They say a coin has two sides. Head or tail. But what happens when each side of the coin has a semi-side? How do you explain that? The blind side of the coin is the one that causes problems, like the unseen punch that dislocates a pugilist’s jaw. Our friends, Tamuno, Dike and Hadi, engage in their favourite pastime of intellectual jujitsu.
Tamuno: I think the #EndSARS protest was one of the most nationalistic events we’ve ever had in this country. Just imagine — no tribal affiliations, no religion, no political leaning, no class dichotomy. Nigerian youths simply came together, using the social media for mobilisation, and decided that they had to do something about police brutality. For the first time, the authorities didn’t know how to react because the usual tarring of protesters as hoodlums sponsored by the opposition did not fit.
Dike: To think that our youths could organise themselves so flawlessly and transparently! I marvelled as they raised money online. Most of their plans were in the open. The Nigerian flag united them. Those who sponsored thugs to tarnish the protest should be ashamed of themselves.
Hadi: I think the youths made a fundamental mistake — the protest lasted too long. They should have called it off after the government announced the disbandment of SARS and promised to address their other concerns. I believe there were some shadowy elements instigating and funding the youths. You heard what the Northern leaders said at their recent meeting in Kaduna. It was looking like the protesters wanted to topple the Buhari administration.
Tamuno: Ah, there we go again! The same old trick of demonising protesters. Why do you reduce everything to tribe? About five years ago, we had the Save Nigeria protests in Lagos against bad administration by the Jonathan government. Nobody made allegations of coup or tribal motivation. But when the president is from the North, some people feel we don’t have any right to protest.
Hadi: No, what we are saying is that there are ways to protest without appearing to be working for enemies of the state.
Dike: Enemies of which state? Your problem is that you refuse to see any difference between a nation’s sovereignty and a regime’s security. Regime security is quite different from national security.
Hadi: No, those who don’t wish the government well probably don’t wish the country well too.
Tamuno: Wrong! We are not subjects. We are citizens. I think that is one point that needs to be stressed to traditional rulers. The era of their imperial pretensions has gone for good.
Hadi: It is amazing that you want to throw the traditional rulers out, yet whenever you have problems, you run to them for advice.
Dike: That is very untrue. What advice? I can understand that they want to be more relevant, but the system we run is a democracy. They should just be content with their current role.
Tamuno: The moment they are dragged into any kind of political role, the halo covering them disappears forever.
Hadi: I don’t mean that they should be given political roles. I mean symbolic roles. For example, let’s restore what used to be known as the House of Chiefs. It aids our unity and helps ensure that the country is indivisible.
Dike: That is another myth. How did you get the idea that the country is indivisible? The only thing that can guarantee unity is justice and fairness. A situation where all the major military establishments are situated in the North does not show that we have one country. It appears to me that some people think they are more entitled to federal presence than others. It is such an attitude that encourages secessionists like IPOB.
Hadi: Now you shoot yourself in the foot when you mention IPOB — that band of terrorists and hateful vampires. See how they were syndicating divisive voice-notes, encouraging their illiterate followers to kill and maim. Please don’t mention IPOB here. They are not different from Boko Haram.
Dike: And who is sponsoring Boko Haram?
Hadi: I should ask you.
Tamuno: I won’t argue that one too much, Hadi. But why can’t we all operate on a level playing field? Why are some people afraid of open competition? Look at the South-South, we are not allowed to operate our local modular refineries but people in Zamfara are allowed to mine their gold. What kind of country does that and expects peace?
Hadi: You have to credit the Buhari administration because it is already planning to redress some of these things. See, they are even planning to restructure the country.
Dike: I think we are living in different worlds. If you ask me, I’d tell you that this is the most lopsided administration in the history of Nigeria.
Hadi: Can Buhari ever please you people?
Tamuno: No, not when his administration is so nepotistic.
Dike: I laugh when I see the same old tricks of assembling “northern governors and political leaders” being played. I think the people of the Middle Belt laugh too. Didn’t you see the warning from Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum that they don’t receive instructions from the so-called northern leaders? In their own words, “Never again shall this country be run the same old way. No section of the country can play any supremacist role again as if the rest of us are fools. It is either we live together as equals under the same rules of engagement or we explore other options as dignified human beings”.
Hadi: So, you want to break up the country?
Tamuno: Says who? We want this country to work for everybody, not only for a tribe or a region. Even within the same north, I can’t help noticing that Southern Kaduna could do with massive security help and state sponsored Resettlement, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.
Hadi: Oh, I thought Dike said he wanted the country split.
Dike: If I can reach my full potentials within a more equitable Nigeria, why would I want the country to break?
Hadi: Okay, now it seems there’s at least one point we can all agree about. We can tweak the areas causing tension and make the country better for everybody. But essentially there’s nothing that says we can’t remain one country.
Dike: One caveat before I agree with you: It is what you do, not what you say.
Hadi: Me? What do I have to do with it?
Tamuno: Not you as a person. The government. And those who think they own the copyright to the indivisibility song. The current practice is for some people to start shouting about the indivisibility of Nigeria as soon as some people from other parts of the country are making any agitation.
Dike: Ordinarily, there’s so much that could unite this country.
Hadi: I think we agree on that.
Dike: And we must get away from the feeling of entitlement which reduces us to Jews and Gentiles.
Hadi: How do you mean?
Dike: If you adapt Lyndon B. Johnson’s statement to Nigeria, you’ll understand what I mean.
Hadi: What statement?
Dike: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best coloured man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.”
Hadi: Ha-ha-ha…You’re what Cartoonist Cracks would call a Cheeky Devil!
Tamuno: At least, now you can see the other side of the coin.
Hadi: Even the third side. I hope you can, too.