STILL ON RESTRUCTURING: UNITY-IS-NON-NEGOTIABLE AS BOGEY

 

Once, I was peppered with questions from sparring intellectual gladiators on why I am an unrepentant evangelist of restructuring, especially of the type that devolves power away from a strong centre to constituent units and regions i.e states as they have become. The basis of my arguing for the retooling of the nation, of the sort that deemphasizes the need for a big centre are predicated on reasons I have enunciated in my piece titled “Nigeria’s Crooked Federalism: The Infinitely Incomprehensible Organized Disorganization”. But with storm gathering more and more around the appropriateness, relevance, need, purpose and definitive essence of restructuring as a term and its expected impact as lived experience, I have decided, once again, to affirm, more vigorously and affirmatively that our nation is, at this stage of her historical evolution, in need of wholesale reworking and also a philosophical and ideological reappraisal, on a continual basis, of her mission and purpose.

Let me state, as I have always done, that the call for restructuring is not an affirmation of its being a panacea to irresponsible leadership. I say, with every sense of responsibility, that restructuring is no substitute for astute governance. My arguments, however, for the reordering of our nation in the post tribal stage of its metamorphosis is that restructuring i.e devolution of power to units makes for a clearer and verifiable working module, a more explicit and accommodating formula for the involvement and engagement of Nigerians in their religious, ethnic and tribal numbers. My point is further predicated upon the realization that in the absence of an obvious founding charter worth pursuing, governance and leadership, no matter how good they might be, would not bear great fruits if viable mode of existence of a people is not properly agreed upon. My argument is that a nation cannot be expected to achieve its full potentials if a medium that will ensure harmony, amity and peaceful coexistence is not first emplaced. The environment of a state must be properly structured to properly situate the state. In the Nigerian case, what other mode of stratifying a society, with a population so vast, diverse and disparate, than a federalism which gives more freedom and power to peoples to explore their environment be it political and economical for the benefit of themselves? What would anyone, be it central or state, lose if or when powers are given to constituent units? In fact, with the dizzying punches the nation-state receives daily from both centrifugal and centripetal forces, is the time not ripe to articulate a proper modality that will accommodate the hopes, aspirations and expectations of Nigerian peoples? I ask curiously, are we blind to the fact that the nationalities within our nations are all at different stages of their economic, political, spiritual development and it is therefore impossible to just lump them together without a mode, sufficient enough to guarantee their coexistence without one dragging the other backwards or descending into ideological melee? Do we not see that all agitations that have engulfed Nigeria’s political space, and in fact have always tensioned the polity; are pointers to the fact that there is much to be done with our political modus operandi? Might I ask that having practiced unitarism for the most part of our post-colonial experience as a nation, with absolutely nothing substantial achieved to assuage ethnic malcontents or to sufficiently address obvious disinterest in the Nigerian nation by compatriots, is it not time we practiced a system, that in the least, albeit not in its entirety, provides the prospect, yes an assured medium that guarantees the involvement of the people and backward integration of the Nigerian peoples through true federalism?

Let me state, very quickly, that my points for fairer devolution of power to constituent units are necessary for a just, equitable, fair Nigeria where no people are subjected to the whimsical tendencies of other people. It would also guarantee the definition of roles of central government in its interactions and interfaces with the constituent units. The existence and knowledge of boundaries are important to this relationship as they concern the production and distribution of wealth. This will no doubt guarantee national development. What do I mean? If our nation is truly federal, component units will have no choice but to engage local creativity and innovation in pursuing a more robust economy. They will not need to wait for the federal government to fix their roads, rise to emergencies etc while the central governments will focus on tasks like national security, foreign policy and diplomacy etc. More importantly, we must realize that no time at any stage of our pre independence journey, did our founding father envisage, forced unitarism as the mode of existence. In fact, Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was a unitarist, engaged others in a philosophical joust not military fiat. And he was not even successful. Federalism won. This unitary superstructure was imposed on the polity by the military. And at the time it was introduced, was an aberration as it summarily removed democratically elected people and replaced them with military juntas. Therefore, the fundamental basis of a peaceful and cordial co-existence of a people, as articulated in the 1963 Constitution was yanked off and replaced with decrees. From then, every governmental action, policy and even law was carried out after the spirit and thoughts of the military. The nation then took up that spirit to the extent that when democracy and federalism were introduced; the nation could not be divorced from that spirit. In fact, the arbiters of our democracy and federalism are either ex-soldiers or those that belong to that era, majority of who hold fidelity to their legacies as they have never thought of any other way. They are more concerned about keeping the state together even if statesmen are at their wits end. Regiments and order are more important. Obedience must be gotten at all cost. It is therefore boring to talk about restructuring when it practically means that it would totally remove their “legacy”.   But that is the whole point. We must talk about returning the nation to sanity. The call for restructuring is not just a mindless juggling of term but a cry to rework the foundation of our nation which has adopted militaristic attributes. Whatever the term “federalism” intends to achieve as a definitive term in the 1999 constitution, for instance, is lost in practice or lived experience. My point is that our nation as it currently is might have been titled “federal” but its manifestation is totally and fundamentally opposed to the intended consequence of its suna. Hence, the need for restructuring to happen now.

That apart,  the needed tonic for emancipation of our nation out of the current wood will not be achieved with the unitarism imposed by the khaki boys. In fact, I must say that having done their own restructuring by cancelling the peoples’ constitution and created states which are now 36 in number, they anchored every policy on oil revenue, which we still practice to date. The restructuring of 1966 was not just political but economical. In fact, methinks the only way the soldiers could have sustained their form of political edifice was by giving it totally different economic pillars. Out went cocoa, rubber, tin ore, groundnut etc which were the mainstay of our economy, produced with the local ingenuity and perspicacity of the component units. Oil became the big pie. Local productivity, anchored on innovative, creative and meritorious ingenuity of a people was asphyxiated by the herding of regions into a vast political garrison made possible by the super-imposed unitarism. The centre became the focal point. It then created a squandermaniac political system, unrivalled and unequalled anywhere on the planet. In fact, it made a leader speak in awe that the problem with Nigeria was not money but how to spend it. So the call for a fundamental revamping of the architecture is a call to making our nation more robust in productivity and spawning of local talents, uninhibited by the baggage of unitary system.

