Nigeria is ours to build or mar. It requires more than we are individually putting on the table to create the atmosphere needed to make the greatness that Nigeria is yearning for to happen and the earlier we get down to the real business of putting Nigeria on the path of healing and regrowth, the better and safer for all us. This is saying we should do anything within our individual powers to stop the thin thread holding up together from snapping.

There is no gainsaying that the North is passing through a very difficult time, and it has been somehow reduced to some sort of garbage bin where every trash is dumped and life moves on without anyone noticing, either from within or without. One could easily and provably say that the biggest crime in Nigeria today is being a Northerner. Today, from Muhammadu Buhari, the Northerner elected president with a landslide and whose popularity also unprecedentedly sent a ruling party packing (from top to bottom), down to the poor Northern citizens struggling to survive, whether at home in the North or elsewhere, no Northerner is saved the seemingly coordinated, very divisive and totally unnecessary onslaught against the North by the South. This trend must stop now!

That the North is taking physical and verbal insults stoically and with dignified silence doesn’t mean the North is either incapable of defending itself or is lacking in expertise in how the play the game the way it’s being presently played. The silence of the North which, by the way, is no longer golden, is to sustain the corporate integrity of Nigeria by enhancing and encouraging mutual respect and civilised political responses that may speedily develop Nigeria into the giant envisaged by our forefathers — a dream captured adequately in our Constitution and made manifestly clear by their sacrifices to the Nigerian project, for which some of them gruesomely paid the supreme price.

Simple adherence to the thoughts and beliefs of our leaders past, as encoded in our Constitution, could have resolved most of the real (even the imaginary) contentious issues on which basis the North is being physically and verbally assaulted by mostly misguided youths in the South, who are operating with the tacit approval of their elders, who, in turn, seem to be misreading the dignified and matured silence of the North as a sign of fear and weakness.

But nobody should ignore the fact that respect is reciprocal, that building a country is a joint-business anywhere in the world and Nigeria will not be the first exception. Great countries didn’t just spring from the belly of the earth. They were built with the brains and muscles of the youths and the wisdom of the elderly when pumped positively into the system with a sincerity of purpose. It’s then easy to understand that, pumped into system negatively with insincere purpose, the results are predictable on the scale of negativity. The predictability of our negative choices is to guide us safely away from these options, no matter the cost.

The truth is that we may be diverse and belong to different nationalities, regions and religions but we should understand that we share an identical genetic make-up, which undoubtedly makes all of us susceptible to identical human tendencies and certainly open to the manipulation of the bad ones among us. In simple language, no region holds the patent for violence, rudeness and incivility. As humans, we are all structured to be violent and inconsiderate at will, yet what matters is our ability to make our choices by forecasting and weighing the end results for proper assessment of the potential benefits and or lack of it.

Notwithstanding, we should agree that no matter the dignity in the silence of northern leaders, it can hold only for a limit and its only reasonable to assume the limits of both the silence and patience of the North are now stretched to the fullest possible limit, especially given self-preservation as the first rule of human survival and the consistent degradation of Northerners into some sort of endangered specie in Nigeria. It will take only a little more for the system to snap and, if anything, we should all be worried about the foreseeable consequences that could spell doom, not only for Nigeria but Africa as a continent. This, more than where the presidency goes or to whom, is what should be giving us sleeplessness. We first must have a country before we decide where or to whom the presidency goes.

This is a wakeup call to the leaders of all regions to review their options. The idea of people in the south attacking northern dwellers in their midst to exploit their rights as citizens should be discouraged by the government no matter whose toes must be stepped on. It’s easily provable that only a few renegades in the South are orchestrating the ongoing mayhem to resolve political deficiencies and frustrations. Or does it make sense that the South, particular the Ndi’Igbo enclave, will be toying with the idea of setting Nigeria on fire with invesments worth trillions of dollars scattered across every square inch of Nigeria? Only a pauper without a shop will toy with the idea of setting a market on fire.

