THERE is a saying that when an opportunity emerges and it is not utilized but allowed to slip away, such an opportunity may never come in the way of the person again forever. This is true about the current situation in the entity known as Nigeria. That Nigeria is sick socially, politically and economically is glaring to the blind and the message audible to the deaf. This sickness, which is intrinsically endemic, given its present level, may be a terminal one if the unique opportunity provided by the recent youth revolt in the country failed to get positive response or a genuine wake-up of the present political leaders(or rulers as they appear to be). Dangerous and fatal influence of desperate and powerful status-quo defenders, who are benefiting from the awkwardness and rottenness of pseudo-federalism as it is today in Nigeria and what some had described as democratic dictatorship, may prevent the urgent surgical operation required politically to save the nation. One of the status-quo defenders once likened Nigeria’s unity to a Catholic marriage, saying that even though the marriage might not be happyyet, the union will never break. This is a fallacy that can no longer hold water for obvious reasons. Many Catholic marriages are breaking down irretrievably today and Nigeria’s fragile structure is even more susceptible to worst misfortune.
Before 1914, there was no nation called Nigeria in the global context. The British imperialists came to Africa and lumped together diverse and often discordant ethnic nationalities in the geographical area today known as Nigeria for their socio-economic and administrative convenience and called the created entity Nigeria. No input whatsoever by any of the indigenous people being lumped together. Neither was the future national integration of the entity given any consideration by the colonialists who solely focused on the economic gains of imperialism. The fragility of the contraption left behind by the British reflected in the famous quote by the secessionist Republic of Biafra throughout its life span. The secessionists were apt in quoting from the maiden address of the then emerging new military ruler, Lt.Col. Yakubu Gowon about “the unity that is not there”. The bitter truth is that experience has proved that this imperialist creation called Nigeria has never worked as a normal nation-state as obtained in the global community and will never work as long as it remains in its present fragile form. Rather, it has hitherto functioned more as an association of incompatibles, a kind of mere contraption put together by the colonialists for their convenient economic exploitation of the geographical area. No wonder former Premier of the Northern Region of Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello referred to the union between the North and the South as “the mistake of 1914”.How long shall the country continue to build on an identified mistake?
Politicking in Nigeria has always been based on ethnic rivalry leading toclear display of human depravity. Most elections in Nigeria so far were tantamount to mere farce. The situation is always exacerbated by bad and clueless leaders who are self-centred and in most cases, ethnic jingoists. So the workability of the union was never given priority attention even by the emerging politicians who have always been engrossed in scheming for ethnic supremacy in a multi-ethnic society in which they found themselves.
This is why social, political and economic stability in Nigeria has always been a mirage and will continue to be elusive as long as it continues to be in its present mere contraption form. It is not surprising that Nigeria had moved to become the poverty capital of the world despite the abundant human and material resources in the country. Majority of Nigerians, especially the youth, who see no trace of hope any more in Nigeria, are desperate and eager to move out of the country to elsewhere by any means. This is why reasonable people, longing for the stability and viability of the nation have been clamouring for the restructuring of the nation to make it functional in the interest of the generality of the people within the geographical area known as Nigeria today. Although the seed of instability was sown from the onset by the colonialists, under the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari, the centrifugal forces in the country had been activated wittingly or unwittingly more than in any other period in the history of Nigeria. For instance, the imperatives of Ahmadu Bello’s Northernisation policy of the 1950s are no more there to justify the veiled Northernisation policy of the Buhari administration which has been glaring even to the blind in the last five years. In fact, Ahmadu Bello could be justified on the basis of the semi-autonomy embedded in the tripartite political structure of the country at the time when every unit was in control of its affairs rather than virtually everything being decided at the centre as it is now.
