If this process of systematic assimilation and integration of Nigerians from plural backgrounds into geo-economic zones becomes entrenched, the long term implication is that the Nigerian federation would have undergone a process of organic restructuring. The commercial cities of Aba and Onitsha will no longer be enclaves of Igbo traders but that of Nigerian entrepreneurs.
The unity, social cohesion and structural stability of the Nigerian federation are conditions precedent for its economic growth and development. There has to be a Nigerian nation before any form of progress can be achieved. Currently, Nigeria is a collective of micro ethno-geographic nationalities whose localised interests are placed above that of the broad collective. The Nigerian populace are also more of “indigenes” of these micro-ethnic nationalities than “citizens” of Nigeria.
It has been argued that the diversity of the Nigerian people, which was compounded by the colonial experiment of forging a modern nation out of a critical mass of uncommon histories, traditions and cultures of diverse indigenous peoples, is remotely responsible for our disunity as a nation. This notion of Nigeria being an amalgam of cultural incompatibles that has become an entrenched narrative justifying our disunity is a fallacy that is not supported by any shred of historical evidence and actually goes contrary to the logic of common sense.
Diversity is a measure of racial mix within a given geographic space and NOT the varied ethnic compositions within a broad racial categorisation. Therefore, a mono racial (negro) country such Nigeria does NOT qualify to be regarded as a diverse country on account of ethnic differences. Nigeria does not have much in common with racially diverse countries like the United States of America and the Republic of South Africa but has so much in common with less diverse mono racial China (mongoloid) and the United Kingdom (caucasoid) of old. Like Nigeria, China has between 55 and 95 ethnic identifications within its broad mongoloid mono racial classification, including the Uygur, Hui, Zhuang and the majority Han Chinese people. Mandarin, which is a language spoken by the majority Han Chinese people originally evolved from closely related languages spoken by “diverse” ethnic groups around the agricultural settlements in the four cardinal points of China. Similarly, the multi-ethnic identification that characterises mono-racial Nigeria actually evolves from a common source, as clearly discernable in the close similarities in culture, language and interwoven ancestral histories of the various peoples of Nigeria from the four cardinal points of its current geographic space and beyond. In this circumstance, Nigeria is best described as a plural but not a diverse country.
To substitute the opium of sectionalism with the nourishment of nationalism, there will be the need for Nigeria’s political leadership to begin the process of mobilising Nigerians towards the evolution of a new political culture of aligning their individual legitimate businesses with their democratic choices…
We should recall that the implosion of the Kwararafa confederacy several centuries ago ignited a wave of southward migrations from the fringes of the old Kanem Borno Empire into the Benue valley. The Kwararafa is largely made up of subgroups which are regarded as “Banza bokwoi” but who nevertheless share a common patriarchy with the original seven Hausa states. One of such subgroups that migrated out of Kwararafa was the Igala. This is a subgroup closely related to the original Hausa states of Sahelian Nigeria, which was to subsequently migrate deeply into the south and establish a settlement on the banks of the great River Niger at a place called Idah. From this original base in Idah, a detachment of the Igala was to later cross the great River Niger and eventually join a band of migrants out of the Benin Empire (a subgroup of the larger Yoruba of Western Nigeria). In a seamless form of cultural assimilation and integration, this wave of the Igala fused with the Bini migrants to establish the various Igbo speaking communities of Isele Uku, Agbor, Ogwashi Uku and Asaba in the mid-west of Nigeria and Onitsha, Obosi, Ogbaru and Ugwuta in the eastern heartland of Nigeria; thus serving as a source of cultural interlink between the plural peoples of pre-colonial Nigeria.
The British majority caucasoid population, like the Chinese mongoloid, and Nigerian negro populations can similarly be classified into smaller ethnic groupings. Former British prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill identify as Jewish (Middle Eastern origin) and Huguenot (French Protestants origin) respectively. Queen Elizabeth II of England is of Germanic ethnicity, while her future successors are of Greek ancestry. The differences between Nigerians, on one hand, and the Chinese and British, on the other hand, is that both of the latter category have elevated their racial similarities and shared geographic reality (citizenship) above their petty man-made ethno-geographic differences of origin (indigeneity), while we have put our differences ahead of our similarities in Nigeria. Like Queen Elizabeth II, Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill who are broadly categorised as White and British, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo are similarly Black and Nigerian. By putting our Nigerian citizenship above our individual ethno-geographic identities, a pan-Nigerian consensus will be achieved that will allow time-tested economic models to work for us as a nation.
