Gaddafi’s call for splitting of Nigeria

Casmir Igbokwe

Published in SUNDAY PUNCH, March 21, 2010

Last Thursday, a certain chief in Lagos called me. He was furious that the Senate President, David Mark, called Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, a mad man. He wanted Punch to run an opinion poll on what Gaddafi said and see if the majority of Nigerians would not side the Libyan gadfly.

Shortly after this conversation, I got text messages from some concerned Nigerians. One Smollett in Victoria Island, Lagos, wondered why some people were trying to rubbish Gaddafi; a man who, he said, had put plenty of food on the table of his subjects, and who had surmounted many economic sanctions by the international community.

To Mr. Wale Ogunkua, it is really pathetic and totally unacceptable for a top level political office holder of our country to call a country’s leader a madman. He said the view Gaddafi expressed was very popular among Nigerians. 

Last week, Gaddafi stirred up a hornet’s nest by suggesting the splitting of Nigeria into two countries – North for Muslims and South for Christians. According to him, splitting Nigeria will put an end to the bloodshed and burning of places of worship between Muslims and Christians. He reportedly drew an example with India and Pakistan which had serious religious crises until 1947 when Pakistan was excised from India. India is populated mainly by Hindus while Pakistan is largely a Muslim country.

To him, the problems in such places as Plateau State are religious in nature. They were also caused, he said, by the nature of the Nigerian federation, which had been imposed by the British despite people’s resistance to it.

This comment drew the ire of some Nigerian leaders. Mark described him as a madman who said the same thing about Switzerland, England and some other countries. As far as Mark was concerned, Gaddafi did not deserve the attention of the Senate.

The Arewa Consultative Forum spoke in the same vein. According to the organisation, which represents the interests of the North, Gaddafi knows nothing about Nigeria. It said though the Jos crises brought Nigeria a bad name, the situation was not beyond redemption.

In a further show of anger, the Federal Government recalled the country’s ambassador to Libya, Alhaji Isa Mohammed. A statement by the Foreign Affairs Ministry described Gaddafi’s utterances as irresponsible. His theatrics and grandstanding, the statement added, had become too numerous to recount. The House of Representatives even called for the severance of diplomatic ties between Nigeria and Libya.

These outbursts are understandable. Nigerians are a proud people. We say we are the giant of Africa; that out of every five Blackman in the world, one is a Nigerian. We take pride in reminding whoever cares to listen that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. We are the land of the Wole Soyinkas, the Chinua Achebes, and the Philip Emeagwalis. We like to boast that though we have had crises that seemed to threaten our existence, we remain one indivisible nation. As the slogan in the Second Republic goes, “One nation, one destiny!”

So, whenever any foreign leader tells us some home truths about ourselves, we tend to overreact. The other day, the American Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, made some negative remarks about our democracy. Some of us told her to mind her business. Some reports in the same US had predicted that Nigeria could disintegrate by 2015. We dismissed it with a wave of the hand. Even when the US categorised us as a terrorist nation on account of last year’s failed Christmas bomb attempt by a Nigerian on a US-bound plane, we shouted blue murder. Our Senate even asked America to rescind that decision or else…

True, Gaddafi may not have shown a deep understanding of the complexities of Nigeria. In the North, for instance, there are many Christians as there are many Muslims. If the country is divided on religious boundaries, where will the millions of northern Christians go? And where will the equal number of Muslims in the South go?

He may also have some sinister motives. Here is a man who had once called for a United States of Africa. If he truly wanted a united Africa, why is he now interested in Nigeria’s dismemberment? His past activities and utterances do not help matters. On a few occasions when the North African leader visited the country, his female security details had altercations with our security forces. The man is pompous, abrasive and controversial.

But while we condemn him for his presumed reckless comments on Nigeria, we need not throw the baby out with the bath water. We should discard our pride and emotions and draw some lessons from his remarks.

First, Gaddafi could not have made that comment if we had put our house in order. As has been observed by some readers of this column, Gaddafi utilised his country’s resources to better the lives of his people. Today, Nigerians flock to Libya in search of the proverbial greener pastures. Thousands of these fellow countrymen have been deported in recent times.

What have our own leaders done to better the lots of their people and stop unnecessary migration to foreign lands? We have an executive that is not executing anything. What has the Ministry of Works achieved with the billions of naira allocated to it every year? How many roads have been built and repaired? I understand that the Yar’Adua government has spent more money on power than the Obasanjo administration. How has that improved the power situation in the country?

The sorry state of our existence has encouraged the proliferation of ethnic militias. We have the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, Odua Peoples Congress, Ijaw National Congress, Arewa Consultative Assembly and so forth. Can we pretend that all is well when these groups exist to champion parochial interests? Can we pretend that all is well when thousands of innocent people have been dispatched to their graves on account of their religion or tribe? Can we pretend that all is well when the amount of arms and ammunition in circulation in Nigeria today are probably more than what we had during the civil war?

Nigerians need to sit down and talk. Many of us want a united Nigeria. But we need to discuss the basis and conditions for that coexistence. We need to discuss how to share the resources of this country without any group feeling cheated.

The foundation for conflict is laid when one group feels cheated and marginalised. Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito enjoyed inter-ethnic peace, security and relative prosperity. The astute and non-discriminatory policies of Tito made this possible. But when the man died in 1980, subsequent leaders toyed with balancing the ethnic diversities of the country. Today, Yugoslavia is a disintegrated country.

For Nigeria to move forward, we must have a strong and purposeful leadership that will galvanise our people. We need strong institutions, impartial judiciary, effective legislature that represents the interest of the people.

Above all, we must stop the culture of impunity and allow the rule of law to prevail. Whoever kills in the name of God must face the full wrath of the law. If we don’t face these realities, many more Gaddafis will continue to haunt us.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    jones Says:

    If you stupid Yoruba people agree to this rubbish, and you think life is hard now you haven’t seen hard yet, Igbo would wipe you off the face of earth they want Lagos so badly, Hausa is the one keeping the Igbo from wiping you out.

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