By Sunday Adelaja
The diversity of our Nigerian nation is so beautiful. It is a glorious demonstration of God’s very own nature. Yet when diversity is not appreciated, it is abused and perverted.
“Celebrate diversity, practice acceptance and may we all choose peaceful options to conflict.” ― Donzella Michele Malone
If Nigeria had not consisted of these over 500 tribes, we would not have been as big and great as we are today. Today, Nigeria is the 7th most populous country in the world and could soon become the third most populous in the years to come (between the years 2030 – 2050). What that means is that Nigeria could soon overtake countries like, the USA, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
At times we underestimate the power of population. Friends, despise the size of a nation to your own detriment. The size of a nation plays a vital role in their positioning in the world. For example, no small nation can ever become a superpower. This is not an assumption, this is a fact.
Have you ever wondered why countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Singapore, Denmark, Belgium or other countries that are rich countries per capita are not superpower nations? It is because it is not the amount of money each citizen earns that determines the status and might of a nation. No matter how prosperous a small nation is, it is already limited if it has a small population. There is no way a small population could compete in production capacity with large countries with bigger populations.
This explains the reason why despite the fact that Nigeria is a third world country, our economy is bigger than the economies of some so called first world countries like Belgium, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Israel, Hong Kong, Singapore, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, etc. Our economy is fast heading to be one of the top 20 in the world despite all our troubles and challenges.
Can you just begin to imagine what might happen when things begin to work for Nigeria? Our economy could easily double or triple if only the electricity supply would be constant. If we deal with the questions of infrastructure, we could be talking of Nigeria as being in the top 10 economies of the world. This is all thanks to the fact that we have a big population. The credit goes to all the tribes that make up Nigeria as one nation.
Another reason why countries with a large population should never be disregarded in this world is because these countries can easily become military superpowers. That is why European countries like Sweden and Belgium cannot be military superpowers while poorer countries per capita like India, Pakistan possess nuclear weapons. It is also for the same reason that while India was able to launch missions to outer space and the Moon, it is still poorer per capita than those European countries.
Dear Nigerians, our population is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to us. Our population is our trump card. If we had not had the population we have, things would have been desperate for us. It is a pity that Nigerians talk more about tribalism and other things dividing us instead of celebrating the beauty and the majesty we possess, thanks to the fact that we are together.
Just for comparison, let’s assume that the United States of America did not have the population it has, let’s say it had only 30 million people, there is no way they would have become the superpower of the world that they are today, neither economically nor militarily. Small nations don’t become superpowers, neither economically nor militarily.
That is why when America was smaller and consisted of only 13 states, they embarked on a mission of buying and taking over more lands and territories for the purpose of becoming a superpower in the future. That is what led to the addition of other territories like Texas, California, Florida and Puerto Rico to the entity of the United States of America, making them a super nation on the earth.
Can you imagine Russia being a superpower without its population? When Russia was a superpower, there were about 300 million people. After losing half of that population, Russia is no more the same anymore even though they are still a large nation of almost 150 million people. As the case may be, if Russia had 10 million or 20 million people, their production capacity would not have been able to pull them through to become a superpower. Only large populations create large economies.
There are many factors that make great nations great. The most important of those factors is the population. Apart from the production power of a huge population like China, there is also the vantage position of their purchasing power.
Let’s take China for example, people say China has the largest number of poor people in the world, but that is only a matter of time. The events of the last few decades and the rapid development of the Chinese economy has left no one in doubt that China indeed is the future of our world. It is on its way to overcoming the USA to become the strongest and largest economy in the world. It is just a matter of time.
The same thing with India. Even though there is a large number of poor people in India today, it also has one of the largest number of millionaires, the same as China. Today India, despite the fact that it is a developing country, now ranks as the 4th largest economy in the world. It is all thanks to their population. Nigeria and Nigerians therefore should be rejoicing and bragging about their good fortune to have managed to bring together so many diverse nations under one umbrella.
Have you ever heard of The European Union coming together? Do you think they had no reason in doing that? No my friends, it is because they know the power and the strength of diversity. They know the place of population in human development. Small, small nations even if they are 50, scattered all over Europe, are weak and defeatable without the strength of a combined population.
