Address to Nigerians as N.P.C. President-General
The N.P.C. as a party accepts one Nigeria. This one Nigeria should be a union of governments and peoples governed under a system of liberal democracy and committed to a policy of continuing refunds. If this is accepted by all concerned, then the peoples of Nigeria have got to learn about, and understand, one another.
Our paramount duty is to study our own conditions and in the light of knowledge so gained, and in the light of our own practical experience and that of the world in general, to find solutions to our local problems. The problem facing Nigerians is of such a serious nature that it would be foolhardy to attempt to solve it by the method of copying or listening intimately to people who have no intimate knowledge of the problem.
The N.P.C. has always born this in mind in its utterances and statements. The party’s involvement and stand in recent developments have been deliberately made to persuade Nigerians to avoid acting covertly or overtly as groups opposed to one another. Opposing groups do not make for unity and since our independence all Nigerian leaders have preached unity.
Tribalism is a destructive force and its worst and most evil form is the appeal to a group of regions to come together against another legion. This surely should not happen in one country, a country which daily proclaims its desire for unity. It is both dangerous and shortsighted. It is unwise to found any solution to a problem on the basis of hatred and inordinate ambition.
Hatred and inordinate ambition are the driving forces behind those who have been appealing to some regions (not parties) to come together and line up in battle array against another.
As far as the N.P.C. is concerned the only solution to our problem which has a fair chance of enduring is one which gives all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or region, a reasonable opportunity to serve the Federation and derive from it just and fair rewards. This policy has been preached again and again, and finds best expression in the call to form a national government.
The N.P.C. therefore wants every Nigerian to have his fair share in the affairs of the state. If it does not it cannot want to bring in everybody into the government. It is the exclusionists who want to keep everything to themselves and. they must take the blame for disunity.
In the same spirit which always animates the party, the Northern Peoples Congress in its paper entitled: “Nigerian Unity: Facts Must Be Faced” advised against anyone giving the impression that one party works for a tribal union and for the interests of one tribal group.
It made a reasoned appeal for stopping any practices which create this impression. The appeal is thought provoking and should have produced re-thinking among those to whom it is directed if they have a genuine desire for unity.
Instead what are the reactions? A tribal union has come forward with accusations and a defence of one party, thus establishing more conclusively than was known to us before that the party in question is the instrument of a tribal organisation.
The union has proved for all to see that it is irrevocably welded to this one party. In other words at this moment this one party is its brain-child.
This is not the reaction true Nigerians should expect. True Nigerians have been sharing and making concessions in the best interests of unity.
Counsel has been given in the hope of getting change of attitude. In stead we are faced with a most amazing reaction. For witness, the last word from the publication of the Ibo State Union entitled: “Nigerian Disunity: The Guilty Ones” is an appeal for a conference of leaders to “dissolve the Federation amicably!” Have we reached this stage? It is a startling revelation.
When people say they are wronged, the sensible thing is to examine their complaint and produce a remedy, or convince them that they are under misapprehension. But if you react to such a complaint by suggesting that you would have nothing to do with the complaint, the wrong is more than half proved. It is like saying. ‘I must continue what 1 am doing even if you do not like it. Otherwise we must part’.
Again and again politicians from one camp have preached disunity. They have made unwise and impossible demands They insist that they must carry out their selfish ambitions to the full or the Federation must go. They have urged that the south must unite against the north or the Federation must go.
They have demanded equal representation of the regions in the Federal Parliament or the Federation must go. These demands are not only selfish but disloyal to our constitution. They are being made by men who only talk of unity but do not want to accept its implications, foremost among which is a spit it of give and take.
Certain points in the Ibo State Union publication require clarification. By the way, the very title reveals a state of mind. But to come to the point, at no time did the Prime Minister say he would call a meeting of premiers to discuss the census figures.
What he did promise was to call a meeting to discuss “other matters” connected with the census. The Northern premier in a statement in the House of Assembly, has also said there are matters connected with the census, such as delimitation of constituencies, which a meeting could usefully discuss.
