Nearly three decades ago I wrote a novel, Devils Playground, published by Longman Nigeria under their Drumbeat series. Part of what the Daily Times June 13, 1990, review by Dapo Adeniyi said of it was, `..Many faults with the Nigerian nation are discreetly tabulated here in fiction, faults which we have all, in real terms, learnt not to lay bare.’ Why were the tabulations discreet and why had we all learnt not to lay Nigeria’s faults bare? Simple. Fear! Of whom? Of the Hausa-Fulani, the overlords, the owners of the country. In those days you could not criticize them publicly. You could not make headway with the federal government which they controlled, in politics, in business without the backing of a top Hausa-Fulani. You could hardly get an import licence without them. You could not launch a major company without having one of them as a director, chairman or heavily paid front. At one time one of them, a prince called Malami, was said to have been chairman of over forty companies. He was not the initiator of the companies. But his name was critical for the existence and progress of the companies. Many of the expensive hotels in Abuja belong to Igbo businessmen who could not get land allocation and had to buy from northerners who obtained allocations easily. The Minister for the Federal Capital Territory has usually been a northerner. In short, everybody knew where the power base was.
This country was built on a faulty foundation by the British who amalgamated incompatibles, the northern, western and eastern protectorates into Nigeria. It has been an unworkable marriage. The northerners of majority Moslem populace have all along believed that they are the superior partners over the mainly Christian southern populace. We have had a costly Civil War, all sorts of dispute, and military coups. But one thing has been constant. The north has usually produced the leaders. On the few occasions we had southern presidents the north behaved as if it was doing the south a favour.
Fast forward to 2017 and the cracks in the system are visible and everybody can see and talk about them. And all the devils and demons are at play. In 2015 a northerner, a core Fulani became the president. His pronouncements and his body language have been those of one who believes he is acting for the owners of the country, the Moslem Fulani. First, our president said publicly that he will favour only those who voted for him. Then he went about putting that into practice. Since Eastern Nigeria did not vote for him the area is being excluded from projects and the people are being excluded from vital appointments. The appointments he has made are predominantly of Moslems and core Hausa-Fulani to the most sensitive positions even though the constitution provides for ethnic balancing. He is a die-hard Moslem and all his actions reflect a desire to quickly Islamise Nigeria. Conveniently for him Nigeria had been smuggled into the Organisation of Islamic Countries by Moslem army rulers decades ago. His actions to Islamise Nigeria also seem justified by the 1999 constitution which northern military rulers crafted for us that turned Nigeria into an Islamic State. Previously from independence the constitution had been secular or multi-religious.
On other fronts the Boko Haram, even though our army say they have been `degraded’, are still blowing people up especially in the north east, an area they are successfully sending back into the dark ages. 

Then there is the question of the Fulani herdsmen terrorists killing and maiming citizens in the middle belt and southern Nigeria. Not one herdsman has been arrested. Everybody seems afraid of touching the Fulani herdsmen perhaps because we are ruled by a Fulani. That is in spite of the fact that many of these herdsmen terrorists are foreigners from Chad, Niger, perhaps Mali and Mauretania, thanks to our open border policy. Furthermore people are being kidnapped on a daily basis. There is armed robbery and secret cults are killing people. Above all there is hunger. There is massive unemployment and many of those who have jobs are losing them while each year nearly half a million new graduates are joining the labour market.

                                                                                        There massive unrest in the land. Eastern Nigeria is particularly restive. For decades we had MASSOB rooting for Biafra independence through peaceful means. Then MASSOB splintered with a new group called IPOB more vigorous and strident in their demand for independence. No doubt the state of the country, the inequalities and injustice in the system are the ingredients culminating in their actions. It is clear that these are mainly young people who never saw war and its consequences. Many of them are unemployed. There is no proof that majority of Igbos support their call. The majority of Igbos just want to to be left alone to earn a living under these difficult conditions. If a referendum which IPOB is clamouring for is conducted now those who want Biafra will lose.

