By: Robert Obioha
THE other day, I talked with a Nigerian friend who is a professor of International Relations in an American university about the deteriorating ethnic marriage between the North and South, which is over 100 years old, and what a hell living in Nigeria has become in the past six years or more because of the evils perpetrated daily on hapless citizens and residents by killer herdsmen. We talked about the marauding herdsmen who use nomadic animal husbandry as a cover to kill, rape and kidnap Nigerians on a daily basis without the Federal Government and its defenders doing anything pragmatic to rein in their brazen impunity.
After analyzing the worrisome Nigerian situation, the professor quickly reminded me that marriage is a mild word to describe the unworkable ethnic relations between the North and South of Nigeria since 1914 till date. He made me to understand that the situation is akin to secondary colonization after our nationalists freed us from British colonialism on October 1, 1960. He also averred that Nigeria and other countries that suffered the European colonization or violence in the period before independence or decolonization are still suffering from the pangs of neo-colonialism, internal colonization by some of their own leaders and the so-called globalization where the West still determines which country gets what, in terms of the economy, information flow and education.
With globalization, Africa is still at the mercy of Europe in virtually all sectors. The African is unfortunately being controlled from outside using our so-called ineffectual leaders who do their masters’ biddings. Regrettably, the average African leader cannot see any good reason to decolonize his mind and think about how best he can better the lot of his suffering country men and women.
The pathetic case of Nigeria is benumbing, heart-breaking and tragic because we have enough human and material resources to be a global player yet some elements within the polity, whether by omission or commission, have sworn to make us perpetually a dysfunctional society always looking to outside for help. One of the illogic arguments of the Nigerian civil war as advanced by the federalists was the killing of people (Biafrans) to ensure the unity of the country.
It is a blatant falsehood that the citizens of a country must be killed in a war to ensure that the country achieves peace and unity. Any country that obtains its unity by force will always experience occasional crisis. Its walls of unity must always have cracks. We have witnessed such cracks and their manifestations in quantum.
That is probably why we have Boko Haram insurgents, separatist movements, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, killer herdsmen and other indices of an unworkable system or underdevelopment. When I reminded my amiable professor of our emerging democracy and our politicians, he had a good throaty laughter and quickly quipped that ours as presently practised is not yet a democracy. He described our democracy as an autocracy in disguise where nothing works, where we have many strong men superintending the nation under weak and malleable democratic institutions.
That is also why our elections are always in shambles and why the legislature is so weak and the judiciary so ineffective. Weak democratic institutions account for why Nigeria is suffering from poor governance, corruption, abuse of office, nepotism and everything bad with organizing a people. It will be recalled that in its 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released recently by Transparency International (TI), Nigeria as usual performed abysmally so low, having scored 22 out of 100 points. This report is probably its worst performance since 2015, as it ranked 149 out of 183 countries. It reportedly slipped three places down from its 2019 rating.
Although the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has as usual faulted the report as well as the parameters used by TI in arriving at its verdict on Nigeria, it does not distract from the accuracy of the report. Nigeria’s poor rating according to the report can be traced to absence of transparency in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, nepotism in public service appointments and promotions, lack of legal frameworks and interference by politicians in the operation of law enforcement agencies as well as corruption in the Nigeria Police and security sector. Also, the opaque nature of the use of security votes reportedly contributed to Nigeria’s poor outing in the corruption perception index.
To save Nigeria from another national crisis or war, the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, recently warned that the herdsmen/farmers conflict in different states across the country may degenerate into a civil war if the Federal Government fails to address it squarely. Other prominent Nigerians have made similar interventions yet the government is doing as if nothing is happening.
Also, former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba, recently reiterated the fact that Nigeria must devolve powers to return to regional autonomy to overcome the crisis that hamper its development. The human rights lawyer averred that regional autonomy would resolve the country’s diversity challenges. On the issue of restructuring Nigeria and managing our diversity, power devolution as Agbakoba rightly underscored is just one important aspect of how to make Nigeria work for every citizen and not for certain group of people alone.
But to properly restructure Nigeria, the 36 state-structure and the 774 local government areas which were arbitrarily created must give way to a new manageable structure agreed upon by all Nigerians. Since some Nigerians are opposed to going back to the pre-1966 regional structure for obvious reasons, we may consider the following options not in any particular order. Former Libyan leader Maummar Gaddafi once advocated a North/South structure as a way out of the nation’s myriad political problems before he died.
The Libyan leader who based his suggestion on religious factor may be aware of the situation before the 1914 amalgamation. Some other Nigerians have called for a six-regional structure based on the present six geo-political zones with laws for mutual cooperation and existence within one United Nigeria. We can also borrow from the United Kingdom (UK) model. Other countries that have likeable models we can borrow to manage our diversity include Switzerland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslavakia.
We recall that our founding fathers recognized our diversity and how best to manage it when they opted for a regional government under a loose federation. Unfortunately, that regional structure that gave us North, East and West, and later Mid-West regions was truncated by military coup in January 15, 1966 and enthroned unitarism which still subsists today despite our claims to being a democratic federal government.
Therefore, as we approach the 2023 general election, we really need a messiah, a sacrificial leader to clean the Augean stable. We need a patriotic Nigerian to right the wrongs of the past years. We need a pan-Nigerian leader who will think Nigeria first before his ethnic group.