How countries solve their problems: Between Nigeria and Malaysia

By Azuka Onwuka (Agunze)

I count the Malaysians among the most reasonable and practical people on earth.

Why?

When they noticed that the Singaporeans were creating problems for them in the former Malaysia, on August 9, 1965 they convened the parliament and excluded the Singaporeans. (The State of Singapore was only one out of the 14 states in Malaysia then). The Malaysians knew they had the majority. The parliamentarians locked the doors of the parliament and tabled a motion: to expel State of Singapore from Malaysia.

Fiam! All the 126 parliamentarians voted in favour of the motion, and Singapore was expelled from the Malaysia.

One thing that had been the source of conflict between the two sides was what we call quota system in Nigeria. Malaysia wanted quota system for the Malays but Singapore wanted merit to be applied across board. There was no agreement between the two sides.

See this: “The Federal Government of Malaysia, dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was concerned that as long as Singapore remained in the Federation, the bumiputera policy of affirmative action for Malays and the indigenous population would be undermined and therefore run counter to its agenda of addressing economic disparities between racial groups.”

Singapore was also not happy with the recognition of Islam as the official religion.

The 1964 race riots claimed lives and showed how divided the country was.

With the expulsion, the Singaporeans left Malaysia in sadness, becoming the only country in modern history to gain full independence against its will. Singapore was a tiny, resource-poor island.

However, they began to implement all those lofty ideals of merit, justice, national integration and zero-tolerance for segregation and religious extremism they had been preaching as well as adopting free-trade and business-friendly policies.

Expectedly, Singapore began to grow speedily. Today from being a third-world, tiny and poor country, Singapore is usually rated among the top 3 in the world in all human development indices.

Singapore has a population of 5.9 million. Because of how tiny Singapore is, it has been embarking on land reclamation to expand its land mass. The land mass of Singapore has grown to 728 square kilometres – about the same size as Lekki peninsula in Lagos State – compared to Malaysia with 329,613 square kilometres.

In Singapore, 18.7% are Christian, 14% are Muslim,11% are Taoist, 5% are Hindu, 0.6% practise Sikhism or another religion, while 17.5% of people have no religion at all.

So what happened to Malaysia? It has peace because it no longer has the “troublesome” Singaporeans to contend with. Malaysia has not risen to the height attained by Singapore, but it is not doing badly economically.

“Malaysia is a multicultural and multiconfessional country, whose official religion is Islam. As of the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 61.3 percent of the population practise Islam; 19.8 percent Buddhism; 9.2 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 3.4 percent traditional Chinese religions.”

The population of Malaysia is 32.3 million.

Singapore is in peace and progress. Malaysia is in peace and progress. Both are good neighbours.

Writing about its relations with Malaysia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore says:

“Singapore and Malaysia have a long-standing, broad and multifaceted relationship. Bilateral trade, investment, and tourism ties are robust. There are regular high-level exchanges such as the Leaders’ Retreat, Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) meetings on Iskandar Malaysia, and Ministerial level visits.”

Why was peace and progress achieved in the old Malaysia? Because Malaysia was sensible to realize that being in the same country with Singapore would perennially bring conflicts, deaths and backwardness, as they were ideologically, religiously, economically, and racially opposed to each other and would never agree.

There is one country called Nigeria that does not understand this basic human principle. If a group of people like the Igbos are “difficult creatures” and a source of perennial headache to you, expel them legally and peacefully. You will have your peace and they will have their peace. You will achieve progress and happiness once you have peace.

But Nigeria is a country that is hard to understand: a country that constitutionally divides its citizens based on their ethnicity and religion and still insists that the unity of the country is non-negotiable! 🙃

©️ Azuka Onwuka (Agunze)
November 10, 2021

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