Nigeria: Drum of Unification and Compromise

african-women1( as tribalism and religious indifference have become an act of sensationalism in Nigerian symbol for peace, dialogue, unity and compromise has altogether become tactical weapon used by most peace negotiators to wipe the slate of our religious antagonism clean. Effort towards compromise and unity is illustrated in many inspiring stories such as the one you are about to read. Once there were two tribes- North and South. The North was Muslims and the South was Christians with a handful of traditional religionists. These two tribes lived in a diverse ethnic country and shared among themselves the different mineral resources bequeathed to them by nature. They spoke different ethnic dialects which often times hindered progress, compromise and unity. They practiced different cultural values that differentiated them from the other. However, the two tribes displayed uncompromising attitude towards power and towards who get what not. The North believed that they had a divine mandate or manifest destiny to rule Nigeria. And the South say they too have ancestral empowerment and support to benefit from the windfall of oil money. The North has always believed that recruitment into Nigerian army is their manifest destiny. The East and South-South who seems to be minorities say they are marginalized and suppressed even when nature’s endowment that make up the nation’s income flows from their backyard. One day, traditional rulers of these two ethnic tribes – the Caliphate and Eze in chief set out on an expedition to seek for unity and compromise in a distant land of the twilight zone. Both rulers moved across fields marred by hatred, religious wrangling, tribal conflict, nepotism and hypocrisy. On their way to this mystery land, they met with a Soothsayer playing drum of unification and compromise. The Soothsayer in question was a very old man who had lost his five senses: sights; legs and ability to hear but have a long evil troubling nose that he uses to smell people who came to ask favor from him.

As this Soothsayer played his mystery drum with accuracy, prompt and rhythm, a little mechanical man and woman came out of this drum of unity and danced freely and mysteriously. Both kings had never seen such a drum before, and they staked their own lives and begged the Soothsayer to give both drums to them for keeps. Why must I give it to both of and why are both of you asking for this drum at the same time, he asked these two ethnic representatives? We heard it was a drum of peace, tribal negotiation and religious compromise! The Soothsayer looked at these tribal kingpins and laughed. “I will give it to you” he said, but only if you are really bad to citizens of your tribes and ethnic communities. Come back next anniversary of your independence day and tell me how bad and corrupt you have made your communities and tribes, and I will give you the drum. As soon as the two leaders got back to their tribes, they began to insinuate trouble during elections and encouraged bribery and corruption in both higher and lower sections of their communities. They increased people’s pain and suffering and brought more poverty than before. Strike became rampant and human atrocities intensified and became a new profession for the unemployed. Muslims fought Christians, Christians disparaged traditional religionists and government contracts were awarded based on favor or who you know at the corridors of power. At dawn, people robbed banks and individuals at gun point leading to a state of chaos, anarchy and intertribal violence. The Niger Delta became another theatre of war because the oil money has been hijacked by the privileged few and relationship is now based on friends of benefit. As a result, citizens did all they could to frustrate progressive effort towards democratic reform. Traditional prime-ministers and citizens of the communities altogether have become bad and have developed a bad blood for each other. Christians and Muslims developed tough skin against each other and would not see eye to eye.

The next Independent year, the Caliphate and Igwe hurried off to find the Soothsayer. “We were really bad with our subjects over the years.” They told him, “So please give us the drum of compromise.” The two kings once again told him how reckless they had governed their subjects with iron-fist instead of intellectual and human-fist. They told the soothsayer how they had injected atrocities acts against the innocent. The Soothsayer laughed again in disgust. “Oh, you must be much worse than that to your subjects if I must give you this drum of unification and compromise,” he said. As soon as both leaders got back to their tribes, they made life more hopeless, more miserable and more intolerable to their subjects. At every moment, there were vehement protests because the oil wealth has incurred the wrath of bakassi boys. And profit of community resources were used by few Feudal aristocratic fraction in the North. This condition resulted in ceaseless conflict of interest over the allocation of natural resources; where appointment to positions of honor received enduring kickbacks before it is accepted. Hunger took toll on people where starvation and malnutrition created community imbalance that gave rise to conflict of opinion among people. Early in the morning the next Independence Day, both tribal leaders rushed off to go find the drum of unification. When they found the Soothsayer, he was not sleeping either but playing the drum again and this point in time a Christian and Muslim were dancing together for the first time. Either by coincidence or by design, the two dancers were beginning to appreciate the other and the dancing steps. The guests told the Soothsayer how confused their tribes had been since the last they came. That must be bad enough to get the drum of compromise, they said to the soothsayer. “Oh, no,” said the Soothsayer, “you must be much tribal and divided than that,” “But we promised our tribes we would return with the drum,” said these two traditional rulers. “If you really want the drum, said the Soothsayer, “you must be more divisive and you must be able to hate the other just as Lucifer hated Christ.”