Also, the call for restructuring is premised on the need to readjust the structure to the demand of our ever changing planet. As we may have found out oil, as money spinning commodity is approaching its value terminus. As I write this piece in Port Harcourt, efforts are being put in top gear in Paris, Berlin, Oslo etc to place embargo on oil dependent vehicles over the next 10 or 20 years. In the midst of the proselytes of this new economic “restructuring” of the world economy are our major buyers like India, United States etc. What this dictates is that Nigeria unearths a new module of economy. This cannot be made possible, if she is still cloistered in a vast unitary enclave. As I stated, the current polity as bequeathed by the military could not have succeeded if its economic basis was not restructured and anchored on oil. Since we are now approaching an inevitable cul de sac, we need to revamp our nation not just in response to local agitations and needs but in response to looming novel international imperatives. More markedly, and in fact quite worryingly I must say, that as the global market is making nonsense of our only major source of income and the basis of our political structure, our population has been speculated to be on the increase and in fact would be the third largest in the world over the next three decades, exactly the same period when oil will be dispensed with by most nations. We therefore must ensure that our nation develops by devolving powers to each constituent unit to be in charge of its economic levers. This can only be done by a fundamental restructuring our nation.

Now, I arrive at the crux of the matter. Often times, protectors of the status quo, including Mr. President, have stated in the face of agitations that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable as if the call for restructuring is a call to summary execution of the Nigerian nation. This was even made clearer in his speech after he returned from his 103 day medical leave. Obviously, PMB is wearied by noises of discontents, and true to his nature as an ex-soldier, would have none of that. While detachedly maintaining that people should register their grievances, he pointedly and conclusively, emphasized that the platforms for such discourse, especially of restructuring are the National Assembly and the National Council of States. While Mr. President might have attempted to take cover under constitutional provisions (which he is allowed to so), it was an attempt aimed at no solution. The cry engulfing the polity does not call for a simplistic and unimaginative meandering around legal provisions. It calls for a well-rounded understanding of the problems, a humane and emphatic attachment to people and their problems, and an astute, ideological, philosophical, expansive and dexterous approach to creating solutions. It cannot be easy. It should not be easy. The national question must be answered, and continually so but definitely not with “unity is non-negotiable”. This cup cannot pass over us. We at a critical juncture and this bend needs the skill set of an adept and consummate sailor to navigate. Unfortunately, Mr. President is still insisting on a narrow view that is jaded and well past its sell time. Every perceived opposition to this bogey is seen as treason. I, in fact, am tired of Mr. President’s penchant for replying dissent with force. This is a democracy and as discomfiting as objection can be sometimes, it must be handled maturely. Unitarism has failed (and will continue to be so). A call to restructure is not an invitation for judicial interpretations on the proper body for national discourse, we all know the way to court if comprehension of constitutional provisions becomes difficult. But we are past that. History of other lands has shown that it takes adroit leadership to reinvent the nation especially when national questions are being raised. Charles De Gaulle did not refashion 5th Republic France by just opening law books. He was faced with challenges of nation building after the collapse of the 4th Republic. He established Republican government in 1958 after providing a new constitution. He gave creative solutions to bring France out of the precipice. He deeply and studiously marshaled his nation out of trouble, not with force but with reason. And even though he was an ex-soldier, he returned France to their values of equality, liberty and fraternity. Helmut Kohl, with all his baggage, did not choose an easy path to answer genuine national question. In fact, his was a more difficult problem; because Germany had formally bifurcated into East and West since 1945. But he created a new vision of unified Germany and led that charge till he achieved it in 1990. He understood the undercurrents simmering below the surface and addressed them frontally. We are at a major historic contour that Mr. President cannot wish away. Mr. President moves so far have been against the run of play. Mr. President should know that Nigerians do not even trust the bodies he referred them to. It is up to him to take charge of the gathering sentiments about the state of the nation and control their impact on the polity. The old ways will not solve new problems. Force might have solved it in 1967 but it would not 2017. In fact a mere constitutional amendment is not enough. A constitution that will embody the spirit of the people and was done in the constitutional conferences of 1954 and 1957, with the people properly represented to enthrone genuine federalism, is what is needed. If the President, and members of his inner circle, thinks that the nation can be moved, in no distant time, Nigerians will move past him to demand a better mode of existence. It is what men do. The rain does not need to fall before we know the direction of the running water. We can all see where we are headed.

 

Micah S. Babarinde

NIGERIA’S CROOKED FEDERALISM: THE INFINITELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE ORGANIZED DISORGANIZATION (3)

                         

 

“If a country is bilingual or multi-lingual, the constitution must be federal….Any experiment with a unitary constitution in a multi-lingual country must fail in the long run. I predict that every multi-lingual or multi-national country with a unitary constitution must either eventually have a federal constitution based on the principles which I have enunciated, or disintegrate, or be perennially afflicted with disharmony and instability”- Obafemi Awolowo

As I begin the third instalment of my piece, I must raise a caveat. My arguments for fairer and better political structures do not affirm that the end to all of our problems is in sight. On the contrary, it is the beginning of our quest to finding meaning to our existence as a people. In critiquing our political modality, two issues are mostly up to address; they are management of people and leadership. In negotiating the terms of our existence as a collective, the focus is mainly on managing better the resources (man and others) of the nation to guaranteeing fairer and more equitable access to governance. It will not solve our leadership crisis. In fact, I believe it will accentuate it. However, in restructuring, we ask, what are the clear goals we have set for ourselves, putting into consideration our circumstances, history and peoples? Will this anticipated organizational structure ensure clearer understanding of the responsibilities to the people in terms of delivery of better governmental services, improved and sounder policies that improve the lot of Nigerian peoples? Does this envisaged organization impel the exploration of the numerous potentials in our nation or stifle it? In essence, the question Socrates posed as being the totality of all ethical postulations is on point in whatever exertions we engage in, which is, “how must we live?”

Let me state in concrete terms that my conviction in decentralization of powers for effective governance is not just a regurgitation of federalism as preached by western democracies. It is based on the realities and evolution of Nigeria with her historical appurtenances. History is affirming its nature. It stares at us with venomous audacity, reenacting its previously written script. Karl Marx once said history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. So it was in 1966, so it is in 2017. There is a feeling of de javu arising from our current experience. Agitations today are as rife as they were about 51 years ago. These questions were asked in events leading to the Aburi accord, the constitutional conference of 1966, the NADECO movement of early 90s etc. Some men chose at different times to provide solutions to the national question either by recommending its summary execution or by way of restructuring or referendum. The Adaka Isaac Boro movement for Ijaw emancipation of 1966, the Biafra war of secession of 1967-1970, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta by Asari Dokubo were all modes (albeit questionable) of impugning the character of the Nigerian federation.

