The recent peace conference organized by the Presidency, which brought strange bedfellows together, from the cut throats of the Yoruba terrorist organization, the OPC, to such eminent personalities as our ex-Heads of State underscored the deep cancer of parochialism the has eaten deep into Nigeria’s body politik.
The years of military rule, but especially from the moment of an almost religious commitment to the implementation of the destructive policies o the IMF and the World Bank, with Babangida’s SAP in 1986, the Nigerian state gradually became alienated from the masses of the Nigerian people.
The biting economic conditions were matched by the emergence of elite articulation of emotional appeals to primordial sentiments, as opposed to any rigorous scientific analysis of the phenomena of social existence, in respect of the contest for advantagous access to the recesses of state power. It became the order of the day to demonise people from an entire region of the country as being responsible for the problems people in other regions of the country faced.
A situation thus emerged where the uniform sufferings of the Nigerian people, cutting across regions or religion, were not used to mobilize a nation-wide constituency of struggle against the military and the neo-colonial ruling class, but were manipulated to further entrench suspicion and inter-group hatred. The collapse of the communist countries after 1991 saw erstwhile leftist intellectuals now retreating into an ethnic laarger to perpetrate chauvinism, with a fury and vengeance that Nigeria had not known before.
Yet a cursory look at the past of Nigeria, especially in those halcyon days of the anti-colonial struggle, have left examples of united action by the Nigerian people to build pan Nigerian platforms of understanding that should continue to inspire those who are dedicated to a better Nigeria.
It is amazing to have to recollect now that Malam Sa’adu Zungur left Bauchi to become the general secretary of the NCNC in Lagos; while in fact the first mayor of Enugu was not an Ibo man, . but a certain Umaru Altine. Similarly several Ibo people have won elections in Kano, even in the context of a colonial Nigeria.
The parochialism that has taken root in Nigeria today reflects the desperate economic conditions, the failure of the political engineering process and the inability of the elite to assume a historical mantle of building a patriotic ethos that would unite the Nigerian people around common projects of national development.
The Nigerian elite that manipulates the primordial differences amongst the people, sees the state as a ‘milch cow’ to fester their own nests. In its bandit propensity, this elite has pushed Nigeria towards the abyss and we are literally confronted with a Hobbesian state of nature, where life has become brutish, nasty and short.
One of the advantages that democracy holds, is that we have the opportunity to begin to forge new alliances, especially of the people at the grassroots-such as the trade union movement has shown, to re-unite the Nigerian people around commonly felt problems of underdevelopment, an uncaring ruling class and against exploitation and poverty. It is a platform like this that can halt the hurtling towards the abyss which the parochialism of the elite is threatening to pull Nigeria towards. The people must act against the creeping parochialism now.