NIGERIA’S CROOKED FEDERALISM: THE INFINITELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE ORGANIZED DISORGANIZATION (2)

 

Nations are artificial creations only receiving spiritual, physical, and philosophical fortitude from men. Every nation must figure out the right balm to soothe her myriads of infirmities. In preferring a way out of negative goings on, its historical evolution must be put in focus. I will not tire to state that Nigeria was not structured to be a viable political habitat. The north and south were not strung together to serve a productive purpose. Therefore, this disorganization was done by those who formed the nation. There is a style to our senility, a structure to our misadventure, a method to our insanity. However, the greatest problem that has befallen Nigeria and her disparate peoples is lack of a purposeful leadership since post-colonial incarnation of the nation state. In fact, the greatest tool for post-colonial imperialism is her leadership. As Isichei once quipped, “imperialism makes its victims its defenders”.

I had mentioned that Man’s basic needs must be met as an economic beast. For man to properly function as a political being, it must first be an organized economic being. The contention is how man can aspire to his dreams and aspirations, cater for his welfare within a functioning political structure. For while human ingenuity and resourcefulness are not space bound, their manifestation and development are often conditioned by the nature of the local material with which they have to work. The result is a close interaction between the people and their land, between the course of history and element of environment. How can Nigeria function for Nigerians? Nigeria is a forced conglomeration of different nationalities with no purposeful founding charter. It is like canning Germany, Russia, Japan, Britain and America in a place. It would be roiling collision of centrifugal forces at its best. Nigeria has no founding vision to aspire to. A people without a vision will eventually atrophy. Without a defined vision, there can never be talk of “restructuring”. However, the dominant view is that the nation must be unbundled for it to explore its numerous potentials for the benefit of its disparate peoples. For starters, the nation had between 1955 and 1966 practiced a semblance of “genuine” federalism. Each region used its resources to advance the cause of its people. The resulting competition for developmental edge by the regions was beneficial to the citizens. After 1966 happened, the state was delineated in response to military exigencies and not for the advancement of the welfare of the people. Power was wrestled from the people and their regions and concentrated to the centre. Nigeria then became a vast military garrison with a general at the helms. You can hardly blame the khaki boys. They were not trained in the refined art of nation building neither did they have time for engaging rhetoric and diplomatic jibber jabber. Nigeria is still the way it was structured after 1966; a powerful centre giving handouts to state at month ends. The centre owns the resources in the lands of constituent states. The effect is that states become redundant with no innovative spirit, creative ingenuity necessary for the survival and durability of a people and lacking in audacity to hope. Whereas the centre become overburdened, overstressed, and overwhelmingly encumbered. What the nation has successfully created is rogue federalism anchored on rogue democracy. A federalist state that is actually unitary. Our democracy is not anchored on ideological beliefs. The earlier days had NCNC and AG, though with ethnic outlook, engage in fierce philosophical and ideological slugfest. AG was fiercely federalist in disposition while NCNC pursued unitarism vigorously. The nation was better for it.

Today, our nation practices rogue federalism but wants valuable fruits of true federalism. Our political parties are platforms for appropriation of the resources for purely selfish goals. Dissent only comes when there is threat to their pockets. When these interests clashed, we assumed we were on the cusp of a major systemic revolution. Once the mist cleared, we found out that it was only mere political revolt disguising as political revolution. A school of thought even suggests that elitist dissension only arises when the military power brokers cannot agree with their civilian counterparts on the next course of action for the polity. With this attitude, the nation can hardly pass muster. In fact corruption thrives because the nation is currently a feudal vast land. The current mode of sovereignty is toxic to efficiency of a people as a productive force and stifles their humanity. For instance, I see no reason why efforts are concentrated on making seaports in Lagos function while the ones in Calabar, Port Harcourt et al are laying waste. Why can’t states have power to change the fortunes of their localities? What exactly do we lose if we unbundle our country? A visit to Aba market is an educative odyssey. Therein lay evidences of human potentials awaiting recognition and exploitation for local and national development. The place is a hub of creativity and innovation; an affirmation that intuitively, there is nothing embarrassingly disgraceful in a black man’s thoughts, creative introspections and capacity to explore, exploit and expand the frontiers of knowledge. While a minister once mentioned his dreaming of 2018 as the year Nigeria will be self-sufficient in pencil production, Aba men and women are competing, in their little way, churning out creations of imagination with reckless abandon. It is a place to start, if we dream a Japan for ourselves.

