By Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim

In the competition for power and resources in history, people always try to outdo each other by creating divisions around race, ethnicity or faith. People do this to gain group support for an otherwise private agenda or to whip up support in times of disappointment or personal loss, as is the case now. Sometimes when faith and ethnicity are the same, the demagogue explores doctrinal differences as was the case in Europe in the 17th century, where European kings waged a 30-year war dividing themselves into Catholics or Protestants. between 1618 and 1648.

Europe never emerged in any meaningful way as a power until it overcame this era of darkness, only then was it able to enter into the rebirth (Enlightenment), the industrial revolution and democracy. Ethnically and religiously homogeneous Somalia, whose warlords have divided it into clans, has not yet escaped the ruins and darkness of its own division. On the contrary, Rwanda is moving forward, having buried the ghost of hatred, making development a priority.

When I was a young student both at A ‘level and at university, our aspiration was to seek the unity of all Africa in one country in the manner of America as it has. was married by Kwame Nkrumah (the first Prime Minister of Ghana) and Sekou Touré (the first president of Guinea), and other great nationalists. Some of our mentors in Nigeria, like Alao-Aka Bashorun, worked as a Pan-Africanist in drafting the constitutions of many newly independent African countries, at a time when Nigerian Judge Akinola Aguda was Chief Justice of Botswana. We saw all Africans as the same and we saw any attack on a group of Africans as an attack on all of us. It is in this spirit that on January 6, 1988, Rotimi Ewebiyi, Olaitan Oyerinde, Chris Ayaze, Sylvester Odion and my humble students from the University of Lagos were arrested and detained after the massive demonstration that we organized alongside the workers. Nigerians. and students, following the visit of British Prime Minister Thatcher. We are protesting in Nigeria against its pro-apartheid policy in South Africa.

Where we came from is of course a long way from where we are now, where people are protesting to break Nigeria. In the days of old, it was unimaginable to us that there would come a time when advocacy would become fervent for us to break Nigeria into separate countries. Nigeria, which we then considered to be one of the 52 small states in Africa, the size of California. Everything from farming practices, pastoralists to farmers, differences in dress, climate and land are thrown into the discus to amplify our differences. The methods are even regrettably pedestrian, in what appears to be an argument that saving the unity of the country is pointless. Tragically, those who held high office in Nigeria at one time are fueling the current embers of disunity. The truth, the very stubborn truth, is that we are the same people, more than the magnifiers of the separatists want us to see.

Nigeria may have diverse languages, but the cultures of most of the Nigerian ethnic groups are the same, pointing to the same roots in distant history and here’s why. The cosmogony, religious rights, history and cultures of most Nigerians (pre-colonial and pre-Arab influence) are largely the same, despite linguistic diversity. African-American scholar Chancellor Williams has already done this question justice in his seminar book “The Destruction of African Civilization: A Great Race Problem”. Williams explained that two main factors explain why Africa, although accounting for less than 3% of world trade, is home to the most languages ​​and dialects in the world, but the same culture. These factors are first, the migration that occurred in prehistoric times due to the drying up (desertification) of the regions of the Sahara, which was home to a previously flourishing culture and life.

The second was forced migration, due to various wars of conquest, according to Professor Williams. When people flee, they set off in small groups in different directions, taking away memories of their cultures and cosmogony, but often lose their native languages ​​as they travel far. In Nigeria, it is possible to decipher a definite relationship in the pre-colonial and pre-Arab-influenced cultures of western and northern Nigeria. It is presumed that these are cultures whose ruling classes migrated from Meriot Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. The same practices in the Hausa Bori cult cult, exist in the Sango (Yoruba) cult cult. Similarly, the same practices are found in the circle of worship of Amadioha among the Igbos, yet associated with the Bantustan strain. The details of these hypotheses should now have been the subject of a detailed study in archeology, history, linguistics, using modern technology of historical reconstruction.

Cheikh Anta Diop, whom I consider to be the most remarkable African scholar (historian, physicist, archaeologist and chemist) has done pioneering work on this subject and planned a perspective of historical reconstruction of African cultures which establishes that Africans are essentially the same people, not different people and can live together and should never be separated to be sliced ​​into small groups for easy conquest. It was his preoccupation with his books. “The cultural unity of Africa”, “Pre-colonial Africa”, “The African origin of civilization, myth or reality”, “Civilization or barbarism”. And finally, “The economic and cultural bases of a federated African state”. I recommend these important books to supporters of separatism, who constantly repeat the false doctrine that “we are different people, we cannot live together, let each go their own way”.

Africans everywhere are of the same ancestry, all human beings are of the same ancestry, and this is what the Bible says in Act of Apostle, 17:26; “And made of one blood all the nations of men to dwell upon all the face of the earth, and determined the times of advance and the limits of their habitation; »Let us solve our economic and political challenges in Nigeria on the political ground. Let’s keep ethnic division and religious bigotry out of the way. Ethno-religious confrontations are conflicts that no one can ever win, because everyone always loses in this area.

Nigeria is a beautiful country, the most formidable promise of the African people. Everything had started well at independence and its people had learned to live well together until the failure of the civil war triggered by the military coup of 1966. The fantastic testimony of our peaceful coexistence and our integration includes occasions such as when Gboko’s predominantly Christian voters elected a Kanuri Muslim, Abubakar Imam, to represent them in the Northern State Assembly. This includes Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s campaign for Ernest Ikoli, an Ijaw man in the Lagos elections, against another Ijebu man, Akinsanya. In the early 1960s until the 1970s (1970s), Orientals like Kalu Anya served in the Borno justice system, as did Judge Olagunju, a Yoruba from Offa, who trained many jurists in the division. from Sokoto.

Today’s setbacks are not conclusive proof of our inability to live together, but challenges that we must overcome, as even the most advanced countries in the world like the United States of America, the United Kingdom , Spain and France are still struggling with identity issues.

Nigerians to this day are even more tolerant of each other than the separatist propaganda would have us believe. As of this writing, the only seat assigned to Kebbi State on the Supreme Court is occupied by a lawyer from Delta State, who practiced in the former state of Sokoto and married to Argungu, Judge Amina Adamu Augie. The people of Kebbi do not see her as a stranger but as a faithful daughter of Kebbi. It is time to talk a little more about the main point of our journey towards national integration rather than our weak points. Nigerians can live together peacefully and prosperously once we come to our senses to do some of the right things, including decentralizing more power to states and local governments; elect focused leaders with a clear vision for economic and social development with a character and track record that shows they can deliver on their promises; and immediately embark on a policy of national reconciliation and inclusion. This is what Nigeria needs, not the division!

  • Olawepo-Hashim, businessman, politician is a former presidential candidate.

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