I’ve read somewhere that the American Civil War did not begin as a War of Emancipation. The Federal Government was looking mainly to contain slavery in the South, prevent it from expanding into more states; and went to War principally to prevent the Southern slave owning states from leaving the Union as a result. But as casualties mounted, and it became clearer that the War was going to be long and drawn out, people began to wonder if the sacrifice was worth it. Were they taking such heavy losses just to ‘contain’ slavery in the South? If people were going to die in the hundreds of thousands, then, at least, it should be for something much bigger. Freedom. The definitive and conclusive re-statement of the defining character of the American nation: the belief that all men are equal before God. For that was something worth the horrendous price that Victory demanded.

Wars are won by people who cannot – no, who will not – lose; people fighting for something so highly valued they are willing to march into their own deaths. So, I ask- what are we fighting for? Because, do not be deceived, we are in middle of a fight. Maiduguri is burning. Jos is restive. The Niger Delta is enjoying a false peace, underwritten by an unsustainable amnesty. Our people (and by that I mean Nigerians) are being killed everyday, all over this country, by others with their own ideas of what kind of country this should be. And I ask again- why are we dying? What are we fighting for? Just to ‘contain’ Boko Haram in Maiduguri? To rescue a few foreign hostages? To redeem our ‘image’ in the eyes of the ‘international community’? To allow thousands of internally displaced people to return to their ‘normal’ lives? What are we fighting for?

Maybe, we think this conflict will just go away. Militants will hand in their weapons and we will live happily ever after. Boko Haram will suffer a crisis of conscience and turn from their wicked ways. The Army will strangle Maiduguri to death and the monster will vanish into thin air. Then we can get back to how we were. But how were we? How are we? Who are we? A nation of contradictions.­ Does oil belong to the Nigerian people or does it belong to the South-South? Is this a secular nation or not? Shall the Nigerian ‘citizen’ exist only in the Constitution but everywhere else be in chains, openly discriminated against and oppressed by clannish ‘Indigenes’? These are the questions that go to the heart of our nation. These are the questions that expose our actual fragilities. These are our fault-lines.

What we had before was not ‘peace’; it was repression. And what we have now is not an anomaly; it is the logical outcome of deeply rooted socio-political­ contradictions.­ In the formative years of any nation, when its identity, character and core values are still being vigorously contested, the question is not whether people will die, but what they will die for; whether they will die in retreat before advancing terror, in bewilderment at the rapid disintegration of all they had known, in horror at the utter cruelty of flourishing sectarianism, or whether they will die sinking down enduring foundations for a more durable union.

I do not believe this conflict is a mindless one. The idea of Nigeria- a nation united in diversity- is being contested. To win, we must be fighting, not just against something, but for something. Someone needs to tell us that this fight is to build a nation where man in all his complex diversity can flourish; that any point of view that will not allow him to do so will be resisted with everything we have; that we will give in, bend, negotiate on any point but this one: Nigeria will be one nation; its resources will belong to all; and its citizens will enjoy equal rights under one Constitution. Now, let us go to War with those who disagree.

This is the only task against which effective leadership can be measured in modern Nigeria. Not sitting around a table every Wednesday approving contracts. Not meeting in cushioned chambers three times a week debating moral dilemmas. Not sitting in learned judgment over petty squabbles. If the ruling class cannot realize that the only answer to the conflicts tormenting this nation today is the clear, unequivocal and unqualified affirmation of One Nigeria, then we are doomed; because if no one will fight for everyone, then everyone will, sooner or latter, fight for himself. And that is the true definition of a failed state.”

~ Dike Chukwumerije

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