Restructuring Nigeria and Solving the Oodles of the Puzzle Games By Jimi Bicekersteth
The call lately, is not for glitz, glamour,influence or relevance,it is on restructuring the Nigerian estate. The pursuit of liberty, equal rights and an enduring democracy. Nigerians are asking,what is the motivation for living in Nigeria. Peace amongst people who really love one another, prosperity and well being.This and much more are the prospect majority expect but may not experience in this clime of fear, fascination and frustration.
Yet, the swansong on Nigerians lips and in fact the scoop all over the geopolitical space is about the mindless fleeces, graft, marginalisation, downright inequality and neglect that has gutted the lining of the fabric of society. But while the investigations and arrests and prosecutions go on and the sheriff rounded up a posse,this piece about the restructuring and the national question, should be an exciting distraction.
It is debatable, that the Nigeria estate that greeted the first Europeans, was far from an empty wilderness, but,what was certain was the devastating effect the Europeans ‘disease’ had on the indigenous population, on commerce, traditional institutions, styles,leadership and political orientations,and a country that was left with a remarkable, if unintended gift in 1914.
The cumulative effects of this influences, are the direct causative factors of the confusion and the harbinger of the corruption,in a country with an extraordinary orchard of wealth and an extraordinarily diverse customs and culture, given the expanse of the land and the many different environments into which they have adapted and maintained extensive and formal relations – both friendly and hostile.
To engage in any polemics of misrule and maladministration,may derail the essence of this piece,suffice to say,it is the reason Nigeria is still where it is and still finding it difficult to see a way out of the mire of self-doubt and the barbed wires of neglect, in the Republic that followed the Europeans departure.
A Republic,that was within a nation that was never really been one homogeneous country, and,whose widely diverse and differing peoples and tribes were yet to find any basis for true unity.
This unfortunate, yet obvious fact notwithstanding, one must appreciate the leaders that had graced the nation’s political space,for working within the confines of the constraints, to keep the country as one,bringing the various peoples closer together and providing a firm basis for the arduous task of establishing closer cultural, social, linguistic and religious ties among the people-ties which were vital for true unity and truly political sensitive issues.
The prevailing circumstances, however, were still far from normal, given the complexity,diversity and uneven nature of the nation’s growth and development, and there could never be a true national development, unless otherwise there is a recourse to solve the problems engendered by power equations, power distribution and inherent tussles,all of which had brought and receive icy silence from both sides of the divide between the rulers and the ruled.
Assuming that for democracy, peace, progress and unity to thrive in any nation, a free press,a free and unfettered judiciary, respect for the workers right to full and gainful employment and their rights to decent living,inviolate electoral rights and making the peoples votes count were fait accompli;yet,there are positive correlations between all of these and power devolution, itself,an integral and a prima facie prerequisite in the dynamics of development, absence of which could lead to a total disintegration.
The nation’s juggling with power was as old as the Republic, some of which were partly resolved. It was the deep scars left by the unresolved issues,that were basically the course of the various political crises, 1966 putsch, its reprisals, the pogrom, the blood letting,the unsavoury civil war. And, as if all of these thought no lessons, now came toddling on to the big stage,Niger Delta,Avengers, MEND, MASSOB, Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsmen, etc, all contradictions, that were aimed at controlling the nation’s jugular.The resultant effect was as usual, the frenetic attempts to stir the nation from centre to circumference.
The cries of marginalisation was as strident yesterday as it were way back in the 60s, and have in fact assumed a threatening dimension: its either the south west marginalised the north central or the north east marginalised the south south and so on.The urge therefore as free elements is to want to go ahead and be what we are meant to be,but if we must reinvent to keep some people happy,that definitely is a wrong relationship- a relationship with no spark.
The recent happenings in the polity, has indeed trumped up germane and valid questions about the reality of the nation’s circumstances, and the question, is the relationship abinitio based on honesty and have we bothered to established boundaries. Relationships thrive on openness and trust. When deceits creep in,and we have had quite a number,and for some to keep inventing and reinventing at the 21st century, simply means,it’s time to get truthful in a hurry . If one at this jet age cannot make a move without the other person’s permission,one needs to back off and re-evaluate the relationship and agree up front about establishing boundaries.
