In my last article titled, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of Restructuring, and my subsequent appearance at ARISE NEWS TV in Lagos, I sought to pontificate using the Biblical panacea of `and all these things shall be added” to our country. Suffice to say, that a national `righteousness` is a pre-requisite to these additions.
Doing it `right` is our only way of escape from an impending calamity of monumental proportions. Following the write-up, I have received a mixture of positive and negative feedback (as expected) across different spectra. Some of the responses range from the mundane to inspirational. Top on the list for the latter was the WhatsApp message from a mentor and Baptist Church Minister, Rev. Dr Theophilus OlaOlorun.
He stated, “I keep asking, what`s federal about the Federal Government of Nigeria? It looks like we don`t understand English any longer…” Those words and the frank discussions I had with Rev. Dr OlaOlorun served as the tonic for this piece, so credit to my Father-in-the-Lord.
The British colonial masters bequeathed a Westminster type parliamentary system of government to an independent Nigeria in 1960. As the Union Jack of Great Britain made way for the Green-White-Green flag of a new nation and potential global force from the African Continent. Nigeria teed off with so much gusto, optimism, and a bright horizon.
Nigerians in their simplicity at the time celebrated the birth of a new nation where justice, peace and progress will reign supreme. It was imperative for the British to hand us a system of government that has served them so well for centuries. It is what they know how best to do.
Analysts contend that the fatal error in the adoption of the British-styled parliamentary system was the plural ethnic configuration of Nigeria. Unlike the culturally monolithic British, Nigeria is made up of diverse nationalities, tribes, culture, and religions.
The abysmal failure of the first republic (1960-1966) necessitated the adoption of the American-styled Federal system on our return to democratic rule in 1979 after years of military dictatorships.
However, unlike the Americans, we tinkered with our federal system and the rest as they say is history! Our convoluted federal system has become a laughingstock in the comity of nations. Although we pride ourselves as the `Giant of Africa`, we have become nothing but a lame dame duck midget.
This tinkered federal system has been the bane of our development. It has dealt a blow to creativity, innovation, and intelligence and foisted on us a daredevil political class who are self-centred, greedy, and corrupt.
The system has created several loopholes in our social, political, and economic sphere which both successive governments and citizens have exploited to their selfish advantage.
Neither the system handed down by the British nor that we copied off the Americans has worked for us – so, do we require a soothsayer or rocket scientist to tell us that a truly Nigerian solution is needed for our Nigerian problem of leadership? It is time we wake up to our responsibilities of fixing our nation individually and collectively.
It was therefore heart-warming a few days ago to see the seventeen Southern State Governors converge in Asaba, the Delta state capital to deliberate on the way forward for our nation. Observers believe this meeting which was long overdue could not have come at a better time.
The current federal architecture has FAILED in all ramifications. Nigeria is burning and melting fast in sulphuric proportions and the flame seem unquenchable. In their communique, the governors amongst other issues unanimously proposed inter alia, “…that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism” (end of quote).
The message is very loud and clear. Nigeria as currently constituted is not working. It is not working, will not work and cannot work irrespective of the political party in power, or the president elected.
Time has come for a seismic peaceful change of direction to stop the gradual disintegration of our nation to oblivion and slide into the scrap heap of history. Our perpetual motion without movement in the last twenty-two years (current democratic dispensation) is a fallout of the charade unitary-fake-federal system we operate.
It has been sounded time and time again that, “we cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result”. Antagonists of True Federalism in Nigeria point to the fact that they see nothing wrong in the present system. They maintain resolutely, it is the operators not the system that is the problem. These folks cut across two categories.
First are the mainly elitist, hegemonic, feudal, oligarchic North. This group who are benefiting from the status quo are prepared to ‘see out their game’. They do not seek the greater good of the country but are only after grabbing political offices for personal aggrandisement at each four-year election cycle.
This set of people see the practice of true federalism as a way to stop the ‘drinking of our national wine and power` which they currently enjoy. For them, the oil wealth of Nigeria is theirs to fleece under the current arrangement.
They are prepared to go at any length to defend the status quo. The extent of their perimeter measurement is obvious for all well-meaning Nigerians to decipher. The majority of these men and women of Northern extraction have failed to look at the bigger picture of sustaining the economic and corporate existence of our ‘Nigerianess’ for the generation yet unborn. What a shame!
The second category is the selfish, inordinate political elites from the South. This group in their greed to ascend political power do not see beyond their nose. They have been blinded by their desire to grab the presidency and other plum political positions come 2023.
They have decided to be tongue-tied, muted, and deliberately remain oblivious to happenings in the land. They see nothing unusual with all the abnormalities and challenges currently plaguing the nation. They maliciously pretend to see nothing and hear nothing even as the nation rages.
Their silence is an acquiescence of evil. They forget that the looming inferno if not stopped will consume all and sundry – including them. They seem to forget that we are sitting on a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any time. Not sounding alarmist, it is very clear for all to see that Nigeria is on a cliffhanger. We are definitely sitting on a keg of gun powder.
In resolving the Nigeria conundrum, certain quick steps need to be taken. The Southern State Governors have set the ball rolling. The velocity and momentum of this ball need to be maintained.
The Governors must use their clout and wide reach to actualise the dreams of the majority of Nigerians. The conversation must go beyond just the release of a communique. The action they say, speaks louder than words. The Southern Governors must reach out to moderate elements in the North and sell the package. The narrative must go on and we move.
The political elites in the North must understand that the Northern region stands to benefit a lot in a restructured, and truly federating Nigeria. A true federal system will unlock the untapped potentials and God-given human and natural resources of Northern Nigeria.
It will guarantee the development of all sections of the country at their own pace. It will unleash the latent potential and creativity in each part of the country.
Similarly, the legislative arm of government needs to wake up from their slumber. Our Senators, House of Representatives and State Assembly members must be alive to their responsibilities in driving this agenda. If as they claim that they are representing the people, then they must ensure that the wish of the people is their command.
Anything, on the contrary, will be a signpost to anarchy. We cannot afford another bloody war. Leaders of thought, elders, and the dynamic youths of Nigeria must join hands together to rescue our land from the abyss. We must find a way to peacefully resolve the lingering jigsaw.
In the words of former American President, John F. Kennedy, “Those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent change inevitable”. A word they say is enough for the wise, in this case, this write up has 1,400 words, not just a word!
*Dr Agbons writes from the United Kingdom