Back to square one: Are we keeping Nigeria one?


Kevin from Liberia

by Adebola Rayo

Those calling for a break up ignore the fact that the ethnic lines as they affect personal lives are blurring…

At a period when the country is facing serious security challenges that have led some analysts to predict that Nigeria will break up, the actions of some state governments seem to suggest that they are not interested in the unity of the country. 

Yoruba and Hausa traders in the Onitsha Bridge Market, Anambra State have alleged that the state government is trying to forcibly eject them from the market, under the guise of carrying out a clean-up of the market. This is not the first time the traders are making such allegations; three years ago the situation was the same. At that time, soldiers sent to forcibly eject them killed some Hausa traders and the furore raised over that stalled the government’s plan.

 Unfortunately, the Anambra government is not the only state government that has been accused of trying to prevent non-indigenes from living or earning a living in the states they govern. It will be recalled that a few months ago, the Abia State government relieved non-indigene civil servants in the state of their jobs, claiming they were transferring them to their home states. 

A lot of the affected civil servants were devastated when it happened, lamenting that they had served the state diligently for decades and were being sent away against their wishes. When there was public outcry against the move, the government reabsorbed some of them, but not before justifying its decision with the claim that the Imo and Rivers states government have made similar moves that affected Abia citizens in the past. 

Without the unconstitutional actions being taken by these state governors, the situation is already grave. On Tuesday morning, 24 January, non-indigenes resident in Kano State began to leave the state en masse, because they believe that the security of their lives and property can no longer be guaranteed. One need not look far to know the reason for this fear; the constant bombings that were, until recently, mostly targeted at churches and non-indigenes resident in certain northern states left a lot of people dead and property destroyed. The belief by some, that the Boko Haram sect is fighting an ethnic and religious war also led to further unrest, with hoodlums in Benin, Edo State almost attacking northerners in the city as a reprisal attack during the fuel subsidy strike. 

Those calling for a break up ignore the fact that the ethnic lines as they affect personal lives are blurring, especially with inter-marriage and settlement. There are northerners who have lived all their lives in the south and southerners who have done same in the north; some of them know no other home. Along what lines do we then divide? Birth place, religion, or marriage? What happens to the people who have inter-married, or the Christian northerners and Muslim southerners? 

Perhaps there is a need for an amendment of certain laws to scrap the quota system and the other systems that continue to make the divide along ethnic lines more obvious. 

As citizens of one country, Nigerians should be free to live and work in any part of the country without fear of being attacked by other citizens, and definitely without fear of being discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity or religion by the government that is supposed to be the protector of their rights.

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