The signs are getting more ominous by the day, talking about Nigeria’s fragile unity, as it is. Over the years, the core northern leaders have been vehemently opposed to political restructuring of the country.
But the southern parts, represented by the Afenifere (South-West), Ohaneze Ndigbo (South- East), Pan-Niger Delta Forum, ad Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (South-South) want it, by all good means. So do the members of the Middle Belt Forum, who have raised an independent voice distinct from that of the Arewa Consultative Forum.
Even a few patriots, who until recently held unto the weakening straw of hope for unity in the storm-tossed ocean of political and social discords, started nursing some doubts when the #EndSARS protests took the centre stage.
It was a surprise, wasn’t it that even after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), acquiesced to the initial five-point demand from the angry youths, to end police brutality in the country, the Northern governors, led by Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, said that they were not in any way supportive of the strident call to ban the Special Anti-Robbery Squad!
According to Lalong, “SARS is not made up of bad elements alone as it also includes personnel who are doing their work diligently,” adding that the disbanded police unit had been useful in the fight against insecurity in the North. He also noted that although some states have genuine cases that need to be addressed, one should not just “throw them (SARS) away.”
That is Nigeria for you! But as if that was not enough a cause for serious concern, the controversy generated over the ownership of Zamfara gold -whether it is for the state, or the federation- as it has been for the crude oil in the Niger Delta region spewed some mire into the political horizon.
Now, the militants are baring their long-withdrawn fangs to take on the Federal Government, in another fisticuffs over the control of their God-given crude oil. Methinks what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
It was therefore, utterly unpatriotic and criminal for some greedy Zamfara citizens to have over the years appropriated the gold to themselves.
They went ahead and deployed the instrument of subterfuge to cover up their obnoxious activities by fueling banditry in the state.
The aim was to divert the attention of the Federal Government from doing the needful. Questions are still being asked over the constitutionality of the action of Governor Matawalle by striking an agreement with the Central Bank of Nigeria to exploit the areas of boosting the mining sector under the Anchor-Borrower scheme which, just like the agricultural sector, falls within the purview of the apex bank.
The bank will invest the sum of N5bn for the state to supply it with gold as a proceed of the investment over time. By the time one adds the overtly nepotistic, one-sided political appointments in what Nigerians see as the most lucrative federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies, quite at variance with the federal character principle, one begins to wonder if we are not heading to the precipice.
From the Immigration and Customs through the police, military to the NNPC, those at the helms of decision-making hail from the core northern part of the country!
The burning question keeps flaring, as if other geopolitical zones lack the brilliant minds, committed and seasoned professionals to man these sensitive posts. So, where do we head from here?
Some Nigerians, who are genuinely concerned about the slippery state of affairs in Nigeria, are either calling for a holistic restructuring of the country, or a referendum. The truth of the matter is that coming to a negotiation table demands mutual understanding, respect and the need to shift grounds.
Everything must be done to avoid further bloodshed. As such, the perceived mindset of born-to-rule or superiority complex of any section of the country has to be discarded in the 21stCentury Nigeria.
With abundant natural resources of oil and gas (although of reducing economic relevance), solid minerals, agricultural and tourism potential in addition to the rich human resources made up of highly creative, resourceful and resilient people, restructuring will bring out the competitive best in us all.
That is by the time we restructure into six geopolitical zones. They should control their natural endowments and pay an agreed percentage of their income as tax to the weak federal centre that should take care of the military and foreign affairs.
For now, we should learn lasting lessons from several countries, territories or empires that once existed but have since been dissolved due to internal conflicts, war, rebellion, annexation, or uprising. From history, Oyo Empire existed from 1300–1896 before it was made a British protectorate. The Bornu Empire existed from 1380–1893 and Ibadan Empire held sway from 1860–1893.
The Kingdom of Benin fell in 1897 to the United Kingdom while the Kingdom of Dahomey was conquered by France in 1894.
Nigeria that eventually emerged from these empires has seen it all, from the pre-colonial era through political independence, the short spell of democracy, the civil war to military dictatorship and currently back to a civilian dispensation.
But as if that was not enough cause
for serious concern, the controversy generated over the
ownership of Zamfara gold -whether it is for the state, or the
federation- as it has been for the
crude oil in the Niger Delta region spewed some mire
into the political horizon. Now, the militants are baring
their long-withdrawn fangs to take on the Federal Government,
in another fisticuff over the control of their God-given crude oil.
Methinks what is sauce for the goose should
be sauce for the gander. It was therefore, utterly unpatriotic
and criminal for some greedy Zamfara citizens to have
over the years appropriated the gold to themselves.
They went ahead and deployed the instrument of
subterfuge to cover up their obnoxious activities
by fuelling banditry in the state.
The pain however, is that we have run a series of administrations from 1960 that catered little or nothing to up the Human Development Index of the common man. In fact, that Nigeria remains the capital of extreme poverty of the world, at a time that countries such as India, Malaysia and Singapore are making giant leaps lends credence to our leadership failure.
Worsening the unity issue right now are high levels of insecurity in the country, characterised by terrorism, banditry, killing sprees by armed herdsmen, kidnappings, police brutality and regional egocentrism that have pulling us apart as a country.
Let us therefore, glean profound lessons from North Korea and South Korea, North Yemen and South Yemen, Israel and Palestine, Sudan and South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
We may have to bring into being the six geopolitical zones as part of the restructuring, specifically, like the six republics that made up the former Yugoslavia federation like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia (including the regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina) and Slovenia. More lessons could also be learnt from the Russian-dominated Soviet Union which grew into one of the world’s most powerful and influential states decades ago.
It encompassed 15 republics–Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Latvia.
Certainly, Nigeria cannot afford to go the way of North Vietnam and South Vietnam that were pulled asunder by war but came together after irreplaceable lives had been lost.
The earlier we swallowed our ethnocentric pride, to “jaw-jaw instead of war-war”, the better it would be for us as individuals, communities and a country. It is always wiser and cheaper to prevent crises than to douse the flames of any calamitous disintegration.
Baje is an author and
writer based in Lagos.