Chief Tola Adeniyi, a seasoned journalist, served in such positions as Federal Permanent Secretary in the Presidency and Chairman/CEO of the defunct Daily Times conglomerate and Ombudsman, a forerunner of the Public Complaints Commission. In this interview with KUNLE ODEREMI, the renowned columnist, speaks on some contentious issues pertaining to national unity, his fears about the country, among others.
THERE is a raging debate on whether Nigeria is a country or nation after 100 years it became a federation. What is your thinking?
No, there is no nation. A nation develops or evolves from a country. There is no country. If there is no country, there can’t be a nation. A nation is a state, in which all the nationalities have fused and become one. You can speak of an American nation; you can speak of a Canadian nation; you can speak of a French nation. It doesn’t exist in the case of Nigeria, because Nigeria itself does not exist.
What precisely do you mean?
What we have always had is an amalgamated territory. Lugard, may God not bless his soul, amalgamated the Southern Protectorate and the Northern Protectorate. There were centres of business, and not political centres. So, he just matched the two centres to promote the British business interest in the so-called mass of land, and it has been so since then. Up till now, we have not been able to remove the hand of the British from the destiny of Nigeria.
But, that is not even the point. Since 1914, various leaders, or those who call themselves those leaders, have not been able to able to create a country that anybody could be loyal to; they have not been able to create a country that anybody could call his or her own. We have always had the Hausas, the Ibos, the Jukuns, the Izons, the Efiks, the Ibibios, the Langtangs, and so on, and then the Fulani and the Hausas; that’s what we had. There is nothing to say that this place belongs to all of us. That has not happened. What we have had since 1914 is a lame duck that Lugard and the British designed to tie the legs, hands and limbs of a tiger and put the tail in the hands of this cabal. So, they have not allowed the tiger to really fulfill its destiny. That is why all the nationalities that were forced to live together in an amalgamated territory have not been able to reach their optimum. They were a bit free between 1954 or 1956 and 1966, just a period of 10 years, because at that point in time, the so-called Nigeria practised to all intents and purposes was a confederation. The Western Region had its representatives in Britain; the Eastern region had its own; the so-called Northern Region had its own representatives. They had their individual constitutions; they had their own educational systems; they had their local government system different from others and there was a healthy competition among the regions. And that died in 1966, and since that time, which today is 51 years, it has been patch-patch all along, to the extent that the nationalities have been drifting apart, almost back to where they were before the so-called amalgamation. The place where I cannot say there is a nation or country is that unless something drastic is done to arrest that trend, if anybody wants to bring them back together by force, we are going to have a Yugoslavia and that’s going to be a massive bloodshed in the territory called Nigeria. So, as we speak, we have two choices: either we go peacefully by the way of Czechoslovakia, where the Czechs went away and Slovak went away so that the Yoruba will just go their way; the Ibos will just go their way; the Jukuns will go their way; the Middle Belt will go their way; the Izon in the South-South will go their way; the Fulani would stay in the North-East and North-West and then, the Hausas will also go on their own, and the people in Adamawa and Borno will go on their way. The Kanuris will go their own way. Unless we do that and peacefully, any resort to force will lead to an explosion.
But some stakeholders argue that the problem of Nigeria is majorly about the operators of the structure, who tend to emphasis narrow, personal and class interest above collective or if you like, national aspiration?
There is no structure in the first place. That’s where we mix things up. You are talking about restructuring; you can only restructure a structure.
Even, when we have the 1999 Constitution that spells out a structure, comprising some fundamental institutions of government and what have you?
Which Constitution? A constitution written by Abdulsalami [Abubakar]? Is that the constitution you are talking about? A military document that came from the belly of the Fulani cabal? That’s not a constitution. A constitution is supposed to be made by people; by the collectivity of the mass of the people in a given land. That’s not what happened! This was just a group of soldiers drafting something and calling it a constitution! I don’t want to talk about that because there is no constitution. Nigeria does not operate a constitution; it operates a document that is heavily weighted in favour of whoever becomes the head of state. That is why whoever is the president of this so-called Nigeria would be the most powerful person on earth. He has the power to appoint the Chief of Army Staff; he has the power to appoint of Air Staff; the inspector General of Police; he has the power to remove the Inspector General of Police; he has the power to appoint the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. That is not democracy; that is not a constitution. So, there is no question about restructuring; you can only restructure a structure. There is nothing to restructure; you cannot restructure what does not exist. If, for instance, the amalgamated nationalities go their way, then we can now say that would be the structure; the structure is the split; then, you can now want to restructure that. If the Yoruba form their Oduduwa Republic, because a lot has happened before the Yoruba became one, since the Yoruba became one, maybe before amalgamation, they can now say, what existed before 1914, let us restructure it. Then, that would be restructuring. But, at the moment, there is nothing to restructure.
A lot of people have advocated we go back to the structure the country had at independence in 1960, that is, a parliamentary system of government, even though your position is that there is no structure called Nigeria?
