When I read some of the comments to local articles on Nigeria, Boko Haram and religion what strikes me is the depth of bitterness that a lot of people from the south feel towards the north. Lets forget for a minute what the politicians are saying, politicians are politicians because they’ve learnt to speak out of both sides of their mouths at once and be politically correct. Meanwhile most of the responses to those bitter comments are down right dismissive, disrespectful, as hostile and antagonistic and provocatively insulting.
Dare I say it? It sounds like the language commonly used between the formerly oppressed and the former oppressor. What does it say about our history or as some would insist to point out the perception of it? And what does that portend for our nation?
I know when Jonathan was elected a lot of people voted for him simply because they felt that an Ijaw man to have come so far in our dysfunctional nation with its decades of lop sided leadership was too much of a feat to go unappreciated and unsupported. I heard these sentiments from simple people, unsophisticated people that don’t think in complicated Big Picture concepts of nation building, political economy and global imperialism.
Many of these simple folk also asked how they were supposed to trust a northerner to develop their own communities and regions when they had so glaringly underdeveloped their own. This was long before the upsurge in Boko Haram activities that has led to our current appraisal and appreciation of the north’s underdevelopment and the relationship it has to this violent insurgency.
I’m not questioning or judging the right or wrong of these sentiments, I merely want to look at what they mean and what we as the so called leaders of this nation are making of the people’s sentiments. Some people obviously perceived the status quo of leadership as it was as an oppression rightly or wrongly and see Jonathan’s presidency as a triumph against that oppressor and oppression and act and speak accordingly. It doesn’t help that their perceived oppressors seem more intent on returning to the status quo than sympathetically addressing those very real concerns.
A national identity is impossible until all Nigerians feel like equal citizens. Any sympathy for the north will be overwhelmed unless the causes real or imagined of this bitterness are addressed and sincere efforts made by all to build a truly federal republic where all nationalities (and I think it will be well to stop calling them tribes or ethnic groups) are recognized as equals, as capable, as important and as contributors. A national conference is a good step if only its members aren’t only the people tat say what we want to hear. Maybe a truth and reconciliation conference is what we need.