Of Lions, Weaker Animals, Redlines and Unity

Dear Mr Muhammadu Buhari ,

You cannot “decree” unity anymore than you can effect a pregnancy by fiat. Unity is an outcome of equity, justice and an all-embracing vision. But you can ;

1: Do justice.

2: Practice equity.

3: Promote a compelling inclusive vision. And then unity will happen of its own accord. The people will unite.

All these sermons about unity and unity by “executive order” are so futile and unnecessary and we have been hearing same tired lyrics for a long time.

The federal civil war slogan was “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” Soyinka said, “To keep Nigeria one, justice must be done”.

Nigeria’s problem isn’t disunity. It is rampant lack of fairness, injustice and inequity which breed polarizing pathologies and embolden demagogues. E.g. Nnamdi Kanu, Yerima Shettima , Ango Abdullahi and co .

Nigeria like any other diverse society has its issues of managing heterogeneity and pluralism; prejudice, chauvinism and bigotry. This isn’t strange at all in a society like ours .

Most Nigerians get along and aren’t viscerally antagonistic of people of other ethnicities and faiths. We’re mixing, mingling intermarrying etc. But we have built a system that makes identity the key of access to public goods, social and economic opportunities and to advancement in public life. However cosmopolitan and open-minded one may be, we are compelled to wear garments of tribe and faith in order to progress in the public sector.

If you make indigeneship, the basis of accessing opportunity, you will whip up anti-settler sentiment. You will normalize chauvinism and bigotry. If you make ethnic, linguistic and religious identity the keys of success, then those factors will dominate public imagination and destroy cohesion.

Let me not lie to you Mr Buhari , our system doesn’t just emphasize differences. It weaponizes them. At any time, your ethnicity, creed or language is a weapon or a weakness. A nation gets the sort of politics it rewards. Negative identity politics is ascendant here because it is rewarded and incentivized.

The system has degraded social cohesion so much that instead of compatriots, we see each other as competitors for the national cake. The Nigerian system doesn’t even let you be Nigerian much less human. It insists on the primacy of blood and soil/geography and genetics as destiny. The political economy disunites people by design only for its custodians to keep singing about “unity” as though the people are irrational.

The people are largely responding to cues, incentives and lessons learned through socialization especially regarding how to access public goods. In our streets, markets, slums, suburbs, GRAs and private sector offices etc, people are mingling,cohabiting,dating,con

spiring, cooperating etc ,but the terms of politics and public life by elite consensus especially access to opportunity are designed to polarize;to segregate and separate us.

A useless elite whose misrule has deepened inequality and division, continues to polarize us further to secure access to the “national cake”. The more poverty deepens, the more fanatical and fundamentalist people become about the subnational identities they believe will help them.

Our pathologically divisive elites are some of the biggest purveyors and enablers of hate speech, hate crimes and strife because they profit e.g. Nasir El-Rufai . So every two-bit demagogue knows that to build a constituency, you use divisive rhetoric, emphasize differences, be boldly chauvinistic!

Irony is that if we had hate speech laws in place, some of today’s power-mongers now bleating about hate speech would never have won office.

It is easy to rail against Nnamdi Kanu and his ilk. Their charlatanry is obvious. They can be dealt with but there will always be more like them. Or you think that he’s just one man ? There are more like him scattered all over the place . More dangerous are the agents of strife who have control of official instruments and whose unjust conduct and abuse of power polarize us daily.

So enough of the prattle about unity.

Do justice.

Practice fairness and equity.

Reward merit.

Deliver governance and unity will result effortlessly.

Offer a vision of a just,humane and inclusive society IN PRACTICE.

Nigerians want to be led. But we need visionary policy and inspirational politics!!!!

There are 2 models of unity. The lion can lie down with the lamb. Or the Lion can consume the lamb. Elites prefer and practice the latter model. You cannot sustain a unity of the prey for the sake of the predators’ appetites. That’s what we have now. A just order would defang the lion. You should try and watch Nat Geo Wild sometimes .

So let’s have a just order where majorities and minorities, people of various faiths and ethnicities can truly dwell together in peace. It’s doable Mr Muhammadu Buhari !

Thank you and welcome back !

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