Nigeria is made up of about 170 million people, or better put, it is made up of 170 million angry and bitter people. For many the anger is about the economic doldrums Nigeria is and how we are underachieving; for many more, the anger is more a product of decades of oppression and the way Nigeria is structured against them.
The latter anger is much more palpable among the people from the South-East stemming from the events leading up to the Civil War and the war itself; the people of the Niger-Delta due to the manner successive governments have ignored them and not made any efforts to lift them from poverty despite the fact that crude oil that runs Nigeria comes from the region; and ethnic minorities and Christians in the North over a second-class status based on their faith and ethnicity.
I deliberately did not use the term ‘perceived’ to describe these grievances because for me, they are not a matter of debate. There is enough justification for these grievances and I think denying them will be an attempt to rewrite history.
These grievances have largely influenced the way the people from these regions look at national issues. An excellent case in point is the approaching elections – the people from these regions form the bulk of the support base of President Goodluck Jonathan who as far as they are concerned is being challenged by the party filled with their oppressors, Hausa/Fulani Muslims in cahoots with Yoruba people.
At the state levels too, there are a lot of angry people who have experienced similar situations on the basis of their ethnicity, religion or even what parts of the state they come from. It also has similar effect on elections and how issues are approached as at the federal level.
There is nothing wrong with this anger. In fact, it is good. After all, it is common knowledge that we are still suffering from the lopsided manner in which Nigeria was created, the effects of colonialist bias in dealing with the different regions and most of all, the failures of successive leadership in building a strong, cohesive nation out of the patchwork of faiths and ethnicities.
However, what is of concern is what people do with the anger. Far too often, this anger is channeled the wrong way. An excellent example is the militancy waged by the Niger-Delta militants, which despite rooted in genuine grievances, was not the best solution to solving the problem.
A usual way the anger of people who hold such grievances is the desire or hope to usurp their “oppressors” in the equation for power. I know this all too well as someone who is an ethnic and religious minority in my state – conversations with “my people” used to oscillate between resignation about our fate and fighting the oppression and being the new Lords of the Manor. However, the latter seems very much like something that is unlikely to happen.
As a matter of fact:
- If your response to feeling oppressed is to work to taking you and your people out of Nigeria, you are wasting your time. It is highly unlikely Nigeria will break up and this is not based on empty optimism.
- If your response is to intend to become the new oppressor, chances are you are wasting your time. This is because so long politics remains a game of numbers, you are at a disadvantage. Also, very likely, the other side is more versed in playing the game.
That said, I believe the only thing that will really solve the grievances of these Nigerians is in creating a society that is just, fair and is equitable. I also believe that the route to doing that is by changing the economic conditions that make the current inequitable society we live in sustainable1, 2. Yes, I know – I am yapping again about fiscal federalism but I can’t help it. For me, this is the best way to channel my anger.
Your route might not be the same with mine, but one thing is for sure – that anger needs to be challenged properly. It is destructive to think that for you to succeed, the other must fail. We can have a society where all benefit together.
So now, tell me, what are you doing with your anger?