With the above background, I shall attempt to answer the question that is; how must we federate? I believe that in properly federating, we are removing the injustice created by the game of geo-politics upon which the current unitarist federalism is anchored. This skewed system has its socio-political and economic implications. Nigeria’s problems are splintered across the geo-political structures of the nation. It reflects also in the almost contrasting beliefs, philosophies, cultures and political expectations of citizens in both the north and south. This gargantuan headache is made worse by the numerous religious and tribal representations. So as one problem is eradicated, another becomes prominent. Immediately Boko Haram brutal decimation of compatriots in the north appeared to have petered out, the Fulani murderous campaigns across the nation took over. From these, it is obvious unitarism cannot handle and accommodate the vast yearnings, expectations and responsibilities of all interests by the use of iron, force or military fiat. Now this socio-political problem worsens the economic conditions of the people as geography of politics in Nigeria is anchored on politics of geography and not productivity, talent and resourcefulness. What occurs is that those who have the power are either lazy or lacking the intellectual and ideological depth to use the power for the growth of their people, and those who do not are unable to engage their talents and resources for their benefits. Both tragedies climax to the disadvantage of the people. The inequity in power sharing has led to inequality of states and peoples. In this animal farm, some animals are more equal than others. The structurally superior are also intrinsically deficient in resources, knowledge, ideas and values. Citizens are therefore cramped in the same box of disillusionment in this dystopia no matter their location. It has led to the collision of alters of centrifugal and centripetal forces. Therefore, a structure that will distribute power equitably amongst interests in the nation is the solution. The dynamism of the people and their land can only be handled by the dynamism of structure that can protect dynamic interests. Structures and institutions that acknowledge and accommodate the diversity of Nigerian peoples, with philosophical and ideological ballast that maintain the durability of a people. No nation of Nigeria’s size can be maintained by fiat. Otto Bismark, the great Prussian and superb visionary, forged old Germany with iron and force (a tact needed at the time), She was to battle at various times with agitations from different interests of Austria-Hungarian origin, Alsace-Lorraine provenance, Poles, even Schleswig Holstein, Russian and French interests coalesced and colluded to ensuring the gradual balkanization of Germany. The defeat of the intemperate Hitler in World War 2 finally led to the bifurcation of the State to West and East Germany in 1945. Not until they promulgated a new charter in 1990 championed by Helmut Kohl were they truly reunified. Meanwhile, much ink was spilt on the difference between nations and nation-states, on whether Germany was “bi-national” or “post-national,” and whether or not a “cultural nation” could encompass two German states. Their history and the reality of their diversity were put into consideration in fashioning a new structure for the nation. Robust debates were held on the fate of the nation. Inputs were made by Christian Democratic Union, Liberal Democratic Party of Germany, representatives of about 7 civil society groups, Evangelical and Catholic Churches etc to structuring the new Germany. All this culminated in the promulgation of the “Wiedervereinigungsvertrag” (Reunification Treaty). People were involved and their diversity was put into consideration in articulating the terms of their existence. Therefore, Nigeria might have been birthed in 1960, but she needs a different elixir for the challenges of the moment. There is an urgent need to ensure a bottom up integration of Nigerians which can only be guaranteed by principled federalism.

In understanding the challenges of our federalism, Dr. Tunji Olaopa’s article; Getting the discourse on Nigeria’s Federalism Right: Further Thoughts, published in the Nations Newspaper, on June 25, 2017 is on point wherein he stated that “in the Nigerian case, the core issues which have not been cogently addressed sufficiently to give federalism a bite include (a) the number of the federating units (b) fiscal issues in the relationship between the federating units (c) the schedule of functions that ought to divide the relevant responsibilities in a way that makes a federal state really federal (d) the dynamics of party politics and the electoral system that regulates the political parties and their jostling for power (e) inter-governmental relations etc”. The issues raised by him do not necessarily totalize the ailments of Nigerian federalism, but they do represent the major problems. I state, matter-of-factly, that subsets of our nation that we call states are the worst structured anywhere in the world. They are substantially without autonomy. The constitution gives them powers under the concurrent list which by the word itself means they only hold such power not exclusively to themselves, but only exercisable when it does not conflict with the powers of the federal government. Now, here is the heart of the whole matter. States are fettered and restrained from providing basic needs for their inhabitants. They cannot exercise full powers to explore their resources since they only get thirteen per cent of accrued benefits, they cannot generate power exclusively for their states as all energy generated must be sent to the national grid, majority of revenues are remitted to the federation’s account; a single account that encourages unproductive states to share from a pool of resources from their more productive counterparts, they owe little or no fiscal responsibilities to their people and vice versa, they cannot establish their own police or security apparatus to protect lives and properties they swore to provide etc. Their responsibilities to the federation and their citizens are so unclear as to be appallingly nebulous. They are full of mendicant governors who are so bereft of well chewed ideologies and the needed ideational leitmotif to power the vessel of state with robust economic policies, people centred programmes and audacity to dare and dream a better tomorrow. In plastering over these obvious cracks, all forms of dissension in the form of ethnic induced economic sabotage, class motivated wrangles, are met with unsustainable palliatives. Niger Delta has the Niger Delta Commission to assuage its dissentients, North East has its own commission, South East also wants a commission, while other regions are preparing their briefs of arguments for modalities they believe counteract this structure and assure a fair share of the national pie. The reality is there for us to see. There is an urgent need to rectify this badly arranged federation. Let each state or locality develop at its own pace and in accordance with its talent and decisions. There is a need to emplace a productive economy anchored on resourcefulness not numbers.

Every move towards civilization, civility, prosperity and better ways of life must be intentional and well executed. No nation on earth prospers without a charter agreed to by diverse interests. A house divided against itself cannot stand. It is high time we repudiated the current unitary mode of federating as it serves no purpose to the nation generally, and the people specifically. I dare state that nowhere in history have a people been subjected to institutional tyranny orchestrated by kith and kin as they are in Nigeria. In an enormously vast nation of diverse peoples with differing lifestyles and world views, it is only logical to give to its component units more powers to exercise for their benefits. This allays fears of domination by other competing groups, which are exactly the problems we are currently facing. Every single ethnic group arrived Nigeria with different historical baggage. A principled federalism will give people a sense of belonging which is currently lacking in our nation. We do not need to deceive ourselves. Nigeria is still a myth; it is not real to Nigerians. She is still considered a historical tragedy. People cannot be mollified by the mouthing of “one Nigeria” and “Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable”. Rhetoric cannot deflect existential crisis. Patriotism is not a mere concept; it is a spirit that must be cultivated. The articles of our union must be amended to ensure true and principled federalism that guarantee inclusiveness of all Nigerians. As Chinua Achebe stated; unity is only as good as the purpose for which it exists

A federalism that ensures a virile, united, prosperous, and progressive Nigeria where justice, equality, equity, mutual regard and equal chances are guaranteed to all Nigerian peoples irrespective of ethnic, tribal, religious leanings under the supremacy of the rule of law superintending the affairs of the people without favour or nepotism. This must be what we aspire to. This must be the goal worth fighting for. It is no pipe dream. It is only what we believe that we are empowered to become.

