I love this country with every fiber of my being.
For three generations before me my forefathers, including my great grandfather, my grandfather and my father, have made solid and notable contributions to the developmemt of this country in both the private and public sectors.
My great grandfather, Rev. Emmanuel Adebiyi Kayode, was an Anglican priest who was the first Nigerian to take Christianity to our hometown Ile-Ife and who built and pastored the first Anglican Church in that ancient town.
My grandfather, Chief Victor Adedapo Kayode, was the third Nigerian to be appointed to the Judiciary after a brilliant career as a criminal lawyer in the Lagos Colony as it then was.
My father, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode Q.C. SAN, CON also excelled as a lawyer, set up the first indegenous Nigerian law firm in Nigeria with Chief Rotimi Williams Q.C. SAN, CON and Chief Bode Thomas, succesfully moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in Parliament and went on to be a Minister and the Deputy Premier of the old Western region of Nigeria.
I have fought military rule, been involved in the struggle for democracy and participated heavily in partisan politics, political commentry and political discourse in our country for the last 26 years.
I have had the rare honor and distinct privilage of serving her at the highest level of governance first as a presidential spokesman and then as a Federal Minister in two separate Ministries as far back as 10 years ago.
I have suffered persecution, self-imposed exile, illegal and unlawful incarceration and the most vicious forms of insults and misrepresentation for Nigeria over the years and I have also invested my time, resources and energy heavily into the political terrain and development in our country.
Yet despite all these wonderful opportunities, the monuemental sacrifices that my forefathers and I have made and our love for and commitment to Nigeria it is time to ask some hard questions. Those questions are as follows.
Is Nigeria really one nation or is she many nations forced to remain within an artificial, unworkable and unsustainable entity?
Is our marriage and amalglamation borne out of consensus and a genuine desire to remain together or borne out of compulsion?
Is it right and proper that the southern part of the country which is the most accomodating and liberal, the most advanced and educated, the most productive and enterprising, the most blessed in terms of human and mineral resouces and the area that Lord Frederick Lugard, our nations creator, progenitor and founding father, aptly described as “the riich wife” in 1914 should continue to be dominated and controlled by the core northern part of the country which is blighted and plagued by war and conflict, religious and ethnic intolerance, jihadist terrorism, violent and murderous herdsmen and never-ending sectarian conflicts?
This is a core north which is totally dependent on our southern goodwill and resources for its very existence and continued survival and which the same Lord Lugard once described as “the poor husband”.
Was it fair of Lugard to marry the “rich wife” and the “poor husband” to one another in 1914 without first asking their consent and at least finding out whether they were in any way compatible?
Can a nation prosper when its people have two distinct and irreconcilable world views? Can it thrive when one group wishes to live and compete in the new, enlightened and modern world whilst the other wishes to go back to the dark ages?
It appears that more people are asking these questions today than ever before. Is it not time for us to answer them?
Must we wait for an ethnic or religious conflagration to occur or another civil war to take place before we accept the fact that there is something very wrong somewhere and that we may well be a nation of ethnic incompatibles?
Why is it a crime for anyone to take as much pride in their ethnic nationality and cultural heritage as they do in being Nigerian? Why is it wrong for anyone to say that ‘I am as proud of being an Igbo or a Yoruba or an Ijaw or a Fulani or any other ethnic nationality as I am of being a Nigerian?’
What is the essence, credibility, sustainability and legitimacy of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious plural super-state in which the various ethnic nationalities are expected to subsume their identities, de-emphasise their importance and sacrifice their noble bloodlines, their ancient history and their great heritage on the alter of a hybrid and artificial man-made entity called Nigeria?
Is it really wrong for any of the numerous ethnic nationalities that make up our country to ask for their freedom and demand to be allowed to develop separately and at their own pace where and when they feel as if they have been turned into slaves and second class citizens by others in Nigeria?
Is Nigeria a nation or is she a mere geographical expression? Is it true to say that there is as much of a difference between a Fulani and an Igbo as there is between a Turk and a German?