Now out of the blue some northern youth give Igbos notice to quit the north by 1st October, 2017. They say they have tabulated Igbo property which they will seize! They say the north also wants independence. And the Igbos say, `You don’t dare touch our properties.’ The middle belt youths have joined the fray. They say Igbos are welcome to the middle belt! Note that those who gave Igbos notice to quit regard the middle belt as part of the north. The plateau youth add to the confusion and say Igbos are welcome. Yet they are supposed to be part of the north. In the south west the OPC and other groups say these northern youth have no right to give anybody notice to quit. Any notice on the Igbos is a notice to the whole south. To add to the confusion some youth in the south west say Igbos should leave their land! The Delta is not left out. One group says any notice to quit served on the Igbo is a notice served on them too. Of course another group in the Delta say they have nothing to do with the Igbo. Our acting President is holding meetings with traditional rulers, governors and elders from all over the country trying to douse the fire that is threatening to consume Nigeria.
Nigeria is in a confused state, sitting on a knife edge. The devils are at play. Everybody knows that danger looms. These northern boys should not be taken lightly. Some of them behave like goats. They just need somebody to should `Allah Akbar’ and they will set the country on fire. They would not care that the Igbo, the usual scapegoats, will be ready to defend themselves and their properties this time around. They would not care to note that non Igbos might join the fray. After all  there is nothing differentiating them from the Igbo. This time it may not be the whole country against the Igbos. It might be the whole country against the core north!
All this would not be happening if we have good governance. We have not had it since independence. Worse still we have not had it since the return of `democracy’ in 1999 when the seeds of major discord were sown in 1999 when the northern military installed Obasanjo president and he, a Christian, swore to defend an Islamic State constitution. To make matters worse Jonathan, another Christian, also swore to defend the same constitution. The same Jonathan convened a national conference and was voted out of power before he could implement the report. Buhari and his APC government have decided that the report is not one of their priorities. Indeed the party chairman and one of their state governors, El Rufai, were on television dithering, being negative about the need to restructure Nigeria. They even say they do not understand the meaning of restructuring. The truth is that the ruling party, probably because of fear of the Fulani president is confused! So the shouting goes on and as usual we are all praying that everything will turn out right and that Nigeria will keep limping on taking three steps forwards and two steps backwards. After all, we are the most prayerful people on earth and probably the most devilish! I regret the die is cast. If Nigerians do not get together and really talk to themselves it will be `To your tents, Oh Israel!’ I wish Israel was here to straighten this mad house out with their survival instinct, doggedness and ingenuity.
But perhaps there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. The shout for restructuring Nigeria is getting louder. Everybody wants true federalism in Nigeria, devolution of power from the centre to the regions, rather than the unitary governance that is almost a dictatorship that we have now. The Yoruba Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Niger Delta, the middle belt all want true federalism. Even the senate wants the government to produce the report of the 2014 national conference for debate. The conference opted for restructuring and true federalism. Babangida who dragged Nigeria into the Organisation of Islamic Countries and Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President  are all clamouring for restructuring. Unfortunately the core north holds the power now. And the core north, the Hausa-Fulani, do not want anything to do with restructuring. They are happy with Nigeria the way it is, a situation in which the federal government holds most of the money and doles out some to the states, a situation where the centre controls what happens in the remotest part of the country. How do you force Buhari to restructure Nigeria, to reduce the power of the centre, make Nigeria truly federal with the states more autonomous? After all, the north own the oil blocks and the present situation is in their interest.  But they may be thinking, okay, you can restructure after we have completed our eight years, that is in six years time. That could be why they are trying to keep a sick Buhari in power, to delay the inevitable. But Buhari’s sickness may be God’s way of saying, `Okay, do it now.’ The rest of Nigeria should tell them that restructuring must be almost immediate. Let the meetings and debate begin now, latest on 1st October, 2017, the date the Arewa Youth gave Igbos to leave the north. But we must proceed with the awareness that the hurdles against progress include the core north, the ruling party, the national assembly which I will call the grave yard of the naira, the governors, indeed all those who are busy milking the system. It will not be easy to remove their greedy mouths from the milk bottle. But this is a task that must be accomplished. Nigeria cannot afford six years!

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