“A captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he needs to separate his forces and because of this becomes weaker”. Machiavelli advising in Book IV of the ‘The Art Of War’.
We can see how this concept has been used overtime and proved to be efficient with every use. The strategy is breaking into pieces large power concentration so they have lesser power than the implementor in order to gain and maintain power. This concept breaks up structures and also prevent them from linking up by creating conflict, enmity and rivalry amongst each other. Several examples of this strategy exist in history like the British empire in India, Gabinus parting the jewish nation into five conventions and the list goes on. This strategy did not exist only in the past as we see it happening very frequently in the 21st Century, and more so we see how it has been working from the first time to today, I could say
It’s also one of the longest and most efficient political and social strategies in use. By 1963, three years after Independence, Nigeria was a federal republic with the country divided into three states based on ethnicity: the Northern region, the western region, and the Eastern region. In 1966, six years after independence, Nigeria was plunged into a three year civil war. The eastern region of Biafra sought its independence from the federal republic of Nigeria, which unfortunately resulted in the tremendous loss of lives. Though the facts regarding this tragedy remain vague, it is certain that this was a result of the divide and rule tactics left in place by the colonizers. This war would set forth a series of violent power struggles within the nation, further fueled by religious or ethnic sentiments.
If we look carefully at the British rule in Nigeria from 1900 to 1960, we would see how different regions were frequently reclassified for administrative purposes, and how the tribal conflict between the Hausa Igbo made it easier for the british to consolidate their power; this isn’t so far from the concept as we have continuously allowed and let our unique differences to come between the fact that we are now a nation and we have also neglected the effect of these division on state building.
Looking at the unrest, turmoil, communal clashes we are facing today we see how divided we are among ethno religious lines and how it has weakened the development of the state, we identify as Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos, Muslims, Christians, Shiites, Sunnis, Pentecostals, Catholics before Nigerians from the lower level and ignoring how the elites/ ruling class dine and wine together regardless of this differences.
On political issues today, we hear cries of ethnic divisions irrespective of qualifications, so instead of the most qualified to be the topmost priority it is more of tribal reign first, and our leaders have banked on this so much so that promises of appointments are being made for election before allegiance/ support is being secured. If we look at the Fulani/ Berom crises today in the Middle Belt we would see a conflict that has infested the minds of these people causing unbearable distaste amongst each other that people who have lived for so many years can barely even realize themselves, the Igbo separatist movement, the shiite protest all these are difficulties Nigeria faces today that is diverting the state attention from developmental affairs we see everyday from the west and other part of the world to focus on spending a whole lot of our resources on security.
If Nigerians seek to look deep into the Sykes Picot Agreement and the European Economic Community, now The European Union, we would see how the former have disintegrated and torn apart its members while the latter have gone way ahead in achieving so much that it can be termed today as The Grandest Peace Treaty on earth fostering development, harmony, peace, togetherness and most importantly UNITY. All of these aforementioned examples can either be avoided or achieved with one thing in mind: Nigeria is all we have and we owe it to the next generation to have a place to proudly call home if we make it work. A country with so much resources, diversity and potential has been forced to come to a standstill by a strategy, beyond which we all cannot see.
Till date, Nigeria fails to rid itself of the deep-rooted sequel of ethnic intolerance across its 36 states. Some other examples of the effects of a divide and rule system in Nigeria include coups (transition from military to democratic rule), a lingering anxiety and bitterness between northerners and southerners in matters of political dominance, ongoing conflicts over land use and ownership and ethnic irredentism, the politics of resource control largely around the Oil-rich Niger-Delta region that triggered anti-government militancy, among others. A dream not so far fetched for all Nigerians is to be able to say despite all of the differences we had, despite being colonized and going through
The post-colonial Nigerian structure revolves around the yearning for better living conditions, being able to access quality education and effective healthcare service without having to travel, and also the hope that Nigeria can produce and also export products from the vast resources its land is blessed with. This dream can be achieved through transparent and accountable leadership that cares for all citizen, while of course recognizing that a functional system that works for all can only be achieved through all putting heads and hands together.
I can go on and on about how we witnessed an economic and political union between 28 member states with an estimated population of 513 million, and 24 official languages in Europe. The Union developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws which apply in all member states, and it has worked for so many years and acts as a model for so many other states, and this inspired me to say “A One Nigeria” is not a dream far-fetched as long as Nigerians choose to identify and agree to work for the said goal.
Our leaders should be able to sit down and table issues like the development dilemma in Niger Delta for instance, look into solutions like the South-south having control of the oil and paying royalties to the Federal Government, which can make them a bit more endearing to the Nigerian Project. Or looking at the concerns of the Igbo separatists and try to get to the root of the issue.
In trying to overcome the concept we need to understand the most challenging issue being identifying as proudly Nigerian, and build a system of fairness to intensify and promote our sense of nationalism and tolerance of other ethnic and regional groups. This should be a task upon every Nigerian, young and old, male and female, leader and subject, rich and poor, military and civilian, and I must add that the moment we embark on this, we have recognized the need to maximize opportunities offered by our diversity in building a more viable Nigeria.
I dedicate this article to my Professor Dr. Egemen Bagis, who’s a former Turkish parliamentarian, former Minister to the EU and adviser to the President of The Republic of Turkey for his outstanding training and tutoring, and grateful to him for the unending support and guidance he has always rendered us in this academic program.
Aisha Zakari Yahaya is a Masters student in the Department of International Relations and Political Science at Istanbul Aydin University, Turkey.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary.