The reaction of some elements in the North to the events of the last few weeks in Nigeria revealed something very shocking - they missed the memo.
Take as an example, the Kaduna declaration. Those who searched through their intellectual reservoir and all they could come up with was that declaration, either made a grave mistake in their understanding or simply did not read the memo.
Based on the content of the memo, a smarter idea would have been for them to announce the independence of Northern Nigeria from the Nigerian federation. Not many people would have put up a fight to stop them - with the possible exception of the people in the middle belt of Nigeria, who might scream and kick that they did not want to be part of the North.
Here are a few things that some of the most vocal extreme groups in the North missed from the memo.
1. There is no North. Ok, geographically, there is northern Nigeria. But there is nothing like one North, one political North with shared interests. If there was a patchwork like that in the sixties and seventies, it dissipated in the last three decades when the middle belt area was subjected to communal clashes with communities of ‘settlers’ from further North. The crisis in Southern Kaduna is the epitome of that misnomer. And the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East is a further repudiation of such contraption.
2. Something happened between 1986 and 2016. What happened was that after forty years of experimenting, two generations of Nigerians have come to understand thoroughly what is working and what is not working in their country. They have come to understand what is fair and what is not fair. And for so many of them, there is no need waiting and hoping anymore. Some of the loud voices up North still act as if the dark era of the eighties is where we are today. For example, affirmative actions like "educationally disadvantaged states", "federal character provisions" and similar policies put in place to guarantee a fair representation of every part of Nigeria in federal establishments and positions have incurred deep backlash in the hearts of many. They have proven to have been abused, to have failed and to have generated nothing but resentment in the hearts of those denied opportunities in the name of these programs and those in the system who had to deal with the aftermath of such programs. But more importantly, these policies have failed to bridge the educational gap that eventually would have made them unnecessary. People who have identified these failures are the one clamoring for another way. They are the ones pushing for merit as a foundation for progress and advancement.
3. In Nigeria of the past, information flow was minimal. Today, an okada driver in Oshodi knows more than what Ibrahim Babangida knew as Nigeria's military leader in 1986 - thanks to the telecommunication revolution that democratized information and knowledge. What that means is that the litany of past and present injustices are in the fingertips of anyone who has whatsapp. If Nigeria says that Kano State, supposedly with the same population as Lagos State has 44 local government areas, and Lagos State has only 20 local government areas, the information is available to many. And so is the interpretation of that fact - which is that more federal resources go to Kano than Lagos because certain allocations depend on the number of local government areas in a state. That nothing has been done about it in the last 18 years is not lost on people. And that everyone is not screaming that it is unacceptable says a lot.
4. It used to be a unifying rallying cry to point at the Igbo and say they did it - that it was their fault. And once that is done, the rest of Nigeria falls in line to isolate the Igbo. But those days are long gone. The memo stated that every core region of Nigeria produced those who plundered the nation and brought it to its knees. It also concluded that, burdened by the pressure of a failing state, every core region is leaving the option of bailing out on Nigeria on the table. They have all figured out that the crocodile eats the last person left after he had fed others to the beast.
There are only two good options left for Nigeria. One is a serious and deep restructuring of the country to make a fairer and a more just nation. The second is the invocation of a referendum, not just for Biafra, for all those who wish to leave Nigeria. Most Nigerians will choose the first option. It is also one that a thoughtful government can honestly and easily implement. The other options are not just bad - they are terrible. That is a brief summary of the memo. For those who wish to read the original memo, the title is, “Nigeria: The Status Quo Is Dead.”
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of “This American Life Sef!”