By Frank Oshanugor
It is no longer news that drumbeats of disintegration, war and self determination are gradually becoming louder by the day in different parts of Nigeria.
In the Southwest, the sons of Oduduwa are warming up to see the birth of Oduduwa Republic in no distant time. Even though, some senior citizens of Yoruba extraction do not endorse any separatist tendencies, only time would tell what their position would be when the chips are down.
Same goes for the people of Southeast where the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPoB) backed up with its militia group named Eastern Security Network is seriously agitating for a sovereign State of Biafra.
Though, some senior citizens or elders of Southeast are opposed to the disintegration of the present Nigerian State like their counterparts in the Southwest, yet nobody can truly say what the agitators and their silent supporters would be up to, in the coming days.
Even in the South South and North Central which constitute the country’s minority ethnic groups, nobody can be too sure of what happens in the event of a Biafra or Oduduwa Republic surprisingly springing up in whatever guise. The South South in particular may likely follow suit to actualize the ambition of standing on their own as one economically viable independent state naturally blessed with oil, gas and deep seaports that provide means of connecting them to the outside world.
Though, it is glaring that the perceived injustice and marginalisation propelled by ethnic cum religious fundamentalism, nepotism etc largely underline the reason for the sectional agitations we currently witness, yet some of us still believe that there could be other better ways to keep all of us in peace as one united and indivisible Nigerians.
Before the dawn of the present Fourth Republic, Nigerians had lived in relative peace and managed their differences without any serious threat to the corporate existence of the country. The military even with its baggage of imperfections undoubtedly faired better than the present democratic leaders we have in government with respect to the advancement of ethnic or religious interest. The political leaders of our time have covertly or overtly introduced centrifugal elements that tend so much to divide us along ethnic or religious lines.
However, if what I encountered in Enugu a few days ago is anything to go by, I strongly believe that baring the satanic centrifugal tendencies of most of our national leaders, common Nigerians would live in peace till eternity.
I was in Enugu to assist in the preparation of my nephew’s traditional marriage before the D-Day. As part of the requirements, we had gone to the market to buy live goats in Gariki new market. In the goat section of the market northerners mostly of Fulani extraction dominate and many of them are very fluent in Ibo language. As strangers in the market my nephew; a Ukraine trained medical doctor who had just returned to Nigeria not too long ago, and I, were trying to find our bearing in terms of understanding the dynamics of haggling the prize.
When the goat seller we first approached gave us the prices of his goats which were in different shapes and sizes, we did not waste time to leave his stand to another. He tried to persuade us to haggle the price but our minds were made up that he would not give us at good price.
Just as we were about diverting to another goat seller, a young man very fluent in Ibo language but Fulani by tribe emerged. He greeted us in Ibo and quickly went to tell the goat seller to treat us politely. Pointing at different goats displayed for sell, he asked us in Ibo language to point at the very one we wanted.
Before one could say Jack Robinson, the young Fulani man intervened by asking us the amount we were ready to pay for the goat we had chosen. He took it upon himself to mediate and ensured that we got it at that prize.
The following day we returned to the same market to buy cow. As we were going round with the driver that brought us to the place, another Fulani young man appeared. He walked up to us and asked us in Ibo language what we wanted. We told him we were looking for cow. Immediately, he told us that he could take us to where we would get better one. We then asked him to lead us. Just a few metres away, he saw one of the cow dealers and asked if he had. He automatically switched to Fulani language conversing with the dealer who in turn directed him whom to meet.
Since my nephew and I, had taken him as an Igbo man, I was quick to commend his fluency in Fulani language but he turned to me and said “Oga I am a Fulani man but born here in Igboland. My parents had lived here for years and many of the meat sellers in this market are Fulani not Ibo.”
I was jolted and quickly reacted by jokingly asking him while Fulani people have become the problem of Nigeria. He said, “it is the foolish ones who are asked to go and kill another tribe and they will do so. Here in Igboland, we are brothers and I do not have where-else I can live because I was born here like many others in this market and Enugu is where we take as our home. God will punish our leaders who push our people to kill others.”
I gave this story because that particular encounter on Saturday 10th of April, 2021 changed my perception about certain things. Though it is not as if such story of inter-tribal settlement and cordial integration is new in other parts of Nigeria since it is constitutionally encouraged, yet the awareness of an emerging dangerous dimension introduced by political leaders makes it interesting to tell.
The point I am making here is that if the average Fulani man residing in any part of Nigeria particularly those in leadership positions can see himself first as a Nigerian and other tribes as his brothers and sisters, we are not likely to have more voices calling for disintegration.
I chose to use the Fulanis in driving home my point in that their expansionist tendencies facilitated by agitation for open grazing, bearing of sophisticated weapons with which they easily attack whoever stands on their way in contemporary times irrespective of their breach of other people’s rights, brings more fears in the country.
The endless stories of Fulani herdsmen’s attack on farmers in Middle Belt, Southwest, Southeast and South South are the fuel trying to inflame the fire of disintegration.
We must not allow such fire to burn but to learn something from the likes of “my friends” at the Enugu meat market who would live harmoniously in any part of Nigeria to eke out some living without fear of being victimized because they are not indigenes or the settlers constituting a threat to their host communities because of the existence of some protective godfathers somewhere.
If our political leaders can divest themselves of ethnic, religious or other mundane considerations and see all Nigerians as one irrespective of where one comes from, a united Nigeria for centuries to come, is possible and achievable.