VOICE OF COURAGE: Selected speeches of Obafemi Awolowo (Vol 2)

Constitution making in developing countries

From a lecture delivered at the University of Lagos on Friday, 24th February, 1967.

Continued from a last week

ON the  other hand, if the state is multi-national or multi-lingual, the want of specified aims and objects of a sufficiently uniting character will lead to permanent disintegration among-the nations which constitute the state. This tendency to disintegration can be mitigated and relived to a great extent, if in the course of a sufficiently long period, the nations concerned have developed strong sentiments for political togetherness. This counter-force would be very much strengthened if, though the aims and objects are not stated, the members of the multi-national state are aware that greater advantages and benefits are accruable to them in unity, than in disintegration.

Any attempt to keep the nations in a multi-national state together, under conditions where the state has no specified aims and objects, will undoubtedly generate discontent, instability, and public disorder, much worse than will be the case in a uni-national state.

It must be emphasised that it is not enough to have aims and objects. Such aims and objects must be of such quality and character as will evoke abiding sense of patriotism and loyalty from the citizens of the state, and must be such as will, in their execution, benefit all the citizens substantially and without exception.

It is common knowledge that no partnership, or club, or human association of any kind will last for long if its affairs are conducted in such a manner as to benefit only a few of its members.

It is true that in contradistinction to a voluntary human association, the state has at its disposal a plenitude of coercive instruments to compel obedience as well as adherence even in the face of the worst possible form of social injustice. But if political history teaches anything at all, it is that, in the long run, the efficacy of coercive instruments in the face of extensive and persistent social injustice, is completely negative.

We have noted, earlier on, that the primary aims and objects of a state are defence against external aggression, and the maintenance of internal order and security.

These days, for most counties of the world, these alms are irrelevant, and not so fundamental as they used to be.

The faculty and futility of aggression have dawned vividly on all the states of the world, including those of them that are actual and potential aggressors. In spite of South Vietnam, it is obvious that the countries of the world are learning hard, fast, and truly to live without war. Besides, it is known from time immemorial, that a large association of human beings, such as is found in a nation state is not essential to the maintenance of internal peace and security. In fact, the smaller the unit of state, the easier and more effective is the maintenance of internal order and security.

In any case, the citizens of developing countries dread the secular siege of poverty, with its attendant scourge of ignorance, disease and hunger, more than they do the overt or covert threats of an intending war-like aggressor. Furthermore, most of them have little to lose from internal disorder. And it will, I think, be generally agreed that the more prosperous a state is, and the more equitably and justly distributed its wealth is, the less liable it is to the danger of external aggression or of internal disorder.

It follows, therefore, that in addition to the aforementioned primary aims and objects, a state must have bold and inspiring economic and social objectives which will be pursued in such a manner as to benefit all the citizens justly and substantially. I do not wish to take up the point here as to whether or not it is better for such economic and social objectives to be capitalist or socialist in orientation. It must be admitted, in all honesty, that there are instances where the capitalist or the socialist route has led to poverty and utter ruin for the citizens, and where it has led to greater, and just distribution of wealth for them. However, after this much has been said and admitted, I would like to state my considered view, categorically, that it is most unsafe for a developing country to rely wholly on the capitalist approach to the accumulation of wealth and its just distribution.

To be continued

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