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Nigeria’s dire need for restructuring: The urgency of now (1) by Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION
It is evidently true that those who ignore history, like the Bourbons of European history, do so at their own peril. The challenges bedeviling us as a nation did not start today, or in the recent past. The urgency of understanding this phenomenon that has made peace elusive to us has become a sine qua non. It is the urgency of now.
You are going to have to be patient with me over the next few weeks, to enable me articulate my thesis which leads me to the inexorable conclusion that Nigeria will continue to wobble, fumble, stumble, bumble (but God forbid, crumble), until it is restructured. Restructuring Nigeria demands the urgency of now.

THE GENESIS OF THE PRESENT CHALLENGES
Zillions of articles by pontificators have stated the obvious over and over again: Nigeria is standing on a shifting ground, on a precarious precipice, on weak structural clay foundation, such that if we fail to make conscious and deliberate efforts to rearrange the present fundamentally flawedstructure in this nation for the better, we only may be extending our doomsday for the latter. It is that serious. I write these series as a Nigerian patriot who believes that Nigeria should remain one indivisible country, enjoying her numerical strength. But, the mere saying so as in section 1(1) of the 1999 Constitution to the effect that Nigeria is one “indivisible and indissoluble Country” is simply not enough. Great empires and countries have crumbled under the ponderous weight of social injustice, inequity, ethno – religious conflicts and barefaced, brazen and flagrant display of marginalization and repression by some groups against others.

The present country we have was a product of sleaze and underhand. It was the granting of the Royal Niger Company a trading monopoly in the North, which, in return, agreed to advance British interests, economic and political, to the detriment of our collective future.
Without mincing words, this entity called Nigeria was therefore ill conceived,fraudulently delivered and brazen foisted on all, against the collective wish of her inhabitants, who mostly had nothing in common to establish a viable bond or union. Till date, vengeful hostility, palpable hate, animosity and intolerance of one group by another, that becloud a harmonious and prosperous nation regrettablythrive amongst us. Our leaders who led Nigeria before and after independence did not help matters at all. In words, deeds, body language and postures, they put on a knife through an already fragile bond, and sowed seeds of discord and recriminations that still hunt us till date. Nigeria, we hail thee!

THE CONTINUOUS SEARCH FOR NATIONHOOD AS VIEWED BY THE FOUNDING FATHERS
Since Nigeria was cobbled together on January 1, 1914, by Lord Lugard, Nigerians have laboured ceaselessly to weld it in to a harmonious whole. The reason for this ever widening disparity and mutual suspicion is not farfetched. Before 1914, Nigeria was a pot-pouri of self autonomous communities, empires, republics, kingdoms, emirates, nationalities and chiefdoms. Each was separate, distinct and independent of the other. There was mutual respect, even with the existence of expansionist and irredentist conquests within and without. There were separatist wars and all – inclusive alliances, depending on where their interests lay.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria, even as politically detached from the day to day hubris of Nigeria, as it is, has taken judicial notice of Nigeria’s ethical and linguistic diversities and independence of one nationality from another. This was in the 2002 case of Attorney General of the Federation vs. Attorney General of Abia State and 35 others. This celebrated case was between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Nigeria’s coastal states, over ownership of Nigeria’s continental shelf. Said the apex court, with great erudition and expository dilation:

“Until the advent of the British Colonial rule in what is now known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Nigeria, for short), there existed at various times sovereign states known as emirates, kingdoms and empires made up of ethnic groups in Nigeria. Each was independent of the other with its mode of Government indigenous to it. At one time or another, these sovereign states were either making wars with each other or making alliances, on equal terms. This position existed throughout the land now known as Nigeria. In the Niger-Delta area, for instance, there were the Okrikas, the Ijaws, the Kalabaris, the Efiks, the Ibibos, the Urhobos, the Itsekiris, etc. indeed certain of these communities (e.gCalabar) asserted exclusive rights over the narrow waters in their area. And because of the terrain of their area, they made use of the rivers and the sea for their economic advancement in fishing and trade – in making wars too! The rivers and the sea were their only means of transportation. Trade then was not only among themselves but with foreign nations particularly the European nations who sailed to their shores for palm oil, kernel and slaves.”

It is thus clear thatNigerians are different and distinct in every imaginable way, including their religions, customs, cultures, traditions, languages, aspirations and even their thought processes, in the same way that the Russians, Americans, English, Turkey, Germans, French, are different. Some people have called this “unity in diversity”. But, what Nigeria really requires is “diversity in unity”, as no one can plausibly change us from what God in His unchangeable wisdom, has made us. He is the creator who was not Himself created; the unmoved mover, the beginning and the end; the first and the last; the alpha and omega. Praise Him with full adoration forever.

It is little wonder then, that SirTafawa Balewa, who later became Nigeria’s first Prime minister, while addressing the Northern House of Assembly in 1952, argued that: “Nigeria existed as one only on paper. It is still far from being united. Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country”. What the brilliant and erudite politician said in 1952 (64 years ago), remains true till date.

Max Siollum, a famous historian and commentator on Nigerian politics and government issues,wrote in his Book ‘Oil, Politics and Violence’, that: “the British carved the country into three regions (according to the three major ethnic groups) broadly corresponding to the location of these largest ethnic groups.Hemmed in between them were approximately another 250 disparate ethnicities. Some were millions strong and others had only a few hundred members. Most of these groups had nothing in common with each other outside of their mutual suspicion and hostility”.He went further to observe that “the general outlook of the people in the north and south is so different as to give them practically nothing in common and to make physical confrontation between them a virtual certainty.” How true and correct, till date!

According to historical records, luminous Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna Sokoto and Premier of the Northern region, while commenting on the amalgamation of southern and northern protectorates, was said to have once referred to Nigeria as “a piece of historical mistake”, or “the mistake of 1914”. It is doubtful if the colourful politician was wrong, going by happenings till date.
The late ideologue and Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in his 1947 treatise, in “Path to Nigerian Freedom” while advocating the concept of true federalism as the only basis for equitable national integration, pontificated thus:
“Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, or ‘French’. The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country. Ten such main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) Ibo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10 Ijaw “.
Prof Onigu Otite, in his study of Nigeria’s demographic and ethical stratifications, discovered 374 ethnic groups that speak 350 languages.

Sixteen dead in Bauchi fatal crash, says FRSC

According to Nigerian Handbook, eleventh edition, “there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately, whose combined total population amounts to 4,683,044. It is a mistake to designate them ‘tribes’. Each of them is a nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks, for instance. The fact that they have a common overlord does not destroy this fundamental difference. The languages differ. The readiest means of communication between them now is English. Their cultural backgrounds and social outlooks differ widely; and their indigenous political institutions have little in common. Their present stages of development vary.” For example, we have the Binis, the Urhobos, the Isokos, the Kalabaris, the Igarras, the Tivs, the Birons, the Itsekiris, the Andonis, the Nupes, the Fulanis, the Kanuris, the Jukuns, the Yorubas, the Ibos, the Ukwuanis, the Efiks, the Ibibios, Esans, the Afemais, the Hausas, etc. (To be continued…)

THE WORLD WE LIVE IN
these. “Am asking you out and you are asking me if I have a girlfriend. Have you ever seen someone going to buy a new shoe barefooted?”-Anonymous.

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