From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Chief Areoye Oyebola is former President, Nigerian Guild of Editors and former Commissioner for Information, Internal Affairs and Local Government in the old Western State and former Oyo State. He is the author of Black Man’s Dilemma and 25 other books on economics, government and other subjects.
In this interview in Ibadan, the Chairman and National Coordinator, Movement for Nigeria’s Total Transformation, said restructuring of Nigeria through a national conference is a must.
You have been one of the people calling for the restructuring of Nigeria through a fresh national conference. What is your justification for the agitation?
With the resurgence of separatist movements by some of Nigeria’s nationalities, it has become imperative and urgent to hold a national conference in which all the major tribes and various interest groups in our plural society will agree on the basis of our mutual togetherness.
The fact that the matter has become pressing is revealed by the resurgence of Biafra agitation in the past few months. Equally, disturbing are the serious declarations and positive actions of a new group like Niger Delta Avengers and about two other desperate ones like Avengers from the same zone.
Peradventure, Nigeria is restructured with regional autonomy, would the true federalism put an end to challenges of militancy and insurgency in the country?
Those who think that the desperation to secede from Nigeria is restricted to South-East and South-South of Nigeria are making a great mistake.
After all, a few years ago, rumours were rife that the Yoruba of the South-Western Nigeria, who felt their best interest and total fulfilment could not be achieved in the present federation had meticulously planned for an Odudua Republic should Nigeria disintegrate. It was later discovered that the Yoruba option of opting out of Nigeria was not a mere rumour after all.
Will it not occur to any thoughtful leader that if the Igbo, who lost millions of their kinsmen during the Biafra war are still agitating and clamouring for their independence, that their grievances must be deep-rooted and are worth serious consideration.
It’s obvious to all discerning people in Nigeria and outside the country that the Nigerian federation is a skewed one. That is, it is an abnormal federation in which the federal authorities arrogated to itself the dominant position in all respects with the states and local governments being subservient to it. The reverse was the case on the attainment of independence in 1960.
What is your appraisal of the present structure of Nigeria?
It is abnormal, and the abnormal federation is responsible for the change in the arrangement in the 1963 Constitution; the current structure as a federation, where fiscal federalism is not accepted unlike other federations in the world.
Restructuring Nigeria with more power to the component units will lead to rapid development through the vigorous and independent tapping of natural and human resources by the federating units.
There are insinuations that if Nigeria is restructured with regional autonomy, some of the regions will suffer?
No component part of the proposed con-federal Nigeria will lose anything but will gain everything, if the country and its leaders have courage to embrace the new structure. There will also be healthy competition among the confederating units.
There are a lot to gain in a restructured Nigeria with federating units having more power than the federal government. After all, when Nigeria operated with semi-autonomous regional government, northern region recorded remarkable economic progress through its famous Kano groundnut pyramids, massive production of cotton, sesame seeds, dry and fresh ginger, onion, tomatoes and cattle as well as the popular tin mines of Jos.
For some prominent Nigerians, especially its rulers from all the six zones of the country to believe that force and coercion can be the solution to her present predicament is to plunge the country into a tragedy that would be too deep for tears.
If we allow Nigeria to experience a stupendous and devastating civil war, our disintegration will bring an unprecedented suffering, permanent instability and acrimony among the disintegrated components. Our situation will become an unprecedented embarrassment to the African continent; all the Black people worldwide. After all, we are the most populous black country on earth, and all the countries of the world in general.
What can Nigeria do to avoid the seemingly looming disaster?
In order to avoid the looming disaster, Nigeria must speedily accept the aforementioned suggestions for a restructured country with a confederal constitution. This will allow Nigerians to live in peace and harmony and make spectacular economic progress.
Otherwise, sooner or later, and possibly sooner than later, we may go the way of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Sudan.
If some of these countries, with their several years of strong central governments, cohesion, monolithic systems and strong leaders broke up under the pressure of their nationalities, Nigeria must realise that time is already running out for it on this issue.
For instance, if one of two leading super powers, the country of great men of history, like Lenin, Stalin and Leon Trotsky, the country which was the first to send Yuri Gagarin into the orbit, the USSR could succumb to the pressure of its nationalities which achieved secession and independence, Nigerian rulers must be victims of grand illusion, if they think they can successfully suppress Nigerians who had determined to opt out of our country.
Also, Nigeria must also learn from Yugoslavia the futility in believing in suppression; it should be noted that one of history’s magnificent heroes, President Tito of Yugoslavia, who ably led and inspired the non-aligned countries of the world at a time when the cold war was raging between the Eastern and Western world succumbed to the disintegration of his country which was hitherto a strong and united nation. Imaginative negotiations, compromise and restructuring are the only way out of the serious dilemma, Nigeria presently faces.