“A stitch in time saves nine” Ancient Proverb
Even before the lowering of the Union Jack on 1st October 1960,certain forces have asked pertinent questions bordering the 1914 political solemnization of Northern and Southern protectorates by representative of the Crown Lord Legard.The colonial master’s amalgamation hatched a federal entity that its experience can’t be found in any pre-existing federal structures in developed and less developed worlds.More to that, reasons that instigates units and constituents to hem a federal political setting are totally absent in Nigeria experience.
Because reasons that gingered the colonial master’s welding of Southern and Northern protectorates were centred on their exploitative economic interest and administrative conveniences, dissenting voices were surprised. After every round of protestation, colonial masters merely convocated constitutional conferences at home and abroad- not with intention of sincerely addressing concerns raised but to cool down tension in other to have a conducive atmosphere for their business of economic exploitation, cultural subjugation, and political domination. After gaining the so-called political independence in 1960, the political and economic caste that succeeded the colonial masters ignored commentaries and agitations asking for a dialogue to settle multifaceted questions related to the structure, allocation of powers to layers of authorities, and even existence of Nigeria as a single political entity.
Advocates of this position coined names like National Conference, National Dialogue,True Federalism, and Sovereign National Conference. On each occasion,opponents of this advocacy innovate technical mechanism of evading poignant issues. If communiques of groups included words like Sovereignty and True Federalism, Nigeria unpatriotic and compradorial ruling caste and their apologists dodged through running commentary on technical grounds like; you can’t have two sovereigns in a body polity, and there is nothing like True Federalism. While folding up their opposition, they arrogantly pique; Nigeria is indissoluble and indivisible political entity.
The refusal of Nigeria political class and their exploitative and unpatriotic business caste to accept the impeccable realism that there are questions to ask and answer to provide about the entire Nigeria project indirectly triggered a 30 months civil war that annihilated almost a million Nigerians and destroyed properties worth billions of Naira. Till this day, claims from the federal and Biafran sides on whether certain policies that looks genocidal were part of the overall war strategy of leaders of the Federal Government of Nigeria( FGN) are making the rounds. One last major controversy associated with Nigeria civil war narrative came through a book one of the world’s greatest writer Chinua Achebe published before his demise.Truth be told, conscious and deliberate refusal to address centrifugal agitations that emanated from political and military brass from South Eastern Nigeria contributed in no small measure to the destructive civil war.
After the civil war in 1970 people with the long history of this agitation muted.Their muteness wasn’t masterminded by the fact that the old questions of the corporate existences of Nigeria and related matters like the structure of Nigeria’s federalism had been settled by the boom-boom of bombs and zing-zing of riffles between 1967-1970. Even though open advocacy was a rarity, academicians in ivory towers and other research centres busied themselves writing, researching and publishing opinions on the structure of Nigeria Federalism and other national questions thereof. Occasionally, a few media outlets do remind the nation of the existence of uncleared national questions through their editorial opinions.
To say the truth,no region hasn’t agitated for one form of national dialogue or the other, or openly threatened to breakaway from Nigeria. In 1957 the then northern region threatened to permit other regions proceed on self rule if the motion tabled by Action Group for self rule in 1957 materialized. Before this period, the leader of South West region threatened to end the political wedlock if the colony of Lagos is not added to the area under the control of his region.These few instances cited vividly demonstrated that centrifugal disposition was not only displayed by South East region alone.The difference is, others merely issued threats but South East walked their threat through a declaration of a separate republic in 1967.
Having gone through this compressed analogy of how Nigeria was created,reason for its creation, and persistent calls for restructuring; a careful reader will accept the impeccable and incontrovertible reality that the leadership of Africa’s most populous and endowed nation have been playing the ostrich,all along.Nigerians have been swimming in a dangerous pool of deceit through a delusional pretense that they are a country that its existence as corporate entity is unnegotiable.No “Solomonic” wisdom is needed to discern that this pretentious tantrum of the country’s solidness and indivisibility is astronomically detached from the realities on ground.
