My town Nnobi, the birthplace of Chinua Achebe, is a wonderful place – second to none when it comes to the number of professionals, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. But for years, we have allowed one cabal after another to artificially divide us while enriching themselves from our commonwealth. Now, we are so dangerously divided that while we argue, empty-handed, over the authenticity of the current leadership of the town union, the cabal is planting yam by allocating and selling lands and putting tens of millions of Naira in their personal pockets.
Similarly, Nigeria is a wonderful landscape – wonderful people, a hybrid of beautiful cultures, renowned experts in all fields of life. But for decades, we have allowed the cabal in every presidency to divide us artificially between Christians and Muslims, Southerners and Northerners, this ethnic group, and that ethnic group. So, while we argue and punch ourselves over political appointments and whose turn is it to present a candidate for the 2023 Presidential election, the billions of dollars from oil revenue is shared by few.
We are dangerously divided, in Nnobi, that we cannot agree on the obvious need for the audition of the financial transactions of the present and past administrations of the town union. Similarly, the billions of dollars of oil revenue in Nigeria have never been accounted for and may never be accounted for as long as they succeed in artificially dividing us.
The political system in many villages, towns, states, and Nigeria has decayed. It has rarely implemented policies and programs aimed at lifting citizens out of poverty. The decayed condition of political leadership, from the village level to the presidency in Abuja, has been worsened by the “artificial divides” along the lines of kindred, quarters, senatorial zones, sub-ethnic groups, ethnicity, and religion, and so on, that we have lost faith in our public institutions and trust in each other. This has resulted in a dramatic weakening of instruments of governance.
The political cabals that have for years hijacked my town and mismanaged millions of naira generated from the markets cuts across all the quarters and religious denominations. Yet, the moment we ask for accountability and good leadership, they will “artificially divide” us along these sectional and religious lines. It is the same political strategy of artificial division that is deployed at the state and federal levels by political actors that misappropriate the revenue accruing to the states and oil revenue at the federal level, respectively.
This perpetual state of recycling of incompetent and corrupt leaders that are not accountable to citizens has forced many to turn their backs on their town, states, and Nigeria. Every now and then, a new set of young and progressive-minded group will rise and attempt to challenge and wrestle power out of the hands of the cabal. But as usual, they will quickly divide us, artificially, along these obvious lines of weakness and we leave the battle for good governance unfinished, again.
Currently, in my town, Nnobi, the quest for a new beginning is, partly, being characterized as an attempt by the indigenes living “abroad” to hijack power. The interesting thing is that citizens residing “abroad” are the instruments used to maintain the artificial division and thwart power change. Similarly, in Nigeria, the dividing lines of ethnicity and religion are used to scuttle the attempt of some progressives that have risen to challenge the same cabal that has held this country down since the 1970s.
Having expressed my frustration that we have for long allowed the ruling political class to divide us, artificially, I believe that all hope is not lost. There is hope because, even in the fractured lands of Nnobi, different states, and Nigeria, there is still unity and a sense of brotherhood. As divided as Nnobi may appear, there is a sense of resolve by a vibrant new generation to put a stop at the divide and rule tactics of the political cabal that is benefiting from the present state of confusion.
Paraphrasing President Barack Obama, in this new era of increased political consciousness, it is time for Nnobi, villages, towns, and states across Nigeria to get a government that matches our decency and embodies our strength.
It is time for the good people of my town, Nnobi, to get a town union that matches the decency of the new generation that truly yearn for progressive ideals, accountability, and development. It is time for new leadership that embodies the strength of this generation to take over governance roles at the state and federal governments.
It is not going to be easy dislodging the established political gang that has for years, erected these artificial walls of division at the town, state, and federal level. Among potential solutions most likely to be effective in bridging the artificial divide imposed by the cabal is the willingness of the citizens to be involved in the political administration at all levels. If we do not step out of the social media groups and test the murky political water at the town, local government, state, and federal levels, we will lose.
In my town, Nnobi, a generation of vibrant and progressive-minded people are beginning to be involved in the affairs of the town. They are not just speaking up on social media platforms, but, also, they are volunteering their time to help run village meetings at home and “abroad”. My clarion call to them is to never allow the cabal to artificially divide us into the three quarters, Ebenesi, Ngo, and Awuda. We should not allow them to divide us into Pentecostals, Anglicans, and Catholics. We should not allow them to divide us between Abalukwus residing at “home” or “abroad”.
I will end this piece by quoting the late United States Senator, John McCain, “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”
The greatness of my generation in Nnobi and Nigeria can only be reached if we stop protecting and defending the cabal, in whatever guise, that is holding our progress down. We weaken our greatness when we hide behind the walls and protect members of the cabal who worship like us or are from our section of town or country. We can only strengthen our greatness when we, together, challenge and tear down acts of impunity, manipulation, hypocrisy and misappropriation of our commonwealth.
My town, Nnobi, needs smart, energetic, courageous men and women with integrity and vision to transform to political actors, galvanize the people, and offer the needed radical change in the governance of the town union, home, and abroad. My state, Anambra, needs smart and progressive men and women with integrity to man Agu Awka and be our voice and representatives at the state and federal assemblies. Nigeria needs, courageous and forward-looking leaders to be in and around Aso Rock and the Green/Red Chambers if we are to achieve our full potential.
So, Cape Diem, my generation! Always remember that we will be judged by what we accomplish and not the punches we throw at one another.
Together, we can.
Churchill Okonkwo, Ph.D.
On Twitter @Churchillnnobi