The growing audacity of separatist groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Oduduwa Republic agitators is not just a red card for the disintegration of Nigeria as many say. Rather, it is also consequence of the subsisting governance structure that appears to be skewed in favour of the North.
The struggle between the centripetal and centrifugal forces began shortly after independence in 1960. The creation of the Mid-West, curved out of the Western Region, was the beginning of attempts to create sub-national governments to give people at the grassroots a sense of belonging.
Following the political crisis in the Western Region within the Action Group party, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the army intervened. It was this coup of January 15, 1966, that finally set the stage for the pogrom in the North against the Igbo, which resulted in the 30-month civil war, and the rest is history.
However, that history has brought us to a crossroads, where people are now asking the question about our continued existence as one “United Nigeria”. Is Nigeria united? The honest answer across the political spectrum is, No! There are a thousand and one reasons why some pessimists think Nigeria’s breakup is inevitable.
Some of these are the prolonged army-led polity, which changed the federal Constitution and brought about the structure of government from a federal setup to a unitary one. Then, the wounds of the Civil War and the alleged deliberate denial of the Igbo their right to be appointed into some key offices in the federal government; systematic neglect of the South East in the distribution of federal projects, subjugation of ethnic minorities, and, until recently, the alleged Fulanization of Nigeria by the Buhari administration.
Also, there’s a palpable feeling in Nigeria that the APC federal government is not disposed to the rotation of the presidency, come 2023. The protests of minority tribes against marginalization has always been a recurrent decimal in our national dialogue; it has become more strident under President Buhari’s government. This is because of his pattern of appointments, which is clearly skewed in favour of his Fulani kinsmen.
The President’s most fervent supporters, even in his political stronghold in the North, cannot deny this obvious nepotism. The President’s wife, Aisha Buhari once openly complained that those who are getting some of the juicy appointments in her husband’s government were not part of the team that worked for his election.
However, the underlining issue in the matter is the type of constitution we have. This constitution, which became known as the 1999 constitution because it is the legal document that launched the 4th Republic, is defective in many ways; its key component is the US-style presidential system of government, which vests in one man at the centre, such enormous executive powers that, he is the most powerful person after God.
It is quite clear that after more than twenty years of its operation, the Presidential system as currently being operated under the 1999 constitution, is too expensive to run, and it creates a winner-takes-all attitude for the holder of presidential power to run the country as he likes. We do not have a strong, virile and independent judiciary to put the executive in check as obtains in other climes where the presidential system is in force.
Moreover, our economy is too weak to support the financial demands of this all-powerful executive President, with all the coterie of aides, allied offices, agencies and other paraphernalia that come with the exercise of presidential powers. And because the 1999 constitution superintends over a unitary structure of government that the military regime bequeathed on our polity, there are a lot of contradictions and conflicts within the system, which continue to fuel protests against marginalization and the drift toward secession by aggrieved ethnic groups.
Unfortunately, the current flawed constitution cannot be amended. Those it favours would not allow it, so also as are those who would benefit from the supposed equitable outcome of the amendment we are seeking to make. If a piece of legislation like the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, has become so contentious, imagine what would happen if the National Assembly and the 36 State Houses of Assembly and the FCT have to go through a complex and highly explosive process of amending a flawed constitution like this. Government operations would literally ground to a halt.
The holistic approach is to discard the current constitution and write a brand new one, which is derived from the free will of all Nigerians, based on equity, justice, fairness and equality. This means that all the contending federating units would have to sheathe their sword for a moment and allow peace to reign so that, wise men and women from all tribes, with the help of seasoned legal draughtsmen, would meet to draft a new constitution for Nigeria; a truly Nigerian constitution.
No sitting President would preside over the liquidation of Nigeria. But we cannot pretend that all is well with this country. Personally, I do not believe that it is impossible to continue to live together as one, if the political and governing elite agree to remodel our nation and give us a New Nigeria. That’s the way forward. It’s up to the leaders.
Weekend Spice: The only dividend you’d get from hate is pain.
Ok folks, let’s do it again next Friday. COVID-19 is real. Keep safe, and stay motivated.
•Ayodeji, author, pastor and speaker, can be reached on 09059243004 (SMS, email & WhatsApp only).