a country, with a people who can manage their differences and co-exist peacefully together. It is once again time for Nigerians to prove that what bind them together is their shared ancestry, diversities and afflictions and resolve not to surrender to the evil plots of external forces against themselves.
Onoja writes from Jos, Plateau state