Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.W.B Yeats, Second Coming 1920
This stanza from W.B Yeats’s 1920 poem The Second Coming begs wholesome questions. From the coronavirus pandemic wrecking unrest and deaths across the world to various political, economic, and social crises in various parts of the world. But then, when I turn my head back to see what my home is, as a sojourner in a foreign land, I see a hopeless state and a center that cannot hold. With Nnamdi Kanu’s extradition to Nigeria and court trials and Sunday Igboho’s detention in Benin Republic, we might want to ask if truly the center is holding in Nigeria. Moreover, their arrest and detention are not far from their agitation for Biafra and Yoruba nations. Coupled with these is the agitation for restructuring in Nigeria. All these bring us to the question, “Can there truly be unity in diversity?”
Nigeria is (or should be) one of the most prosperous countries in Africa and a nation blessed in diversity. Nigeria has over 500 languages and 250 ethnic nationalities. This shows how complex Nigeria is and why morphing it up into an entity called, “Nigeria” as defined by the British colonizers could be disruptive to the diversity of the country. Thus, with all that has happened and is happening, Nigeria is not just a nation but a country with groups of nations.
The British colonizers created a Nigeria of two regions: north and south. A southern region where the south-west, south-east, and south-south (or mid-west) are morphed into a group. A northern region where north-east, north-west, and north-central (middle-belt) are morphed as another group. To them, they created a Nigeria that appealed (and still appeals) to their interests by aligning that we have just three ethnic groups: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. Have you ever been told by an Akwa-Ibom or Edo friend that they are not Igbo? Or have you ever wondered why Kwara and Kogi states have Yorubas amidst their tribes than the other north-central states? Have you been told by anyone from these two regions that they are not Hausas? Do we want to talk about Niger state as well? Should I also talk about my experience with Kebbi, Benue, Plateau, and Kaduna NYSC colleagues in 2015/2016 who were quick to snap back at me when I call them Hausas? Should I mention that there are multiple ethnicities in Borno state who do not identify and do not want to be called Hausa or Fulani? These rhetorical questions signal untold groanings which I am unable to answer. And I guess, I am as startled as you are.
In my opinion, achieving unity in diversity in a country like Nigeria might be impossible. In the words of Obafemi Awolowo, “You CAN UNITE BUT CAN NEVER SUCCEED IN UNIFYING PEOPLE WHOM LANGUAGE HAS SET DISTINCTLY APART FROM ONE ANOTHER” (p.54). Hence, advocating unity in an ethnic and linguistic diverse Nigeria without the proper identification, acknowledgment, and representation of other constituents of part of Nigeria would always bring or cause chaos. As such, all that is happening and would happen might not only be agitation for a Biafra nation, Yoruba nation but agitations for a Niger-Delta nation, a Middle-Belt nation, or multiple other nations where the “almighty Arewa nation” splits apart.
And if things fall apart, would the center ever hold?
Sources and more reading for you:
Obafemi Awolowo. (1966). Thoughts on Nigerian Consitution. Oxford University Press.
Credits for the Image on Design
Nairaland and Geocurrents