Opinion

Law Mefor: A Memo to the Indigenous People of Nigeria

By Law Mefor

Permit me to take the liberty of addressing you on a matter, which I consider quite crucial. I am of a well-considered view that the indigenous peoples of Nigeria are big and staunch enough to fix Nigeria for common good. Yet, you chose the questionable and inglorious path to getting your rights in the country. All that the indigenous peoples of Nigeria need to do is: come together and restructure the country to ensure equity, social justice, fairness and development for all, or simply keep quiet and remain the slaves you believe they are. How can you rightly say you are slaves in your own land?

The indigenous people of Nigeria are full of complaints and doing actually little to help their case. Every day, the depressive trending stories are about nepotism, land gabbing, aggression, incursion, Insurgency, terrorism, rape, cattle rustling, lopsidedness in the distribution of the dividends of democracy, both on infrastructure and human capital development, job offers, and political appointments.

Yet, South Nigeria is made up of 17 states and what is more, its ethnic groups, without exception, are all indigenous. Furthermore, the indigenous populations in the North are found in 17 out of its 19 states plus the FCT. For the avoidance doubt, the states in the North where indigenous ethnic groups exist are: Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Plateau, Nassarawa, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Niger as well as the FCT Abuja. What this means is that the indigenous peoples of Nigeria dominate at least 4 out of the 6 regions of Nigeria and can therefore achieve whatever change they desire through democratic means, without having to resort to insurgency or armed conflict.

Yet, we hear all the time: “The North has the number to do as they like…”, which is not factual if the indigenous populations were to work together for their common good but are they prepared to do so? Time shall tell. For there is no North and South as far as indigenous populations are concerned.

The indigenous peoples of Nigeria need to understand that the world is not a moral order. The world is configured and ordered as a master-servant system. What this means is that one is either a master of his/her own destiny or someone masters it for him or her. Slaves are those who are not free, who can’t be free or who fight for freedom. A perfect example of modern-day slaves are Southern Nigerians and their Middle Belt counterparts for not utilizing their numbers to bring about the change they seek.

I think it was Harriet Tubman who was credited to have said: I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. Yes, slaves may not know they are actually slaves. Slaves are often separated into house slaves and field slaves. House slaves, as Malcolm X chose to call them, enjoyed the crumbs from the slave masters’ table. Such slaves are disposed to allow themselves to be used to suppress and keep every other slave in bandage and perpetual slavery. But the irony of fate is that whether they are house slaves or field slaves, they are all slaves even though a section may be better treated!

A house slave was a slave who worked, and often lived, in the house of the slave-owner, performing domestic chores. House slaves had many duties such as cooking, cleaning, being used as sexual slaves, serving meals, and caring for children; while field slaves eked it out at the labour camps. The difference in their lives is so real that it can compare to the difference between heaven and hell.

The slave masters utilize divide and rule as a perfect tool to keep the house slave and the field slave divided and fighting. It is such a great and perfect illusion, which reminds one of the story of the axe and the tree. Just because the axe has a wooden handle, the tree thinks they are of the same stock until the axe comes down on it.

It is just like the indigenous Nigerians were used to stopping Biafra, a task they zealously and dutifully embraced. Unknowingly, they actually halted their own freedom and independence by stopping the first indigenous people’s independence, which would have birthed their own independence too or ensured their rights within an equitable sovereign, indivisible Nigeria.

Again, history and posterity beckon indigenous peoples of Nigeria. It is never too late to begin anew. 2023 offers yet another great opportunity. Wisdom demands that a people have to maneuver to survive. Indigenous Nigerians appear to be playing the Russia Roulette with their future by not uniting and exploiting the strengths get the best bargain out of Nigeria. Their present attitude contradicts the well-worn Doctrine of the Common Front, which requires two weak enemies to join forces against a more powerful common enemy and settle scores later. Like Emperor Nero who was said to be fiddling while Rome burns, their leaders remain as uninspiring and docile as ever.

Indigenous Nigerians have dissipated much energy fighting one another, rather than forge a synergy. They will win together or fail together. The choice is theirs and may posterity be kind to them.

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Dr. Law Mefor, is Director, Igbo Leadership Development Foundation and Senior Fellow, The Abuja (Social and Political) School. Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: [email protected]; follow me on tweeter:@LawMefor1.

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