What everyone agrees will be futile is a meeting of the premiers as demanded by the leader of the National Council of Nigerian and Cameroon to discuss the census figures. This is the work of the Census Board and not of the premiers. The public would like to know that the Board is still in being and working.
It must be made quite clear that the Northern Peoples Congress has no quarrel with the Ibos. The “guilty ones” are those leaders who are unthinking enough to place a whole party at the disposal of one tribe alone. The “guilty ones” are those who give the impression that the resources and influence of the tribal union, professedly cultural, are to be placed at the disposal of one party, professedly national.
Ibos as individuals enjoy intimate friendships with many Nigerians of other tribes. This at all costs must continue, but what must discontinue forthwith, if we are to save unity, is the ranking together of one tribe in a group, or union or party against other tribes. It is impossible to allow such a situation to continue without even comment. Those who want this situation to continue are often confronted by the encouragement they get from outsiders who will delight in Nigerian disunity.
By all means let us listen to such outsiders but we must riot allow them to dictate a solution to us. There are not lacking people who praise one section cf Nigeria for its dynamism and another for its culture and suggest thereby that ‘never the twain shall meet’. The same people say to the hearing of the one that the other is aggressive or conservative and again ‘never the twain shall meet’. Obviously there has been too much listening and acceptance of such propaganda in some quarters.
Nigerians should know that whatever the divergence of our traits and whatever our differences there is a good basis for unifying the different tribes of Nigeria under one national union. Too much value should not be placed on taunts against tribes and groups no matter whether these taunts come from Nigerians or outsiders.
The Northern Peoples Congress as a patty maintains that the only barrier to unity is the existence of organised tribal groups which are directed without regard to the merits of a case, to support only one party, right or wrong. Such organisations naturally produce group attitudes, for inevitably, if a tribal organisation obtains influence within a party it will use it to the benefit of its tribal interests.
The Ibo State Union’s publication “Nigerian Disunity” itself claims openly that the Union “has set itself up as a body which watches over the welfare of its members against all other tribes in the country”. This is a damning admission to make.
“Watching” the welfare of all Nigeria is what political parties and governments are organised to do. We should all work through these rather than through tribal organisations which inevitably provoke suspicion. If we must have lobby) let us have lobbies which will unite Nigerians through their common interests, rather than tribal groupings which disunite them.
Tribalism is reaching the extremities of unreasonableness when it begins to suggest that the Federal Government should be run by equal representation of regions. What does this mean? Have the authors of this suggestion sufficiently reflected on its implications and consequences? Have they abandoned the principle of a party which really transcends the tribe? If so they should come out and tell the public. But a better thing for them really is to show genuine acceptance of the principle that a party is above tribal interests.
The leaders of the Northern Peoples Congress have clearly shown that they are above the narrow tribal interest. The best evidence of this is in the present structure and unity of the North. The North has many tribes. Yet every Northerner is proud of being a Northerner.
If the Hausas or Kanuris or Fulanis or Tivs or Yorubas of the North had banded themselves together as a unit to impose their will on other tribes, they would have been bitterly opposed and they would have failed. At the federal level Northern Peoples Congress leaders have shown realism in their handling of Nigerian affairs.
They have livened opportunity to all on the basis of merit. The Ibo State Union in giving facts and figures pointed to a number of Federal positions held by Northerners. They were all referred to as Hausas. Yet in point of fact their tribal origin is as diverse as the diversity of the tribes of the North.
This clearly proves that in its dealings in the North and in the Federation, the N.P.C. believes in giving opportunity to everyone without regard to tribe.
Once again in our appeal for unity we tell Nigerians of all parties and of all regions, ‘facts must be faced’. We cannot gloss over facts and expect problems to solve themselves. If there are wrongs they must be redressed. Above all we must continuously remember that in the Federation, no region can be ignored or excluded.
Talk about the unity of any number of regions against other regions merely to satisfy personal ambitions only leads to certain danger. Whatever we plan, let us plan it for the good f Nigeria as a whole. Nigerians should not plan evil on other Nigerians.
We are one people with one common destiny. There is a saying, “Those who dig for evil should dig short. After all they may themselves fall into the ditch”. Let us remember that.