By Abuchi Obiora
Some people who benefit by the inadequacies of the status quo in the socio-political configuration of Nigeria may not like the subject-matter of today’s discourse, but I must insist that I owe nobody any apology for observing, for posterity sake, the ills of a toddling country that has all the potentials of being the greatest country on earth, if she is well constituted and managed. This set of people who may abhor what I write here may also not want us to look back to the earliest history of Nigeria because that will expose their selfish and mischievous agenda for the country. In spite of what these agents of retrogression may think, to history, I must refer.
It is true that the country started out as a make-shift geopolitical arrangement for the convenience of the British government to explore both the industrial fiber and the manpower resources of the landmass which the then girlfriend of Fredrick Lugard called the ‘Niger Area’ nay, ‘Nigeria’. What a vain foundation laid by a strange woman! If anybody is in doubt about what a name signifies, please let them find out the meaning of ‘Ichabod’. But this is just a minor issue when compared with the consistent, 62 year-old failures of the brainchild and amorous conception of Fredrick Lugard’s girlfriend.
The real issue is that the ‘other room” (courtesy, Mohammadu Buhari) brainchild of Fredrick Lugard’s girlfriend whose ‘delivery’ was encapsulated in a document – The 1914 Amalgamation Document – was actually supposed to live for only hundred years, and allowed to die, or be reinvented by the natural midwives, who not by coincidence, are the indigenous ethnic nationalities in the geographical landmass that was named Nigeria by Fredrick Lugard’s girlfriend.
Consequent upon this foundation, the brainchild of Lugard’s girlfriend has a predicted constitutional death on December, 31st, 2013 and actually needed a burial or a reconstitution. I have earlier written so much about the delusional approach of hobnobbing around a dead legal entity rather than the sane approach of laying it to rest, or as may be agreed by all stakeholders, resuscitate/invigorate, reinvent, and re-establish her. Some of these works of mine were published in The Authority Newspaper while a lot more have also been published in the Kaleidoscope Archives Opinion page.
Discovering the urgent need to reinvent Nigeria, the different ethnic nationalities (excepting one of them, obviously because it is the sole beneficiary of the improper arrangement) who dwell within the geographical space called Nigeria, have sought for a re-definition and reinvention of the Nigerian arrangement to meet the aspirations of the confederating ethnic nationalities.
These umbrella groups in Nigeria include, but are not limited to the Afenifere (the central Yoruba socio-political and cultural organization); PANDEF (Pan Niger Delta Forum: representing people of the Niger Delta area); Ohaneze (representing the Igbo ethnic nationality); the much relegated Kunjiyar Hausawan Nigeriya, KUNHAN (umbrella association of indigenous Hausa people in Nigeria); SOKAPU: (Southern Kaduna People’s Union) representing indigenous minority ethnic nationalities in Kaduna State); Middle Belt Forum (representing the ‘major’ indigenous minority groups and ethnic nationalities in the vast area covered by the middle belt of Nigeria); Ijaw National Congress (the umbrella body of Izon otu – Ijaw people – representing the specific Izon-speaking people of the Niger Delta area).
Gan Allah Fulani Association (the umbrella body of all Fulde (Fulani) socio-political and cultural groups in Nigeria) and the MACBAN: Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (the Fulani cattle breeders cooperative society that has always acted as the official mouthpiece of the Fulani in Nigerian), are the only two groups amongst Nigerian ethnic nationalities that insist that Nigeria must continue to maintain her present socio-political arrangement with the later organization (MACBAN) making an additional demand that all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria must cede portions of their lands across Nigeria to graze cows owned by the Fulanis.
Other umbrella bodies of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities include MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) founded by Henry Okah, Alhaji Asari Dokubo (formally Mr. Melford Dokubo Goodhead Jnr.) Government Ekpemukpolo (Tompolo), Ekikabowei Victor, John Toga, Akete Tom, etc.; Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), founded by Ken Saro Wiwa; The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB (founded by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu; MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra) founded by Mr. Ralph Uwazulike; the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC (founded by some Izon youths including Alhaji Asari Dokubo; the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, NDPVF (a splinter group of the IYC founded by Asari Dokubo. By the way, a close observation of these groups show that many of them are formed in those areas regarded as the national cash cows that oil the engine of the country’s economic developments. These groups whose landmasses remain underdeveloped when compared with the natural resources been tapped in those places, feel rightly marginalized and abandoned.
