Ethnic Census and the Lagoon
By Omoh Giwa
My Fellow Southern Nigerians,
I have with bridled restraint avoided conversations and arguments on the elections and its resulting controversies. I have refused to air my thoughts not because I do not have the words but two waterfalls cannot hear each other. For me, it is more than choosing one ethnicity over the other though there is no love lost between my paternal ancestry and me, I cannot choose one tribe over the other, for we are brothers.
I watched with alarming alacrity our resolve to attack, disparage and villainize each other, separated by our religious and ethnic sentiments. I am scared (I’ve been studying conflicts in Africa since 2015) that this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The good book in Matthew 12:25 says, ‘… a house divided against itself shall not stand’ like the English comprehension passage that taught us ‘united we stand; divided we fall’ yet we have failed to heed the warnings or maybe it is the demarcation that is unclear.
I remember reading pre-elections in 2022, Hausas complaining of the oppression and dominance from the minority Fulani and like most readers, I laughed it off too. I, however, read up on ethnicities in Nigeria and realised the North comprises more than the Hausa and Fulani groups, however, these groups were silent during the elections. Unlike we southerners, they did not allow their political difference cause chaos and hysteria. They played us as usual and worked towards their common goal. Even terror groups like Boko Haram and Fulani Bandits suspended all operations. We heard nothing from Benue and Southern Kaduna as though every warring group declared a vacation and time of rest for their personnel. The South was a different field entirely. I understand that the East is mired with attacks from Unknown (Sometimes Known) gunmen but why did we let terror flow down to the West especially Lagos?
The threats to foreigners especially the Igbos in Lagos was repeated just as an Oba once promised to drive them into the Lagoon (I hope this threat does not include Delta and Edo since to our host we are all Igbos) and destroy their businesses two election cycles ago. We saw the commissioner for Parks [and Thugs] threaten to maim and kill any Igbo that voted against his benefactor and there are recorded incidents of attacks.
I have not withdrawn from my shell to remind you of your hatred for your brother but I think this animosity and distrust is blinding you from the actual ‘kokoro’ in your vegetable and I do not think the South-easterner is that enemy. Irrespective of whatever reasons or excuses you have to support this hatred for each other, it is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Have you not heard our people say that when two brothers fight, a stranger reaps the harvest? So why are you not asking who wins when Igbos and Yorubas go on this violent-dance every electoral cycle? Why does the third man not join in the free-for-all battle? Why does he stand aside while you battle it out with words and actions? Please do not put words (I am not confident to say aloud) in my mouth; I am not calling anyone the enemy/stranger, I merely ask that you think of the real victor in this fight. I wonder why ethnicity becomes the fulcrum during elections yet we all bear the cost of bad governance. The Igbo is not the enemy as they are as oppressed as you are. Do you not remember when you wined and dined with your Igbo neighbours? How we stood watch during Lockdown, shoulder to shoulder against marauders and thieving gangs? Do you not marry and befriend Igbo women and eat Ofe Nsala at Bukas or Isi Ewu at Bars?
Why does the third man insist that only an alliance with him will ensure victory? A strategy they have employed since 1953 till date. They ensure our representatives are subservient to them (Obasanjo and Jonathan pandered to the North until they were cast away) and I fear that Jagaban will follow in the same path (Is it not our people that tell us to look at where a person stood in their youth and we will deduce where he will sit in his old age?). Southern leaders in a bid to portray detribalised values (you and I know it is actually for re-election purposes) pander to the dictates of the North yet they are never encumbered by such values. Or is this Northerner not showing favouritism towards his Fulani brethren including the Nigeriens (I wonder what economic/political advantage Niger is to Nigeria that we are building a rail to connect us. Kano, Katsina and Sokoto have a higher GDP combined than the entire nation of Niger) but I digress.
Every election cycle, we hear and notice the irregularities in the North especially towards under-aged voting. Though we complain and rant on social media and TV, nothing is done to curb it (they are the true, irrefutable owners of Nigeria). Southern leaders desperate for a slice of the national cake; hungry for power and Northern acceptance will lie, roll over and play fetch. It is their colonial-given right to rule this nation and the question we should be asking is: are we ever going to share equally? However, we have burdened ourselves with mundanities such as: the Igbos should return to their homeland. Why are the Igbos overambitious? The Igbos are buying all the lands in Lagos (Makes me wonder who sold Alaba rago to the Hausas. Take a drive from Orile to Okokomaiko especially in front of LASU).
The nation is being prepped for a National Census (and inflated figures to support their dominance will be released) and the Minister of State for Budget and Planning has informed us that his ministry requires 869 billion naira to count approximately 216 million Nigerians (he even asked “well-meaning” Nigerians to donate) though his predecessor in 2015 said he needed only 283 billion (I will not even bother calculating inflation or is it padding?). INEC that used ordinary 355 billion naira to conduct the freest and fairest election ever in the history of Nigeria (I am merely quoting a [dis]Honourable Minister of NTA) does not have two heads o. So NIN/BVN cannot be used to do rough estimate? At least until we are no longer poor and destitute.
I wonder what will happen if we take a page from their playbook. They claim their herd of cattle is as important as their children then let us count our chickens and goats, cocoa, banana, palm and coconut trees from Badagry to Nsukka and Ogoja because they also make up our cosmology. Our landmass might be smaller compared to theirs but we are also capable of providing figures too. I suggest we allow those sunk in the Lagoon return to their ancestral homelands to be counted.
Yours in Enumeration,
Giwa, who might be presenting her pens and books for the census.
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