Sunday, July 15, 2018

If Nigeria finally breaks up…

If Nigeria finally breaks up…
August 13
04:14 2017

I hate divorce. I have been using an Airtel mobile line since 2001 when GSM services were launched in Nigeria. And even though they have changed their name from the original Econet to Vodacom (for about five minutes) to Vmobile to Celtel to Zain and finally to Airtel, I did not consider “porting” for one day. In fact, I still have my original Econet SIM card in my locker. I reluctantly changed it when I bought a smart phone and needed all this nano stuff. I have suffered a lot of discomfort with my 0802 in 16 years — poor network, dropped call, overbilling, failed roaming and slow data. But through it all, I remained committed to my choice. Such is my attachment to relationships.

Let me now contradict myself. Recently, I walked into a branch of Access Bank Plc to close my account. As I completed the formalities, left the banking hall and the door closed itself behind me, I was broken-hearted. I had been banking with them since 2004. I used to love the bank and their services so much that I became an unpaid marketer. But after struggling in the last one year to resolve issues on my account without luck, I painfully told myself divorce was inevitable. I believed I had done all within my power and, for my sanity, I needed to move on. And so it is for many relationships — they collapse because divorce is about the only option left.

So here you have my dilemma: if indeed I hate divorce, why did I end my 13-year-old relationship with the bank? Why am I enduring one relationship and discarding the other? Double standards? Hypocrisy? These two experiences will come handy in today’s discussion, which is on Nigeria’s strained nationhood. Many of my friends have often challenged me — and even mocked me — over my opinion that Nigeria can work and that we should remain one. They say that I’m being naïve, that I’m playing to the gallery, that I’m trying to be “politically correct”. I doubt if these categorisations describe me well. I write out of personal conviction. And, well, I hate divorce.

There are ongoing calls to dismantle the Nigerian federation, ongoing for decades actually. These calls are presented in different formats and with different motives. There are those who genuinely believe that for Nigeria to make progress, it needs to balkanise. I have come across people who argue sincerely that Nigerians don’t belong together and our differences are too sharp for us to forge a workable nationhood. But there are also those making these calls purely for political gain — not out of any authentic conviction. I’m also super convinced that some opportunists are riding on the back of these agitations to fight back at President Muhammadu Buhari.

My argument against balkanisation, or divorce, is based on my relationship with Airtel. Even though things get bad at times, I have not ported to another network because I am not sure I will be better off. Telecom operators in Nigeria face similar challenges: high capital replacement costs, poor power supply, unnecessary expenditure on infrastructure, lack of security for equipment and facilities, persistent fibre cuts, multiple taxation, inability to raise tariffs to defray increasing costs, and so on. All these hamper their operations. Changing from one network to another guarantees nothing. I would rather stick with the devil I know than the angel I don’t know.

The same thing applies to Nigeria. Most Nigerians suffer from the same challenges: no water, no power, no security, as well as inept and corrupt leadership, starting from our local government areas. But we have been programmed to think our problem is someone from another part of the country — hence the campaign for divorce. I have randomly asked ordinary Nigerians from all “tribes and tongues” about their most urgent needs and their answers are so similar. They all complain about bad roads, bad schools, bad medical care, bad electricity supply, bad everything! People complain about their council chairmen as much as they complain about their governors.

I do not know of any state in Nigeria where the children of a governor or a minister attend public primary and secondary schools. I do not know of any governor that receives treatment from a primary health care centre closest to their mansion. North or south, Yoruba or Fulani, Muslim or Christian! The leaders take good care of themselves. In the national assembly, the lawmakers are sharing money and cars like kolanuts — and I am yet to hear that a Muslim senator or a Christian house member rejected his own. What this tells me is that it is not one part of the country or one religion that is the problem — it is the human beings we call leaders. How does divorce resolve this?

There seems to be an assumption, or a settled notion, that the moment we break up, the people formerly known as Nigerians will, like magic, start enjoying abundant flow of water, 24/7 security, excellent primary and secondary education, great medical care, unspeakable infrastructural development and all that make human beings feel like human beings. I wish I could share in this optimism. There seems to be this prevalent logic that balkanisation is the magic formula to the inept and corrupt leadership pillaging Nigeria at every level. I wish I were this optimistic. The Nigeria I see is under attack by political vultures, regardless of their ethnic and religious identities.

