The One Nigeria Question


I belonged to a WhatsApp group called “One Nigeria Or” whose membership cut across very important personalities – great minds and opinion molders – home and abroad from many ethnic groups in Nigeria. Funny as it sounds; the group name poses a very big puzzle at making a simple thing complex or a complex thing simple. Whichever way, this calls for sober reflection, and should provoke discussion as to what Nigeria is and what it should be.

All over the world, I have never seen or read about a country or nation that is more than one or two so one begins to wonder at what brought about the ‘One’ in Nigeria – “One Nigeria” – and till date, has not found a simple, right answer to justify the phrase except the conducts and policies that are purely divisive and promote marginalization and exclusion at all cost. “One Nigeria” may actually suggest the opposite as Nigerians seem to be more divided at heart than united as people with a common fate, sharing many things. There is a primitive wrangling for deception and a subtle war for supremacy. There are plans for subjugation built on a domination belief system. Nigerians see themselves more as competitors instead of co-citizens of a country.

“A country is a political state, nation, or controlled territory. It is often referred to as the land of an individual’s birth, residence or citizenship. A country may be an independent sovereign state or part of a larger state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, a physical territory with a government, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated people with distinct political characteristics. It is not inherently sovereign.” –

On the other hand, a nation is a stable community of humans formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. A nation is more overtly political than an ethnic group. It has been described as “a fully mobilized or institutionalized ethnic group” and a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory. A nation state is a state in which a great majority shares the same culture and is conscious of it. The nation state is an ideal in which cultural boundaries match.

From the above, using all the primary indicators, is Nigeria truly a country or a geographical expression of many nation states or a hybrid of the two? Who is a Nigerian? Are Nigerians really happy to be Nigerians? Does being a Nigerian or identified as a Nigerian confer certain advantages or attract curse and stigmatization? Do Nigerians altruistically believe in Nigeria?

“Nigerians or the Nigerian people are citizens of Nigeria or people with ancestry from Nigeria. Nigeria is composed of various ethnic groups and cultures and the term Nigerian refers to a citizenship-based civic nationality. Nigerians derive from over 250 ethnic groups and languages. Though there are multiple ethnic groups in Nigeria, economic factors result in significant mobility of Nigerians of multiple ethnic and religious backgrounds to reside in territories in Nigeria that are outside their ethnic or religious background, resulting in the mixing of the various ethnic and religious groups, especially in Nigeria’s cities. The English language is the lingua franca of Nigerians.”

In other words, Nigeria is not a nation, but a country consisting of multiple nations, ethnic groups, religions, and language families. Thus, there is an urgent need for unity in diversity, and to have and enjoy this, all hands must be on deck.

There are certain inalienable rights every citizen of a true country enjoys. Do such rights exist in Nigeria for every Nigerian? Do Nigerians, without let and hindrance, enjoy such rights? Most importantly, what is the value of an average Nigerian life, today? The answer to these questions would reveal much about Nigerians and probably explain the “One Nigeria” mantra.

What are the common things that join Nigerians together and unite the people? Are the things that unite us more than the ones that divide us or vice versa? Without bias, can we look at the fabrics of our togetherness and examine our weakest point which is invariably our strongest point? Do we have different laws for different people in Nigeria? If yes, why; and for what purpose?

A house divided against itself cannot stand. A system based on favouritism and nepotism against fair play and equity cannot prosper. People elect to be governed not choose to be ruled so no system of oppression and suppression can bring out the best in anyone especially the target. This calls for introspection, needing a critical mindset for absolute, bitter truth to be told and assessed on its value without fear or favour.

Without mincing words, there is every reason to believe that Nigerians are more divided than united, and the actions of the government especially the federal government support this. A situation where the government that is supposed to unite the people do things that divide the people and make some people feel neglected and not wanted is divisive and destructive. This must stop.

We cannot be going forward and be looking backward. Whatever the reason and regardless of the past, the Buhari led APC government has not been fair to every part of Nigeria and all Nigerians especially the Eastern part and the Igbo in particular. No government has marginalized and excluded Southeast and Ndigbo more than this government. Politically, economically, socially and otherwise, everything has been done to punish and emasculate these people – and it gets worse by the day! Why?

But can anyone, irrespective of ploy and stratagem, successfully lead or rule a disenchanted and angry people? Is it possible to walk upright by holding someone down? Can the unity of Nigeria be built on a very poor, faulty and fragmented foundation of “we against them”?

More than anything, Nigeria’s problem is a problem of leadership that feeds fat on the ignorance and hypocrisy of the people. It is more of an elitist problem of saying one thing and doing the opposite – and oftentimes, those not involved remain indifferent. Some people may even aid and abate evil as long as they are not at the receiving end.

It is high time we removed the ‘One’ in “One Nigeria” that is never one and exist purely as a country of many ethnic nationalities. This way, we can know, appreciate and harness our differences for better. With this, we can honestly talk more of the things that unite us and less of the ones that separate us. To do this, we must redefine our priority in times of liberty and trust.

Everyone comes for a purpose, and we have our strengths and weaknesses. We can work together as a team and maximize our unity in diversity. The truth is that every component part of Nigeria has values and capacity for corporate existence so with good collaboration and complementation built on fiscal federalism, we can do better and become great.

Nigeria has potential for greatness and we can become very great if only we can look inward and get our leadership priorities right. And we have great men and women that can redeem Nigeria within the shortest time. Let us search for these people, bring them out for the redemption work and nation building.

By Livy-Elcon Emereonye

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