Andy Akporugo Jr
Megaphones sound everywhere in Nigeria belching curses or singing songs of hope, but none of them offers us anything. They make trophies of all that is due to us. They take our voices but only to cry in their language. They cry our pain but do not have our tears. They jostle for opportunity but only to take over office from those who they remind us are our oppressors; their object being to reclaim a right. An equal right shared between them to take everything.
When they cry of oppression from the East, please listen and you will hear that they lament only because they have been allowed to take three of fifteen opportunities availed the whole country. They feel entitled to five: fair mathematics if it is divided by three. No, they do not say that other lands are luxuriant in colours and lacking in want while they wallow in the valley of poverty and deprivation. They are marginalized because by the conspiracy of two, they now hold the short end of the stick. Yet doesn’t Nigeria have 389 ethnic groups and not three? Would God’s mathematics not curse to the same accommodation laden with fiery brimstones one who seizes one-fifths, as one who converts three-fifths of that gifted to multitudes?
When they sing hope in Hausa or Fulfulde, it is because like those from whose community the sun sets outs daily, they deeply feel a sense of entitlement to rule and determine the fate of others. No sense is made of the need for those who hold their language in 510 other tongues, to lead themselves and manage their resources. Their method is to lead by getting others to wait for them – apparently our punishment for being ‘too forward’ when all they wanted was to wait many years ago. Some say their method is a testament that like us, they are weak and their determination that we wait for them is only an act of self-survival for which pursuit, even nature advises us not to begrudge any man. Well, perhaps. Yet whatever it is, it is only their dreams and aspirations that they pursue and not ours. And we cannot trust them to do so when they read from a manual written in words that shield their meanings from us.
When they stretch their hands from the West, they hold us in an embrace that assures us that we can aspire to anything, as long as our gods get the blessings of their own gods to protect us. They are not marginalized and even when they were kept at the veranda while the other two romanced many times as the peepholes allowed the rest of us witness, they kept a calm, even calculating posture. They know enough to be best friends of the other two, yet know that none is true. They do not know our marginalization but have read enough of it to teach us how to feel our own pain and organize it into free flowing tears of protest!
This always is certain. None of them wants to be us. We are smaller and beneath. Our dreams have to be permitted by them. Unity for them is achieved in WAZOBIA. Nigeria’s conflict is when the letters do not make that melody; and whoever is dumped the stick’s short end of the three, reminds us of the mistake of 1914 by which they would mean that Nigeria was coerced into existence by the colonialists. But they do not complain about any mistakes of 1967, 1976 or 1987, 1991 and 1996 when states were similarly coerced into existence by the military. They do not see any mistakes when in conspiracy, they bleed the country off its wealth or court and win in-laws from across the divides. It is only a mistake when they do not govern; when they do not win.
When they win the general elections, they are Nigerians, but when they lose, they become republics: of Biafra, of Arewa, of Oduduwa. They have that prerogative. But they are not stupidly blatant. They recruit us by bandying concepts to which our circumstances demand our commitment – restructuring, refederation, resource control; concepts on which we depend for survival, but which only feed their greed. And when they take over leadership upon the backs of our efforts, we are yet left with the agitation but not its attainment. Our cross is to seek. Their gain is to find.
If Nigeria is a mistake, it is because of their greed. We do not partake of the blame. We are too small to be anything but Nigerians. Our need to survive makes us Nigerians. We are the minorities: all 508 groups of diverse ethnicity. But we stay where we were 100 years ago, because we have been schooled to believe that the chiefs in our zones are closer to us than the deprived in other zones, even when we are bound by our needs.
We have been afraid. But now let’s be afraid in a manner that frightens them. And if we do not know how to, then we must learn, in earnest! We must learn unity of the minorities across hills and valleys, deserts and river banks, along tribes and religions, even pinching members from the better stock of the big ethnicities, who realize that an individual however the size of his ethnicity is truly only a minority. We must cry our pains without forced divisions and band up to stop the shameless primitiveness which makes our best example of philosopher-leaders in 2017, those, tribalists by fear, who were themselves only toddling at the job in the 1960s.
Until we are united by our needs and make the big ethnicities see that all together, they are still minority, we shall keep witnessing the desecration of our identity by their caprices. We shall remain minorities until we consist into majority – 25% more, that we truly are. And then when massed as a majority comprised of minorities, we shall teach the values of ‘Nigerianess’ and make the national cake only yield its breast to knifes that bear the colours of Nigeria. And those who vacillate from ethnic warlords to Nigerian patrons as their stomachs dictate will find no value in that endeavour. Let’s make majority from our smallness and rewrite the Nigerian narrative. It has been done before.
Ask Daniel Arap Moi, although he eventually turned the clay of the minorities into the pillar of his tyranny!
** It’s my father’s birthday, only his 71st if he was still with us, and this is what he would have said in words much better than mine.