When on January 14, 2009 President Barack Obama took the dais for his inauguration as the 44th President of United States, his popularity hovered at eighty percent. Here was a man elected with barely fifty five percent of the vote, with an overwhelming popularity. Clearly, for just that one day, Americans were united behind their new President.
Certainly, most Americans (Black, White or Brown) were justifiably proud that a nation once founded on racism and slavery could look beyond her own ever present demon of prejudice to elect a black man as President. That day, as I worked, even an avowed redneck, which I happen to work with, could not help but be proud. In the end, he confided in me that he indeed was proud to be American (even though he somehow did not expect Obama to win or govern well for that matter).
In Nigeria, the minorities of the South-South and Middle Belt truly are the equivalent of being black in America. It is on the backs of these peoples, and their mineral resources (be it oil, mineral deposits, oil palm or rubber) that both the pre-colonial and post-colonial Nigeria was built. In it all, they were pilloried and assaulted by the majority ethnic groups: the Hausa/Fulanis, the Yorubas and the Igbos that is.
The psychological impact of being a minority in Nigeria can be shattering. The sense or the lack thereof of belonging can be conflicting; this is especially true when Nigerian minority groups have no option but to seek the safety of a negotiated federation no matter how unfair when contrasted with the guaranteed oppression from their big three neighbors or the legacies of divide and rule which nearly means crisis breaks out in the minority regions amongst cousins than with their true big three oppressors in the Nigerian nation.
This split "minority" personality revealed itself to be very present during and after the civil war. Indeed, the avowed support for one Nigeria by Nigeria's ethnic minorities in the Niger Delta or Middle Belt (during and after the Biafra war) have hardly been a validation of the basic unfairness which exist in the Nigerian arrangement, but rather an acknowledgement of the possibilities of making the union better. Even then, it always is an admission that the alternative of a fragmented state with the big three breathing down their necks without inter-rivalry as dangerous for the corporate existence of the minority.
The Willink Commission established before independence did look into the affairs of Nigeria's minorities and concluded that a federated states system, where the special needs of minority groups are factored into development programs and where special areas (briefly in operation in the first republic) to see to these needs are operated is what will serve the people best.
This recommendation was virtually ignored in four of the five decades since that report, less for the politically convenient favor of state creation albeit in a virtually unitary system. The communities of the Niger Delta have witnessed the worst incidences of environmental degradation, genocide, military occupation and the worst kind of pillaging (of human, natural and emotional resources). Indeed, the minority areas of Nigeria remain the open festering sore of the nation of Nigeria.
The minorities of Nigeria were virtually without voice in the first and second republic. But as their patience wore thin with years, so did the level of crisis in their midst. As they fought intensely for the crumbs that fell from the table of the majority groups in the 90s, they increasingly saw the deck stacked against them and their destiny in the collectivity called Nigeria.
In response, hell was let loose as the underpinnings of an emerging democratic society opportune the Deltans and the Middle Belters to express their misgiving about the internal hegemony that have kept the geese that laid the golden egg in a cage. This response has provoked a cycle of crisis ranging from all out street battle with security operatives to kidnapping, piracy and bombing since 2000.
This evidently has been the case until the ascension of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Niger Deltan by birth and president by destiny; whose ascension to that position was rife with high level power intrigues that is the stuff of Shakespearean plays. Note, GEJ was not responsible (at least not directly) for the decades of economic deprivation that preceded the crisis in the region; and quite succinctly, the security disaster that the Niger Delta has become definitely preceded his stewardship on the national level.
Regardless of these facts however, and rather than his ascension to our nation's highest office to be celebrated (like Americans did Barack Obama), many of the same people that created the security hodgepodge the man is dealing with today are demanding his head. They have names like Ciroma, like Ayu and like Babangida. These people are charlatans, and haters of unity who feast on the altar of divisive ethnic politics when the national interest should be paramount.
They claim to be statesmen, but only to the limit of their selfish ambitions. Once disciples of the "One Nigeria" mantra, they have now reduced themselves to champions of sectional interest; supposedly speaking from the mythical "north". They are plotting against Nigeria, whipping up the embers of coup and insecurity and hoping the nation goes down with their warped ambitions. It is unfortunate that people who should know better are being led down the path of perdition by these men. Men like Ciroma, Kaita and Iyorchia Ayu cannot be trusted.
Every lover of democracy should come out heavily on the side of ordinary Nigerians, who have suffered immensely in the hands of these fifth columnists. These old men who are best fit for caskets, who destroyed their dreams of their fathers at independence, frittered away the wealth of their children, and see nothing about destroying the future of their grandchildren deserve nothing but perdition and disaster.
It was under them the worst economic programs were implemented on Nigeria. They went to the best universities, and turned the same to citadels of prostitution. They took functional clinics and turned them into mortuaries. They inherited a bustling infrastructure, and turned them into death traps. It was under these men that the dreams of democracy were fritted: first in 1979 and then in 1993. Never again!
We know their thoughts towards Nigeria are not good, but let it be clear: when the disaster shall come, it is upon them such shall be visited. By democracy and peace we stand. We say no to Ciroma and his charlatans! We say no to the Military! We say no to going back. It is only when we raise our voice together- regardless of states of origin, region, religion or creed would the tormentors of Nigeria now rearing their ugly head shut it down in shame. The agents of destabilization are it again; shame on them all.