Micah S. Babarinde

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

Micah Stephen: Africa and Knowledge Production

“for a mind that knows is a mind that is free………” Unibadan Anthem

Writing is such a costly and exerting endeavour. Out of the abundance of the mind, the hand writeth. The writer at crucial times faces the challenges of paucity of events that rightly catch his fancy or a ridiculous surplusage or torrents of issues to battle. He either sets at dawn or he gets smacked down. Cerebral Achebe felt that it is the job of a writer to engage in a bit of activism, not to just be there, to partake in his own little way as his nation battles with the crisis of self-actualization or self-immolation. He must be the gauge of a collective conscience. The writer must engage his reality head on, not just drag the audience along the road of fantastic presentation and representations, but he must address and redress the immediate concern of his environment. Writing is “righting”. In Africa, there are too many wrongs to right. This is why writing is writhing to the African writer.

Something is inherently different about Africa. If evolution were true, it is either the black man evolved prematurely or evolved differently. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution deserves a revisit. What is referred to as Africa must be recognized as a tapestry of European settlements. It is hardly an apt description of a group of people as they had always been. Africa is a product of alien bargaining not native consensus. It was first alienated, emasculated, mutilated and then delineated over bottles of scotch at the Berlin |Conference of 1885. Licenses and assignments were created in favour of interested merchants, hardly by any beneficial owner. It was the first classic case of giving what one does not have; mortgages were granted colonial slave holders to ingratiate economic rewards. Hitherto, the African had been a master of himself far before Europe’s incursion into its body polity, up till Arab incursion at least. The Kingdom of Songhai was established in 1350 Years AD and lasted until 1600 AD when the kingdom was invaded and ransacked by forces from Morocco with substantial financial and military support from the English Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth 1st.  There were two hundred English artillery mercenaries in the invading force. Arabs had rattled and decimated much of old Mali, Gao, Djenne and Timbuktu by the 12th century. Universities were established at Timbuktu and Sankore. After Arabian hegemony was toppled around the 14th century by transatlantic trade, the resulting carcass was to be the object of the frenetic carnivorous appetite of the marauding Europeans from the beginning of 14th century. The image Africa presently bears is the image of Europe. It may change tomorrow. There was no Nigeria, at the beginning of the 20th century. It can cease to exist before the end of the 21st century. States are made not divinely created. Humans nurture states; they hardly have the imprimatur of gods.

After the departure of the European imperialists from its colonial plantations, it has been a disaster for the infantile states to assume a different shade from what was its original design; a European banana plantation. Europeans did not owe their settlements the duty to look after their political wellbeing, once their economic interests were safe. After a night of amorous torrid passion, Frederick Luggard foisted more than 200 polities together to form Nigeria. He learned from the Bismark chaired conference in 1885. One of the participants even stated that they knew not what they were doing; they only drew straight lines across the map. Over 20, 000 different empires and tribes were coupled that day. What was birthed was a leprosed continent constantly battling with itself, a collage of ethnic chauvinism, acute human depravity, extreme corruption, animalistic pogroms of unimaginable scale and scope, exceptional level of bad governance, biting unemployment rate , all scattered and shattered along primordial ethnic  lines, combining to form human suffering of epic proportion.

The transformation of Africa from colonial serfs into post-colonial modern states have been nigh improbable, if not impossible. The primordialism, archaism, obsoleteness of the mode of organization in most African states in the 21st century is befuddling, if not graphic. The challenge with Africa is knowledge. This is the reason for the adoption of the epigraph at the beginning of the article. It is the last verse of the University of Ibadan’s anthem. The challenge with Africa as a continent sequestered along alienating nation states is that of knowledge production i.e a continent midwifed by intellectual and philosophical exertion. I must state that most nations are hardly consummated with amicable resolutions. But they are ceaselessly and meticulously nurtured by deep philosophies that make them look immutable. To be precise, I do not mean that no form of knowledge has ever come out Africa. In fact, to the contrary, this piece is written to ensure that African states emphasize the need for production of autochthonous knowledge. Knowledge production sits at the base of any human advancement. By knowledge, we talk first about the mental agility by which the environment is explored, exploited by human reasoning. We are not talking about the collection of wise sayings, idioms; all strung together into a coherent cosmogony. To be exact we are talking about the need to build thoughts and philosophies as we engage our environment, battle savagery and barbarism in the production of a “native” civilization. After God created man, He left re-creation to him. Man therefore can only dominate his environment with the knowledge of his environment. The most advanced states are those who use knowledge of their world to better their lots. Civilization is simply the state in which a society is able to solve its problems with knowledge and scientific certitude. Civilization therefore has nothing to do with westernization. In Tataalo Alamu’s words, “we are talking of the capacity for conceptual formulation and rigorous abstractions; the ability for sustained intellection and paradigmatic speculation”. We are not talking about the echoing or regurgitation of knowledge from other centres of civilization. While that itself is not avoidable, it should not be the only consumable.

Nations with the greatest advancements are also the ones with the most developed means of knowledge production. There is nothing divinely orchestrated in western ascension to world dominance and its current and ongoing displacement by the Asians, it is conditioned by knowledge production. Japan negotiated its way to the top after Meiji Restoration of 1868 through a radical reform of its educational system and her political institutions. Lee Kwan Yew transformed Singapore by transforming the mind. You must know before you are known. Africa is still largely crude, absolutely unrefined. Recently, as the Fulani marauders unleashed mayhem on hapless compatriots across the nation, the reaction of the government to it showed a stark clarity regarding the dominant mode of mind-set that powers our polity. The orgy of bloodletting notwithstanding, the government opted to continue funding programmes that encourage herding as against the urbane method of ranching. A state government decided to pay thirsty murderers to placate them. At play was the interplay of ethnic loyalty, religious sentiments and intoxicating ignorance. Knowledge was entirely displaced in arriving at the conclusion. This was when Americans, having conquered the earth are conquering mars. Modern societies with pre modern mode of existence are ravaged by the conflict between knowledge and myth. The infestation and manifestation of myth and its superior logic is evident in Africa’s mode of grappling with realities. Subsistence mode of agriculture, evasive form of democratic bargaining, tired and wearied political institutions, crippled madrasahs, mangled understanding of religion, a total and shambled organization of geographical space. These are exactly what to expect from societies with the mind-set to dominate nature and reality with myth not knowledge. The current mode of reasoning is that of voracious consumption powered by myth. Reliance on brawn not brain, mediocrity is ahead of meritocracy. We feed on all, we produce nothing. Africa is Africans’ greatest inhibition. Indeed, our people perish because of lack of knowledge…

to be continued.

Micah Stephen, combines his love for law with a deep appreciation of history and classical studies. He considers himself to be an admixture of a lawyer, classicist, historian and entrepreneur.

The City Circle with Aunty Rose

The Voicemail situation

I am not sure if I want a lot of pidgin or strictly “queens English”, whether I want to be informal or formal. But I do know that the purpose of this blog is to rub minds on daily real life struggles and relationships.

