Tomato News is back, and this time we sat down with the President for an interview to ask him his thoughts about the increasing calls for a breakup of the Nigerian state.
The President told us he’s well aware of the agitations for the partitioning of the Nigerian state and promised that such agitations would never lead to anything substantial. “Everyone’s just saying they want to leave; they want to leave. As if Nigeria is Egypt holding the Israelites against their will. I can assure you it’s not happening. Nobody is leaving to anywhere. Even if Nigeria is struck by the ten plagues, I’m not letting anyone go. In fact, the ten plagues are nothing compared to what Nigeria is already going through, and as you can see, I’m still not interested in any so called split up or even restructuring.”
We reminded him that the Federal Government has come under heavy criticism recently over its apparent incapability to fulfil even the simplest functions of a government, such as protecting the lives and properties of its citizens.
“Okay, and so what?” The President asked. “So because people are dying we should now split the country up? How exactly is that supposed to help matters? While it’s true that we’re currently incapable of protecting the states and territories that have been overrun by Boko Haram, I do not believe breaking up the country is the solution.”
We immediately asked him what he believes would be the better solution and the President graced us with an answer.
“Let everybody in the country move to Abuja. We can protect Abuja. When last did you hear of a terrorist attack in Abuja? If you claim to be scared for your life where you are, the obvious solution is to pack up and move to a safer place. So yeah, I genuinely believe every single one of the 190 million Nigerians in the country should come and start living in the capital, because honestly speaking, it’s the only place we can secure. If you decide to remain in your own city, anything your eyes see, you must collect it like that. I’ve said my own.”
The President further explained that the mass migration of Nigerians to the capital would reduce tensions with the Boko Haram. “Let’s keep in mind that the Boko Haram too simply want land to establish their caliphate. I’m sure that’s something we can all relate to. Maybe if we give them small land, small land like 90% of the country, they’ll leave us alone.”
We asked him if that wouldn’t amount to an almost complete surrender to the Boko Haram.
“Far from it,” the President said. “Do you know how big this country is? In life it’s always good to share. If you have two pens and you’re not using one, you can give it to a friend. It’s the same operating principle here. Nigeria is too big and it is very difficult to control everywhere from Abuja. That’s why I’m of the idea that maybe we should just let Boko Haram have some of the territories and just focus on places we can govern properly like Abuja.”
Given the implications of the President’s admission, we asked him again if it simply wouldn’t be better for the various groups in Nigeria to part ways.
“How many times do you want me to say it?” The President asked in a frustrated tone. “Nobody is going anywhere. What the Lord has joined together, let no man put asunder. And if anyone tries any secession rubbish, best believe I will bring down the full might of the Federal Government and crush those involved before it can materialise into anything.”
We asked him why he hasn’t used that same might of the Federal Government to crush the Boko Haram and the bandits that are currently ravaging several parts of the country.
“I’ve told you now,” the President answered again in a frustrated tone. “The Boko Haram and the bandits are our brothers. They have a reasonable motivation for what they’re doing. They simply want some land to establish their caliphate. Like I said, that’s very relatable. What is not relatable is someone wanting regional autonomy over their land and resources. I mean, so just because you happen to have ports and oil wells in your region now, you think the economic benefits of such things are meant for you? That’s selfishness, and we will not allow that kind of greed and self-centredness to ruin this beautiful country. What you have is ours, and what we have is also ours.”
We asked the President if that means the only reason he doesn’t want the southern part of the country to secede is because that’s where the oil wells and ports are.
“Yes — I mean no.” The President quickly corrected himself. “I apologize for that error. Sometimes I confuse yes with no and no with yes. Anyway, of course not. I’m not only interested in Nigeria’s continued unity because of oil wells or ports or any superficial things like that. I want Nigeria to continue to exist as a single entity because I’m invested in our diversity. Remember, our diversity is our strength.”
While admitting that social media isn’t a perfect indicator of things, we pointed out that based on what people say online, it appears that many Northern Nigerians and many Southern Nigerians have vastly different and incompatible visions for the country. We gave him an example of the case where a poet was sentenced to death for blasphemy in a Northern State, a conviction that was supported widely in the North but was considered a human rights violation in the South. How do you bridge such an ideological gap?
The President shrugged. “Honestly, you don’t. There’s absolutely no need to. Both regions might be ideologically opposed to each other, but that’s not a problem so long as we have the military might to enforce Nigeria’s unity. We don’t even have to like each other or get along. That’s why we have a military, isn’t it? To force us to continue as one country, and our military is performing excellently in that regard.”
The President rounded up by reminding us that the British were the one who joined us together, and that if Nigeria split up, they would be extremely disappointed. “We wouldn’t want to disappoint our colonial masters now, would we?” Said the President. “They might be so disappointed that they ban me from coming to their country to receive healthcare again, and that would be a loss for all of us as a whole.”
We thanked the President for taking time out of his busy schedule of running the country to sit with us. He thanked us for listening patiently to his words.