Brexit lessons for Nigeria

I have been reflecting on the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union and what lessons Nigerians can learn from it and, especially what our leaders can and should learn from it. For many years, many British citizens have expressed their dis-satisfaction with the way and manner policies have been crafted and implemented by the EU bureaucrats in Brussels without adequate recourse to the peculiarities of the individual countries in the union. For example among many others, those involved in fishing business have often raised their voices against how EU policies have negatively impacted on their businesses, but not much attention was paid to that segment of the society and some other segments that have complained bitterly about the mode of operation of the EU.

While globalisation with some of its features being migration and mobility of labour have some obvious benefits, the truth also is that globalisation has negative consequences. It is noteworthy to say that one recurring statement by those in favour of UK’s exit from the European Union (pro-Brexit) was that they wanted to “have their country back” presumably from foreigners who are migrants that have become settlers in Britain.

What is the lesson for Nigeria and our leaders? We must recognise that every inch of land in Nigeria belongs to some indigenous ethnic group. For example, the South-East of Nigeria belongs to the Igbo, the South-West to the Yoruba, the North-Central to the Hausa/Fulanis, Abuja to the Gwaris and so on. So, for anybody to say that Lagos or Abuja or Port Harcourt, Kano or Ibadan is a no man’s land is a big lie. There are indigenous people of Lagos, Abuja and the rest of the cities aforementioned. Hence, anyone who migrates and eventually desires to settle in any geographic area must respect the norms, values, tradition and traditional institutions of the indigenous people. Such migrants cannot claim to have exclusive rights that only the indigenous people are entitled to.

For example, no migrant or settler can lay claim to the kingship position in the community he or she has migrated to and possibly settled in. I am, for instance, aware that no Igbo man or Yoruba man can become the Emir of Kano or the governor of Kano State, no matter how long he has lived in the state and no Yoruba man can become the Obi of Onitsha, just as no Hausa man can become the Deji of Akure or the Oba of Lagos. Even on the political level, no Igbo man can become the Governor of Sokoto State and it will be an insult on the sensibility of the Yoruba for any immigrant or settler to want to become the governor of Lagos.

It is an aberration for any migrant ethnic group to want to establish their own traditional institution within the territory of their host communities. Hence, it will be out of place to have an Eze or Igwe or Emir in Yorubaland even as it will be out of place to have an Oba or Igwe in Sokoto. For peaceful co-existence in Nigeria we must respect one another’s sensibility, values and culture while political leaders must listen to the voices of dis-satisfaction and disenchantment from Nigerians as we have seen lately and every attempt must be made to build an inclusive Nigeria where we all have opportunities and worthy stakes that can make us proud to be called Nigerians.

Political appointments and civil service appointments must not be lopsided, but must reflect our geographic and ethnic spread. I am persuaded that there are competent Nigerians and people of integrity in all parts of the country.  We must use our diversity positively and not to cause crisis in Nigeria and no ethnic group must ride roughshod on others. It is interesting to hear our president say that the unity of Nigeria in not negotiable. Many Nigerians like myself are not necessarily after the disintegration of Nigeria. But we want a restructured Nigeria where things can work for the common good and not a select few.

The truth is that the way Nigeria is presently structured and governed is not sustainable and the earlier we correct this anomaly the better for us or else we may later realise that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable if we allow things to continue to fall apart. It is self-delusion for anyone or group of people to think that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. MASSOB, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo have made it clear that it is negotiable and a good and noble attempt was made through the last national conference held and from which a robust and good report having sound recommendations was prepared and waiting for implementation. We may have to conduct a referendum in Nigeria on whether we want to continue to stay together sooner than later. It is high time we administered Nigeria as a federal structure. Let us revisit the confab report and make the best use of the recommendations therein for our good.

Arowolo, Ph.D,  is a development consultant and lives in Ibadan.