It sounds like an irony, but diplomats and expatriates who serve or work in Nigeria often profess uncanny love for the country. They offer composite reasons for this. To them, working in Nigeria is fully engaging. Conversely, some Nigerians are imbued with enormous energy and guts to outlive the incongruities that their country represents at all times. Strangely, outsider love to stay in Nigeria despite the heat of hell it emits from time to time.
Truly, Nigeria, in any way, does not yield to dull moments. A coalition of northern youths made a proof of this about two weeks ago, issuing a quit notice to the Igbo in northern Nigeria with explained reasons. Any one among the northern youths could easily be dismissed on a straight encounter, but the import of the quit notice they served the Igbos, with the month of October as deadline hit Nigeria and the international community like a thunderbolt. The country has since been on edge.
Instantly, the issues raised by the northern youths in their quit notice, swept aside the hitherto reverberating polemics on the health of President Muhammadu Buhari, status of the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s authority to sign the 2017 Budget, the grandstanding by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and others, leaving a yawning crack in the foundation of Nigeria.
From 1960, date of the nation’s flag independence till now, Nigeria has been battling with unanswered questions trailing the 1914 amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by Lord Lugard. Efforts made to address the questions through constitutional conferences failed repeatedly. Nigeria slipped into difficult eras occasioned by the military interventions, a civil war that raged for three years, the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election results by the military, countless and yet severe homicide misfortunes caused by communal clashes, inter-ethnic and religious wars, insurgency at the instance of Boko Haram and above all, political and economic instability.
It is apt to note that Nigeria has survived many trials and tribulations, just as it has mastered the art of welding its broken parts with uncommon sense of bonding and compromise. It is not by happenstance that despite all daunting challenges, Nigeria continues to trudge on, pulling behind it, 57 years of nationhood while still commanding attention in the comity of nations.
Nigerians have again demonstrated the will to uphold and sustain the unity of their country. It drew inspiration to survive from the confusion that trailed the Kaduna declaration by the northern youths. This occurred because the Presidency, with Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on the lead, took timely steps and initiatives to whip the country back to line. Over the past one week, Acting President Osinbajo has been holding meetings with top political stakeholders, leaders of thought including traditional rulers on how to further cement Nigeria. The steps he took in this direction have amounted to a plebiscite through which Nigerians spoke with one voice and voted to remain one under a united Nigeria.
Osinbajo reiterated the point during his meeting with traditional rulers from the north Monday night when he said, “All of us have however agreed that our nation must remain one. When we spoke with traditional rulers from the Southeast; despite the issues that were raised here and there, I think that there is clarity that our country ought to remain and must remain a united country. We are in the best position not only to be truly great, but to ensure that all of our people benefit from the greatness of our country”.
So far, the Acting President had held separate consultative meetings with regional leaders including religious and traditional heads from key geo-political zones, capping it up with an enlarged meeting with representatives of each of the regions put together.
Osinbajo seized the opportunity to address the problems posed by hate speeches by separatists’ groups and the mutual suspicion among the component units of Nigeria. His message was loud and clear, dropping a hint that the government would not hesitate to wield the stick to suppress the growing influence of promoters of hate and ethnic division in the country.
“As a government, we are determined to ensure the unity of the country along the lines of our constitution, and I say that hate and divisive speech or divisive behavior, are illegal and would be met with the full force of the law”, he said.
From indications, frayed nerves are calm in Nigeria at the moment. It is a testament to the workability of dialogue and consensus in resolution of crises and conflicts. The Acting President, indeed, was able to assuage the rough situation. There is no mistaking his calmness and positive body language in the onerous task of returning normalcy to the country after stiff moments of heckles and storm. Osinbajo counted on wisdom and ability to apply correct and soothing words to attain results. Somehow, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is the ultimate gainer.
Idowu Samuel, a journalist, public commentator, writes from Abuja.