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