Last week, we continued our discourse on the urgent need for Nigeria to restructure now before it is too late. This week, we explore our thematic analysis.
The eventual compromise of constitutional exactitude was located in the 1954 Littleton Constitution, which made Nigeria a federation of three regions, corresponding to the three major ethnic nations. It remarkedly differed from the 1947 Richard’s Constitution, in that powers were more evenly split between the regional governments and the central government. The Constitution accorded the regions the right to seek self-government, which the Western and Eastern regions achieved in 1956. The Northern Region, however, fearing that self-government (and thus British withdrawal), would leave it at the mercy of southerners, delayed self-rule until 1959.
In December 1959, elections were held for a federal parliament. None of the three main parties won a clear majority, but the NPC, thanks to the size of the Northern Region, won the largest plurality of votes.
Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960. In 1961, the Cameroons Trust Territories were split in two. The mostly Muslim northern Cameroons voted to become part of the Northern Region of Nigeria, while the Southern Cameroons joined the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
Echoes of disintegration
Immediately after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, regional and ethnic tensions quickly escalated. The censuses of 1962 and 1963 fueled bitter disputes, as did the trial and imprisonment of leading opposition politicians, led by Awolowo, whom Prime Minister Balewa unfortunately accused of treason. In 1963, an eastern section of the Western Region that was ethnically non-Yoruba was, on 9th of August, split off into a new region, the Midwestern Region. Matters deteriorated during the violence-marred elections of 1964, from which the NPC emerged victorious. On January 15, 1966, junior army officers led by fire-eating ideologue, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu Chukwuma, revolted and killed Balewa and several other politicians, including the premier of Northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the commander of the army and an Igbo, emerged as the country’s new helmsman, being the most senior military officer of the time.
Ironsi immediately suspended the 1963 Constitution, which did little to ease northern fears of possible southern domination. In late May, 1966, Ironsi further angered the North with the announcement that many public services then controlled by the regions would thenceforth be controlled by the Federal Government. This was an unfortunate declaration of full blown unitary system of government. On July 29, 1966, northern-backed army officers staged a violent counter-coup, assassinating Ironsi in the process and replacing him with Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon. The coup was followed by the massacre of thousands of Igbo resident in northern cities. Most of the surviving Igbo sought refuge in their crowded eastern homelands. Yakubu Gowon, a bachelor Christian minority officer became the Head of State at 32. Never mind that till date, people of his own generation are still ruling us at all tiers of governance, 50 years later! Does the “future” still belong to the youth?
In May 1967, Gowon announced the creation of a new 12-state structure. The Eastern Region, populated mostly by Igbo, would be divided into three states, two of them dominated by non-Igbo groups. The division would also sever the vast majority of Igbo from profitable coastal ports and rich oil fields that had only then been discovered in the Niger Delta (which, until then, was a part of the Eastern Region). The leaders of the Eastern Region, pushed to the brink of secession by the new anti-Igbo xenophobic attacks and the influx of Igbo refugees, saw this action as an official attempt to push the Igbo to the margins of Nigerian society and politics. On May 27, 1967, the region’s Igbo-dominated Assembly authorised Lieutenant Colonel Odimegwu Ojukwu to declare independence as the “Republic of Biafra”. Ojukwu obliged three days later. The civil war soon broke out, consequently. The rest is now history that Nigerians are still writhing from. The three years bloody civil war ended in January, 1970, with the “no victor, no vanquished” declaration. Gowon enthroned the three “Rs” of reconstruction, reconciliation and rehabilitation.
Why this historical voyage?
The purport of reproducing this brief panoramic history of Nigeria is so that we can appreciate where we are coming from, where we are and where we are heading to as a nation. Former American President, Warren G. Harding, once said, “it is everlastingly true that on the whole, the best guide to the future is to be found in the proper understanding of the past.” Thus, for us to divine the future of Nigeria, we must study and have a good grasp of our past, because today is the tomorrow we talked about yesterday.
The present: A mere replication of history
The major source of Nigeria’s unending woes, tribalism, sectionalism, nepotism, cronyism, corruption, religious bigotry and stagnation, are remotely linked to the fundamentally flawed structure bequeathed to us by our colonial masters.
