By Mbe Nwaniga
50 years is a tremendous time in the life of a nation.Biafra comes to mind.The country existed for only 2 years and 8 months yet look at the identity it created. Millions of people who never knew Biafra are still hoping,fighting and dying to bring that Biafra identity back after 50 years.
Add 7 years to make it 57 and you have Nigeria. Several millions swear allegiance to Nigeria especially those distributing her “national cake” or attached to the chain of distribution of the country’s oil income in one way or another.Nigeria become the identity,hope of millions and they would kill millions of others who threaten their country,hence threatening their identity and source of livelihood.
21 years is also a very long time to build a nation and create this identity. Ebonyi,Bayelsa,Ekiti, Nasarawa,Gombe, Zamfara comes to mind.I was entering university when this states were created in 1996.I saw how fast identities were created when ESUT moved it’s “prescience” program from Abakaliki to Nsukka simply because Abakaliki is no longer part of Enugu but Ebonyi state.Students who registered for “prescience” with Enugu or Abia as state of origin in 1995 had to change their state of origin to Ebonyi the following year.Mbe nwa Aniga ahugo many things na-uwa nkea!
Same identity crisis ensued in our JS2 class in 1991 when Enugu,Anambra,Abia,Imo,Delta,Edo,Kogi,Osun,Jigawa,Adamawa,Taraba etc were created.I registered Anambra as my state of origin the previous year but then had to change it to Enugu the following year.My school started as a public secondary school in Anambra.The locality itself was in Anambra state.It was Boys High School Nru,Nsukka, Anambra state written in my admission letter,on the school “signboard”, everywhere.The school authorities started rewriting these things and we started learning that our village is in Enugu and not Anambra state anymore,even though it did not move from where it is.We started learning to get used to our new identity!We are from Enugu,the coal city state not Anambra.Awesome,isn’t it!
The case of identity in Cameroon is even more perplexing.It was German colony up till 1919.The Allied Forces divided the country into two,gave one to France and the other to Britain when Germany was defeated in World War 1.The two sides continued like that until 1961 when the British governed Cameroon voted to leave a British imposed merger with Nigeria and unite instead with their French governed brothers and sisters.They did not reckon that speaking English with the British and Nigerians for 42 years has given them a distinct national identity.
This language and the new identity it gave them has made their French speaking compatriots their number one enemy.They are now in a bloody fight to correct the emotional mistake they made in 1961.
The theme here is nation building and identity.Dont forget that!