Most Nigerian politicians, I dare say, are genetically and endemically of the similar quality. If Nigeria finally breaks up and we are still ruled by the same hardened criminals who rejoice in oppression — their greed and wickedness undiluted — the gory tale of the latter house will be worse than the former. It will only lead to the restructuring of our suffering. It will only lead to the multiplication of the sorrows of our people. I know many people who have ported from one mobile network to another only to regret it shortly thereafter. You would hear them say: “This one is even worse!” Just as the telcos are alike, so are our problems alike across the 36 states and 774 LGAs.

It was very easy for me to close my account with one bank because I knew I could enjoy better services elsewhere. This is no counter factual. I have accounts with other banks and I have been enjoying better services, so I was not leaving the known for the unknown. Rather, I was moving from a known bad service to a known better service. I had tasted and seen before taking my decision. If I have this assurance with balkanisation, if I have tasted another part of Nigeria and I am sure things can only get better when we break up, I will certainly stop being naïve, stop playing to the gallery, and stop trying to be politically correct. I will wake up and smell the Utopia.

I will like to say something though. Some things happen in this country that get me angry and make feel maybe balkanisation is the way out. I hate it when some people think they own the country and their wishes must always prevail. At such times, thoughts of balkanisation cross my mind. But then I realise that as it is in Abuja, so it is in the states and local governments. There is hardly any part of Nigeria where some people don’t behave arrogantly and leave others feeling marginalised. My fear then is that the more you break up Nigeria, the more you magnify local differences and awaken latent conflicts. What was not a big issue before sudden erupts and gets a life of its own.

I have many examples to cite. In Oyo state, Oke Ogun are complaining about being relegated in the power equation. In Ogun state, the Ijebu want their own state. In Lagos, the Awori have been grumbling. Funny enough, someone once told me that when Awo was premier of the Western Region, he was busy developing Ibadan with cocoa revenue from Ondo! For years, Nsukka people complained of marginalisation in Enugu state, the same with Ukwa/Ngwa people in Abia state. In core northern states, Christians complain that they are denied state sponsorship of pilgrimage as well as appointments and land to build churches. Balkanisation hardly eradicates conflicts.

For those who genuinely believe breaking up Nigeria will suddenly lead to competent and patriotic leadership, where is the evidence? What is fuelling this ecstasy? As I had no hesitation in closing my bank account because I knew I was moving to a better place, I will also have no hesitation in changing camps if better leadership is assured in a balkanised Nigeria. No sane human being will want to live in a country full of rancour and tension if he has the assurance of living in peace and prosperity in another. But what is that assurance? And why should divorce always be the first option in marital conflict? What is the guarantee that your next spouse will be better than the current one?


Like BBOG…

When the police fired teargas at a peaceful rally by the “Return or Resign” agitators in Abuja on Wednesday, I said to myself once again: “Nothing ever changes.” This was the same attitude the last administration had towards the Bring Back Our Girls agitators in 2014 — something I believe did irreparable damage to President Goodluck Jonathan. When will the police realise we live in a democracy and every citizen has the right to protest and be protected? If some citizens are calling on President Buhari to return to Nigeria or resign, it’s their right. I would advise the police to focus more on kidnappers and armed robbers and leave the protesters alone. Change.


I recently got a WhatsApp message asking us to imagine what would have happened if it was President Jonathan, and not President Buhari, that was out of the country for over two months for medical purposes. The writer asked us to imagine how activists and APC in particular would have organised media wars and public protests. While I agree with the writer, I would hasten to say that this was why I criticised the way President Yar’Adua was being ridiculed when he fell terminally ill in 2010. I still insist that sickness should not be politicised. I insist that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has all the presidential powers. Nobody can stop him from exercising them. Period.


What is Nigeria turning into? Sunday last week, a gunman invaded the morning mass at St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Anambra state, and killed 12 people. The story is that he was on a reprisal mission to take out one “Bishop”, allegedly a drug dealer based in South Africa who was said to have murdered one “Giniyee” reportedly for double-crossing him in a drug deal. Of course, the predictable politicised narrative that Buhari’s “jihadi army” (Boko Haram) carried out the attack was already trending on social media before the true story finally emerged. The saddest thing for me is the ease with which criminals operate in this society. We are losing it. Scary.


In May, I exchanged emails with Dr. Abdul Raufu Mustapha, an associate professor of African Politics at Oxford University, UK, on my upcoming book. I sent him a synopsis containing my core arguments. He promptly replied, drawing my attention to certain developments that would help my work. He ended his email with: “I think the core arguments need to be sharpened more.” In another mail, he pointed my attention to several reference materials that could be of help. It was a week after our exchange that I learnt he was battling with stomach cancer. On Tuesday, August 8, he died. What a loss. Such a deep intellectual and fantastic human being! What a loss. What a loss. Painful.