As soon as they got home they engaged in nepotism, bribery and corruption. They ignited political crises that split people asunder. All these got their root by the widespread violence and internal disorder. Early the next independence year, the two community leaders ran to see the Soothsayer. They told him how much corruption they had planted; how much money they had starched into foreign accounts and how far they had plundered the economy. “Can we have the drum of unification now, please?” “No,” said the Soothsayer “I never meant to give it to you in the first place. I never hoped the country to be united. It was just a game we were playing. I thought you knew better.” To some people this story is a portrayal of “trail of tears” that subjects within a nation receive from their community rulers. For others, it portrays how insensitive and how slow leaders can be in seeking the welfare of the common man. Irrespective of how this story is crafted or perceived, or what it portrays, the abundant lesson it carries call our attention to the desire for unity in a tribally divided culture. A symbol of unity in this narrative is the mysterious drum. A symbol of unity in a diverse racial society like America is the status of liberty. While the status of Trojan horse would always stand as symbol for treachery, the status of liberty would always stand as a gesture of friendship between France and the United States. American status of liberty has always stood as a symbol of hope, opportunity and freedom. This status has represented ethnic, racial and religious mix that stands witness to the premise and promise citizens share. It represented diversity in unity that makes up American diversity. Today, there are more blacks in the United States than in any country except Nigeria and Zaire. More Poles live in greater Chicago area than in any city except Warsaw. Miami is the second largest Cuban city in the US; New York City has the largest Jewish population. California is the second largest city with great economic power; the third is Chicago Illinois and the fourth is Houston Texas with largest Spanish inhabitants. According to National Geographic magazine (1986), “more Americans claim English origins than England’s total population. Those claiming Irish blood outnumbered the Irish in Ireland 11 to 1. Not even the census bureau can be sure of this, but Hispanics now exceed 7 percent of our nearly 240 million people.” One thing Nigerian Nation is not and would never is just like the United States is to be a melting pot. The reason is because they are united by states just like United Kingdom’s of England of Great Britain.

Marcus Garvey and Kwame Nkurumah were two patriots who call for a need for United States of Africa but their ideas were neglected and swashed. They called for a union of states despite ethnicity and diversity. Therefore, our ethnic tribes can as well melt down and be poured into cultural molds like chocolate soldiers. If a metaphor is needed in this creative analysis, we might one day be called a stew or bouillabaisse, where each ingredient (tribe) remains unique but adds flavor to the whole condiment (country). Even various American Indian groups whose ancestors first came 12,000 years ago or more, still maintain their unique tribal, linguistic and cultural differences. If we should seek alternative to tribalism and ways to overcome religious indifference like these two leaders sought this drum in a fairyland, history would begin with us. If we should burn alive our old idea of hate, our hearts would be liberated to embrace a new idea of love and collaboration. In 213 B.C, Chinese Emperor Shih Huang 11 thought that if he burned all the documents in his kingdom, history would begin with him. He went as far as burning alive scholars who continued to teach and writer old ideas on how unity could be achieved. There are times when old ideas are priceless, and there are times when they are not. Wisdom is of old while intelligence is of the new and modern. Solomon used wisdom but modern man used artificial intelligence (computer). We can reinterpret the old as Old Testament and the new as New Testament. The old will pass away and the new would replace her. That has always been the central conundrum of universal cosmology: the very quality that makes it so fascinating-the way ancient and modern milestones are reflected and analyzed. In the recent interfaith dialogue, it was Raimon Panikkar, a Harvard scholar and professor set the Christian world astir insisting that Christianity could learn from Muslims and Eastern religions. Educated by Jesuits during a childhood in Spain, this diminutive scholar took his first journey to India. He left and was deeply changed by the spiritual wisdom he found there. “I left Europe (for India) as a Christian. I discovered I was a Hindus and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” Panikkar spent most of his life drawing connections between religious traditions and downplaying their differences and seeking for ways to arrive at unity and compromise. The dictionary meaning of the word compromise is a settlement of differences by mutual concession; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principle, etc. To make compromise therefore, is to make a deal where one tribe or religion gives up part of his or her demand. In arguments, compromise is a concept of finding agreement through communication, through a mutual acceptance of terms- often involving a variation from an original goal or desire. Extremism is often considered as antonym to compromise, which depending on context, maybe associated with concepts of balance and tolerance.