We don’t need to begin to go through that process of bringing tribes and ethnic groups together. It is already done for us either by chance or default. Whatever the case might be, Nigerians should be some of the most hopeful people on the planet, especially if we get our act together politically and economically.
It is my firm belief that our nation Nigeria is just on the verge of announcing her arrival on the world stage as the Rising Sun of the new age. This is not the time for us to begin to use tribalism to pull ourselves down. It is not the time for us to begin to lay emphasis on our old and outdated stereotypes, blaming one tribe or the other for all the woes of our nation.
So who really loses if Nigeria breaks up?
In my humble opinion, I think if the Igbo or the Biafran people secede from Nigeria, those who are calling for the breakup of Nigeria would have been proven right. I doubt the Nigerian nation would survive it. The most likely scenario is that if the Biafrans go, there will be some hot blooded Yorubas who might want to pull Yorubas out of the union as well, which I think would be absolutely unfortunate. I pray it never happens. The rest after that will be history.
Is it really to our mutual benefit that the Nigerian nation splits? I don’t think so for the reasons I have mentioned above. Who losses in the worst case scenario? I want to beg my brothers and sisters from Biafra not to view this as prejudice. Please take your time to read through my arguments first.
In the case that Nigeria breaks up, the northern people are going to be well covered contrary to the arguments of some. First of all, most of the northern states are Muslim states. The Islamic countries of the world will gladly take them into their embrace. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, will gladly pour money into the region. Incidentally, most of the northern neighboring countries are Islamic too. Countries like Niger, Chad, on top of them are countries like Tunisia, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, that will automatically extend the presence of Islamic Africa down to the territory of Nigeria. It would be total dominance. They would push the whole Christian Nigeria down towards the Atlantic Ocean including the Igbo nation. That scenario is not a good one by any means, especially for the Christians in Nigeria.
So what happens to the Yorubas? The Yorubas are one of the most widespread ethnic groups in the world, surely in black Africa. If Nigeria should break up, the Yorubas also have people to embrace them. They will be readily embraced by countries like Dahomey, the present Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. These are all countries where there is a significant presence of indigenous Yoruba people. The Yoruba people, no matter where they live see themselves as Yorubas still, speak the language and come back home to pay homage to their Yoruba roots in Ile-Ife.
Apart from the countries in Africa where there is a significant presence of Yorubas as indigenous citizens, the Yoruba nation is also well represented in the western hemisphere. Yorubas constitute a good number of citizens in such countries as Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America. In these countries, the Yorubas living there are not the recently migrated Yoruba diaspora, these are people who have been there for centuries, yet not losing touch with their Yoruba heritage. They would be willing to spread their arms to get back into a united family with their fellow Yoruba people.
What then would happen to the Igbo people? The Igbos would indeed be the ultimate losers and this is not sentiment at all. First of all, If Niger Delta South-South states don’t go with Biafra, the Igbo nation will be landlocked. Which means they will have no access to the sea, neither will they have direct access to the outside world by road. The nation will be forced to again rely on Nigeria to gain access to the sea, because it is only Nigeria and Cameroon that will border the Igbo land.
We know the attitude of countries in Africa to the Igbo people. To say the least, it is very hostile. Even now when they are in Nigeria, Africans often say, “you Nigerians are a trouble to us especially you yellow Nigerians” referring to the Igbo people. In countries such as Ivory coast, Gabon, South Africa, Central African Republic, Zambia, etc. It is a common saying by people there that “we used to know black Nigerians and live in peace with them until the yellow Nigerians began to show up for business.” What I am saying is that the Igbo nation will not find it as easy with Cameroon as it is with Nigeria. They will still need to come back to Nigeria to gain access to water and to the rest of Africa by road.
As you can see, these nations also have their grudges against the Igbo people. It is not just the Fulani or the Hausas that have grudges against the Igbo people as they have been accused. I know my Igbo friends say it is because of jealousy. Well, if you say the rest of Nigerians are jealous of Igbos that is understandable, but how can the whole world be jealous of the Igbos? Let’s face it, the Igbos also have their own issues that they have to deal with. As much as the wonderful qualities of the Igbo people have been praised by me above, the Igbo people must also face the fact that they need to address the issues of values in their people just like all Nigerians have to do.
