It all started from the Federal Character principle. Some would argue that it all started with pre-Independence, with the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates by the British colonial rulers. Tell me why someone qualified to take a job in a region would not be given the opportunity to do that, but another individual is brought in from an entirely different state and given the same job? The same thing goes for promotions in the civil service, admission into federal tertiary institutions and even the provision of basic infrastructure. Why would a country instruct its citizens openly to construct federal roads with their own money and means, if they want to? Where does taxpayers’ money go?
As a case in point presently, we have doctors as house officers who are essential workers in various federal hospitals working without pay for the past three months in a raging pandemic and economic meltdown. To be heard, they have taken their protest physically and on social media to get publicity. The same chop-and-not-fix-the-country has impacted on our healthcare system. Our ‘non-existent’ healthcare system is so rotten that these same young medical professionals prefer moving to other parts of the world to earn the minimum wage paid to immigrant medical professionals in hopes that their services are valued and properly remunerated with time. Whatever salaries they are on, these are paid promptly.
Most times, it seems that the government is not interested in the concerns of majority of its citizens but a select few. Surprisingly, even terrorists are paid more attention to than law-abiding citizens.
Hitherto, our best defence has been that the country was flawed from the beginning and its political foundation tainted and skewed and, since history is not properly taught in a vast majority of schools, a lot of people might not be familiar with someone like Sir George Goldie. Again, this is because a lot of Nigeria’s early history is discussed with the likes of Sir Frederick Lugard, Hugh Clifford and John Macpherson. Goldie, a businessman and secretive person, had gained a lot of interest in Nigeria even after the British had officially declared the end of slave trading. He had also become the heart of the Royal Niger Company and, since this same company exercised a vast amount of power over the regions, it was also perceived to have been instrumental in the creation of Nigeria.
Even before the amalgamation of the two protectorates, the British had mentioned severally that the indigenes of present-day Nigeria were very different, polar opposites in ways of life, culture, religion and even principles. But it did not stop them from their fusion experiment in a pot of soup filled with bonga fish and thorny leaves. The British were blinded by their perceived economic gains. Today, it is recognised that the fault lines that divide each region are so deep that a restructuring might not save the country, since most boundaries were made on paper and never executed on cultural basis.
Since the experiments and adventures of the nation have taken us nowhere, some have suggested a reversal to the four regional system that was in place from 1963 because there is a lot to learn from that system as against the little or nothing we have learnt for the past 55 years.
I know that there are critics that will tell me this cannot be achieved without amending the present constitution, but we must not make the mistake of forming another constitutional conference that will bring hundreds of politicians and jobbers to congregate in Abuja one more time with nothing relevant coming out of it. Such is a common diversionary tactic that is usually employed in cases like this. For instance, every form of protest that has been employed in the last hundred or so years, from the Aba women’s protest to the environmental protest in the Delta about oil spillage and land degradation and, most recently, #EndSARS protest by the Nigerian youths. What these have in common is that they are eventually sabotaged by the formation of a ‘committee,’ which would hold meetings for weeks on end and later proceed with the criminalisation of the efforts of good citizens who demand their basic human rights. Then some of the agitators are either threatened, forced to flee or coerced into ‘chopping’ their own share of the ‘national cake’.
With an environment that is not enabling of growth, both economically and socially, Nigerians have no choice but to demand a dissolution of a country that seems to have lost its purpose. Sometimes, I wonder what the initial purpose of this country is, with no thought-out ideological principle.
At least, when there were only regions, we practiced true federalism to some degree. There were trade rules and each region had to abide by them. Each region did not have to think of appointing a leader that was ‘ethnically different’, or one that did not have their best interests at heart. Economic or financial dependency was not a weapon used against a people. In a system like this, people would pay more attention to experience and value when it comes to appointing leaders into crucial posts for development as opposed to the current state of quota-driven mediocrity. Also, with the return to federalism, more attention would be paid to security in each region and the rising rate of insecurity would be curbed.
Immigrants from each region would be easily documented. This may curb the current rate of kidnapping and terrorist attacks. Agricultural and economic innovation would be encouraged, as each region would be motivated by a will to succeed.
However, one cannot say that the negative effects of this divide would be minimal, as each region is also infested with individuals that follow the same ‘my turn to chop, not fix’ mentality. Everything thus boils down to leadership and character and, as no man is an absolute judge of character, we become reliant on the previous establishments these individuals have done, in the hope that they are passionate and concerned about preserving and upholding a sound legacy. To help save the thieves from self-destruction, we need to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the federal law agencies formed to uphold, assist, and bolster state security apparatuses. Not to hijack them
As I mentioned earlier, the past living leaders need to be engaged for the benefit of the development of Nigeria. There are a lot of secrets that need to be divulged, a lot of bridges that need to be mended. The Nigerian populace, when armed with this truth, can then make up their minds about where to go from there.
Every leader that chops and does not fix indirectly causes a problem, and each action has a ripple effect, no matter how small it is. The failures and crises in Nigeria have been ripples of a flawed core that still reverberate through the whole.