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Social Comments


  1. Drchimex
    Drchimex August 13, 07:47

    Mr Simon thinks same cart and kin of politicians will be recycled should any region balkanise, Biafra for once isn’t to logically downgrade to allow that. The old politicians that refused to facilitate secession will indeed be taken note of because how will persons that have refused to support a course begin to vie for elective positions when the secession happens? They indeed have the right to vote and be voted for, nobody shall deprive them of the right but Biafrans shall be woke. The columnist failed to identify the amount of bigotry, tribal hate and religious discrimination that exist within the current structure . Why do we still hear “state of origin, indigene letter, religion” while filling out forms that have no in any way any relevance to such pieces information? Why should certain bills meant to better a particular region as a complement of what other regions have fail to pass through the parliament ? A case on point is the failure of SE development commission bill? Why should certain sections be marginalized and be poorly represented in posts that matter? Who among the serving security chiefs is from the SE? Why should the president use rhetorics like 5%tiers and 97%tiers?. All I can assure the columnist is that since he’s waiting to see which way the cat jumps before he makes a move, then he should hold his peace , he will surely see better options that abound when Biafra is actualized and properly admistered by passionate Biafrans. Our concoction of a nation can’t work because we’re firstly ethnicist before being nationalists, I mean naturally . I’m firstly an igbo man then a Nigerian. God never created me a Nigerian but he made me an igboman. Tribe is God’s creation while Nigeria is a human creation by the virtue of some self serving amalgamation.

    Reply to this comment
    • Max
      Max August 13, 08:28

      Interesting talk. Biafra in your view would be well governed and there would be milk and honey. Hmmmm I live in PH and I see the same mistakes the South East made in the Biafra war repeating itself. Do not in your wildest imagination think the South South especially your dream state of Rivers will be part of Biafra. Never will they make that mistake. They will give the you the political support for your Biafra quest but will not be part of the union. Do not come up with any historical link, as their is no link whatsoever. Our Customs, value system are different. Having said that, I see a Biafra where you will turn against yourself. Remember our the issue of Saboteurs during the civil war instigated the worst form of distrust within Biafra thereby hastening it’s fall.Take a look at the issue of an igbo Bishop from Anambra being rejected by fellow igbos in Ahiara diocese for the past 3 years because he is not from their own side of igboland. May be we should remind you of how governor Orji dismissed all igbos of non Abia descent from the state civil service. Your Biafra will not fair better on that score. The unbridled quest for quick money thru drug pushing , armed robbery and all manners of crime will make your utopian Biafra a lawless entity with its citizens suffering indignation in foreign countries entry points. Yes. The passport will be marked for special attention. You can tell the day by the morning. As long as you debase your value system so will be the pain Biafra Republic will suffer at the hands of other nations. The choice is yours.

      Reply to this comment
      • Drchimex
        Drchimex August 13, 10:18

        I did not really want to engage you for addressing elements that don’t exist in my matter. All of the things you mentioned being perpetrated by “just” igbos abroad are the symptoms of the disease of maladministeation within the existing structure.when did i paint a picture of a utopian biafran state, when and where did SS appear in the entirety of my comment, doesn’t that send a message to you that perhaps the SS isn’t indispensable to the Biafran dream? Or are you trying to assert your significance ? Certain levels of corruption exists even in civilized climes. You need to understand the concept of freedom and democracy. It’s all about the actualization of what I call self determinism, even if it makes no sense to the Nigerian government or your likes. I rather live free like a lion in the jungle than leave like a dog in the city.

        Reply to this comment
        • Max
          Max August 13, 10:48

          It is obvious you have not been current with the Biafra agitation; if you have, you will notice that central to their demand for a Biafra state is the inclusion of Rivers and Benue states. Nnamdi Kanu confirmed this as much. In fact, the agitators in their arrogance have renamed Port Harcourt Igwe ocha. Someone else from another ethnic group now decides what name our town should be called, and yet expects us to wholeheartedly support the struggle. Are we not going to suffer the same fate we suffer in Nigeria in the actuallised e Biafra

          Reply to this comment
      • Leke
        Leke August 13, 10:37

        You could not have written it better. The honest truth is for the Country (ries) to move forward, there is a need for a sense of belonging, which maybe, and it’s a big maybe, is the way forward for Nigeria. Though the truth is, there would still be serious fights within these new republics. With this said, I honestly believe, no family ever has peace when the prodigal child wants out. I pray that my brothers and sisters from the East and the South South be given their desired referendum, and be allowed to leave if the votes so say. At some stage, parents have to let go…with blessings. The merits for or otherwise would mean nothing, until a child goes out there to experience life on his/her own. PLEASE LET THEM GO, THE REST OF US WANT TO SLEEP IN PEACE.