Our suicidal existence is anchored on a mental makeup. Conspiracy theories abound as to the reason for our current mode of existence. Our nation is built on psychological and spiritual redundancies only manifesting in the physical. A version of the conspiracy theory is that from existence, or more poignantly, since the departure of our imperial slave raiders, a section of the country has been the anointed one of the departed slave holders. This unction is the reason why population and vast land are the main modalities for sharing proceeds of the nation and not productivity. This is why census is such a big deal. This was why dogs and cattles suddenly became humans for demographic purposes in 1962, 1990 and 2006. The more, the merrier. Ideological standings are scotched by the heat of venomous ethnicity. Tataalo Alamu refers to it as “reverse nationalism i.e “ethnic myth trumping national myth”. “It is our turn” is the pervasive rhetoric. In order to “balance” contending interests, we created federal character without philosophical character. My point is, our federal character is not founded upon merit, resourcefulness, knowledge and productivity but mere ethnic balancing based on numbers and primodialism. If this is the only modality for national integration, we are of all men most miserable. You cannot answer national question with this shambolic modality. Whereas it is axiomatic that certain organs must reflect the federal character of a nation, it is corrosive when it is the abiding infrastructure even as it sacrifices merit. Any form of system that sacrifices merit on the altar of regional balancing is not ideal. Any structure that does not include Nigerian peoples of every tribe, religion, sex and age is toxic, bad, malevolent and against good conscience.

It is difficult to see how a nation of nations can exist without occasional disagreements amongst contending power centres. The south and north were shaped by different historical experiences. Much of the North had experienced Arab invasion and Islamic civilization before the English Imperialists berthed their HMS Prometheus at the shores of Lagos in 1861. The Hausa states, Kanembu Empire were moulded by experiences of invading Islamic influences arising from trans saharan trade mostly from 12th to 15th century. Much of the south was shaped by Western incursion and slave trade. The amalgamation of 1914 was therefore a dangerous coupling. The two divides have acutely different modes of apprehending realities as to be contrasting. There is no reason to keep plastering over cracks. This is why new terms of existence must continually be negotiated to handle novel exigencies and contingencies. No nation is founded in its totality. National question will continue to be asked till thy kingdom come. Nigeria is without doubt unable to reflect the commonality and communality of a people. This was the reason why Awolowo Obafemi, quip in Path to Nigerian Freedom, 1947, that Nigeria is not a country but a mere geographical expression. This was what informed the decision of his party to pursue federalism as a perfect medium to stratifying power. The 1960 Constitution structured Nigeria across powerful regions with powers given to each of them. The federal government only assumed a supervisory role. In fact there were only 28 items on the exclusive list (as against 60 in the 1999 constitution). What this constitution did was make state governments (i.e regional government) responsible for the growth and development of their peoples, entrench competition and strengthen grassroots mobilization. However, after 1966, the centre arrogated powers to itself in order to impose its military superstructure. People have ceased to be prime partakers in the making of their own constitution ever since. It is therefore laughable to see “We the people…..” in the preamble to the Nigerian constitution 1999. It is even more offensive to the spirit of a democratic constitution for it to have been enacted as “1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) Decree……Decree 24”. Our constitution is a Decree! The people were the last consideration in the making of the constitution. What is crooked is crooked. No matter how you embroider the truth. The power of the righteous is nullified, if the foundation be destroyed.

