On February 1, 2017, after a series of deliberations with a friend of mine, who is a consultant with one of the largest consulting firms in the world, we decided we would draw up a solution to the Nigerian problem, however feeble our ideas would be.
We went through virtually all development roadmaps employed by Nigeria in her endless journey to becoming a world power. We rigorously explored the latest plan: The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Consciously or otherwise, we began to explore the possibility of a Nigeria where every region was a strength and not a weakness.
We decided that education in the southwest could return to what it was in the days when expatriates sought to drink from our wells of knowledge. We planned for self-sufficient agriculture in the north. In our heads and drafted plans, we built irrigation systems in many northern states. Our vision boards and data sheets set up enviable refineries in the southsouth. We created complimentary competition between Lagos and Aba, to lead the country’s commercial revolution. We literally spent months building a new Nigeria.
This work is far from done, but one thing we’ve acknowledged and planned consciously and unconsciously is a day when Nigeria will no longer be Nigeria. When the old Nigeria would have become Biafra, Oduduwa Republic, Arewa Caliphate — or what have you. But we knew that Nigeria as Nigeria, but working as a federal system with proper devolution of power was better. We hope that day never comes, however, we planned for a Nigeria where we can work as one and also work as 10 different countries.
Today, I’m not a development expert, but based on the number of researches I have read, the volumes of development plans I have consumed, the tonnes of PDF files that have taken sleep off my blood-shot eyes, I know for sure that Nigeria is better together, but may survive apart — after a bloody separation process. This is the only reason why I do not join on the secession debates, and I have avoided the temptation of making any statements about it. The events of the past few weeks could also not break my resolve, but President Muhammadu Buhari broke it.
As the Arewa youth issued quit notice to my southern brothers, and the Niger Delta militants called on my Hausa/Fulani siblings to leave the south, we all knew danger was in the offing.
I watched Acting President Yemi Osinbajo with admiration and pity as he tried to reinforce the threads that hold the fabric of our nation together. From meeting with regional elders, to canvassing support from governors, to the writing and delivery of inspirational speeches.
At the height of it all, the professor of law said we all must build a Nigeria “where the state knows every Nigerian by name and can find and locate each one of us, a Nigeria where the Ibo or Ijaw man can live peacefully in Sokoto, and the Fulani man can live peacefully in the Niger Delta”. The vice-president admitted that this Nigeria will be built on compromise.
He said “but building is an act of the human will. It is a practical, routine, sometimes dirty, sometimes frustrating enterprise”. This enterprise was made more frustrating for Osinbajo, when his principal, via Shaaban Sharada, the president’s special assistant on broadcast media, sent a voice note to BBC and many local radio stations wishing a nation of over 500 languages, happy celebrations in Hausa.
“I am immensely grateful to God for his mercy in guiding us successfully to conclude another Ramadan fast. My greetings to all Nigerian Muslims and our brother Christians on the occasion of Eid-el-Fitr,” the president was interpreted to have said
“May the lessons of Ramadan namely; piety, self-denial, prayers and generosity to the poor and needy be with us for all time.
“I, again, appeal to all Nigerians to avoid reckless statements or actions against our fellow countrymen. We should all resolve to live in peace and unity in our great country, which is the envy of many less endowed nations.”
This message to Nigerians would have been apt if delivered in English language. Though addressing the nation, the Hausa delivery says it loudly, that the constituency who gave the president the famous “97 percent of their votes” are favoured in the scheme of things.
For a president who had been mum for over 45 days, and did not as much as send a statement to Nigerians on the May 29, 2017 democracy day, there was no need sending an Eid message in the first place. Perhaps Buhari’s handlers were out to dislodge all rumours concerning the critical state of the president’s health. Maybe they only sought to prove to Nigerians that the president has no hearing and speaking impairment and memory loss, as being reported in some quarters.
But this tactic failed. Today, Nigerians are more convinced than ever before that the king is not well. They are also convinced that when push comes to shove, and any of the agitating groups make good its promises, the president has taken a side. It is for him to prove otherwise.
Dear President Buhari, you may not mean it, but your voice note to us has reinforced the resolve of the Hausa that Nigeria belongs to them more than it belongs to the rest of us. It backs the position of Arewa youth that other ethnic groups, especially the Igbo, are less relevant in this Nigeria. It is in itself a mental quit notice of sort.
As president sir, the next time you want to send us a message, you may want to take the Rotarian four way test: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
If no sir, silence might be a better message. God bless the president!
You can reach Tijani across major social media platforms @OluwamayowaTJ