Saturday, October 27, 2012

"On One Nigeria" By Obi Nwakanma




Dr. Jacob "Yakubu" Gowon was celebrating his 78th birthday on October 19. Reporters cornered him, and asked him for a comment on Nigeria.

The General, former Military Head of State of Nigeria said, in reference to his leadership of the civil war, "I'll ever be grateful to all those who supported one Nigeria." To keep Nigeria one was his battle cry. He won a decisive battle over the secessionist republic of Biafra. He kept Nigeria one.

For that, Jack Gowon deserves his place as a defender of the republic. I did say that Gowon and the Federal Army won the decisive battle. But it seems it has not won the war. The war seems to be raging still in the quiet corners of Nigeria; in various homes; on the Nigerian streets, and up north and down south.

He won a war but not the peace because true peace is just and it is not merely declarative; nor does it thrive on the silence of the oppressed. Wars are won when peace returns to the land. But Nigeria is not at peace with itself, and many of us know why. Nigeria is not destined to be at peace in Jack Gowon's life time, and the signs are all there, because what Gowon won was a peace of the graveyard, in which he declared the hollow truce "no victor, no vanquished."

The fragility of Nigeria today stems from the irresolute and unfinished nation which Gowon and his war cohort left as legacy to Nigeria. As the Igbo would say, given the current situation, "onweghi ebe anyi ji azu eje" - we ain't going anywhere soon. We seem mired to one spot.

Even the General knows this, and that is perhaps why none of his children lives in Nigeria. His children are in some sort of permanent exile in the UK. For a man who fought to keep Nigeria one, it seems like an ambivalent gift to his own children - that war "for unity" fought even on the graves of other innocent children who were deliberately starved to death.

So, what is this Nigeria that General Gowon fought to keep one? For whom did he fight? The idea of a "One Nigeria" seems loaded with possibilities. Let me make a confession: I do not mind one Nigeria. I love the idea of a great and vibrant multi-ethnic nation interfusing the cross-current energies of all its parts to form a colorful and powerful whole.

This was the dream and the vision of the Nigerian anti-colonial liberation movement. As a Zikist intellectual, I'm stirred by that vision. But I'm equally not unaware of the cynical use of the word "unity" that has shaped contemporary Nigeria.

......OBI NWAKANMA, VANGUARD NEWSPAPERS, OCTOBER 28, 2012
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