Nigeria needs to have an honest conversation with itself; and most specifically Nigeria’s elite – especially those to be in power for the next eight to sixteen years – as well as those who occupy a place in the council of state – need to have an honest conversation with themselves about how tenable the geographic contraption remains. We also have to take cognisance of history – there is much water under the bridge – one touchpoint, the identity of Lagos is a case in point; in truth, there is not one part of Nigeria that is not emotionally and psychologically attached to a particular ethnic group – but there are three or more places that are also distinctly federal as a result of history: Lagos Island, Lokoja, and Abuja – they are in effect, federal capital territories. They all have an ethnic base and are within a wider ethnically defined zonal region; while there are numerically smaller ethnicities in each zone, there is a fairly robust cultural imperium in each zone as well; now, ethnic homogeneity is not a guarantee of stability – one need only look at Somalia to know that; but it can be a start. It should be relatively easy to sustain the federal identity of these cities, whilst respecting the indigeneity of the zones or ethno-geographic regions – especially in relation to land ownership; there is no getting around the fact that apart from a particular group of highly, intermarried and enmeshed elites, Nigerians do not trust each other on an ethnic basis – nor will they under circumstances that seek to enforce trust rather than engender it through legal and social protections; this is not irrational, simply human behaviour that needs to be factored into creating a more stable entity; Every single Nigerian knows what part of the country and ethnicity they have an allegiance to – whether through their mother or father, and if they don’t know, they are very quickly disabused of that ignorance; there are of course people of mixed ethnicities ,and in keeping with more democratic times, it should be logical for people to affiliate with a region once they reach an age of legal maturity, perhaps with a few instances in which change is permitted to deal with demographic changes, such as marriage and childbirth.
Beyond that, it should not be so difficult to resolve to renegotiate the state; in a newly negotiated state, northern industry would need access to the sea – and south-western and south-eastern industries would need access to the bargaining power of the north’s population; all regions would like to continue benefiting from oil – even though the larger share of the natural, separate from the industrial, claim belongs to the Niger delta; it is an inconvenient truth – but a truth nonetheless, and one that once admitted would allow other regions to focus on their actual strengths in agriculture, services, and creative economy, and tourism; better still, would be if the Niger delta was moved away from oil as the basis of its industry too. Obasanjo, with all due respect to all his achievements, is wrong – you should need a passport to enter each geographic zone except the federal capital territories; the Switzerland solution is the best approximation of a Nigeria that can be socially functional enough to play its rightful role on the world stage; and in truth, those of us born in the shadow of independence, need, if we are in a position to do so, to resolve this issue of Nigeria’s dysfunction for the generations to come, so that their conversations can be much more about the movement of the stock markets of Lagos, and elsewhere rather than whether a particular livestock herder is a threat or not. The one Nigeria ideology has outlived its usefulness, but the federation has not; it is up to all those in power to decide whether they want to leave Switzerland or Yugoslavia as a legacy for their future generations – aside from that the ethnic squabbling is becoming as boring as watching two bald ‘humans fight over a comb – except in Nigeria’s case, they have hair, they are young and they have guns.