        Reply to this comment
        • Max
          Max August 13, 11:03

          Leke , the south south will not participate in any referendum. We have not asked to leave the union and our elders have said so. The igbo traders in PH are the face of the agitators you see in Rivers. Period.

          Reply to this comment
    • Boss
      Boss August 13, 11:18

      God made you a human and in His sight He does not see you as Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw, Uhrobo, or even Italian, Spanish or any other race. Let’s not get it into our heads that we are better than any other. The main point from that write up is that; we all should look inwards and be the change we need to see. Like the Holy book says “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF”.

      Reply to this comment
      • Drchimex
        Drchimex August 13, 11:45

        The Boss, so because I’m a Christian, I shall go by the biblical origin of tongues and consequently tribal assortment, or have you got a tribe with two different dialects? Recall the happinings in the tower of barbell. That was the origin of dialects to me. Unlike the 1914 Lord luggard amalgamation that materialized the volatile contraption called Nigeria today .

        Reply to this comment
  2. Ade
    Ade August 13, 10:20

    I am always unexcited when the intellectuals that suppose to shape the thinking think as if they are illiterate. Drchimex or whatever, the fist respondent does not really reflect the deep intellectual capacity expected of such a long response he articulated. I will advise him to read Chimanda’s Half of a yellow sun or watch the adapted film of the book. He will properly understand his comical view of his assertion that ‘ he was created an Igboman before being a Nigerian.

    And as for Kolawole’ explosive literature. There is this proverb that if a cleric predicts famine, his household will not eat Quran or Bible as the case may be. I get quite irritated when the enlightened person tries to join issues with the illiterates. If Nigeria breaks today on accounts of our various agitations such as marginalization, no pipe borne water, no functional health services, high cost of leaving, insecurity etc. the global communities would only look at us as horde of thoughtless people because all the reasons are just political, which can only be straightened through our power of voting by electing functional leaders. All these agitations were not there when Obasanjo was on the saddle because he was fully and responsibly in charge. I think things began to go south when Ya’adua was elected, accentuated when Jonathan came in and worsened under the Buari regime. A responsible leader will not keep quiet when the internal sovereignty of the country is being threatened. Freedoms are synonymous with democracy, but must go with responsibility, must go with carrot and Cane. I remember when Abiola died in custody of Abacha in 2008, I was in Lagos then. The atmosphere was charged when they brought his remains home for internment. The then IGP Commasie led the Federal Government team. An unconfirmed account gave it that no fewer than 20,000 non Yorubas plying their trades in Lagos died in various road crashes while fleeing home to avoid being caught up in the impending war after MKO’ death. Heavens never fell after all because the Government was fully in charge. Someone says it was a military era. Odi and Zaki Biam beastial killing under Obasanjo was also military era?

    I think what we need is functional leadership that will fuse us together irrespective of whatever differences, religion, race or colour. Breaking away as a nation is more than Kolawole’ illusory breaking away with his bank over an irreconcilable differences. Caution.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Drchimex
    Drchimex August 13, 10:59

    Mr Ade the intellectual par excellence, primus intapares, how much of a thoughtless horde does the world view united kingdom for brexit? Could you run a comparative analysis as to how the brittish yardstick is more worthy of a breakaway than that which the SE presents? You didn’t really mean to recommend half of a yellow sun by Chimamamda Adichie that I’ve read from cover to cover. I’ll assume it was a typographical error. Because in it I saw no reference that supports your position. Go rattle persons that haven’t got the knack for reading good books.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Chichi girl
    Chichi girl August 13, 11:54

    Thank you SKL. This is one article i am going to print and paste on my notice board for posterity. It is well articulated. I can’t remember if it is you or segun that once said “the people sharing nigerias money and destroying the country have an ethnic group. They are one-once sharing money is involved”.
    All the arguments i have heard concerning breaking up have come from an emotional or selfish place. No one has ever put up a superior argument with the end in mind. It is just a case of let’s separate, we can’t be worse off than we are already. Well the truth is the so called marginalisation we think we are experiencing now will be magnified in smaller regions once we break up because “na the same people”.
    Please note that i do not like the country as it is. We do not call our leaders to order and impunity is the order of the day. Public officers should not run government like it’s their personal enterprise. Governors and ministers should not take the place of colonial masters and we should elect visionary leaders. Nigeria can work if it is one of the options we will consider in the discussion. It is a way more cheaper option as per consequence than breaking up.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Cajeta nkwopara
    Cajeta nkwopara August 13, 12:23