Is it true to say that the Middle Belt is a distinct and independent entity from the core north and that the people of that zone have every right to determine their own future rather than to continue to be tied down, viewed and treated as the mere appendages of a wider north?
Some of these fundamental questions were first raised by a man that was to later become the Leader of the Yoruba and the first Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo SAN, in 1947 in his book titled ‘Paths To Nigerian Freedom’ but sadly few listened at the time.
Consequently twenty years later Awolowo’s greatest fears and concerns were confirmed and our three year civil war in which over three million people perished, including women and children, took place.
It was the only war in world history in which the premeditated starvation of young children and babies, in what was essentially mass murder and genocide, was described as a “legitimate weapon of war” by those who perpetrated such horrendous crimes against humanity.
Since the end of the civil war neither Nigeria nor any of its ageing leaders, many of whom were military veterans and commanders of that civil war, has expressed any regrets, shown any remorse or brought anyone to justice for what was undoubtedly the greatest mass murder of infants and total and complete butchery of the innocents in African history.
Yet nothing seems to have changed except for the fact that the ethnic identity and religious persuasion of the victims has become far more varied and numerous.
In today’s Nigeria, unlike in 1966 and during the civil war, it is not just the proud Igbos and the stubborn Biafrans that are being slaughtered like flies on a regular basis but also the northern Christians, the Shiite Muslims, the good people of the Middle Belt and the Niger Delta and the ever-accomodating Yoruba.
Consequently the same questions are being asked today about the continued feasiblity of our national unity and cohesion but this time with far more urgency and anger and by far many more people than ever before.
Yet those that believe that they own Nigeria still refuse to listen and view those that ask such questions with suspicion, derision, contempt and even rage. They label them as being unpatriotic and ignorant and they threaten them and attempt to intimidate and bully them into silence simply because they do not share their views.
In Nigeria it is indeed a dangerous thing to be a freedom-yearning and independence-craving dissident or non-conformist and, like in the old Soviet Union before its eventual crumbling and break-up, you could end up paying for such views with your liberty or your life.
Yet one wonders how much longer this can go on before the oppressed and the voiceless get fed up with merely asking questions and instead choose to actually insist on their rights, take their destiny into their own hands, rise up to the occassion and fight for their liberty?
The quest for self-determination, freedom and liberation is a noble and legitimate cause which has never been successfully resisted or defeated anywhere in the history of the world.
Every well-educated and widely-read individual can attest to the veracity of that undeniable and incontrivertable fact.
The truth is that you cannot compel people to remain together in one nation by the force of arms forever.
It may work for some time but it cannot last in perpetuity because sooner or later the chickens will come home to roost.
The best you can do is to reach out to the disillusioned in love and give them a reason to want to stay. Yet few in our nation can appreciate the wisdom in adooting such a course or treading such a path. The only language that is clearly understood here is the logic and language of compulsion and force.
Consequently Nigeria is unravelling at the very seams and I can feel it. I can literally smell blood on the mountain and I perceive and sense the secret massing of the bloodthirsty demons of Magog, the god of war.
The quest for the division of our nation is stronger today than ever before and as each day passes it gets stronger and stronger. It is far more compelling and stronger today than it was before our civil war broke out in 1967 simply because far many more people are very angry and are utterly fed up with our forced union.
Millions from all over the country are quietly murmuring but soon that mumur will become a massive roar and an irresistable and irrepressable demand and tidal wave.
And when it gets to that point no matter how many people you lock up and kill it will not stop and neither will they be intimidated, silenced or deterred.
In fact the more people you murder, subject to bloody pogroms, persecute, marginalise, jail and destroy, all in the name of keeping Nigeria one, the louder, the greater and the more deafening the roar, the demand and the struggle will get.
And that point God alone will be able to hold Nigeria together and He will only do so if it is His perfect will.
May God grant us the wisdom, prescence of mind and courage not to dismiss these vital and fundamental questions with the usual arrogance and contempt but rather to do some real soull-searching, indulge in a little introspection and humbly answer them as best as we can.
Chief Awolowo raised them almost 70 years ago. The fact of the matter is that the answers are long overdue.