The truth is that as long as the present frail structure of Nigeria remains, some sections of the country would continue to lord themselves politically over other parts of the country, to the detriment of peace and unity of Nigeria. Unless something drastic is done to rearrange the present system of inequality, with the urgency of now, nay yesterday, history will continue to repeat itself. Separatist groups clamouring for self determination will continue to flourish.
The issue for determination, by way of legalese, is, whether Nigerians should continue under an arrangement that allows only the overbearing interests, wishes and aspirations of a particular section of the country to be reflected in the entire polity, at the expense of genuine unity and nationhood. Put another way, are we not living our lives in appeasement and self denial?
Economically, Nigerians are vanquished. Politically, Nigerians are backward. Socially, Nigerians are cynical about one another. Religiously, Nigerians are polarised. Ethnically, Nigerians are segregated. The present structure of the country has not helped us in any minutest particular. It is sheer absurdity and cowardice to continue to invest in a venture that is unrewarding and fruitless. We may pretend. We may sloganeer about the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria. History has not always vindicated vainglorious sloganeers who did nothing to change the system. It was Albert Einstein who once said it is only a fool that seeks to do same thing over and over again, using the same method and expect different results.
Foreigners held $5.4 billion of Nigerian bonds in September 2013, but dumped them after the country was ejected last year from the most widely used GBI-EM index. Nigeria’s stock has since fallen 6.5 per cent this year, despite a near-doubling in oil prices relative to recent months. Foreign share dealings was N34.4 billion in March, down from 66 per cent a year ago, says the stock exchange. More than half of those transactions involved share sales. The value of capital imported into Nigeria plunged to $710.97 million in the first quarter of 2016, a 73.8 per cent decline a year ago, says the National Bureau of Statistics. With the naira in black market, plunging past 367 per dollar, a major chunk of our transactions happening at the unofficial rate, inflation is at a six year high and the economy contracted 0.4 per cent in the first quarter, the first of such drop since the 1990s.
Recently, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, were alleged to have futuristically “forged” the standing rules of the Senate, to facilitate their present positions in the Senate. The Niger Delta Avengers are, on a daily basis, bombing oil installations. Oil production is falling from 2.2 million barrels per day to below 1.5 million barrels per day, with huge cost on our revenue. Fulani herdsmen brouhaha, serial kidnap cases, Boko Haram, abject penury and general insecurity, have risen astronomically, with many Nigerians living in palpable fear. The government has been prosecuting corruption cases selectively and partisanly, reminding us of Thomas Hobbes, ascription of a state of lawlessness, where life was short, nasty and brutish. The anti-corruption fight, if unassisted by rational judgment, is heading for collapse on its ponderous weight of inherent contradictions. Because like in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others”.
In fact, the apprehension by the public of a northern domination of the political space has been inflamed by PMB’s recent nepotic appointments. With the North obviously enjoying plurality of political appointments. This clearly shows favoritism, nepotism and cronyism. This makes nonsense of the hackneyed federal character principle and the part of the president’s own inaugural speech, “… I belong to none and belong to all…” This is not happening.
Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Burutai, a northerner, was only recently revealed to have bought two houses worth 1.5 million dollars in Dubai. The PMB administration had the opportunity to show Nigerians that the anti-corruption war was not targeted at profiled opponents, or against a section of the country, as many have come to believe. The Government, Army and Code of Conduct Bureau, have shockingly, justified this primitive acquisition. Good gracious!
Nigerians woke up one morning to hear of the gruesome murder of Mrs. Briget Agbaheme of Imo State, in Kano for reasons beyond human logic; an attack on a Christian in Kaduna, for failing to observe the Ramadan fast. On 9th of July, 2016, one Deaconess Eunice Olawale was murdered in cold blood near Abuja, after the deceased had told her husband that occupants inside a mosque close to where she did her morning preaching had commented on her preaching few days earlier. The Agatu, Nimbo and Shiites massacre are still fresh in our fast becoming unshockable memories. (To be continued).