….to be continued.

 

Hustlers in cassock

We must fulfil the book. This is the only conclusion. Shepherds that lead sheep astray. They are in town, the venomous lot. With their engaging rhetoric, hypnotic macabre oratory, they subvert the will of the expectant and unsuspecting many. They are men of God without God of men. They wave the holy book with appalling “unholiness”. They are not victors of our circumstances; they are orchestrators of our misfortunes. Seductive rhetoric, loquacious philosophizing and engaging semantics have taken the place of life changing sermonettes. Damn sermons! Leaches that feed on the souls of many. They occupy a space, that tiny space where man desires to connect to his maker, where man yearns to rationalize his realities, purpose, essence and existence. They feed on man’s existential limitations and arrogate the power of the almighty to themselves. But the Holy Book speaks of their coming, the inevitability of their arrival. They are here. They are many and they are feral. Go beyond them, pick the Bible and read it yourself. Approval only comes after studying. The best man of God is still a man. Test every spirit. They are marauders looking for whom to devour. They wan chop !. We, hustlers in shirts, skirts and ties; they, hustlers in cassock.

Micah S. Babarinde

 

NIGERIA’S CROOKED FEDERALISM: THE INFINITELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE ORGANIZED DISORGANIZATION (1)

A nation is the territorial affirmation of a set of people especially in its modern essence. It may be delineated according to how a people or its oligarchy envisages it. But national and international territorial affirmation is steeped in politics and its institutional dimensions. There is however nothing special in politics, it is primarily an elites game only receiving affirmation, theoretically, of the people in a democracy. The Nigerian nation is strange both in its essence and purpose. There is something in us that makes us impregnable to plain civility and logic. There is this self-contradiction mixed with toxic adamancy, the predilection towards everything that is awkward, strange and abjectly simple. What is straightforward is always bent backwards, what is clear is clearly warped. The “Nigerian” factor is one strange phenomenon. Most analysts, whichever their ideological temperament, are in agreement that something will soon give. It is either the state implodes, or statesmen explode. Nothing troubles the skull more than Nigeria’s obvious disorganization. Nigeria, as the largest conglomeration of black people, has toyed with different political traditions. There is hardly anything special in political tradition. It is just a mode of organization of geographical space. What is important is that such paradigm assures equitable balance of all interests in the geo-political boundary. Be it fiefdom, kingdom, monarchy, different shapes of modern incarnation of state formation in the form of federalism, unitarism, etc, the object of focus is man who must be able to express himself towards affirmation and self-actualization and should not be inhibited in any form.

The hues and cries over Nigeria’s mode of political engagements have assumed a staggeringly abrasive proportion. The contention is that the current method of organization, with its democratic pretensions, has not, will not and cannot accommodate the yearnings and aspirations of its disparate peoples equitably and fairly. The summation is that there is need for “restructuring”. The need for re-bargaining the structure is because the current one smoulders the dreams of millions of its inhabitants, since you can hardly procure straight furniture from a crooked wood. However, whatever the crookedness in the political architecture of the nation, there is a guiding intention and an intentional guide that pulls the strings and builds the mode of organization in its image. There is an order to this disorder. There is nothing wrong with a sculpture, it has only taken the image of the sculptor, no matter how crooked it is. The question is what is the abiding thought behind our current mode of organization? In whose image is it? Is it the act of a person in his lonesome? An ethnic based oligarchy? Or an oligopolistic stranglehold that cuts across different power centres? What purpose does this mode of prefecture serve? In critiquing the structure of Nigeria’s federalism, we are interrogating the character of the Nigerian state even to its atomic level. However, the crux of this piece is primarily discussing the reason why man (i.e Nigerians) yearns for a better political infrastructure and the need for “true” federalism or whichever political modality we create for ourselves; to be fair, just and equitable for Nigerians.