Before we continue this discourse, let us recall that some of the founding fathers of Nigeria had gone to Lancaster House, London, in 1957 and 1958 to agree on the type of government they will operate in Nigeria when they would be granted independence by the British government. The Nigerian delegation to the Lancaster House Conference of 1957 and 1958 was led by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of NPC (Northern People’s Congress). Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo (Action Group), Benjamin Nnamdi Azikwe (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons) and Eyo Ita (National Independence Party), were all in the Conference. Other Nigerians that were present in the Lancaster Constitutional Conference were two chiefs of the Northern Region, notably Sir Mohammadu Sanusi (Emir of Kano) and Alhaji Usman Nagogo (Emir of Kastina); two chiefs of the Western Region, notably Sir Adesoji Aderemi (Oni of Ife) and HRM Oba Akomolafe David Aladesanmi II (Ewi of Ado Ekiti); two chiefs of the Eastern Region, notably HRH Eze Johnson Osuji Njemanze (paramount ruler of Owerri) and Chief S.E Onukogu. Chief Nyong Essien, the then traditional ruler of Uyo, was also a member of the Nigerian delegation to the Constitutional Conference of 1957 and 1958 in Lancaster House where a document was signed by the attendees/participants to operate a government based on a simple formula of fiscal federalism when Nigeria would be granted independence in 1960.
How did Nigeria find herself today practicing a unitary system of government that we are told is an executive presidential system of government? What went wrong? Is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 (as severally amended), a fraud against Nigerians?
The foundation of the present skewed system in Nigeria was laid with the first coup d’etat in Nigeria (January 15th, 1966), organized by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna. That coup opened up a floodgate of unhealthy competition between military officers from Northern Nigeria and those from Southern Nigeria to take over the country. The July 29th 1966 coup, dubbed the ‘July Rematch’ by Northern Nigerian military officers was actually the masterstoke that started the tilting of political leadership in favour of the North as envisaged by the master planner and Northern political strategist, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sadauna of Sokoto, the then Premier of Northern Nigeria. That coup was organized by Lt. Col Murtala Ramat Muhammad and some other Northern and Middle Belt military officers including General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma. As a young military officer, the incumbent Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari participated actively in the massacre of Southern military officers of Igbo extraction at the Ikeja Military Cantonment during the “July Rematch’.
The pogrom against Southern Nigeria – Igbos – led to the 1967-1970 Civil war which was against the Igbos by Federal troops assisted by the then Middle Belt and the Yoruba’s. But both of these sections of Nigeria (the Yoruba’s and Middle Belt having been outwitted by the hegemons of core Northern Nigeria, have since joined the league of Nigerian ethnic nationalities seeking for either self-rule or a restructure of the country to reflect true fiscal federalism. Observers of the politics of Nigeria believe that the single contributing factor to the growing list of Nigerian ethnic nationalities seeking for self-rule or a restructure of the Nigeria sociopolitical landscape is the atavistic, conquering nature of Nigeria’s Fulani ethnic nationality who have been the sole beneficiary of the status quo after the ‘July Rematch’ of 1966.
The conquest of the country by Northern Nigeria, which started with the ‘July Rematch’ coup d’etat was capitalized upon by the Northern military elites and the Northern political class. It had a boost, being subtly legalized with the 1979 constitution of the Federal Republic, a document that has ensured a quiet, careful but steady decimation of the interests of other ethnic nationalities across Nigeria making them subservient to the combined hegemony of the Northern military elites and the Northern political class, now known to be tacitly under the strict control of the minority Fulani ethnic nationality in Nigeria.
The general apathy of Nigerians, the descent into anarchy, and the economic malaise as a result of the skewed Nigerian arrangement has brought the country almost to the precipice as the country is now on the cliff to the abyss of disintegration. It is at this point that the other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, including those hitherto seen as the allies of the minority Fulani ethnic nationality (such as the Hausa), began to shout blue thunder, having discovered that they have been used for decades and now dumped, to achieve a sinister purpose.
The foundation of the sociopolitical instability in Nigeria which has spiraled to the present level of insecurity and economic underdevelopment of the country can therefore be directly traced to the gradual but deliberate jettisoning of the 1957/1958 Lancaster House Conference Agreement which recommended true federalism for the constituent federating regions of Nigeria. This gradual and calculated process has seen Nigeria practicing a unitary constitution in the Federal Republic, a constitution with a dubious toga of an executive system devoid of all the characteristics of a true federalist country like America from where Nigeria constitution was copied.
The major reason for my recanting Nigeria’s early history in this discourse is to achieve a fair, proper diagnosis of the country’s aliments so that appropriate remedies may be applied. I stand to be proven wrong in my diagnosis. If we forget where we are coming from, it is possible that we will not be able to know where we want to go.
In one of his presentations, the very erudite, versatile and cerebral Nigerian patriot, Mr. Tony Nnadi, who seeks for the best internal arrangement for the country to guarantee her greatness in the comity of the nations of the world, referred to the country as ‘The Defunct Federation of Nigeria’ obviously as a result of her expired status as a country constituted by the Amalgamation Treaty. Mr. Tony Nnadi who is the General Secretary of Lower Niger Congress (LNC) and co-convener of NINAS (Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self Determination), had, with his colleagues at the NINAS worked out what they call a Constitutional Force Majeure and caused same to be published on 16th December, 2020. The Constitutional Force Majeure as articulated by them, provide the modalities for the exit routes for the Nigerian ethnic nationalities who may desire to dissociate themselves from the Nigerian union either through a Referendum for self-rule, or regional autonomy.