Unless this rule is not applicable to Nigeria, we must agree that the people attempting to set Nigeria on fire by pitching one region against the other are doing it for a fee and are sponsored by a few crisis-entrepreneurs who could pay or blackmail the remaining majority into conspiratorial silence. It will add up if we look at the illogicality and unreasonableness of Nnamdi Kanu usurping the powers and voices of the entire Ndi’Igbo!

The hows and whys a post independence person like Kanu achieved the leadership of an otherwise meticulous community with unmatched respect for leadership at all levels and in all situations is better left to the imagination. The truth, however, is that the Ndi’Igbo, up to the point they conceded power to Kanu, have one of the finest methods of leadership selections. Perhaps, no ethnicity in Nigeria could be said to put more emphasis on age, character and wisdom in its leadership selection process than the Ndi’Igbo. Surely, students of Chinua Achebe from all corners of Nigeria will attest to this by reviewing his epic novel, Things Fall Apart — incidentally an excellent lesson in how not to allow good things fall apart, a lesson that today’s leaders of the Ndi’Igbo ignored and which its newer leaders like Kanu might not have grasped, if he read the book at all.

The story isn’t any better in the South-West. Sunday Igboho is to the Yoruba what Nnamdi Kanu is to Ndi’Igbo — a violent tool of political negotiation. Perhaps, for every Northerner lost to the negative influence of Kanu, another was lost to the equally negative influence of Igboho and to the eerie silence (in some cases, even support) of notable Yoruba leaders. It’s too coincidental for Governor Akeredolu to give an unconstitutional seven days notice to the Northern Fulani to vacate Ondo State only for Sunday Igboho to unleash mayhem on the Fulani and their cattle, while razing down anything that may indicate they ever dwelled in the region.

Despite his apparent deficiencies, Sunday Igboho is the the Akoni Oodua of Yoruba Land, earned supposedly for fighting for the right of the Yorubas. And if Igboho is not enough a deliberate creation to subdue the North by violence and blackmail, the equally illogical elevation of another character, Ganiu Adams, the erstwhile OPC warlord, to the noble and prestigious position of “Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba Land” will certainly be putting the missing pieces in the puzzle. Nigerians cannot forget how Ganiu Adams unleashed a frenzy that costed northerners in the South-West heavily, while the “Oonis” and “Obas” and indeed, nearly all political leaders and leaders of thoughts watched in conspiratorial silence. Like Igboho, Adams was not rebuked much less, held accountable to the lives he killed or the investments of his victims that were lost forever.

Interestingly, rather than leaders of the South-West to condemn the atrocities of these two fellows and other hooligans with lesser visibility and submit them to the judicial processes, they are subscribed to as Nigerians; in a subscription indicated by their allegiance to the Nigerian constitution, they (South-West leaders) affirm the methods adopted by Adams and Igboho. This is easily provable, given the determination of leaders of the region to build and arm “Amotekun”, the contentious security outfit that could be anything other than what it’s being described as.

Is the North not enlightened enough to decode these negative signals? Certainly no! The North is just civilised to keep to the terms of and conditions of the Nigerian project for as long as the region’s signature remains on the birth certificate of Nigeria.

This is a wakeup call to all of us. Respect is reciprocal. That the North could keep its emotions and sentiments within the acceptable level expected of a volatile country like Nigeria, such tolerance should not be confused with foolishness or weakness. That the North is always looking the other way when President Buhari is being insulted with a frightening consistency from his days as a presidential candidate to now that he is serving his second and final term for no reason other than his ethnic, regional and religious background, doesn’t mean the North is not versed in the art of insulting its critics too. The North is only more circumspect and fully subscribed to the concept of civility and fairness as a tool for building a good country, and nobody should take that for granted.

Nigeria is ours to build or mar. It requires more than we are individually putting on the table to create the atmosphere needed to make the greatness that Nigeria is yearning for to happen and the earlier we get down to the real business of putting Nigeria on the path of healing and regrowth, the better and safer for all us. This is saying we should do anything within our individual powers to stop the thin thread holding up together from snapping.

Ahmed Babba Kaita is a senator from Katsina State.

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