The renewed hostilities by militants in the Niger Delta and steps being taken by the Federal Government to resolve them have, once again, sparked off debates over the national question.
President Muhammadu Buhari responded to this threat by warning the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and other upstart militant groups currently blowing up our oil infrastructure and demanding self-determination that Nigeria’s continued existence as one country is not negotiable, and that to keep Nigeria one remains a task that must be done as decreed by General Yakubu Gowon during the Nigerian Civil War.
This national unity debate was given a new lease of life after our former colonial rulers, Great Britain, recently voted to exit from the European Union. Many interests, including some separatist groups in Nigeria, started demanding for a similar referendum to determine whether Nigerians wanted to remain together in one country.
We are of the view that until (and if) such a referendum takes place, the susbsisting consensus is that Nigeria remains one indivisible and indissoluble entity. This much is acknowledged in Chapter I Section 1(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). It is the operational consensus, and we stand by it.
We strongly believe that it is in the national and individual group interests of all Nigerians to commit all our efforts towards making Nigeria work for all Nigerians. A successful Nigerian enterprise will be a blessing to all Nigerians, Africans, the black race and mankind at large. Nigerians should not lose heart due to the ephemeral challenges we currently face economically and socio-politically. These are surmountable, and will be surmounted with our collective resolve and efforts.
However, we also believe that to create the Nigeria of our collective dreams, we must not rebuff any opportunity for dialogue or even negotiation whenever necessary. The truth is that Nigeria remains a mere geographical expression, much like it has always been from the days of our founding fathers. The great ethnic, religious, regional and sectional divides remain just are they were even before our independence and the civil war.
The only peaceful way of closing these gaps is through constant dialogue. It cannot be achieved or maintained through the force of arms. We cannot afford to re-enact the civil war just to remain one. We cannot afford “gunpoint” national unity.
Those who feel that the unity of the country can always be maintained by force should have a rethink. There should be a reorientation of attitudes by the hawks and extremists among us, both in the leadership and among activists.
We must live together as brothers and sisters and learn to iron out our differences through peaceful dialogue.
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