Analysis · Nigeria · Opinion

The price of prejudice

Written by Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa

My last week’s article in this column titled “North’s readiness for a division” has elicited many interesting comments and equally provoked many emotional reactions some of which even accused me of treason against the North, collecting “brown envelops” or simply being “among those sponsored columnists” as someone put it.

Needless to say, the issue at stake is much more important than responding to such unfounded allegations, because after all it is not worth it in the first place. Incidentally, when I argued in that article that, North is presently not ready to go on its own, I made sure that I emphasized on the phrase “notwithstanding its potentials” either expressly or impliedly whereby necessary. Nevertheless, many commentators concluded that I was simply denying the North’s potentials to survive if Nigeria disintegrates.

Nevertheless, I insist that, no matter how huge North’s potentials are, it can’t immediately fill up the sudden gigantic economic vacuum, which will be inevitably created in the region once the country disintegrates prematurely. This is because potentials need investment, work and time to transform into real resources.

For instance, the much-talked about agricultural potentials in the region need huge infrastructural facilities to transform the sector from largely subsistence farming by peasant farmers into mechanized farming, which is not necessarily dictated by rainy season, and  produces agricultural produce of industrial scale to export it to international markets.

Likewise, the oil said to be available in some parts of the region also needs gigantic exploration and exploitation infrastructures including the provision of pipeline to connect with Atlantic Ocean coastal areas in order to export and market it in global markets.

Such massive investments are necessary on all other potentials said to be available in the region. And it is obvious that, to provide all these, you need billions of dollars, which are simply not available. After all, a Hausa proverb says “saida ruwan ciki ake jan na rijiya” which literally means, you can’t fetch water from the well when you are too thirsty to work.

As a matter of fact, in the event of Nigeria’s premature disintegration, I wonder where the resources necessary for the maintenance of the existing decrepit infrastructures (e.g. power generation/transmission plants) will be immediately secured to avoid its total breakdown.

One can imagine the scenario in a typical northern Nigerian state when Nigeria abruptly ceases to exist. I am sure, provided he is able to free himself from the clutches of emotion and prejudice, he will definitely picture circumstances where security personnel e.g. police, SSS, military and other federal government employees in different economic, financial and academic sectors abandon their posts and duties, for they will certainly never work for free.

Furthermore, even if the state government has some reserve to pay one or two months’ salaries of its workers, it is obvious that it will soon run out of cash hence fail to meet its obligations towards its workers, let alone implement any projects on the ground.

This picture will look even gloomier if imagined against the background of the current security crises ravaging the country and the region in particular. Incidentally, this is not a pessimistic view neither is it my wish of course. Instead it is a realistic view dictated by the current socio-political and economic dynamics. After all, gone are the days when people would take things for granted, leave it to chance or just count on luck to get it right.

Therefore, it is unfortunately ironic that, when Nigerian thieving elites disregard their regional and ethno- religious differences while conniving to loot the country, the majority of Nigerians who actually suffer the consequences, still allow the same prejudices to influence them when approaching issues of common interests e.g. leadership incompetence, corruption or social crises.

This is largely because many presumably educated analysts have unfortunately abused their God-given talents and descended too low by addressing issues of strategic importance based on prejudice.

One can easily tell the ethno-religious identity of a particular analyst from his implied but easily discernible defence or justification of a particular public figure involved in a corruption scandal, simply because he happens to share the same ethno-religious background with him.

On the other hand, if the analyst happens to come from a “rival” ethno-religious background, he makes sure that he does not miss a chance to (at least impliedly) attack the entire ethno-religious group of the public official in question, since the crime was committed by their fellow tribesman.

This is unfortunately the reality, and whoever dares to sound objective risks being branded a traitor of a sort or ethno-religious bigot by his fellow tribesmen and others respectively.

Consequently, the pattern of average Nigerians’ reactions to issues reflects that unfortunate trend, because instead of focusing on issues most of them are carried away by prejudice. This explains how many of them take advantage of the anonymity provided by the Internet to unleash and exchange unprintable insults and abuses against one another’s tribe, religion and region.

It is not uncommon to see many comments on a particular article for instance but only a few of such comments actually address the points raised in the article. As a matter of fact, a mere title of an article is unfortunately considered enough to make comments on the purported opinions of the writer, without actually going through it.

Interestingly enough, notwithstanding the complexity of Nigeria’s predicaments, this particular seemingly insignificant but increasingly growing trend, represents the most difficult ring to unravel in finding a sustainable solution to the country’s crises. This is because it has created a situation whereby a whole population coexisting together, share little or no any common strategic goal to achieve, thereby frustrating any effort to mobilize the necessary popular commitment to effect the desired change in the land.

For instance, irrespective of the unquestionable credibility of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), I did not attach any importance to his recent warning of revolution in Nigeria, because I am sure that, revolution is not likely to occur in Nigeria in the foreseeable future despite the fact that the socio-economic condition is actually ripe for it. This is because, some critical preconditions are lacking e.g. popular consensus on the objectives of the revolution, common ideological base and mutual trust amongst potential comrades.

The average Nigerians, who are expected to carry out the revolution, seem to share nothing in common except perhaps poverty, which of course does not differentiate between an Ijaw fisherman in the creeks and a Hausa peasant farmer in the core north.

Moreover, today in Nigeria there is no single public figure charismatic enough to mobilize an extensive fellowship that cuts across all ethno-religious boundaries, organize and mobilize them to conduct revolution in the country.

Worse still is the fact that, when the masses get too exhausted to endure anymore, and in the absence of such necessary organization, they may spontaneously revolt in an unorganized way ushering in complete chaos in the land, God forbid.

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