I have thought about the structure of this column for months. After wrestling with myself for an appropriate name (I eventually opened two blogs since I could not decide so one day, I might introduce you to the second one), I battled with the form and tone of the blog. I am not sure if I want a lot of pidgin or strictly “queens English”, whether I want to be informal or formal. But I do know that the purpose of this blog is to rub minds on daily real life struggles and relationships. I also know that there is no set structure for talking about all those things. So instead of putting it off further, I am just going to start blogging today and hope that you help me with it along the way. After all, this blog is about you my dear reader. So welcome to the City Circle (excited much!). A little mind hub where we can unwind from all the political and economic struggles that plague our days in the city and talk about other mundane (or not) issues that are being overwhelmed by all the “seriousness” out there. Today, I am thinking about the “voicemail situation”………………

My sister just marked her 29th birthday last month. When I called her to wish her well, she sounded very sober for a birthday girl. I didn’t have to probe too much before I found out why. My sister thinks that she has entered “voicemail” in the marriage department. After consoling her and getting her to cheer up, I hung up the phone feeling sober myself. As if we had exchanged moods. My sister has tried the Yoruba demons, Igbo patriots, and Arab monies. No luck. She has a good job, her own apartment, a small car that she’s managing and she dresses well.  Oh, and my sister can cook! She has very good manners. Make e no be like say I just dey blow her trumpet because say she be my sister. The point I am trying to make is that there are many reasonable and well packaged ladies out there that cannot find reasonable men to marry. To answer those that will comment here later to say that she should reduce her standards and consider poor people; it is one thing to not be financially stable at the moment with prospects and another to just be a throwback with no ambitions. And if you are a reasonable Nigerian guy with prospects that is willing to marry and move into her tiny flat with her, biko drop your email address in d comment section. Lol.

Ladies get in here! What can we do about this “voicemail” situation? There are so many desperate men and women out there. So many scams. It affects the married women too! Because person no go fit chop belefull for front of hungry lion o! (na me talk dat one. lol). What is the way forward?

Let me know what you think.

Ps: of course it is a really long post. It is, after all the first blog post (not that the subsequent ones would be a lot shorter seeing as I blog from the heart and this blog is sort of structure-free).

Please feel free to send your stories, experiences and topics you want to discuss to auntyrose16@gmail.com. I promise not to use your name if you do not want me to.

Enyioma Madubuike: The Nigerian legal profession: An exodus of young talent?

A lot has been said about millennials-that demographic of confused young people generally accepted as born between the early 1980s and early 2000s- about how we desire instant feedback, about how impatient we are; about how easily it is to distract us.

Is there a gradual exodus of young people from the legal profession? I really do not have access to authoritative facts and figures but I am beginning to notice a trend among colleagues in the legal profession today. “Enyioma, I am thinking of resigning from my chambers, I want to be a blogger. I have always had a passion for writing”. Enyioma, I am running a freelance business strategy project on the side and I may leave my job soon. Enyioma, I left my job last year, I have a digital marketing business I am running now and Sanmi, our law school roommate now has a cool bakery. Having just resigned from one of Nigeria’s top commercial law firms myself, I wonder if this trend of young lawyers exiting firms for other projects is one about which the legal profession in Nigeria should be worried.

A lot has been said about millennials-that demographic of confused young people generally accepted as born between the early 1980s and early 2000s- about how we desire instant feedback, about how impatient we are; about how easily it is to distract us. It is a demographic considered so troublesome that there is a multi-million dollar consulting industry out specializing in how to handle millennials, in schools, in the workplace and in government. It appears therefore that the rising trend of young lawyers pursuing other projects after going through a minimum of six years training is part of the worrisome symptoms of the typical Millennials’ penchant for rebellion.

While, this may be a large part of a plausible explanation, one wonders if this trend is not an indictment of the profession and the entirety of its structure. I make bold to say that with the peculiar structure of the legal profession as it stands today, it may continue to witness a decline in the number of young people willing to pursue a lifelong career as lawyers.  I will highlight a few reasons why I hold this belief.

  1. The length of training: Anyone who knows me knows how I have come to detest a system that takes six whole years to train a single lawyer in the theoretical aspects of a profession which is largely practical. The inadequacies of the Nigerian educational system which prioritizes tests and exams over discovery, and hands on experience will require another essay. The legal profession can actually do more to encourage an early exposure of law students to issues they will encounter in real practice as soon as possible to avoid the disappointment one feels as a lawyer when in your first year you realise most of your time in school was a waste because you have to learn an entire new set of skills
  2. Competing options: For many, whose main motivation for the practice of the profession is money, the information age has thrown up a new set of career options capable of providing enviable financial benefits with relatively less rigour and time requirements. Let’s face it, a few decades ago there was no blogging, digital marketing, programming and such other careers available to young people and so accounting, law, engineering and such traditional professions were considered the elite professions because they provided comparably better packages in prestige and money compared to other available careers at the time. Today, apart from the emergence of information age related careers, other options that were not as lucrative in years past are now more popular as a result of increased information and access. It is no more taboo for example for young people to pursue careers in music, sports and comedy.

    Nigerian Law School, Lagos

    Nigerian Law School, Lagos

  3. The life of a young Nigerian lawyer: The early years of practice are expected to be strenuous for any lawyer all over the world. In Nigeria however, the strain of working long excruciating hours, is accompanied by the emotional harangue of bosses who believe they have done you a favour by hiring you- a mentality carried over from a past where the boss was the master and the employee was the servant; and the ridiculous salaries paid at the end of the month which is incapable of sustaining a young commuting lawyer for a month. The fact that one goes through six years of learning to be treated in this way is enough disillusionment for many young people; and with other options available there are enough ships to jump into
  4. The eroding credibility of the profession: One of the attractions of the legal profession especially for young impressionable minds is its position as a symbol of probity and virtue. Unfortunately, the profession has been battered in recent years from tales of incompetence to publicized news of corruption from the bar to the very top of the bench. Our courts have lost a lot of credibility and it has rubbed off on how young people view the profession. By staining its pristine cloak, the profession gives young lawyers one more reason to not associate with it.
  5. Dreams change: A lot of young people are young lawyers because it was considered a great thing to be. Prodded by parents and the society, they aimed to be called “barristers” with little or oftentimes misguided understanding of what the profession entails. However, upon becoming lawyers, the reality of the profession becomes a far cry from the dreams of youth and one is often faced with either remolding expectations or dreaming new dreams. More young people are choosing today to shoot for new horizons instead of managing the false pretenses of old ones.
  6. Career mobility: It has become accepted that the days when it was fashionable to work for an employer for a decade has gone. Young people prefer to be able to change environments and gather a mix of experiences through their work lifetimes. Even more, young people are beginning to desire changing their careers as often as they can before they die. The legal profession requires six years of training for a life of practice. With increased access to knowledge, young people are more likely to prefer fluidity to monotony.
  7. Doors of opportunity: Despite all that has been said about legal education, there is no doubt that it positions a young lawyer for more opportunities that his counterparts. This means that apart from openings in law practice, lawyers are more favoured in handling duties like administration, organization, advocacy and leadership. This makes it easy for a lawyer who grows dissatisfied with his practices to branch out into other field where his training is valued and considered relevant
  8. The Rules: The legal profession is a very conservative profession steeped in tradition and rules religiously protected by a well regimented structure. The millennial is one for fluidity, adaptability, speed and efficiency. He will continuously be at loggerheads with a profession which prides itself more in its ability to enforce its own rules than in its tenacity to reform it.

