There is an Idoma adage that what an elder sees while sitting, an infant cannot see even from the top of an iroko. another follow up adage of Idoma nation translates that a palm wine tapper does not divulge all he saw while atop the palm tree.
It was in May 1966 that Aguiyi Ironsi broke the camel’s back. in the words of Lt Col. Katsina Hasan(the then military Governor of Northern region), broke the egg. he enacted the famous decree no 34 of 1966 under which Nigeria seized to be a federal republic.he suspended all the tribal, ethnic and regional associations consequent upon the decree and perfected an immediate scheme to reshuffle the military and transfer senior officers outside their state of origin.
This act was rebuffed and strongly opposed. Northerners feared dormination by the South. Infact, the Northern Emirs through the Northern military Governor( Lt col. Hasan) wrote a letter of protestation of the decree to the supreme commander(Aguiyi Ironsi). the country was plunged into endless protests and the stage was as a result of the decree quickly set for a rematch(counter coup).
The implications of the decree was that Nigeria would no longer exist as a federal state with component units. It was to exist as a national state with group of provinces for administrative expediency. Igbos will no longer see themselves as belonging to a particular part of the country, Northerners and Westerners were also to see themselves as Nigerians other than the usual ethnic proclivity and regional bigotry that engulfed our nation. Allegience to the Nigerian state was to be undivided. a pure patriotic action.
in my opinion, a doctrine of necessity placatory in nature and patriotic in whole owing to the tensed situatuation in nigeria then, brewed by ethnic and tribal consciousness, embellished in nepotism, favouritism and religious bigotry.
The politics of ethnicity that our nation was engulfed in during the pre-independence days and the first republic was nothing to write about. Political parties were region based, our political players failed to assimilate the nationalistic concept of Nigerianism. They were clannish.
Nobody was talking about the general good of Nigerians and Nigeria, nobody was talking about her development and survival. Everybody came up with templates on how his or her region would gain this or that. the politicking was to say the less, bitter. It was so bad that those periods were marred by tribal and ethnically induced violents.
the incursion of the military into our political space abandoning their primary roles of security and defence of Nigeria’s territorial integrity became innevitable. Regional associations were rampant, each trying hard to inculcate the spirit of ethnicism and rouse regional, tribal and religious consciousness amongst their comrades.
Nigerians were viewed through tribal and regional lenses. there was no room for any nationalistic identities. The federal system in practice was not helping matters, it was further exercerbating the spirit of regional allegience in furtherance of ethnic and religious bigotry.
Regional allegience was stronger than the allegience to the Nigerian state. The walls of national unity was left to crumble at the behest of the regionally induced diversity in unity. Aguiyi Ironsi saw what was happening. he saw a prosperous black nation which was at the brink of collapse, which ethinic insecurity and regional fear of dormination was leading to its waterloo He saw a naturally endowed country craving for attention from her citizens who abandoned her in a quest to satisfy insatiable ethnic libido He saw that the centre was no longer holding water as even the army incharge of her security has been drown into the ethnic abracadabra.
He feared that Nigeria was not yet matured for a federal system. he wanted a unitary system where the spirit of nationhood would first be inculcated in Nigerians. The banning of all the ethnic and tribal associations is a pointer to the fact that Aguiyi Ironsi was determined to stamp out ethnicism and replace same with a Nigerianism spirit.
He wanted to build a country, nurture a nation and not tribes and regions. He needed a country where all the citizens belong to a region(Nigeria). Where there would be no need to crave regional concerns seperate from that of Nigeria as a whole. Today,
Nigeria is collapsing. the “forced” marriage of 1914 seems to be heading to a divorce. Nigerians are once again clannish and tribalistic. meritocracy is constantly been buried at the alter of ethnicism, favouritism and nepotism.
every region is conscious of their regional identity, they are only interested in issues of regional benefits. The country is shaken to its roots. crises upon crises, our motherland is doomed. it is been forced to abaltross. Nigeria is like the biblical Isaac, led to be sacrificed for regional and tribal gains.
Major General Aguiyi is a detribalized hero. An elder who saw our today from yesteryears. we could have allowed him to nurture us, we could hav accepted the unitary system even for the sole purpose of transformation to inculcate nationalistic Nigerianism spirit in us.
Political Editor,StateReporters. Political Analyst,Public Affairs commentator and a Civil Right Activist Email via Sylvanus@statereporters.com