Recently, the Nigerian government was involved in a diplomatic dispute with one of the countries of Southeast Asia, where an official said the Igbos are the “biggest curse of Africa.” When queried about his statement, the officer involved said he had evidence for what he was saying. In defiance, he uploaded a video onto YouTube where he repeated the same statement showing a number of Igbo people to back up his claim that 99% of all drug pushers they caught from Nigeria are of Igbo descent. The video is still there now for anyone to see.
I am sure my Igbo brothers and sisters remember that at their first attempt to declare independence from Nigeria, they never really had any major world power supporting them. They had sympathy from a few countries, but all European countries were mainly against the idea. America stood on the side of Nigeria and so did Britain. Though France was sending some humanitarian help, yet they never officially stood with Biafra. Even Russia took sides with Nigeria. What I’m trying to say ladies and gentlemen is that, I am afraid that the Biafran agitators could drive the Igbo nation into total isolation, as well as into political and economic oblivion.
Why Igbo elite must not keep quiet
I had waited for a considerable amount of time before I decided to write this article, only because I was waiting to see what the response of the Igbo intellectuals and elites would be. It is my belief that silence is the worst reaction at a time when a nation is boiling in protest and demonstrations. Sometimes, it does not matter what your position is either for or against, but one thing is sure, you must let the world know it. That is the position of truth. Truth demands that we speak up our minds when the need calls for it. Apart from the factor of truth, love for one’s own people also demands for one’s voice to be heard. I personally think that the deafening silence of most Igbo elite does not help the matter. At a time like this it can only hurt the cause and the fate of the Igbo people.
“Do not fear your enemies. The worst they can do is kill you. Do not fear friends. At worst, they may betray you. Fear those who do not care; they neither kill nor betray, but betrayal and murder exist because of their silent consent.” – Bruno Jasienski
Why do I believe the silence of the Igbos could hurt the Igbo interest? My argument is simple. When the rest of the nation; the Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis, Tivs, Ijaws, Ibibios, Angas, Idomas, Igalas, Edos, Efiks, etc. are watching on TV all day long how tens of thousands of Igbo people are demonstrating, calling for a break away from their country, what do you think their feelings should be?
We all know how some of these demonstrators call Nigeria names, especially the radio Biafra broadcastings. What do you think should be the feelings of those who still refer to themselves as Nigerians? Don’t you think they could take the name calling personal?
This is the best time for the prominent Igbos to speak, especially those who still wish to stay with Nigeria. Even in the case of a Biafran secession, some of these Igbo elites would still probably stay back to live among the different Nigerian ethnic groups. If they do not speak out now, the people will definitely remember their silence which could provoke a series of reciprocal actions.
That is the best case scenario, it could be worse really. It suffices that the prominent Igbos speak now while the protests are going on otherwise the natural reaction from other Nigerians could be “if you don’t want us, if we are as bad as the Biafra radio is saying, why are you here among us, what are you doing here? If your people don’t want us we too don’t want you.”
Even this is not the worst case scenario, God forbid some zealous pro United Nigerians could actually begin a pogrom. That is the kind of thing we saw in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Congo DRC, South Africa, etc. Remember, we are all people. There is a limit to how long people can hold their feelings. Don’t you think other Nigerians are hearing the voices of resentment, rejection and name calling coming from the Biafran camp? That could lead to a response, as Sir Isaac Newton said, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction.
All of this could be neutralized though, through the actions of sober minded Igbo people who are a lot in this country. If at this time such people begin to balance things up by telling other Nigerians that the voices of hate don’t speak for them, it will make other people know there are Igbo people out there who don’t have any antagonistic feelings towards them. More so, if these Igbo intellectuals go a step further by letting other Nigerians know that this does not have anything to do with them, this could also help mellow the sentiments.