Ahmadu Bello’s political party, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), never made any pretense even in name that it is meant for all Nigerians rather than the exclusive interest of the northerners. Ahmadu Bello’s Northenisation policy was therefore meant to allow Northerners to control the affairs of the Northerners in a government which is solely for the Northerners. But the present Buhari regime, while laying claim to pan-Nigerianism, appears to be covertly implementing Fulani micro-nationalism policy which some had aptly referred to as the Fulanisation of Nigeria by Buhari. To some, the glaringly lopsided appointments in favour of the north by Buhari in the last five years, is seen as the Northenisation policy of Buharito keep the affairs of Nigeria mainly in the hands of the Northerners. No other regime had been so insensitive to the unity of the country as in Buhari’s regime. Even under Buhari as military head of state between 1984 and 1985, at least the first three topmost federal government officials were Northerners and Buhari cared less about that then. It has become a kind of unfinished task for him which he is ready to accomplish now to the consternation ofother Nigerians mostly from the south.
It is not only that the present pseudo-federalism can never work in the interest of all peoples of the country, it can never be justified under any political arrangement among multi-ethnic groups globally. The prevailing situation in the country today is provoking vociferous agitation for the restructuring of the country more than ever before to reflect true federalism that Nigeria deserves. This is the basic political structure requirement in any multi-ethnic society. The pertinent question is, why are some people against the restructuring of Nigeria to reflect true federalism? People who are against the restructuring of the country or federal political arrangement can be classified into two categories. The bitter truth is that some Nigerians, especially from the Northern part of the country, are too scared of the word restructuring, fearing that it would lead to the disintegration of the country. This may be due to the way they were brought up politically from the colonial era. No doubt, the British colonialists groomed the North to become the over-pampered spoilt child of the Nigerian politics, which they are till today. Even if the nation should disintegrate peacefully like the old Soviet Union and life becomes more meaningful to everyone, it is better than the prevailing situation now which is akin to the Hobbesian state of nature where life is short, nasty and brutish. Restructuring will take care of most of what make life unbearable in the North and other parts of the country. Microscopically few Nigerians can today claim sincerely that they are proud to be Nigerians. This is the bitter truth.
The first category of those against restructuring of Nigeria consists of political ignoramuses. These are people who are completely ignorant of what political structure among multi-ethnic society actually means. They don’t even understand what is good for the nation and its people. They are very sincere in their defence of the status-quo but politically, they are sincerely wrong. Ironically many in this category are highly placed socially, politically and even economically and can be found in all parts of the country.
The second category of people who are opposed to the restructuring of the country consists of people whose view of the vexed issue is defined by selfishness and/or ethnicity. Most of the anti-restructuring people in the North fall into this category. These are the people benefitting mainly from the prevailing awkward structure which they see as being in the best interest of the North. This group believes in the present feeding bottle federalism in which the centre that controls the nation’s resources doles out monetary allocationsfrom the so-called federation account in Abuja to the constituting units of the pseudo-federation periodically without any serious efforts to work and generate their needed resources for development.
Most of the Southerners in this category are quislings who collude with the status-quo defenders and are too selfish to bother about national interest. They know the present structure is not workable but as long as they are benefitting from it, they pretend as if everything is okay. At times, under the guise of“national interest”, they deceitfully postulate panacea they know won’t work to save the nation. It is just part of the status-quo defenders tactics and grand deceit.
The call for the restructuring of the country today is the voice of reason that must not be silenced because the consequences could be grave especially for the hapless innocent Nigerians in all parts of the country. In fact, what the status-quo defenders are trying to protect would sadly be lost irretrievably.
The warning of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the ceremonial President in Nigeria’s First Republic, is pertinent here for the leaders of the nation today. In a radio broadcast to the nation titled: “May Allah save our Republic”, on December 10, 1964, he cautioned that even if each of the constituting units would have to go its different ways, we should “let it not be featured by violence…should the politicians failed to heed this warning, then I will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be a child’s play if it ever comes to our turn to play such a tragic role…I have made my observations not necessarily as an alarmist, but as a realist who is in a position to read the handwriting on the wall of our destiny.”
I am sure if Zik would issue such warning today, as the handwriting on the wall is still there, he would definitely cite other gory examples of Rwanda and Somalia. It is now left to the nation’s decision makers of today to see beyond the immediate situation and its tempting euphoria and act in the national interest above veiled selfish cum ethnic interest. Nigeria actually played the tragic role that Zik predictedbetween 1967 and 1970, but the God of second chance appears to still be on the side of the country. It is now left to the leaders not to squander it.
- Adesua is a former Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of African Newspapers Plc
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