Yes, I have always advocated a parliamentary system, but it must be a parliamentary system under a confederation. As it is, Lugard made Northern Nigeria about two-thirds of the whole country. When you said you have a tripod, and the tripod is having a head that doubles the size of the two legs; that is an abnormality. It was deliberate, to carve a place called Northern Nigeria up to Ilorin; carve a Northern Nigeria up to Lokoja; carve a Northern Nigeria up to Ogoja. Ogoja is almost 90 per cent Akwa Ibom. They bear the same name. So, it was deliberate to also make sure that even if you have a National Assembly, the so-called North would have more than two-thirds of the number of seats, so that it would forever be that the North has the majority. It was part of the fraud concocted by Lugard and the British to make sure that power forever stays in the hands of the Fulanis, because when we say the North, it is a misnomer. There is no North; it is the Fulanis having the big colonies of the North. They colonised the Hausas, killed their kings and took over the Hausa land. In essence, it is the Fulanis that mischievously came that have been ruling the so-called North. Aminu Kano, a Hausa man, could not make it; and of course, the Kanuris were never conquered by the Fulanis, but since they are yoked into this nonsense called Nigeria, they also have never had freedom.
Several attempts through conferences at constitutional reforms have been made to evolve a widely acceptable constitutional framework for the country. Why do you think it has been difficult to use those opportunities to right the wrongs you have talked about the country you claim does not exist?
All the conferences were chasing shadows; that’s the point.
Including the pre-Independence conferences?
They were all chasing shadows. The first thing they should have done was that we go back to pre-amalgamation. Anything short of that is a waste of time and resources. If Nigeria does not go back to 1914, it will never, ever take off. It will never succeed; it will never be stable; it will never get rid of corruption, assassinations, kidnappings and all the ills that are currently plaguing Nigeria.
Are you suggesting that the 2014 confab report, which many of groups and individuals are insisting should be implemented because it contains some far-reaching decisions made by consensus among the delegates is also a mirage?
The 2014 conference report is almost 80 per cent okay. It allows for the state police, and other details. So, the 2014 Confab addressed some of the problems that the amalgamation brought on all of us. But the 2014 confab was in itself an attempt to patch up what is existing, say ‘ok, let’s not break up; we cannot go back to 1914 anymore but let us see if we can correct some of the ills of 1914.’ To that extent, it is a very good document. But, what I’m saying is that even at that, it was not far-reaching enough.
And in any event, the Fulani cabal has refused to implement it. Before now, people were always saying, let us try federal character, they won’t allow it; let us have state police, they won’t allow it; let us have regionalism, they won’t allow; let us have parliamentary system, they won’t allow. Who are these they? The ‘they’ people are afraid to talk about are the Fulani cabal. It is the only element in Nigeria that is causing all the problems we are having in this country. For a group of people to control all the sensitive organs of a country-they control the Army; they control the Navy; they control the Air Force; they control the Department of State Security; they control the Customs Service; they control the Ports Authority; they control every sensitive segment of the society. There is no country in the world that is run that way. Therefore, this cannot continue. Nigerian, if there is anybody called Nigerian because I am a Yoruba person; I’m Ijebu, then I’m Yoruba, if there is anybody called Nigerian, all those who say they are Nigerians are just mouthing it, because they know it is not true. It’s political correctness; it pays them to say I’m a Nigerian; it is a lie. Anybody who says he is a Nigerian is lying, because they don’t mean it in their hearts; because the nomenclature just exists on paper. I am a solid human being; I cannot say I’m something written on a billboard, because Nigeria is just something written on paper.
So, you do not believe there exist the unity of the country?
How can there be unity? There is no unity in the country. There is nothing uniting us, that’s what I’m saying.
But, Nigerians fought a three-year civil war, which was meant to unite the country avert disintegration?
No, we didn’t fight a war. What happened in 1967 to 1970 was that foolishly, the Yoruba and other Minorities and in the so-called Nigerian Army, which is actually a Fulani-controlled army, allowed themselves to be used to further attack people who have been seriously subjected to a pogrom.
I am aware the war was principally meant to unite the country by stopping a breakaway by a section?
No, the Fulanis that control the military did not want the East to go because of the presence of crude oil. They felt that if the East went, the Yoruba would go and the so called Nigeria, which benefits them, might disintegrate. What has been happening is that the rest of the country had been feeding the North. That is the truth and that was the beginning of the fraud. In 1914, the British realised that the money to be used to finance the two protectorates was coming from the South, and so they needed the South to be fighting the North so that they can continue to augment the living standard and existence of the so-called North. That was what happened. And that is what is still happening now.
Are you saying we have not learnt anything from fighting the civil war?
It wasn’t a civil war. It was persecution of a race. The rest of the co-called country combined to persecute and almost annihilate a race. So, Nigeria is worst in 2017 than it was in 1966. Before the coup of 1966, even though we had four regions, things were still okay: intermarriages. Nobody was terribly conscious of ethnicity at that point in time. Now, you have Christians fighting the Muslims; Muslims fighting Christians. Ibos and other tribes are feeling unsafe everywhere in the country; the Fulani herdsmen are butchering everybody, destroying farms, raping women and taking over Plateau, Agatu in Benue State, and actually trying to terrorise the rest of the country to submission. That is what is happening.
What would be your advice to the National Assembly in the current conscious effort at amending the 1999 Constitution since you said we do not have a country yet?
What is the National Assembly, when two-thirds of the members come from a section of a place? We don’t have a National Assembly; we just have some minorities; we claim to have a National Assembly where two-thirds belongs to the ruling section. That is not a National Assembly. An Assembly is supposed to have equal components; we don’t have equal components. Everything that the so-called North doesn’t want to happen would not happen, because they have the majority, and that majority is acquired by the fraud committed and sustained since the amalgamation of 1914. Since that date, we have had fraudulent census, fraudulent Land Use Act; everything is appropriated to favour the so-called Northern Region of Nigeria.