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Nigeria as it is today, is still an artificial creation. It has always been a figment of imagination. Our founding fathers never inculcated in us the ideals of the nation called Nigeria. Our allegiance was not to the nation but to our different nationalities that make up this country called Nigeria. Nigeria as a nation was secondary in our thoughts.
The constitution aided in making us pay more allegiance to the federating units than to the nation called Nigeria. The constitution created barriers against national patriotism through such creations as the federal character. Merit was thrown overboard. Since merit is no longer necessary to attain positions in the centre Nigerians no longer paid allegiance to the nation since the nation discriminates against them. The resultant effect is corruption, maladministration and underdevelopment. Nigerians no longer thought of what they can do for the nation but what they can get from the nation. No nation can develop in an environment where meritocracy has been thrown overboard. There will be no loyalty, commitment and service to such a nation. Those who are eminently qualified and the doors have been shut against them may turn out to hunt the nation in the form of various crimes – robbery, kidnapping, cultism and terrorism.
At the federal level, recruitment into the civil service and the security agencies are based on federal character. Promotions too are not based on merit nor on the years of service but on the detestable federal character.
The concept of state of origin has not helped issues. A child born in a particular state, grew up there, has never been to his roots outside the state of residence is made to claim the state of his roots and not the state he was born. Aside his parent, the child has no attachment to the state of his roots yet he is not wanted in the state of his birth. He imbibes new vocabulary of “indigene” and non “indigene” concept. He is not wanted in the state of his birth where his parent pay tax neither can he fully associate himself with the state of his parent. The child finds himself in a dilemma. Where does his allegiance lie? In the state of birth where he is a stranger or in the state of his roots which he barely knows?
In the United States, the child is taught right from infancy to be patriotic. He feels loved, protected and accepted by the state. He faces no discrimination as a result of the state he was born. He grows up to honour the flag and if possible sacrifice for the nation. This is possible because the nation has made him feel wanted. The reverse is the case here in Nigeria. If the leaders of tomorrow are discriminated against right from infancy, what then does the future hold for this country?
One would have thought that the last civil war would have been enough sacrifice for the nation to be more united but rather the nation is falling apart by the day. In a war that there was “no conqueror, no vanquished”, what we observe today is that the war is still going on in our minds. How can the wounds of the soul be healed when the flesh is still being assaulted on a daily basis? How can there be freedom to the soul when our lips are padlocked in the environment we live in?
Recently, the Abia State government dismissed thousands of workers who are in her service but come from the neighbouring state of Imo. Some of these dismissed workers are married to Abia men. Now where do they belong? Is it the state of their spouse or the state of their parents? In other climes, an individual becomes the citizen of a place if she is married to an indigene of that country. Not in Nigeria! The worst for these dismissed workers of Abia State, their years of service and sacrifice to Abia were not taken into consideration as no gratuity nor pension were paid the dismissed workers. How can a people who pass through this injustice be united and patriotic when the system itself is injustice personified?
In the eighties and nineties and even till now, Nigerians were employed on contract basis in some states in the north. They were never given permanent and pensionable employment. They never enjoyed the same benefits as indigenes of the said state. Even people who were born and bred in such states and whose parents were from other states passed through the same discriminatory process. There was no promotions neither was there other benefits for the “non indigene” workers. They were and are still slaves in their own country? How can this country demand allegiance from these discriminated citizens of this great nation?
Phillipinos and Ghanaians of questionable academic credentials were treated better than Nigerians in their own country. In order to beat this discrimination, some Nigerians decided to claim indigeneship in these states by forging documents that purports same.
Children born these states and whose parents are from different states were made to know from infancy that they do not belong. They were made to suffer the punishment for their sins for being born by parents who are non indigenes. They were made to pay school fees; there were no scholarships for them. They can gain normal employment as citizens of the state they were birth. If they desire to work at the federal level, they do so as indigenes of their parents’ states where another hurdle in the form of “federal character” awaits them. Politically, they can only be seen and not be involved. They cannot contest elections as the odds weigh heavily against them.
A nation where these are still practiced can never progress. Mediocrity reigns supreme. There is no healthy competition for citizens as some know that whether they are qualified or not, state of origin concept will open doors for them. Nigeria must move forward as a nation and not as segmented units that refuses to fuse into a whole or united single entity.
In the United States, a Hillary Clinton can contest election in New York, outside her state, and still win the election. It is normal. A Bush can leave the State of Florida to contest election in another state as governor and eye brows are never raised. Arnold, a German immigrant can contest election in California and it never raises any crises.
It was therefore gladdening to the heart when one read of the breath of fresh air blowing from Rivers State. Gov Rotimi Amaechi has abolished the concept of indigeneship in Rivers State. Citizens of other states resident in Rivers State will no longer be discriminated against. They are to enjoy the same benefits as those people from Rivers State. This is a right step in a right direction. If this is done across the length and breadth of this country, Nigeria in no distant time will become a united, prosperous country. Everything in our constitution and different states law books that inhibits unity should be expunged. Gov Rotimi Amaechi has started it. Let this seed sown by Gov Amaechi germinate and spread to other parts of the country. A man resident in a place for a period of five years should be able to contest election to the highest seat in that state. When other states emulate Gov Rotimi Amaechi example, Nigeria will be better for us all.
Written By Eddy Aghanenu
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