 

A lot has been written about the impatience and entitlement of millennials. However, businesses and industries all over the world are not just complaining, they are adapting. Hopefully, the Nigerian legal profession finds a way of reinventing itself to ensure it continues to attract and keep young motivated talent. If this is not done, trickles become torrents and the profession might find itself on the lower rung of preferences of young Nigerians in the nearest future.

 

Enyioma combines his knowledge of philosophy with an in-depth understanding of how law works. He is constantly in search of new and interesting pursuits.

TATAALO ADAMU: The Invention of African Intellectual Tradition

Illustrious members of the high Table and the table not so high, distinguished members of the audience, notable and budding philosophers, Professor Sophie Oluwole, the keynote speaker who is also the moving spirit behind the whole event, it gives me great joy to be here as the chairman of this interactive session on the occasion of the World Philosophy Day. I must particularly thank the Centre for African Culture and Development for putting the issue of Africa’s lost intellectual heritage on the front burner of discourse again.

Given the multifarious problems confronting humanity, it is only sensible that once a year, a day should be set aside for sober philosophical reflections on the state of the human society and the prospects for the survival of the species. Some of these concerns are not to be taken lightly or dismissed glibly. As Claude Levi-Strauss, the great French Structuralist anthropologist, has put it with caustic relish, “the world began without man and will end without him”.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a professional philosopher. But there is a philosopher in everybody. The ability to think and to think through problems is what distinguishes human-beings from our animal cousins. If prostitution is the oldest human profession, philosophy must come a very close second. It is impossible to conceive of a human society without thinking of its thinkers and savants. These are the wise people, the cognoscenti, the visionary dreamers and conceptual pathfinders without which the great strides and the epic feats of knowledge and self-knowledge recorded by humanity would have been impossible. Without philosophers, a society must atrophy and perish.

This year’s World Philosophy Day is coming against a background of great global unease, of human eruptions on a revolutionary scale and scope, of a fierce contention between man and a capitalist machine that no longer recognizes even its own. There is a trans-societal struggle to bring to heels a world in which inequity and inequality among classes, races, hemispheres and nations have assumed a staggering and idiotic proportion.

A consensus appears to have emerged that the world cannot continue along the lines of the present economic disorder and disequilibrium. After almost six hundred years of unrivalled hegemony, the World Order imposed by the capitalist mode of production and its twin bye products of liberal democracy and the nation-state paradigm appears to be at the end of its historic tether.

It is hard to predict what will follow, but it is a profound irony that while the system bequeathed to the world by western modernity is unraveling at the seams; while the philosophical and intellectual assumptions that underpin and power its baleful hegemony are being daily rubbished by new and novel imperatives, Africa is bogged down at the level of clearing the intellectual debris of misconceptions and misinformation imposed and inflicted on it by the expiring World Order. In a classic case of double jeopardy most of Africa has joined Europe and the west on the road to economic and political ruination without being able to develop the substantial infrastructural insurance of the capitalist metropole.

The misconceptions about Africa’s intellectual heritage are many indeed; the orchestrated misinformation very scary. But intellectual misconceptions do not just arise in a vacuum or out of a void. There is always a philosophical fundament which underlies and structures such misconceptions. In the particular case of intellectual misconceptions of Africa, It might have started out as mere prejudice colouring the worldview of sea-faring merchants and buccaneering adventurers, but it was later to receive its philosophical ballast and intellectual scaffolding from dominant western intellectuals and thinkers as a means of providing rationale for the project of modernity and its systematic brutalization of the human species from Africa.

Let us now put the matter as crudely and as graphically as possible. Can the Blackman philosophize? At face value, this appears to be a particularly inane and vexing question. How can there be a people who cannot philosophize? But by philosophizing, we do not mean stringing together witticisms and wise-sayings into a coherent cosmogony or worldview. We are talking of the capacity for conceptual formulation and rigorous abstractions; the ability for sustained intellection and paradigmatic speculation.

A whole retinue of western thinkers and intellectuals are united in the belief that beyond empty story telling and the regurgitation of received wisdom, the African is incapable of sustained abstractions. From Hegel to Karl Marx and down to Hugh Trevor-Roper who noted that African history is a dark void and an embarrassment to humanity, these western intellectuals are unanimous in the notion that Africa has no cultural or intellectual heritage worth talking about.

In an infamous passage from his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and Third President of America, noted thus of the African American: “It appears to me that in memory they are equal to whites: in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous”.

It is note-worthy and interesting that whatever the ideological temperament of these western intellectuals, they were all united in their denigration of Africa’s cultural and intellectual heritage. The project of modernity, being a “national” project that transcends individual ideological proclivity, does not brook intellectual dissension. The discursive formation behind the formulation of western hegemony suffers from its own tyranny of the mother culture.

Karl Marx, for example, thought that pre-historic societies, such as was the case with all societies preoccupied with mythology, tried to dominate nature in and around the imagination and that this fixation with idiotic superstitions gives way once humankind masters his environment through scientific certitude and the knowledge that comes with enlightenment.

To be sure, it is possible that at the time of the colonial incursion, the African continent might have suffered a brutal and catastrophic regression into the state of nature. But it does appear that what we are dealing with here is the substitution of one set of superstitions for another. The absence of western-type formal academies of learning from Africa at the time of colonial conquest does not invalidate the African capacity to learn and to philosophise at the most rarefied level of abstraction.

In the twelfth century, there was a university in Timbuktu which had an attendance of twenty five thousand students in a city of a hundred thousand, although this might have owed its provenance to the dominant Islamic culture. Ibn Khaldun, the fourteenth century Tunis-born Arab African philosopher and globally acclaimed political theorist, anticipated most of Marx and Vico’s theories about the cyclical nature of historical evolution. His notion of asabiyah, or group coherence and bonding in conditions of exacting harshness, showed a remarkable insight into the construction and deconstruction of tribal hegemonies.

Although there were no formal schools in pre-colonial Africa in the sense that we have come to know them, traditional African societies had their own informal system of education which produced the requisite elite to man the institutions. It was a capillary network of politicians, diplomats, historians, judges, spies, shamans, votaries, savants, psychiatrists, native healers, astrologers, information gurus among other traditional professions.