I have deliberately stratified this discuss in three parts. History must be our guiding torch as we try to comprehend the kind of organization Nigeria as a collective has emerged with. I believe that in apprehending systems of organization of men, history of man in such space must be scrutinized. But in the interim, why does man need a political set up? Why is society especially in its modern rationality essential to man’s development? What primarily necessitated man’s societal expression? What form of societal ordering can ensure man’s all round development? For a multi ethno-religious post-colonial contrapment like Nigeria, what type of political modality can she evolve for her diverse peoples? These are questions that need answers in our quest for illumination. First and foremost, as yours truly never cease to say, Nigeria was (and probably is) a fiefdom. It was never intended for it to be a viable nation. Its essence and purpose as conjured by the British slaveholders was that she becomes a viable farmland.  It is an animal farm of the deaf and the dumb slugging it out in a no-holds-barred gladiatorial warfare. Confusion begets confusion. Nigeria’s eventual extrication from imperialism was secured in disagreement. Our consensus is always maintained in habitual disagreement. Our orientation is that of national disorientation. Ethnic loyalty trumps national myth. In fact the agitation for a truer and better form of organization has taken the traditional ethnic fault lines. Historical memories are mostly ethnicized. As far back as 1953, Anthony Enahoro moved for Nigeria’s independence, it was only secured in 1958 with the undecided north prevaricating till 1959. Importantly were the ideological temperaments of our forebears especially on the preferred mode of organization of the space they all cursed but of which fate had played a fast one on them. Obafemi Awolowo and his famed Action Group favoured federalism as the perfect way of stratifying the society especially the kind fissured along ethnic compartments. Nnamdi Azikiwe was to have none of that as he and his NCNC (National Coucil of Nigeria and the Cameroons) espoused doctrine of unitarism as a proper antidote to ethnic bigotry and tribal chauvinism. They called the bluff of AG. The NPC (Northern Peoples’ Congress) and Sir Ahmadu Bello seemed not to care two hoots about the mode of structuring once northern interest was served. Federalism won the supreme ideological slugfest and was anchored on regionalism. With unplanned political exigencies competing with extant inter-ethnic animosities; crisis of existentialism was a national heirloom passed on from one regime to another till 1966 happened. Since then, terribly misconceived and abjectly incoherent modes of governance have been bequeathed to the polity with passionate disingenuousness. Military autocracy, militocracy (as exemplified by Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida), unitary federalism or federalist unitarism have taken turns one way or the other. It is disconcerting to state that for now, there is hardly anything autochthonous in the myriads of political modalities we have taken turns to adopt. They are mostly regurgitated products of other centres of civilization. However, whatever we must copy, we must localize to meet the needs of our society with its peculiarities. This we have never done. We may copy letters but never the spirit. Federalism may seem the best form of organization we can adopt in a multi ethnic society such as ours with all its virulent centrifugal forces bearing their fangs. But this piece is simply to accentuate that Nigeria’s mode seems to be rogue, toxic and crippling.

