Column Opinion

Nigeria Is Divisible, It Is Also Negotiable

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

Chicken cannot at this late date bemoan its lack of teeth, and when it sees the snuff seller, it enfolds its wings. (Everything at its proper time and when one sees potential danger approaching, one should take precautions).

Do you know about the Amistad revolt? If no, let me tell you a little about it…

In January 1839, 53 African natives were kidnapped from eastern Africa and sold into the Spanish slave trade. They were then placed aboard a Spanish slave ship bound for Havana, Cuba.

Once in Havana, the Africans were classified as native Cuban slaves and purchased at auction by two Spaniards, Don Jose Ruiz and Don Pedro Montez. The two planned to move the slaves to another part of Cuba. The slaves were shackled and loaded aboard the cargo schooler Amistad (Spanish for “friendship”) for the brief coastal voyage.

However, three days into the journey, a 25-year-old slave named Sengbe Pieh (or “Cinque” to his Spanish captors) broke out of his shackles and released the other Africans. The slaves then revolted, killing most of the crew of the Amistad, including her cook and captain. The Africans then forced Montez and Ruiz to return the ship to Africa.

During the day, the ship sailed due east, using the sun to navigate. However, at night Montez and Ruiz would change course, attempting to return to Cuba. The zig-zag journey continued for 63 days.

The ship finally grounded near Montauk Point, Long Island, in New York State. The United States federal government seized the ship and its African occupants — who under U.S. law were “property” and therefore cargo of the ship. On August 29, 1839, the Amistad was towed into New London, Connecticut.

The government charged the slaves with piracy and murder, and classified them as salvage property. The 53 Africans were sent to prison, pending hearing of their case before the U.S. Circuit Court in Hartford, Connecticut.

The stage was set for an important, controversial, and highly politicized case. Local abolitionist groups rallied around the Africans’ cause, organizing a legal defense, hiring a translator for the Africans, and providing material support. Meanwhile, the Spanish government pressured the U.S. President, Martin Van Buren, to return the slaves to Spain without trial.

While reflecting on the Amistad story, there is mystic blowing through Nigeria’s air, and we know why, we know the many problems, and we know them well, but we refuse to address them, addressing subsidies, the ghost ships and vessels that bring Bills of Lading that are paid to persons that we know. We know that this is the nation of oil theft, this is the country where the labour union is not paying the minimum wage and yet protests against the government that in turn is underpaying a labor force that is doing nothing.

A nation that does not have a functional emergency number although information booklets list 199 as the ER number. We have no standard emergency response time? In most US cities it is 3 minutes. We have the Police, Fire Service, and NEMA as very scary examples of what emergency services should be.

Staying briefly on this, it is a shame that we have no National Fire Safety Code, which would strengthen the enforcement capacity of the Fire Services. People build, people fly, construct and do anything they so desire without taking into cognizance fire service approvals, indeed there is a lot to talk about in ‘repairing’ this nation

Do you remember that story of how our palm trees were taken to some country out there and these days I hear that the high and mighty get their palm wine imported from that country, is it new or news that we export what we do not produce and import what we produce, from oil products, tomatoes to cocoa.

We are a religious country that has her muslim and christian citizens battling each other on topics such as hijab, who governs them and still are addicted to high doses of corruption.

While I am averse to the term restructuring, I am an advocate of the need to negotiate the nation, so whether the term is restructuring, devolution of power, sovereign conference, constitutional  review, the fact is Nigeria is going through mystical times and if we listen carefully we will hear, we cannot be blind to it, more power to the states, a return to parliamentary or regional system, something has to be done, we cannot be proverbially be mortal, when we are old we reduce our age, and when we are young we want to be old, because as it is, if we don’t collective hear the wind it will blow us, and we will not have a Biafra, Odua or Arewa.

Nigerians are hurting, Nigerians are not happy, the marriage or union is not working, there is need for a Counsellor, while the union has produced kids, and has a family that has been knitted together, the modus operandi for the familia needs to be negotiated. So for example, sharia started in Zamfara yet political sharia has not translated into education for the state, political leadership has been largely domiciled in the ‘larger’ north so also has poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, out of school children found home in the same geography.

In what Professor Mercy Anagbogu of the Department of Guidance and Counseling, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, Nigeria, captured in the metaphor of zero empowerment, I rephrase that the Nigerian is in “a black box”, a state of mental, psychological tabula-rasa and moral, religious, educational economic degeneration and alienation. The historical phenomenon of “black box”, state of doldrums and darkness is haunting and hunting us in this regime and dispensation. The Nigerian at zero empowerment has no place in the political, economic and educational calculation and space in Nigeria, we are all marginalised by an elite class and incapable of seeking redress.

This scenario has brought a kind of flux where nothing holds and somewhat a state of nature where wickedness, jealousies, confusion, disrespect and loss of all that our Nigerianness stands for whether Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa is evident. The consequences or indicative factors again are negative disposition, yahoo-yahoo, kidnapping, banditry, robbery, cultism, ritual money making, individualism and lack of corporate business, which are not conducive to the corporate, cultural and political existence of any nation.

Unfortunately, the inability of our leaders to confront and address the historical, existential, cultural, educational, political, economic and security challenges is why all the hue and cry. The Yorubas say abiyamọ kì í rìn kó ṣánwọ́ ahá, meaning that a nursing mother does not venture away from home without a cup. We in these climes, are leaving home even without the baby, and have no intention of carrying a cup

There’s a natural mystic

Blowing through the air

If you listen carefully now you will hear

This could be the first trumpet

Might as well be the last

Many more will have to suffer

Many more will have to die

Don’t ask me why

Things are not the way they used to be

I won’t tell no lie

One and all got to face reality now

Though I try to find the answer

To all the questions they ask

Though I know it’s impossible

To go living through the past

Don’t tell no lie

There’s a natural mystic

Blowing through the air

Can’t keep them down

If you listen carefully now you will hear

Such a natural mystic

Blowing through the air

Such a natural mystic, blowing through the air

There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air

Such a natural mystic, blowing through the air

Humming to these lines of Bob Marley’s natural mystic, one wonders if the chains of Amistad couldn’t hold back the slaves back then, nothing will hold back the secessionists, ethnic warlords and regional agitators, would it take an eternity to break Nigeria if we refuse to talk, is Nigeria truly indivisible, and non-negotiable—Only time will tell.

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