Indeed the extant ideological apparatuses of the pre-colonial African states still retain an efficacy and power of compliance long after their political and material basis and rationale have been subverted by the colonial irruption. It was not for nothing that Peter Morton described the Yoruba Ogboni confraternity as “mystery-mongering greybeards.”

Even if we are to put all this aside, even we are to concede that medieval Africa did suffer a terrible regression to the savagery of the state of nature, the roots and foundation of western modernity in the ancient African civilisation of Egypt cannot be denied. The myth of the black savage shambling about in the cave of cultural and intellectual darkness is just that: a myth rooted in intellectual superstition.

In order to deal with the conquered and subjugated people of Africa, but, more importantly, in order to explain away the systematic cruelties of western colonisation, western intellectual tradition had to “reinvent” the native African cultural heritage to suit their preconceived notion. Terence Ranger, following the conceptual breakthrough of Eric Hobsbawm in his landmark study of European elite, has written copiously and eloquently on this reinvention of African tradition by the colonialists.

This was the same phenomenon observed by Edward Said, the late Palestinian American cultural theorist , in his path-breaking study of the colonial imaginary in the orient. In order to handle better and justify the brutal decimation of India and the orient, a particular notion of the orient has to be invented and erected in place of the real thing. Thus orientalism, or the reinvention of the orient by the colonial imagination, has little to do with the real orient just as the reinvention of African intellectual tradition has little to do with the real Africa.

 

Western modernity had to resort to this fictional and ideological reconstruction of reality because it was first and foremost a power project based on the application and manipulation of knowledge. In order to cast itself as the unique bearer of a new universal order and an emergent world-historical rationality, it has had to deny what went before it and to suppress what is contemporaneous with it.

Yet there was nothing divinely pre-ordained or inevitable about its subsequent global dominance. Before its ascendancy, there were other competing projects of modernity. For example before it succumbed to internal disorder, China was the leading world nation around the twelfth century. Portugal was the first truly modern nation-state. The old kingdom of Benin had a representative in the court at Lisbon by the middle of the fifteenth century.

But it is one thing to uncover the roots of misbegotten representation, it is another thing to know how to go about reclaiming a lost heritage. The power of knowledge cannot be confronted by the power of superstition. As Terry Eagleton famously noted, “one sure thing about the organic community is that it is always gone”. The myth of the organic community is the cudgel we employ to beat a recalcitrant and hostile contemporary reality into place.

Much as we idealize and romanticize the ancient African community and our lost heritage, it is virtually impossible to reclaim that mythical past. Yet, the greatest problem facing the Black race collectively and as people sequestered within strange and alienating nation-states is the reconstitution and reconstruction of the colonial subject from a serf of colonialism to a citizen of the post-colonial realm of freedom.

The question is: is it possible to philosophize in a strange language? It is to be noted that countries and societies such as China, Japan, India and the oriental tigers, while enduring the odd colonial infraction or even brutal decimation, never surrendered the cultural and intellectual initiative to the colonialists. They swiftly reverted to their indigenous cultures and powerful philosophies once the colonial masters departed. Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism acted as binding glues for these societies helping them to survive and even leverage to their advantage the worst of the psychic and cultural atrocities of colonization.

In the particular case of colonial Africa, it is a major historical tragedy that there was no major or dominant African culture strong and resilient enough to withstand the ravages of colonization and to subsequently act as a cultural and philosophic hub for the rest of the continent. A feeble attempt to impose the Swahili language as this pan-African cultural hub could not even get off the ground probably because the Swahili culture itself emerged from the crucible of Arab colonization in Africa.

The urgent task at hand, then, is how to salvage what is still crucial and important about Africa’s cultural past without going completely “native”. Much as we may wish, we can never return to that old world and the pre-colonial African society. It is gone forever. No human society can wish away six hundred years of its history.

We must now turn the adversities of alienation into great advantages as famously echoed in Abiola Irele’s inaugural lecture. But while enjoying the paradoxical bounties of creative alienation we must also warily patrol the field in order not to turn out as metropolitan mimic-men or hybridized trapeze artists permanently walking a cultural tight rope just for the sake of grudging applause from our former masters.

This is an urgent task for African knowledge producers and the pan-African cultural and intellectual elite. The world does not wait for anybody. Even as the old order is crumbling and collapsing before our very eyes, the extant dominant powers are furiously and frenetically reconstructing the vanishing world to suit their interests and permanent prejudices. The NATO-led liquidation of Gaddafi’s Libya, America’s renewed military interests in Africa, France’s not so covert military intervention that saw off the ancien regime in Cote D’Ivoire, are all pointers to a ceaseless power project even in the face of historical superannuation.

Knowledge is both power and self-empowerment. Before political subjugation comes intellectual subordination. African elite must seize the day and the initiative to invent the continent anew as the past and possible future of humanity. Otherwise, it will be done for them and Africa will be reinvented once again by the emergent masters of the universe with even greater and more drastic consequences. As we have seen with western colonisation, if the adversary wins not even the dead or their heritage are safe. I thank you all.

Being an article written by Tataalo Alamu, culled from the Nation’s Newspaper on 20/11/2011

 

 

Samuel Shina: It Is Not Yours Alone!

I have to confess that this is my first write up in a long time, the last time I penned down something close to an article was five years ago. While I don’t particularly think of myself as a distinguished or astute writer (trust me, I have read the works of many such writers), I wish strongly that you enjoy this piece and most importantly the message conveyed.

 

I look forward to your honest comments and criticisms. Have an enjoyable read.

 

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He was the best in the community, so good that people said he had the ability to hear the heavens, as his melodies can only be divine. His melodies were beyond what can be found in books, naturally gifted and dedicated to practice and self-discipline; he began to transcend the ordinary and could be compared to the likes of Mozart if he was living in their time.

 

He was in a very small community, where everyone knew themselves, a stranger cannot creep in and go unnoticed, not because his colour or race will give him up, neither was it because they had a sign in identifying themselves, but it was more because everyone knew each other, sharing a very warm camaraderie, thus if you stray in to the land even for a second, you’ll be known immediately as a stranger.  It is however not so long before strangers become family, as family is a loose term to identify the bond that binds the members of the community. It was as easy as, everyone knows the child of who you are, and can relate who your siblings are also, and God help you to have been born in the town, the elders can also tell you the day you were born and how differently the sun was set at the moment, or how shy or bold the moon and stars were on the night.

 

His fingers were so light on the keys as gracefully as the butterfly perches from one flower to another yet striking hard on the weighted keys like a sledge, for every time he blessed the keys with the touch of his hands, there is a new tune created, a new chord is struck, it was even said of him that the several tunes he has created are way more than the hair on his head – a full blown afro kept for more than a decade. He doesn’t just play the piano, he transfers emotions through notes struck; from the moments where he accompanies the preacher to drive home his messages powerfully on Sundays, to when there is a celebration in the community, and to the one which many people found more fascinating; when he plays at the laying to rest of those who have passed on. His solemn melodies at funerals made death desirable, for the living listens to it and it makes the dead look like they are ascending in glory unto heaven with a thousand angelic orchestra welcoming them in a blended fusion of their sonorous voices.