We must therefore learn to live together, tolerating another as brother despite our differences. Living together does not mean we have to live in the same household or ride in the same automobile. It does not mean you have to build or buy your own house on the same street or neighborhood. Living together simply means we have to love ourselves in order that we can love our neighbors. It means we have to live- and- let- live. It means we have to be team members and develop collective psyche and collaborative spirit. Collaborative spirit is the driving force when team membership is forged. A team member shares ideas and opinions without selective interpolation. A team member focuses on tasks of human uplift rather than tasks of human failure. He shares responsibilities collectively forming a united front. A good team member appreciates differences in tribe, race, culture, language and customs. He supports and encourages other members too. In this regard, nobody can be what he ought to be until you are what you ought to be yourself. For some strange reasons, no individual can live alone in a world glued into network of people. This is why Martin Luther quipped that “anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution.” At this juncture, it is clever to remark that such individual is sleeping through a midnight of nothingness because the world in which God created ex nihilo (out of nothing) is interconnected, interrelated and geographically tied. Nigerian tribes in which God created and in which have remained sempe idem (always the same) are geographically linked to the other. Therefore, the demand upon us is to make our tribal geography habitable where people from different tribes and culture can come together without minding different dialects bearing in mind that we as individuals are glued in one eternal destiny. If we are tied in one destiny, it then means that we have ethical commitment to treat each other convincingly, lovingly, respectfully and humanly. We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish separately as fools. We must learn to live together as sisters or we perish as gossips. We must learn to worship in one ecumenical canopy otherwise we melt down like snow. If we remain separate, I mean if we narrow down into fragments, we will hardly be caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality. In a network of mutuality, what affects one directly affects all indirectly. What affects the eyes affects the nose indirectly. What affects white affects blacks? What affects Hispanics affects Indian Americans. What affects the North affects south and vice versa. John Donne always put this in graphic terms: “No man is an island entirely of itself.” I believe that no man is a mountain and no one is an unmoved mover. Every person is like a piece of cake in which a fragment of the whole performs its own function as part of the whole. Therefore, the South in which is part of Nigerian society must be given a place in the gamut in which is Nigeria otherwise the center would no longer hold. If the center no longer holds, then Nigerian will reaffirm with Achebe said that “things have fallen apart.”

Again, it is essential to measure the magnitude of direct impact of tribal conflict in order to comprehend how compromise could lead a nation like Nigeria into intellectual freedom or into religious unity. The more reason why we must do this is because the measure of the existence of man is his ability to collaborate with others. To make compromise with the other does not mean that the brilliance of our minds had dimmed or the fertility of our genius had weakened. It does not mean that our far-reaching religiosity is unusual before the attorney of reason. Therefore the essence of this piece is not to win for Igbo’s the immunity from political interference. It is not to win for Christians the immunity from religious patronage that had already infiltrated into Nigerian body politics. The essence therefore is to campaign for religious freedom and tribal distrust and urge for the establishment of peace in the moderation of the state of anarchy that have resulted from disunity. If you cast your gaze into the future or peered deep into the past, you will notice that Nigeria Nation is not in unity and that disunity has caused us our lives, our faith and our social cohesion. Many Pentecostal preachers have for so long presented the religious future of Nigeria in terms of a symbolic Swiss clock, the hands of which stands at a few minutes to midnight- the hour at which the world always meet with ills, by disruptive and explosive riots and tendencies. For some time now I have inevitably found myself telling similar time by similar clock by the same destructive tendencies and by the same inspiring empowerment. My platinum inspiration for a better religious nation comes to you at this moment you found yourselves in religious limbo. It comes to you at this moment in your tribal crises; at this time you find yourselves in such consuming heat of political misunderstanding; at this moment when the clatter of religious rumbling threatens our beloved nation to tremble and drift in the path of war and aggressive conflicts. Let me repeat my words in another fashion, there would be no prospect if we found ourselves caught up in the evil currents set in motion by religious warlords or tribal Judas. These views are shaped in the milieu of religious brotherhood and in tribal intelligentsia which have manifested itself in my deep enmeshment in religion, political philosophy, history and human Anthropology. These manifestations carry with it loaded anxiety of the life and faith of Christians and Muslims alike. Tribal and religious anxiety in Nigeria is always nourished and perpetuated by conflicts it causes our economy, arts, education and people’s way of life.

The feelings in the air about tribal unity and religious peace have always been accentuated by a call for a compromise in which our tribal leaders are to play a major lead role. This call to some extent must awaken the minds of those whom we know are holders of power and directors of government polices as “engineers of human souls.” This call directed to them is essential because it has the capacity to change the psychology of Nigerian citizens who voluntarily and generously have aimed without success to improve Nigerian economy, and the living conditions of millions of its citizens. Without compromise, bourgeois tribal hegemonists and egoistical religionists will give rise to a society of “people of the abyss,” described by Jack London and earlier propounded by Engels and later adapted by Karl Marx. Without Unity it will take compromise to travel a long desolate night to raise our tribal sentiments to the heights of amicable understanding. Quoting Bertrand Russell, Sakharov reaffirms Russell’s peace talk in the congress of Moscow; reminding everyone that “the world will be saved from thermonuclear annihilation if leaders of each of the two systems prefer complete victory of the other system to a thermonuclear war.” The same enactment is relevant in our days because mankind inhabiting north and South, East and west, working and unemployed is interested in religious freedom and tribal security. Gerald Ogbuja

References: Westen, P (1990) Speaking Equality, Preston: Princeton University Press National Geographic magazine (1986) Race and Ethnicity in America, Official Journal and Magazine

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