    With all respect, I think Mr. Ade has again reasoned in the typical Nigerian way,”living in the peace of the graveyard, calling black white etc,”
    Truth is that you can not get a melon fruit by planting an okra seed. In the same way, you can not get a responsible and functional leadership from a dysfunctional structure.The structure of the military imposed constitution is greatly flawed because it gave greater advantage to the ethnic groups where those military leaders belonged. The constituent units are all prepared to give one or two ethnic groups and regions the advantage to perpetually impose their will over the rest of the regions. By this configuration, they decide who dominates the army, the navy, the police etc. They also decide who emergies as president and of course, control the electoral umpire, INEC and the entire electoral merchinary of both valid and fraudulent elections. The only dominant ideology in Nigerian election is tribe otherwise, for his deficiencies, Buhari wouldn’t have been president today.But his tribe is dominant at least in terms of hold on power, so, today, we don’t really look at the constitutional provisions rather, we pander to the sentiment of the ruling oligarchy.Nigeria talks of peace without justice and equity but Biafra represents justice and fairness for all mankind,freedom and dignity for the the entire black race not just for the Igbo man. It is not late in the day for Nigeria to change and embrace the pure spirit of Biafra.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Ade
    Ade August 13, 14:02

    Dear Drchimex, I quite appreciate your pleasant response. I was actually expecting an acidic reaction from you. Of course I would have returned it in a proportionate measure. Nonetheless, thanks for your maturity. As I advised earlier, if the book I recommended for your guidance will be too voluminous to get the page that vividly depicted your view on what came first between you, your tribe and the project, Nigeria, just source for the film adaptation of the book with a Nigerian-born Igbo extract US-based popular film director, Chiwetel Ejiofor as lead cast. Certainly you will enjoy the narratives and get some takeaways. Interestingly, you stirred up the hornet’s nest, I thing you must accommodate sting that goes with playing a devil’s advocate.

    As for Cajeta, saying that Buhari won the election on the tribal numerical advantage is quite correct but not deeply thoughtful. Contrastingly, Mr. Jonathan couldn’t have won the 2011 election considering his tribal minority disadvantage. With due respect, it is the likes of Cajeta that sit down in the comfort of their mansions in Abuja or Lagos propelling the salvos of secession. The base of my argument since the time Kolawole unfortunately became the script writer for the Biafrans is that all the points marshalled for the secession are not virile enough to justify the separation, except we just allow the Igbos to play the prodigal son, squandered his possessions and return back to beg for reintegration, which somebody had paraphrased earlier in the body of responses to Drchimex’ trouble. Warning.

    Reply to this comment
    • Andy Best
      Andy Best August 13, 23:48

      It is unfortunate that all of you that are insulting yourselves are all at the receiving end of the stick. The guy from SS is not better of than his neighbors from SE. Ade and his people were labeled oppositionists, until recently. The people who are endemically in charge (North), are busy watching you tier yourselves to shreds. Un Mumu Dodu!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Baron
    Baron August 14, 05:13

    I think Mr. Kolawole is right. Those who disagree with him should read the article a second time. If the Igbo knew the consequences of the civil war: the toll in marginalization, and all these years of suspicion surrounding their true mission in the Nigerian project; there would have been no war in the first place. Same is true of agitators of today. No one can tell for sure what would happen if one part of the pie decide to leave without mutual agreement. Presently, there is no general sympathy for a referendum across the board, and neither is there any international support for the kind of divorce contemplated in Nigeria. Truth be told; the world fears a dismembered Nigeria. The ball is in the court of Nigerian youth to stand up for good leadership, vote people of proven integrity into offices, and give them time to actualize Nigeria of our collective dreams.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Liman III
    Liman III August 14, 15:01

    I like chichi girl’s absolute response. The Nigerian elites laugh and cheers with each other only when they share the booty. But when once the spoils ceases to exist or when one eats and the other doesn’t then difference of tribe and religion surfaces. Nigeria’s problem solution is not break up, the solution is God fearing and sound forward looking leaders. May GOD grant us leader!

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