To substitute the opium of sectionalism with the nourishment of nationalism, there will be the need for Nigeria’s political leadership to begin the process of mobilising Nigerians towards the evolution of a new political culture of aligning their individual legitimate businesses with their democratic choices, and away from ethno-geographic and religious sentiments. As one people, artisanal shoe makers and garment workers of Aba, Sokoto and Ilesha should be mobilised to aligning their democratic choices with candidates whose economic policies hold prospects of higher productivity and increased individual prosperity, and away from the hollow politics of ethno-geographic and religious sentiments.
This organic form of restructuring will unite Nigerians from plural backgrounds around a common purpose and reduce mistrust among competing micro-ethnic nationalities, in a manner that will translate into conditions preceding other inorganic forms of restructuring such as resource control and thd devolution of powers.
Similarly, farmers in Jega, Agatu, Onitsha Ugbo and Owo should also be mobilised to align their democratic choices with candidates whose policies holds bright prospects of the higher yield of agro-produce, with the resultant increase in individual prosperity. If this process is successfully carried out through all facets of Nigeria’s socio-economic polity, there will emerge from the ensuing political culture a people’s (proletarian) consensus at checking the divisive tendencies of the existing elite [bourgeoisie] tactics of divide-and-rule. A proper alignment of individual business interests with democratic choices across board will give rise to the seamless convergence of politics and the economy. This, in turn, will create a new democratic demography of competing pragmatic socio-economic ideas, in contrast to the current democratic demography of ethno-geographic and religious struggle for supremacy. The competition of pragmatic economic ideas as the fundamentals of politics in Nigeria will berth the era of politics of ideology, with political parties coalescing around clearly defined socio-economic ideological leanings. This process will throw up a democratic governance structure that is elected by a majority of people from plural backgrounds who are united by a set of socio-economic ideas, away from the existing majority of shared ethno-geographic and religious affiliations.
Under this broad pan-Nigerian framework, the various federating units at the sub-national level will transform from largely micro ethno-geographic and religious nationalities, created with the sole political intention of partaking in the sharing of Nigeria’s oil mineral resources (the national cake), into an all-inclusive geo-economic hub of wealth creation, brought about by the freed energies of all Nigerians with additional prospects of increasing the national cake. Nigerians who were born in a particular ethno-geographic enclave will freely find their bearings by following their natural economic callings, in line with their passions, talents and endowments. They would also find affinity with like-mind Nigerians in any of the numerous economic hubs. For example, a young Nigerian who was born in Onitsha and identifies as Igbo may not necessary have trading as his natural economic calling. He may be drawn to cattle breeding as an occupation. His citizenship allows him to move to Sokoto or any other cattle breeding hub to successfully pursue his economic goal in life. Similarly, a young Nigerian who was born in Kano and identifies as Fulani may not necessarily be inclined towards cattle breeding. If garment and shoe making is his/her natural calling, then his/her Nigerian citizenship should allow him an economic space in the industrial town of Aba. The same applies to a Kanuri from Borno who decides to pursue a career in marine transportation in the creeks of the Niger Delta or an Ijaw whose calling is not to become a fisherman in the waters of the Niger Delta but a leather works entrepreneur in Sokoto.
If this process of systematic assimilation and integration of Nigerians from plural backgrounds into geo-economic zones becomes entrenched, the long term implication is that the Nigerian federation would have undergone a process of organic restructuring. The commercial cities of Aba and Onitsha will no longer be enclaves of Igbo traders but that of Nigerian entrepreneurs. Cattle breeding will no longer be a Fulani but a Nigerian preoccupation, the mastery of the creeks of Niger Delta will no longer be an exclusively Ijaw but inclusive of all Nigerians, and the tanneries of Kano will become a Nigerian cultural economic heritage. Most importantly, the 13 per cent derivation from oil mineral resources payable to oil rich Bayelsa State will no longer be considered an exclusive “Ijaw” privilege but one that benefits Nigerians (whether Kanuri, Fulani,Yoruba, etc.) for who Bayelsa State is home. Similarly, the 44 local governments areas of Kano State would no longer be considered as structural advantage of the “Hausa/Fulani” but structural benefits of Nigerians (Ijaw, Igbo, Bini, etc] for who Kano is home. This organic form of restructuring will unite Nigerians from plural backgrounds around a common purpose and reduce mistrust among competing micro-ethnic nationalities, in a manner that will translate into conditions preceding other inorganic forms of restructuring such as resource control and thd devolution of powers.