In understanding the reason man yearns for a functional society, we must see society and its various incarnations as a form of human expression. Humanity is primarily about human expression. Behind every form of human expression be it in the arts, sciences and the social sciences, is always an abiding thought, a form of philosophical underpinning. Even an act in thoughtlessness is still a thoughtful act. The evolution of man from a hunter gatherer setting to modern political incarnation has shown that the need for equity in the distribution of scarce economic resources was the plank of political system. Man is homo economicus as a famous columnist once put it. This forms the setting of my first plot as I expatiate on Nigeria’s rickety architecture. The yearning for a better welfare package is the crux of the first theory under review. Men are not primarily social beings; they are economic souls with insatiable needs. The two planks or paramount considerations of any society are man and the utterly limited resources in the face of insatiable needs. The object of contention has mostly been the satisfaction of man’s insatiable needs. Territory is first and foremost, an affirmation of resources for a people to the exclusion of others. Therefore, territorial delineation is mostly founded upon economic consideration (please “mostly” is deployed to emphasize that the sentence does not always represent the true state of events in all nations). Human history is replete with incidents of clashes of two major orders; the plebeians and the patricians, the proletariats and the bourgeoisies, the haves and the have nots. The world is shaped by the pull and push of these two forces. More so, slavery happened because feudal farmlands needed workers, colonization occurred because expanding industries of European merchants needed raw materials. Africa was created as plantain plantation for old England and France, much of the Americas were the vassal states and economic waterbed of Spain. Simply put, man was an economic beast before becoming a social animal. Adam tilled Eden before he needed Eve. The world as we know it is moulded by constant struggles for, first economic liberty, before political autonomy. Political independence is sought to cater for economic needs, before social exigencies. Boston tea party that catalyzed nationalist agitation in most of English colonies in the Americas happened because of perceived economic injustice. United States of America was created afterwards. There might have been no problems if they could feed themselves. Political liberation only shadowed what was first a fight for economic justice. Every agitation which is being expressed in the form of the Boko Haram decimation of the north (circuitously), the militants’ obliteration of much of south-south, the Biafran irredentists’ articulations on “true federalism” (in its present form) are all against perceived inequity and imbalance in the ordering of the nation. We yearn to share the national cake without putting efforts to build the bakery. In fact, the laziness of our countrymen and corrupt practices that have become the culture of Nigerians are linked to the availability of free oil money. Remove oil, and you may not have Nigeria. The current skewed economic structure which is manifectly in favour of a region can hardly bode well for compatriots. Thus, it has led to searing economic sabotage manifesting in various forms, appearing in militants’ insurgency at times, or ethnic dissentients some other time. It can reappear as class struggles with different labour formations bearing arms in form of strike actions against the nation. The present structure cannot serve the economic interests of Nigerians across all ethnic nationalities in our nation. It is this perceived economic injustice that the Sermonists of restructuring hope would be addressed when the new structure is emplaced. Thoughts therefore must be geared towards tinkering with ideas on how to accommodate the economic necessaries and the political needs of Nigerian peoples. Any such mode must be able to cater for man’s welfare at the most minimal level. Economic architecture of a nation is quite important to its political survival.

Prosperity and people are always going to be linked. The most developed nations are also the most prosperous. The most prosperous nations are also the most prosperous people. Prosperous people make a powerful nation. Power, prosperity and people are the planks of viability of nations. The most advanced nations have structured their nations in such a way that man can aspire to anything that ensures his advancement within its territory. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson dwell on this in their book; “While Nations Fail”. No nation can exist without a fairer means of distribution of wealth amongst her component units and peoples. Sanity is the least luxury for a hungry people. Nigeria is large, with innumerable economic potentialities, but is one of the poorest nations on earth. Economic peonage is the dominant political tradition. “wetin man go chop” is the most popular aphorism. Political liberty without economic liberty is a big sham. Nigeria has unquantifiable human and natural resources but it is still the poor of the earth. It combines this atrocity with a rickety political system it calls federalism. It is an inelegant admixture of assorted lethal poisons to human development. Nigeria has one of the lowest human development indices in the world, humanitarian crisis is of epic proportion, unemployment rate is a sordidly worrying figure, malnourished employment class, totally eviscerated middle class gasping for breath, dilapidated infrastructure, crimes and criminalities make for a staggering statistics, out-of-school children are appallingly many, ethnic induced pogroms are unabatedly continuing. It therefore makes for sadder commentary, that she has two houses of national assembly with 469 members, 36 non-viable states and an FCT with respective houses of assembly, governors, commissioners, agencies and parastatals, 774 local governments with MDAs , multiplying redundancies at all levels. The nation is convulsing, capitulating and in dire straits. Nothing has ever worked. Nothing currently works. Nothing may ever work.

To be continued……………..
Micah S. Babarinde