However, one should place in parenthesis, that starting a quarrel as a means of bargaining for political or economic considerations, is like opening a flood gate,and we must stop that before a dispute that may jeopardise negotiations on restructuring breaks out. Does that mean you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe,no,far from it .It only means you must learn to disagree without being disagreeable!
The clarion call for restructuring is strident, but we must not react to it without being circumspect, as to so do is react to a seeming storm and not be able to head into the wind and we give way to it and continue to drift,lose sight of our goals and forget where we are headed. When you drift,you go where the waves carry you. You let the problems batter you and toss you back and forth. So you end up going with the flow. This was what happened to the numerous constitutional conferences midwife by different successive administrations, and will continue to if the people do not learn to speak with one voice.
In the call for altering the Nigeria structure there are a number of issues that has to be revisited:
i.The six geopolitical setting. An idea that was introduced as an avenue and shortcut in the design,actualisation and scheming for power and political relevance. Its presence and use in the nation’s present arrangements, appears in one’s opinion, a setting and situation verging on the farcical, and on its own has not only heightened tension in the land surreptitiously, but has also endangered unity.The inchoate, sour cream was not even recognised by the nation’s constitution.
ii.The recent reawakening by a group like MASSOB, Avengers etc, for instance, has brought to the fore, the weaknesses and deceits in the current patterns of power devolution and distribution.
The creation of six geopolitical entity was in all fairness the closest palliative against the fear of domination and neglect, but was more or less useful for the military and their high capacity for treacherous schemes. It is a scary carry over of the years of military incursions in the nation’s political history,but has not proven a sincere democratic element, neither is the concept working for the nation, as could be seen by the myriads of problems rather than solutions it trumped up,and that is why all we enjoy presently in our land is an enforced peace.
The nation’s leaders have used it in the past to weaken oppositions, in the superiority battles of the games of the throne, and today,it still served as an elixir to some political exigencies.
But, the thoughts behind the six geopolitical theory, were backwards looking with the shoes in a cock eyed position of the feet. This awkward position helped in no small measures, the unwilling participants, railroaded into the 1998 conference and lately, the conference of “Jonathans friends”,both of which shared the same dignity of seeing the world and the words around them in upside down position, and before Nigerians could argue the physics of the matter.
For the nation to refuse to move forward on this and other sundry matters would mean it is hard for those who are failing to honestly analyse the raison d’etre for their failure and to change what was wrong. But in this season of “change” the nation’s leaders must regard the six geo-polity as an accident, because it gave a picture of a circle with its sides pressed inwards, an elliptical illusion, that unwittingly, pulled together a number of people and elements who do not even share same core values, cultures, ethos,character and history.
It was not only strange,and unknown to the principles of federalism, but also antithetical to the summation of a truly republican nation. All it had achieved was,to silence the people and enabled them to settle for mediocrity, and mere crumbs, in a marriage of convenience that was already stifling, and consummated in tension and fear.
This artificial insemination of a child of necessity have consistently fanned the flames of the peoples ego, chasms, jealousy and chauvinistic instincts . These accompanying discomforts were too much from a creature, that was wrongly conceived,and that stood with one leg in equity and equality and the other leg in winner takes all.
It betrayed a staggering contempt for the truth, but could not veil or isolate the truth and reality of the Nigerian question; of full representation ,of the need to heal the disaffection in the land, and correct the injustices of the past, and deal with the constant boundaries,communications skirmishes between the federating nation – state.
The insurgencies in the nation, the Boko Haram, MASSOB, Avengers, MEND, etc were plainly the effects of some deep rooted animosities and disaffection that had erupted from the mounds of icy silence occasioned by ethnic chauvinism, and the obvious discomfiture of those making a case for equity and equality for their kith and kin in a smaller nation. Some of the ensuing menaces could have been nipped in the bud, using dialogue as a major weapon at the table of democracy,after all national development and insurgencies are mutually exclusive.
