By Taiwo Adebulu
On Sunday, the Pope named Peter Okpaleke, bishop of Ekwulobia diocese in Anambra state a cardinal.
I’ve been following the controversy that trailed his investiture as the bishop of Ahiara in Imo state. Okpaleke is from Anambra, a neighbouring Igbo state. Ahiara diocese rejected him and asked the Pope to install one of their sons as bishop, an Mbaise bishop for Mbaise people. The patriarch of Rome asked the people to apologise and accept their new bishop. They apologised, but insisted Okpaleke would not take charge of the diocese. The Pope gave in and created a new Ekwulobia diocese in Anambra just for the bishop to have a seat. Okpaleke technically returned to his state.
This is where I have a problem with those calling for the division of the country as solution to “ethnic marginalisation”. If Imo and Anambra cannot accommodate their kinds, who will? In the same region, a state sees itself as superior than the other.
Even federal universities are insisting the sons of the soil must be made VCs, throwing away the age-long processes driven by merit.
Seriously, I’m sitting on the fence when it comes to the question if Nigeria should be divided or not. I’ve not seen a clear blueprint yet. When IPOB people draw their plan for Biafra, they include south-south states, yet people from oil-rich region are insisting they cannot be a part of Biafra. Are you going to push the Okun people of Kogi to the north? Will you marry them with predominantly Christians of Benue, and maybe, Nasarawa to form a north-central country?
Take my little ethnic group in Ondo State for example. Ilaje people occupy just one LGA. But when juicy political appointments or establishments come, we hear of Ilaje Ugbo, Ilaje Mahin, Ilaje Aheri. We are never one. Within Ogun state, Yewa people are complaining of marginalisation. In Oyo, Oke-ogun people lament about the domination of Ibadan in the scheme of things.
Then, I often tell people, if you really travel across the north, you’d realise there are a lot of Christian communities and minority ethnic groups. They don’t identify as Hausa or Fulani. Where are you going to put these people when you are asking the north to stay on its own with its archaic Sharia practices? They will still complain of marginalisation. By the way, I pity Ilorin people.
In as much politics remains what it is, the agitation cannot stop even if each state is given the status of a country.
We are terribly divided across ethnic and religious lines. Yet, a separation along regions cannot end it. We just need to find a way to manage our differences. Or we redefine our federal system.