How long can Nigerians cling on these straws of pretense and falsehood? Are Nigerians not wasting time and consciously postponing evil days that will surely come- sooner or later? From the looks of things, the country is approaching the tip of a perilous cliff, why can’t the leaders and the led garner courage and tackle these aged concerns of these assembly of various ethnic nationalities and people of assorted faiths and tongues embedded in a ramshackle political contraption called Nigeria? Nigerians better know that the only thing they will lose is colonial master’s political conjugal ring that is not giving those involved happiness. The more time the country waste the more problems they will confront in due course.
Nigerian’s unwillingness to square off with contending issues right now will lead to apocalyptic disaster that the world don’t have capacity to handle due to the country’s heavy population and the nature of its borders. Without claiming to posses mesmerizing long view of a futurologist, the extensive and intensive nature of the crisis that will germinate from refusal to talk will spread to most West and Central African nations Nigeria shares long porous borders with. And all and sundry knows that Nigeria’s neighbours don’t have the economic muscle and sufficient infrastructure to host refugees or immigrants that will flood their small political geographies.
Pretending not to see or hear resource control agitations and environmental challenges of various communities of Niger Delta will never make them give up.No amount of alliances and giving of political offices to the States of South West will stop their advocacy for a return to a regional political structure akin to the regional order of the First Republic.Nothing will stop Hausa-Fulani Muslims of Northern Nigeria from advocating for incorporating Shariah legal system in Nigeria.No explanation will eliminate the quest of a Southern Kaduna man to have a their own state out of the present Kaduna State.Nothing will stop middle beltern communities of Northern Nigeria from advocating for the right to bear arms because of the activities of the Fulani janjaweeds killing them in their villages and farms like ants. Noting will stop people from South East from advocating for their Biafra Republic despite suffering serious setbacks during the civil war.
Most of the agitations enumerated in proceeding paragraph appeared on the political radar in this dispensation that commenced on 29th May 1999. People will continue to use Boko Haram, Niger Delta Avengers, Odua Peoples Congress, Bakassi Boys, Miss World riot, Refusal of a films Village by Kano people,beheading of a woman under the guise of blasphemy,creating conspiracy theory around polio vaccine, burning of a church because members prayed on a Friday,killing of a preacher, and others as a reminder that they have questions desiring answers and aspirations that must be made in Nigeria.
What is to be done? Where do we go from here? The first solution is for members of the National Assembly(NASS)to discard their party differences and set up an inter-party committee to prepare for a serious and sincere constitutional amendment exercise. The exercise must have a timeframe so that the exercise wouldn’t be rendered a nullify because of expectoration of the life of the 8th Assembly. Before swinging to action, all the 36 state assemblies be put on notice of these development for their quick response.Members of NASS should rollback to their constituencies to discuss with their constituents so that they can find a way of including their aspirations in the amendment document. I know that consulting with constituents could generate laughable ideas,with some of their thoughts quite anachronistic, but that is the beauty of democracy.Democracy has enough space for the good, bad and ugly ideas.
The second option is for the president to send an executive bill to NASS asking them for a permission to directly organise internationally supervised referendum that will ask all Nigerians of 18yrs and beyond questions related to our continued existence,revenue sharing formula and restructuring of the existing political structures. Since real sovereignty lays with the people, their decision stands. And such decisions must not be subjected to further discussions by either the NASS or executive branch. Or any legal interpretation by the highest court of the land. Thankfully, NASS has a tradition of midwifing resolutions under a broader caption called THE DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY. When former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua left the country in 2010 on a medical tourism to Saudi Arabia without an official handing over note to the Vice President, the senate invented a doctrine that saved Nigeria from a constitutional crisis. That can also hold on at this instance!
I have to restrict myself to these two arms of government to block the usual excuses of saying there can’t be two sovereignties concurrently existing in the same political scape. This short proposals are capable of blocking all legal gymnastics and similar excuses taunted by ultraconservative and reactionary forces that are converting this dysfunctional and hopeless situation to their parochialistic political and economic aggrandizements. Unfortunately, these wicked political and economic class will never witness backlashes of their act of refusing all efforts towards nip-budding these serious national questions.
It’s time to talk. Now is the right time!