The reason I am writing all this friends, is that I don’t want a repeat of the massacre we have already witnessed in this country. All hands must be on deck. Everybody must play a role to help Nigeria avoid the kind of outbreak of ethnic clashes that happened especially in the northern part of Nigeria. I feel one of the major keys to this is for as many Igbo people as possible, particularly those who are living among other Nigerian ethnic groups to begin to speak out now about their stance. I have a feeling that one day this posture will become a refuge for the Igbo people.
So in concluding this article I would like to appeal to my fellow countrymen, the Biafrans and all the agitators, please for the sake of your people and for the sake of all of us, let us come together in unity and build a more prosperous Nigeria. I am aware that my people group as well have individuals who claim exactly the same thing as the Igbos claim. They claim to be marginalized like the Igbos claim; they claim that the Yorubas will be better off without Nigeria. We will always find this kind of people in every people group. As a matter of fact some of my people believe that it is the northerners who are responsible for all the troubles of Nigeria. I think it is not fair.
Most of you who have been to the Northern part of Nigeria will agree with me that the Hausa and Fulani people are suffering as much as all other people groups in Nigeria. The ordinary Fulani or Hausa person is experiencing the same deprivation and loss that we have all experienced during all these years of independence. In fact, a visit to the north will prove to you that there might be more people suffering up there than there are in the east or west. As the case is today in Nigeria, possibly only the people of the Niger Delta have the most potent argument, to agitate for a better standard of living. This is because we are all feeding off their land both east and west. Despite all their pain and suffering, they have been magnanimous enough to allow all Nigerians to benefit from their natural resources. Now that the era of oil is coming to an end in the Nigerian economy, it would be unfair to begin to separate from those same people who have provided for us all these years. Justice demands that when the oil era passes in the South-South, the wealth of mineral resources, raw materials and solid minerals from other parts of the nation, be channeled to support and provide for this region that has been our bread basket for so long.
This is the way I see the evolution of the Nigerian nation economically. It is part of our wealth. When a region of the country supports the whole country or other regions, thanks to their wealth, the next region supplies their services to the benefit of other regions in the areas where they are stronger. This is part of the beauty of diversity. Recently, God seems to be teaching us this lesson all over again, when the new minister of state for petroleum declared that Nigeria is about to hit a gold mine with oil reserves in the topmost part of our nation – in the region of Lake Chad. The irony is clear, when the oil seems to be running dry in the south, God lets us discover another oil source in the north, so it benefits all Nigerians. Now the north will have the privilege to supply for the rest of Nigeria just as the south has done for so long.
A time might come when similar discoveries of other wealth sources will be in the east or the west. The wisdom in this is that no region or people group should be greedy. We should rather manage ourselves and resources better so that all of Nigeria will gain and become more prosperous.
I therefore pray that this, my long treatise, goes a long way to open the eyes of my compatriots, especially those of the Biafran nation. I am writing this with all love, compassion and understanding in my heart. I have tried my best to purge my heart, feelings and sentiments from all sorts of prejudice and bias. I hope I managed to express this, if not I wish to tender my apologies to all offended. It is not so intended. My heart goes out to all the suffering peoples of Nigeria.
For the sake of our country I have decided to pack my bags from Europe where I have lived for the last 30 years of my life and move back to Nigeria, to join the efforts of my people to create a better future and destiny for all peoples of Nigeria. It is my plan to do something for every state. I wish to establish something concrete and tangible that will improve the lives of Nigerians all over the nation. I am not talking about church or religious outreaches. My primary concern right now is to bring improvement to the living standard and well-being of Nigerians.
I pray and hope to come back to Nigeria with a large group of Europeans for whom I have lived and served for the last 30 years, so that they too might help contribute and uplift the suffering of my people. The Igbo people and the Biafrans occupy a special place in my plans and aspirations for a better Nigeria. Please, my Biafran brethren, don’t deprive me of this honor. Allow me to come and serve you in the name of Christ.
I know some of you would say you can still come and serve us when we are gone, but as I have said above, such struggles always end up in protracted wars and conflicts. There will be no opportunity to do any good without a peaceful environment. I therefore pray that Nigeria and Biafra will never have to go through another war again. We, the elite of this country, must try our best to avoid this at all costs.
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