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The fragility of balloon republics

In public relations, every good practitioner knows how to simulate the worst crises and to create a crisis mgt group and to constantly review that…

In public relations, every good practitioner knows how to simulate the worst crises and to create a crisis mgt group and to constantly review that blueprint to meet changing situations. Each time they fail to do this, they end up as casualties of the profession and disappointments to their employers and stakeholders.

Its been 50 years since our flag independence, but we still think ethnically while pretending to act nationally. Whenever there is a seeming crisis, one in which our common bond should be a rallying point, we all stargaze into the firmament to hear what our local chauvinist would proffer as solution. Worse still, this is not a disease of the local, no, locals usually play out the script of the elite. We will never build a nation on these faulty foundations.

How can a man born in Nigeria to Nigerian parents become a citizen of America more easily than he can become a citizen of where he was born? Why do people see Boko Haram as a northern answer to a perceived loss of grip on political power? Why do statements like – that’s the attitude of Ibos or that’s the way Yorubas behave still feature in our conversational vocabularies? Why is Ikenna necessarily an Ibo even if he does not speak a word of the language? Why is our mind fixated on an Isa being a Hausa/Fulani Muslim rather than a fellow Nigerian? And why is a person whose parents have lived in an area for donkey years not able to claim indigeneship of that area; be entitled to the scholarship in the area and any other goodies; being eligible and electable in that area in spite of his ethnic name? In short, why is national thought far from us in times of crisis?

Yes, Boko Haram has exacerbated the ethno-religious colouration to a different hue with its attacks on opposite places of worship, but what was our reaction to it – polarising statements. And when ‘southerners’ had the opportunity they had been waiting for, they found it in the action of a trigger happy cop whose ‘origin’ they finally traced to the north.  It always beats my imagination. Each time there is threat to our common existence, ethnic chauvinists do not call for a national approach to solving the problems but reminds us of the reasons to break it all up – just like the modern couple. Yet down under, our national level of intolerance of the other is replicated down to the family level. We run away from crises instead of finding ways to solve them and move on.

We run our chauvinist tootcomb through a ministerial list, looking for state of origin, local government and religion and think nothing of track record and capacity to perform. That is why the chauvinists blinds himself to the stark reality that for its two thirds dominance of political power at the centre in 50 years, the north has more poverty than other regions bound together. Apart from rehabilitating criminals, or shall we call them by their nom de plume – militants – and sending them to meet skinheads in Eastern European schools, how has the Goodluck Jonathan presidency benefitted the Niger Deltan or the Christian voter any better than Shehu Shagari did Sokoto, the north or the Muslim? Under both regimes, states were run by ‘indigenes’ with what to show for it?

Though one is not surprised that the National Assembly refused to dissolve itself by heeding to calls for a national conference; puerile calls like this distract our attention from dealing with serious issues.  One of them is how to rid ourselves of the excess luggage that the National Assembly and a bloated executive has constituted to our national survival. Or, how to make the governments at the centre, states and local levels more accountable for our money that they share every month. How to make our schools function instead of diverting hard-earned foreign exchange to sending children to schools in Ghana. How to make PHCN deliver on electricity instead of increasing tariffs for supplying us darkness. How to break the oligopolic hold of the tanker owners which makes it impossible for our railways to function. How come we don’t call for national conference on how to break the bicameral legislature which has become a capital waste with no commensurate evidence of performance? How to build national entente instead of unsustainable balloon republics which will burst with a pin-prick?

By breaking up this entity, we will never get better. If we will, Sudan and South Sudan should both be Eldoradoes today. But instead, they are trading accusations, sacking each others citizenry from places they have lived for decades and threatening each other with fire and brimstone while jaw-jawing in Addis Ababa. If we think nationally (and act similarly), then we can bring to account those who ruin our nation with their selfishness and greed. Truth is, we have held this marriage together for 50 years. We should realise by now that we have idiosyncracies and learn to cope with them. This marriage with all its imperfections is better than the phantom balloon republics being built in the air by ethnic champions. These ethnic champions will never be satisfied even when they get their ethnic republics – if things go wrong, they will reach for their war chest and ask for further division, until each head of a family starts to call himself a nation.

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