The simple motive of the Constitutional Force Majeure articulated by Mr. Tony Nnadi and his colleagues at the NINAS is to restore the sovereignty and the self-determination rights of Nigerian federating units as a result of issues of self-determination arising from the constitutional grievances imposed on the federating units by the unitary arrangement in Nigeria tactically imposed on the federating units since after the ‘July Rematch’ and dubiously legalized by the 1979 constitution(as has been severally amended).
It is important to add that the NINAS Constitutional Force Majeure received wide acceptance from the Nigerian ethnic nationalities across the East, West, North and Southern parts of the country. It was also well received by the minority ethnic nationalities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, who, though not yet recognized individually, collectively sum up to a potent and indefatigable force in the politics of Nigeria, being also the occupiers of the largest portion of Nigeria when compared with the Northern and Southern individual landmasses. For example the much respected Yoruba, senior citizen and icon, Prof. Banji Akintoye of Ilana Omo Oodua, working towards the realization of an Odua nation, is one of the many Nigerian ethnic luminaries who supported the opinion of NINAS to use Referendum to achieve different levels of autonomy for the indigenous ethnic nationalities of Nigeria.
In a nine-part documentary titled “A Tripple Heritage” (later arranged in form of a book and first published in 1986 by a joint partnership of BBC Publications and Little, Brown and Company) written and narrated by Prof. Ali Al’ amin Mazuri in the early eighties, jointly produced by the BBC and the Public Broadcasting Services in association with the Nigerian Television Authority which aired the documentary in National Network, Prof. Mazuri observed that though the industrial fiber and the labour force of African countries transformed Europe and America to their present levels of civilization, African countries are yet to recover the onslaughts and take advantages of what the Prof. call “A Triple Heritage”. That was a remote argument, though, by the Prof., who spoke more on the effects of the triple heritage on Africans.
In this discourse, I am more interested in taking advantage of the triple heritage of African countries which Prof Mazuri outlined in the documentary. Prof Mazuri identified the following as the triple heritage of African countries. They are:
- An indigenous African heritage borne out of time and climate change.
- The heritage of Eurocentric capitalism forced on Africa by European colonialism.
- The spread of Islam by Jihad and the entrance to Africa of Christian evangelism through colonialism.
The Prof. observed that African leaders were yet to properly address the negative effects of the triple heritage which has left African countries economically dependent, culturally mixed, and politically unstable. He added that most unfortunately, African countries have been going through vicious cycles of governments struggling to wriggle their countries out of the negative effects of the triple heritage.
Why has it taken African countries like Nigeria which has been toddling for 62 years, such a long time to sort themselves out from the problems of the triple heritage of their earliest beginnings? The quick and fast answer to this question is executive corruption and the ineptitude of most government officials in Africa.
It is unfortunate that in spite of the intellectual works of African nationalist pathfinders like Prof. Ali Mazuri, African leaders and politicians are yet to organize themselves in such manners that they will become able to solve the problems of the countries they have the opportunities to lead. For example, America is a great country today, not necessarily because of her natural resources, but because of the optimal use of her pristine heritage of multiplicity in ethnic composition and patriotism of her citizens as a result of equal opportunities created by the United States government for her citizens of all racial groups. Conversely in Nigeria, the country’s multi-ethnic composition and religious diversity have become the nemesis that encourages inept leaderships and corrupt political leaders, the two factors that have combined to become the albatross which stands against national development.
It is on this note that the candidacy of Mr. Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of Labour Party, Nigeria has become interesting. More interesting has it also become because, for the first time in the history of an African country, the organized labour force, the hewers of the wealth and the bakers of the national cake, are getting directly involved in addressing the mirage problems of the country hitherto left unattended by previous governments since the country’s independence.
Next week, we shall round up this discourse by drawing from the fore-listed Nigerian experiences of the past and with them, prove that the imminent takeover of political leadership in Nigeria driven by Nigerian youths through the OBIDATT Presidential mandate under the political canopy of the Labour party, will only be a means to an end for Nigeria when it happens. It will not yet be ‘uhuru’ for Nigeria and Nigerians when it does happen, though presently, the OBIDATT ticket is the only visible alternative for the reinventing and resurrection of Nigeria when appropriately directed as we all pray for. It is expected that Mr. Peter Obi’s presidency will become the launch pad, for the country’s greatness, when citizens will be infused with sense of patriotism through government application of justice and fair play across board in a Nigeria where all the ethnic nationalities in the country will understand that they have equal stake.
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