Tongues were sent wagging after the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, emerged from a meeting with the Beninoise Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Aurelien Agbenonci, and said the Benin Republic was ready to be the 37th Nigerian state. As bizarre as the statement was, some Nigerians took the statement at face value and started talking about the possibility.
First of all, there is absolutely no way the Benin Republic is going to give up its independence and relative stability to be subsumed into the basketcase that is Nigeria.
They simply have nothing to gain. In 5 years, their well-run Seaport would be a hellhole like the Apapa and Tincan ports, and the Civil Service and NURTW extortion rackets would come with society-warping effects.
Secondly, the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister would do well to refrain from speaking in such a manner about a sovereign country. It is contemptuous and uncalled for.
This Nigerian arrogance that is anchored on the size of the population and nothing else should be wearing thin by now especially with how utterly shambolic Nigeria is today.
If any countries deserve strong words about how they impact negatively on Nigerians, it would probably be the Niger and Chad that terrorists use to gain access to Nigeria but instead of chastisement, what they have gotten is the Federal Government committing to a rail network to the Niger Republic while Nigerians can’t take a train from Lagos to Port Harcourt. The posture of the Buhari Administration towards Niger and Chad is odd and only makes a modicum of sense when one factors in shared ethnic and religious features. The Benin Republic obviously isn’t seen as a country that deserves that type of respect.
Southern complaints about the blatant favoritism are understandable but what should follow is a Southern commitment to building its own institutional socioeconomic ties with the countries on their own borders. The Southwest should work better with the Benin Republic and the Southeast, South-South and Benue should develop useful connections with Cameroon.
Some institutions up North have chosen to make light of the lines drawn by Lord Lugard and are building based on a social vision primarily guided by shared ethnicity and religion. The South should do the same.
This has nothing to do with the prospect of a Nigerian breakup. It’s just commonsense that for example, Lagos and Ogun would find it easier to succeed at projects with the Benin Republic based on proximity and similarities in language and culture.
And this also goes for inter-regional interaction within Nigeria. Is there a good reason why Anambra State would overlook a Delta State right beside it to build things with an Abia that’s much farther away?
Shouldn’t Edo state and Ondo State have a better working relationship for the sake of their people who have been beside each other for centuries?
Nigeria will never develop evenly and some of the constituent regions are simply too far from each other to do anything meaningful together.
The distance from Lagos to Borno is 1,537km.
The distance from Norway to Finland is 1,395km and there’s a country in between Norway and Finland.
The distance from Austria to Poland is 812.1 km and the Czech Republic is between both countries.
The distance from Enugu to Yobe is 781 km.q
It is just common sense for Southern Nigeria to develop useful institutional relationships with the societies closest to them.
So this disdain for the Benin Republic that the Federal Government has is something we should stand against.