THE intractable conflicts confronting Nigeria and indeed Africa is foundational. We need to examine the roots of the crisis to suggest possible solutions. During the so-called scramble for Africa, the European powers of the day gathered in Berlin from 15 November, 1884 to 26thFebruary, 1885. After the 3-month conference, without the consent of Africans, boundaries were arbitrarily and hastily drawn to form countries of diverse ethnic groups and mosaic cultures. Many ethnic groups and nations were split to form different countries. Fulanis are spread across West, Central and North Africa. Hausa people are also well spread across West and Central Africa. Kanuri people are in West, Central and North Africa. Yoruba people are mostly in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast and Ghana while the Igbo and Ibibio people are found in Nigeria and Cameroon. According toIkudaisi Isola, in his book A road to Nowhere, “the greatest challenge facing Nigeria is the way it was grafted. Many ethnic groups in Nigeria have their kith and kin mapped into other countries while groups with little or nothing in common were amalgamated. Forging a single country out of the diverse nations is an uphill task. But there is hope.”
Nigeria is an amalgam of about 300 ethnic groups with almost 500 languages. Some of these ethnic groups are spread across other countries. The different ethnic groups came into contact with Europeans, some through conquests while others were by trade treaties, at different periods. Their value systems and development patterns also differ. Northern and Southern Provinces and the Lagos Colony were amalgamated in 1914 though under different administrative structures. The amalgamation brought together peoples of different backgrounds, languages, identities, cultures and aspirations. The exit of the colonialists fostered ethnic cleavages culminating in ill-disguised mutual suspicion and bitter ethnic hatreds. The creed then was North for Northerners, West for Westerners, and East for Easterners. This heightened the risk of internal ethnic conflict from inception. And crisis has not abated till date. On the eve of independence, in 1959, crisis erupted in Tiv province in present day Benue State as the Tiv rejected the hegemonic agenda of the Native Authority of Northern Nigeria. The Joseph Tarka led United middle belt Congress (UMBC) was agitating for a separate region for the middle belt. The Action Group led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo of Western Region was in alliance with the UMBC. The crisis intensified till 1964. By June 1963, a region was created out of Western Region essentially to spite and weaken a political rival – Obafemi Awolowo, who along with his close aides, was jailed 10 years on trumped up charges of treasonable felony on September 11, 1963.
By January 15, 1966 there was a military coup which was led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogu, an Igbo officer and this paved the way for General Aguiyi Ironsi, another Igbo officer to become the head of state. On 23rd February 1966, Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro declared Niger Delta Republic because he believed that the Federal Government and the Eastern Region government were benefitting from the oil and gas exploitation to the exclusion of the Niger Delta. The Ironsi government battled Adaka Boro for almost two weeks before the secession was crushed. The 1966 coup became a source of grievance, hate, resentment, and fear. The Hausa/Fulani officers staged a revenge coup in July 1966 against the “Igbo officers coup” with the massacre of Igbos in the North. Eventually, a civil war broke out in July 1967 and ended in January 1970. The political, emotional and physical consequences of that war are still haunting the nation till today. Nigeria, with three autonomous regions at independence, is now divided into 36 unviable States. The states were all created by the military elites of Northern extractions. The Northern region now has 19 States and the Federal Capital Territory with 417 Local Government Areas. The then Eastern Region has been divided into 9 States with 176 Local Government Areas while the old Western Region is now 8 States with 181 Local Government Areas. It soon became obvious that the fragmentation in the form of state and local government creation are strategic. It serves two main purposes. One, to consolidate the hegemonic agenda and two, to funnel more resources through greater share from Federation Account into the favoured region.
Nigeria is suffering from structural violence and we must go to its foundation if we intend to have a great structure for the benefit of all stakeholders including every black man/woman and our foreign friends. Structural violence is any scenario in which a social structure perpetuates inequity, thus causing preventable suffering. The introduction of the majority democracy rule in ethnically divided societies promotes fear of domination and marginalisation by other groups. Nigeria is presently being tyrannised by a dominant minority or alien elites, if you like. Despite representing a small fraction of the overall population, these alien elites repulsively inflict tyranny on other ethnic groups as a sinister strategy to forcibly chase people away from their ancestral homes and perhaps obliterate them. People were justifiably worried at the ambivalence of the national authorities and their seeming abhorrence of this clear act of ethnic cleansing. They dominate the political space and destroy the economy.
Nigeria became independent in 1960. The struggle for power, which started even immediately after amalgamation, is intense and complicated, especially amongst the tripodalregions representing the three major ethnic groups. Identity politics crept in and polarised the people. Averse to any form of competition, the alien elites embraced internal manoralism as an ideology. For them, it is leadership position or nothing. All resources in the land must belong to them! This makes forging a cohesive and single state an uphill task and heightened the risk of internal ethnic conflicts. Thus hobbling the nation’s political, economic, social, and human development generally. While inaugurating the House ad-hoc committee on Constitution review in Abuja on Thursday, October 15, 2020, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon.Femi Gbajabiamila was quoted as saying that Nigeria is struggling to survive amid its “systemic weaknesses”. According to him, the House has realised that “many of our development questions lies in the pages of a new Nigerian constitution”. He went further:“The reality of our current circumstances and the now certain knowledge that only us can save ourselves imposes on us an obligation to act with greater determination and all the urgency this moment calls for.”
“A vast majority of Nigerians consider the 1999 Constitution a product of military exigency,” he said.
Idris said among the key areas that will be looked into include the federal structure in pursuit of “true federalism”, local government and judicial autonomy, state policing, and state creation. To rebuild Nigeria, we should immediately take the following five steps. First, recognise that Nigeria is an amalgamation of regions of distinct cultures and aspirations and should now be so structured into six autonomous regions: North West Region, North East Region, Middle Belt Region, Oduduwa Region, Niger Delta Region and Biafra Region. Second, a plebiscite should be organised under the supervision of relevant international agencies for each ethnic group and peoples of current States to decide which region they wish to belong. Third, each region should draft a suitable Constitution for its use. Fourth, a new Constitution which will be drafted and approved by the federating regions. Fifth, Nigeria should thereafter be appropriately renamed United Regions of Nigeria (URN).
Greater Nigeria is possible but we just must first forget parochialism. Most Nigerians are today dissatisfied and crave for real freedom except the alien elites and perhaps the political entrepreneurs’. Let’s rebuild Nigeria. Let’s have a United Regions of Nigeria, that is the solution.
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