But what we have till date is an excessive display of political correctness,from the selfish and self serving individuals the present arrangements trumped up and Nigerians ended up having ethnic colouration and character given to their sociopolitical disaffection and dissatisfaction.
The Boko Haram and its ND variation,Avengers,that almost crippled the nation, arguably, were protests against marginalisation, of course, several other elements entered into them along the lines, and it escalated into crises of immense proportions, and to the sordid affairs on our hands,that had confounded the nation.
Nigerians could not hear them and their grievances out, now, the tons of bombs at their disposal and several hundred of willing human detonators are causing sleeplessness across the nation. One commiserates with the thousands who have lost limbs, lives and property in several unpremeditated and senseless attacks even in the IDPs camps and the creeks.
The situation leaves us with many ifs, if only the past governments had showed the much desired interest; if governments had applied measures congruent with the seriousness of the Boko Haram situation;If only the government had applied the correct test under the rules, perhaps, Nigeria could have won the battle with the barest casualties.
The attitude of the government struck a particularly discordant note that was not in tandem with the realities and dynamics of power vis-à-vis national development, as its panoramic view of the Avengers and social history was anything but superb, and it ended up under rating them as an ethnicity induced distraction rather than a national sociopolitical concern in need of attention, it ended up capping their struggles withthe toga of unseriousness,and in its haste rolled out the tanks and mass at the ‘uprising’and ‘nonentities’.
This is where Nigeria stood waiting for PMBs “Change”.The question however, is, can Nigeria win the battle with Niger Delta, the Boko Haram,the Fulani herdsmen and still win the war. Yes, it is a war,and not just mere allusions to it, because, it is a struggle in the mind and heart and soul of a people against perceived entrenched interests doing them no favours.
The nation has started out rightly or wrongly, by effectively, using military might and intelligence to counter a deep seated native intelligence and deep rooted resentments, innate and deep inside the mind and consciousness of a people in need of direction. It, certainly, going to be a long drawn battle of wit, pride and will in a battle that’s thrived in a remoteness, afforded by a vast contours of land which had hitherto made for uneven control and proper allocation of resources. Add to this, the character of life itself in a land of seemingly unending reach where natural conditions promotes a tough individualism just like in the creeks, as people became used to making their own decisions far away from the FCT in Abuja, and this has often allow,conditions of anarchy prevailed.
If “1914 was a mistake”, the six geopolitical arrangement, deepened the aftermath of the “mistake”, that has had a pernicious influence on the society it sought to recreate, by promoting mutual suspicion, because the arrangement itself, was a mere ploy to ‘ dangle the carrot ‘ whenever the issue of power sharing rear its head. The age old cliché of” United we stand” has also become a pernicious lie.
The 8th National Assembly has a job on its hands,and its duty bound to revisit the issue of the zonation and zonal arrangements, as it was an anathema to progress and peace of the land, and also ran contrary to the constitution of the Federation of the Republic, that only and duly recognised the 36 states and the FCT.
> Therefore, if democracy is a rehash of constitutional imperatives,the national assembly should as a matter of priorities consider amending the nation’s constitution, and entrench therein and explicitly so, efforts to:
i.)strengthen the Federal Character Commission
ii.) to drastically reduce all the conflicting and corrupting influences in the society, one of which is the zonal arrangements
iii.)must consider empowering every state of the Federation to tap their resources which hitherto had been a bane to development;
iv.)should address the issue in a way that all the states are seen as commonwealth of state’s,having only a loose association with.
To steer the nation on the path of greatness, let the leaders simply lean the way they want to go,turn their shoulders and efforts into it and the nation would move more smoothly. While they were to watch out for stray rocks of dissent of those already accustomed to the norm and tradition of business as usual.
PMB should continue to address issues and problems posed by the national question,and some of the issues include but not limited to, fears of ethnic and religious domination and or deprivation, inequitable and unfair distribution of economic and political power and government patronage by individuals and groups arising from their historical location in the political system. #
Jimi Bickersteth is a blogger and a writer.
He can be reached on twitter @alabaemanuel
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