Between Gedion Okar And Arewa Youths

By Lasisi Olagunju,

Nigeria is a test-tube family created by the British. Sometimes test-tube babies live; sometimes they don’t. Like all extra-natural creations, Nigeria presents genetic disorders, unusual conditions that confound even the genius of its creators. That the country emerged from a forced conception was made clear at the very beginning by those who did the artificial insemination. A poet would deepen his thought by equating artificial conception with forced, girded marriage. That is what I am doing here. Nigeria is both an artificial being as well as a forced marriage. Sir Lewis Harcourt, British Secretary of State for the Colonies (1910-1915) just before the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigerian Protectorates in 1914, said that Nigeria is a foreign induced marriage having the north as the husband. His words: “We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the treasury. The promising and well-conducted youth is now on allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a Southern lady of means. I have issued the special licence and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant.”

Lugard did the ceremony and the “well behaved” north has since then been brooking no challenge to its leadership of the Nigerian home. The tell-tales are everywhere down south. But, has the union been fruitful as prayed by Sir Harcourt? With very heavy heart,  I say, yes! You can then judge what kind of fruits has come forth of the tree. Have the couple been constant? What does constancy mean? If it means conjugal bliss then that prayer would appear to have entered God’s voicemail. It has not been answered. The union is an abusive marriage. Husband battering, wife battering have been the lot of the partners. As one wound heals, a fresh one is inflicted. We have seen series of attempts at separation and, even, divorce. There was the 1966/67 pogrom and the Araba; there was the Biafra secession and the civil war. There was also the Major Gideon Orkar putsch of 1990 which excised some far northern states from Nigeria. The latest divorce acts were the shut-down of the entire South East on May 30, 2017 and the more audacious response from the north which ordered Igbos out of the region. In a divorce (in Africa) the husband may get the wife out of the home or the woman packs out. In an abusive marriage sustained by taboos of divorce, anything can happen: misery, suffering and even violent death of both or either of the partners.

Between May 30, 2017 and last week, the northern husband and the eastern wife were in their usual fighting elements. Extreme conducts are ingrained in the veins of these two. They enjoy dominating others and detest being dominated. It is a queer union of husband and wife enjoying it only when each of them is at the top. In a relationship as theirs, tension and tears must be constant bed mates. On May 30, some young men in Igbo land, like Col. B. S. Dimka, imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew on the entire land and everybody, including their elders, obeyed. Nigeria is a zoo, they whined. They wanted their long dead beautiful Biafra. Like Ola Rotimi’s “Husband,” the north went mad at the audacity of the eastern arrogance. When a woman makes it a habit to scare her husband with regular threats of divorce,  the capable husband should respond by assisting her to pack out.  The north did just that, brazenly ordering Igbos out of Arewaland. Using their own youths as the counterforce to the indulgent Igbo youths, the north said it was tired of sleeping with Igbos — male, female, young and old. They are noisy, irritating. They should pack and go back to their fathers’ homes within three months. That response sounded very familiar. Deja vu is forever in the texture of Nigeria’s political history. Pack-and-go is a cyclone faithfully keeping its tryst with the nation. On April 22, 1990, a Major Gideon Orkar from the middle belt ( north’s Gate House) announced a southern coup with “a temporary decision to excise Sokoto, Borno, Katsina, Kano and Bauchi states from the Federal Republic of Nigeria” in the interest of the “overall progress of the Nigerian state.”

Orkar added that “by the same token, all citizens of the five states already mentioned are temporarily suspended from all public and private offices in the Middle Belt and the southern parts of this country” until certain conditions were met. He also ordered them “to move back to their various states within one week” from that day. “They will,” he added, however, “be allowed to return and join the Federal Republic of Nigeria when the stipulated conditions are met. In the same vein, all citizens of the Middle Belt and the south are required to come back to their various states pending when the far north met the conditions that would ensure a united Nigeria. A word is enough for the wise.” It was a very audacious action. It was a defining, trying moment for Nigeria. The pronouncement was generally hailed in the south. It was received with shock up north. But because it would have been unnatural to order the landlord out of a house he claims to be his, that move was swiftly crushed. And for that action, Orkar and some of his friends were tied to the stake and shot on 27 July, 1990. But times have changed. Roles are changing too. Same offence, different treatments. Now, it is the north ordering the South East out of a part of Nigeria. Fate is a bed of ironies.  The firebrand who are sacking some people from the north are boys from those very states excised by the 1990 coupists. But unlike Gideon Orkar, these rebels won’t be so cheaply arrested. They are not Boys Quarters or Gate House dwellers like Orkar. They represent the landlords and would not suffer any pain for ejecting lousy, troublesome tenants. The Nigeria police issued a statement. It would “monitor” and “warn” the youths not to carry out the eviction order. Did you read the statement? It even recognized the groups by name. The Force called on “Arewa Citizens Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Students Forum and Northern Emancipation Network on the Igbo Persistence for Secession, to desist forthwith from the ultimatum and any further act that can precipitate tension and cause breach of the peace anywhere in the Country.” It added that it was “closely monitoring the activities of these groups and will apply full weight of the law on any violator of the law or anyone who attempts to molest, mistreat, cause panic and fear in the mind of any other Nigerian anywhere in the Country.” Tough talk.

But has talking tough ever solved any problem in a troubled marriage? Whoever wants to mend Nigeria should visit any customary or sharia court where divorce suits are heard. You will see how helpless a court could be when both husband and wife claim rights, throw dirt and trade insults: She is troublesome; promiscuous, no man can satisfy her. He is a bully, a shameless adulterer. You can’t help that marriage. The union is doomed. You cannot force the impotent to have an erection. Nigeria as a being is an invalid. As a marriage, it is progressively moving from failing to failed. Marriages that endure are those with mutually trusting and respecting partners. A partnership of an emperor and a cowering slave is a contraption doomed to pack up. The way to save Nigeria is to go back to the agreed terms of its beginning. The founding fathers did not agree to have a country of masters and slaves or of landlords and tenants. It was agreed to be a country of equals. That was why at independence, “in brotherhood we stand” was a golden line in our anthem.

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