By Dona Ifeoha Azikiwe
Image Attribute: Abuja National Mosque, Wikipedia, Creative Commons
With each passing day, Nigeria moves precariously to the precipice, confronted with frightening and unpredictable future. The divisive tendencies among the federating units and her over 250 ethnic nationalities have never been so apparent since the British contraption of 1914, than it has in the past few years.
In the northern part of the country, die-hard Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, still hold over 200 Chibok schoolgirls in captivity in an insurgency that subsists since 2003. By the day, the nation counts it losses in terms of human lives and irreplaceable properties, owing to the menace of Fulani militia herdsmen who rain mayhem in various parts of the country.
The death toll arising from the nation’s conflict flash points in the past few years is estimated to be well over 20,000 with hundreds of thousands camped as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. The London-based “Project For The Study Of The 21st Century,” classifies Nigeria 4th among the world’s 15 deadliest countries in 2014, coming after Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the South East, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) seriously clamouring for sovereignty and self-determination, gain more converts. And in the oil-rich states, the Niger Delta Avengers, a new and hardy militia, have declared war on oil installations to protest prolonged government neglect, and press home their demand for equity and justice. The Avengers also have sovereignty in the alternative.
In the face of all these, there are conflicting signals about the sincerity of the government of the day to address the root causes of these conflicts. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari made an authoritative statement, insisting that, “Nigeria unity is not negotiable.” The presidency was also quoted as saying that “restructuring Nigeria was not in the agenda of this administration.”
Need to Restructure
Nigeria marks her centenary amidst uncertainties, which underscores the urgency for a critical audit, assessment, and review of its corporate existence. The so-called amalgamation of January 1, 1914, by Sir Frederick Lugard, which brought the various ethnic groups together to form NIGERIA, was fraudulent.
The instrument defining the entity, as well as its composition and structure was drafted by the British and fostered on the people without their consent and input. Little did they consider that the growth and development of the country would be determined by the interplay of many other variables that were not brought to the fore, in a rash to satisfy imperialist urge.
Could Nigeria have done better as two separate entities as it were, before the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 1914? Or better still, as three separate nations as envisaged in 1957, against the encumbrances of its present structure, where trust is lacking, and confidence progressively eroding among federating units? The answer is quite obvious as recent developments suggest.
Nigeria has been at war with itself since the exit of the British in 1960, fighting to accommodate diverse individual and parochial group interests in a house built for them in an anaemic foundation. But through divine providence, the nation has managed to remain one in spite of obvious, and sometimes, irreconcilable differences.
Forty-nine years after the unfortunate fratricidal civil war that claimed well over two million lives of her nationals, the myriad of contentious issues that caused the pogrom still remain. The nation has been tormented by the vexatious issue of leadership and its ceaseless manipulation through zoning, federal character, demography, resource control, derivation, ethnicity, and religion that revolve around individuals against national interests.
In a panicky measure designed to forestall an impending conflict, Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon in 1967, jettisoned the nation’s four regions federal structure, and created 12 states. Unfortunately, his action did absolutely nothing to stop the carnage arising from an avoidable 30-month civil war fought from 1967 to 1970. Subsequent military leaders, had at various times, increased the tally to the level of 36 states, and a Federal Capital Territory.
Foremost Nigerian patriot, statesman and former Vice President, Dr. Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, once said that God loves Nigeria more than we love ourselves, otherwise Nigeria would have disintegrated long ago. “Each time we got to the precipice, we managed to pull back and move on.” - Nigeria: Echoes of a century, 1914-2014.
Nigeria faces daunting challenges in her wobbly federation. The gains she has made so far were achieved on the bases of compromise, and not through constitutionality. In a multiplicity of ethnic groups, periodic reappraisal, institutional reforms and dialogue remain the best options for the sustenance of peace and tranquility, national cohesion and development. Anything to the contrary is a call to anarchy.
The suitability or otherwise of States as bases for Nigeria’s federal structure has thrown up heated arguments since the return to civil governance (democracy?) in 1999. The consensus of opinion points to the abolition of States and return to Nigeria’s regional federal structure on the bases of existing six geographical zones to maintain stability, reduce the prohibitive cost of governance, curb corruption and strengthen the local governments for effective grassroots and national development.
Nigeria needs fundamental changes along the lines of probity, true federalism, and fiscal federalism, to ensure stability and sustainable development.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar recently noted that the structure of the country is heavily defective, as it does not provide the enabling environment for growth and progress. “Our current structure and practices it has encouraged have been a major impediment to the economic and political development of our country.”
It would also be recalled that in his contribution to the need for restructuring, Professor Akin Oyebode, of the University of Lagos once stated, “The fact is undeniable that many Nigerians are dissatisfied with the current situation in the country, and would welcome the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of their engagement with other Nigerians as well as the framework for group dynamics in the country.” – Nigeria: Echoes of a century, 1914-2014. And that is the only way to salvage a nation rapidly degenerating into a failed state.
About the Author:
Dona Ifeoha Azikiwe (TR RID: O-8644-2015) is a veteran Nigerian journalist with over 30 years of professional experience was born on January 3, 1956. Educated in Nigeria, Ghana and France, he has held senior editorial positions in local and international media organisations and was, from 2003-2007, the Director of Information, ECOWAS Mission in Cote d”Ivoire, which spearheaded diplomatic efforts towards the peaceful resolution of the Ivorian crisis. Fluent in English and French, Azikiwe is adequately exposed to the dynamics of international diplomacy as a result of his coverage of major events across Africa, Europe and America.