The National Conference is turning out, as usual, to be a theatre of the absurd, with the thespians being the overused, same old players noisily grandstanding and beating their ethnic and religious empty barrels over mere trifles. There was this picture on the front page of Vanguard on Wednesday, March 27, 2014, in which one elderly man of nearly 80 years old was spoiling for a physical combat with an unseen opponent, while an equally elderly female delegate representing the market women, Madam Felicia Sani, was restraining him. I wondered: if the fisticuff was allowed to proceed who could that pugnacious Baba possibly beat up? If he lands a blow his hand will surely break!
That was a comic relief. But by no means a laughing matterwas a statement made by one of the most prestigious traditional rulers in the country, Alhaji Barkindo Mustapha, the Lamido of Adamawa. Did I hear you say: â€Lamido, again!â€? Yesterday, it was about an aspiring royal Lamido from Kano. And nowâ€¦?
Irked by voluble exchanges over the percentage of votes that would decide matters, a visibly infuriated Lamido stood up and issued a warning that set the conference on fire, literally. â€œJingoism is not the monopoly of anyone,â€ he declared. â€œWe are here to make Nigeria workâ€¦ My kingdom extends into part of Cameroon. In fact, there is a state there known as Adamawa. If anything happens here, I will go there and I will easily assimilate.â€
This is a loaded statement. It is outbursts like these that go into the heart of what Nigeria means to us as individuals from our respective corners of Nigeria. The emir allowed his anger to get the better of him, which was why two delegates (both of them of the same Fulani ethnic stock as the emir) Alhaji Muhammadu Gambo Jimeta, a former Inspector General of Police and Malam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, my friend and next-door neighbour here on the pages of Vanguard on Thursdays, went to save the emir from himself. He could have simply said: â€œJingoism is not the monopoly of anyone. We are here to make Nigeria workâ€. But by going beyond the acceptable borders, he unwittingly engaged in a serious and dangerous act of jingoism of which he accused others.
But then, every word the Lamido uttered was true, especially the bit about his kingdom stretching into Cameroon. I reported stories of conflicts in the Mambilla Plateau in 1992 between the Fulani cattle owners and predominantly farmer indigenous ethnic minorities of the Gembu area. I was told that whenever the farmers could not withstand the raids from their obviously better armed and wealthier Fulani neighbours they ran across the border to Cameroon to take refuge until the invaders left, then they came back to their farms. The Janjaweed-like night time raids we are seeing on the Jos Plateau areas is not new, even though the level of wickedness has been considerably upped.
The Lamido is telling the rest of us that he has a choice between Nigeria and Cameroon. General Muhammadu Buhari once said: â€œThe present and future generations of Nigerians have no other country than Nigeria. We must stay here and salvage it togetherâ€. He made this statement when he assumed power in 1984 and hardship forced many Nigerians to migrate to foreign countries, which legendary actor, the late Enebeli Enebuwa, performed in a jingle entitled â€œAndrewâ€ on NTA in the mid-1980s.
Buhari comes from Daura, an emirate which equally stretches to Niger Republic. In 2007, during the presidential elections which I covered in Katsina, the home state of Buhari of the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, and Umaru Yarâ€™ Adua of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, I deliberately went to the border post (made up of two drums and a bamboo stick thrown across the narrow road) into Niger. The shabbily dressed Nigerien officials kept smiling sheepishly at me without even processing me as an alien going into their country. But still (at least to our hearing) Buhari said â€œweâ€ (including him) have no other country but Nigeria.
Perhaps, the difference between a Buhari and the Lamido is that while Buhariâ€™s side of Daura was part of Nigeria on the day the country was created in 1914, the Lamidoâ€™s Adamawa was part of the old Sardauna Province over which a plebiscite was held in 1962 along with Western Cameroon to decide which country they wanted to belong.
The people of the Province had initially wanted to go to Cameroon, but Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and a cousin of Yola royal establishment spoke some good Fulbe sense into their leaders and they changed their minds and decided to remain in Nigeria, virtually overnight. Former President Shehu Shagari used to have that conspiratorial edge with the late President of Cameroon, Alhaji Ahmadu Ahidjo in Fulbe over the Bakassi Peninsula, which was used by the Nigerian ruling establishment to prevent Biafra from achieving their independence.
The Lamido is only reminding those of us whose homelands are locked into the belly of Nigeria that those of them with international spillovers have an option if efforts to â€œmake Nigeria workâ€ fail.
I will like to point out a few realities to the Lamido and those who believe because their language is spoken across our international borders they will have another home-sweet-home in our neighbouring countries if Nigeria experiences a messy disintegration. It is all a delusion. If the Lamido becomes a Nigerian refugee in Cameroon he will find out how different the life of a refugee can be â€“ even among his kinsmen in foreign countries. If the people of Adamawa flood into Cameroon because of conflict in Nigeria, they will no longer be welcome. They will be victimised because their coming will bring hardship to the already impoverished locals. Nigeria gives great prestige to the stool of the Lamido, which will be severed if Nigeria is no more.
And who says people like us, the landlocked Igbos and other groups in Nigeria, have no other place if Nigeria disintegrates? If there is no Nigeria there surely will be a Biafra! If there is no Nigeria for the Yoruba there might well be an Oduduwa Republic. Yorubas wonâ€™t need to migrate to Benin Republic or join their kith and kin in Brazil.
They wonâ€™t even be welcome there because there is little Yoruba left in the slaves that were taken to Brazil 400 years ago! The affinity is no longer there. And the Yoruba speaking people in Benin who may not be more than a couple of million people will not look forward to receiving about 30 million Nigerian Yoruba refugees from a war-stricken Nigeria.
Let us stop the foolishness and pay quality attention to efforts to make Nigeria work. And nobody is going anywhere. Since Biafra was stopped by the rest of Nigeria and her international allies, Nigeria became an indivisible and indissoluble nation. Anyone that attempts secession will be crushed. If anyone is desirous of joining their kith and kin across the border they are is free to do so. But they will not be allowed to take an inch of the Nigerian soil with him.
We are all here together, and thatâ€™s flat!