 

Not being one who enjoys the busy tussle and grinding of the city, he found perfect tranquillity in the town.  Professionals journey far and wide to bless their ears and their being by listening to him playing the piano; and soon the town found out that they always had more visitors on the day of funerals, because many people were always there to listen to something new and sweet he has to play. He was seldom convinced on leaving the town for performance, and on the rare occasions where he did, running back to his forte was all he cared about. He was popular among music professionals and enthusiasts alike, and importantly greatly unrivalled, and then it happened suddenly; he died.

 

Yes, He died…Death came and took him also, it was shocking, he had been fine, but the truth remains that he is dead.

His burial did not make anyone wish for death as in the past, people were present yes, but there wasn’t that hair on the back of the neck standing in the effect of being in a trance and watching the dead being welcomed by the angelic orchestra, it was a dry event that was ended quickly than planned, people soon shook off the sadness by resorting back to their normal businesses, not allowing the dullness and darkness that was hovering around the community get to them.

 

There was nobody to play greatly for the great player on the day of his funeral, because there was none he allowed to be great as him, there was none he tutored nor mentored, he was all by himself and enjoying the glory all alone. People soon realised that aside from his talent and gift of playing the piano so well and elating their spirits, he wasn’t really a good person, or to be fair to his memory, he just didn’t get along or interacted with people. He was a hermit among bustling people, he only made appearances in public when he is needed to play the piano, and would soon go back into reclusiveness. Many young ones aspired to be him, they tried their hands on the piano, but whenever he plays, they felt they needed him to help them get better, but he didn’t want that type of competition, he wanted to be just all him, so when he finds an aspiring lad or lass, he discourages them by telling them they can’t amount to anything. They are discouraged and cannot fight back the feeling, when the best that you idolise tell you how bad you suck at his craft, can you question it?

 

So, on his funeral, the piano laid bare, with no fingers running through it except that of the tiny waggling fingers of little babies making melodious sounds in their heads, but a total unbearable noise to the adults around. All who could have given him the orchestra feeling had resorted that they were no good, because he told them so. The town soon became quiet and very normal, even on Sundays it was as if the echoes of sweet sound that kept it bubbling was mute.

 

The essence of life is not just in one dimension, but one destination seems to be the ultimate and most accepted value, and this is to live life to the fullest. To not just exist in life, but to live in laughter, love and joy. It is in the realisation of this ultimate goal that one must understand that whatsoever we possess is not just for us alone, be it wealth or talent. The beauty of a talent, gift or wealth is when it is transferred and shared with others; this world will be a better place if and when love rules our heart to help others grow, and knowing full well that their growth cannot impede ours.

 

So, whatever it is that you have today, or all that you possess be sure to share it with the world, start from the little things to those around you, imagine if no one had passed and shared knowledge in the past, the world would still be in a decline, if the researches and discoveries of scientists in the past had not been shared, we cannot be having the technological breakthroughs we are achieving today, if someone had not taught you some of the things that make you great right now, you wouldn’t have been better than the early cave men too.

 

It is better you share that knowledge, talent, wealth, or skill and have people build on them and imprint your name in the sands of time scratch that, rock of time, than to die and be nothing with all that you have. Whatever you have today (no matter how little) share with someone and make them better, in that way we make the world a better place for us all. Remember, no one will make it out alive.

 

 

Shina is a lawyer and writes from Lagos

MICAH STEPHEN: Africa And The Globe (Part Two)

[Continued from Part One]

Consequently, globalization created by liberalization, continues to be maintained by the liberalization of economic policies in several key areas. This presupposes that globalization is part of a broader trend called Marketization, which by its nature tends to generate international market failures, because it is uneven in intensity and scope and also because it impacts differently on different classes of people.

The paradox implicit in this point is underscored by Irene Fernandes, in “Globalization, the Economic Crisis & the Challenges to women”, when she attributed to globalization a three stage historical process. To her, Globalization, for the economies of the South, has three phases; the first phase came with Colonization where the North plundered the resources of the South. Colonization was fought and independence was presumably gained. However, the universalization of production and consumption patterns of already industrialized North which typified the second phase made the joy of independence pale out. What this phase did was to substitute traditional consumption patterns with contrived western states accentuated by the process of industrialization of essentially the North (the growing penchant of Africa of abandoning “local” markets, stalls and imbibing the glorified culture of shopping in Spar, Shoprites, Walmart not only changes consumption patterns but stifles the growth of small and medium enterprises which consequentially further deepens the rate of unemployment of the unsuspecting many).

The third present stage of globalization is that which emphasizes commercialization, trade liberalization and deregulation of most facets of life under the auspices of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization. This phase in terms of production techniques is marked by the tension in genetic engineering technologies.
Therefore, the tragedy is that Africa has to develop in tandem with the discretion, whims and caprices of her imperialists and their goons. So it was in 1885 in Berlin, so shall it continually be. In establishing the current order, the mind of Africa must be eroded, its essence must be distorted that she no longer recognises her own. What we are grappling with is a fundamental defect of pre-creation (as imperialists wove hitherto contrasting ethnic habitats into inconvenient states), pro-creation (inability of nationalists to answer or reconstitute the new states anew during creation) and post-creation (the complicity between the rudderless African leaders and the insistence of the imperialists to forge Africa to their taste). Thus to recreate Africa, Africans must be recreated through the process of acculturation.

Globalization therefore has a toxic effect on a continent trying to understand herself after years in the imperialists’ animal farm. It is still stagnated and left to clear the debris of misconception and misinformation that has pinned her down.
Ali Magrui captured the resultant paradoxes of the acculturation of Africa relative to Asia, and the consequential impact on economic growth of the two continents. First, he noted that despite a shared experience between the two continents (territorially almost the whole of Africa was colonized, while only 60 per cent of Asia was Temporally, however, Africa was colonized for a much shorter period than Asia), African values and cultures were disrupted much faster in spite of the brevity of the colonial experience.
So if Africa was culturally westernizing faster than Asia, why was Asia economically westernizing faster than Africa? While western culture may be good for economic performance in the west, this is not necessarily the case outside the west.

To be meaningful, there has to be the right balance between western technique and indigenous culture as the example after the Meiji restoration of 1868 shows. Singapore under Lee Kwon Yew also epitomizes the importance of not surrendering your cultural initiative in the face of spiralling interdependence of nations. Simply put, the more globalized the world gets, the more you deepen your indigenous values to withstand the erosive tendencies of the western ideologies.

To borrow, you may compromise on certain fronts, but you must not surrender. However in Africa, what is happening is cultural westernization without economic modernization. Thus, Africa is suffering from double jeopardy; westernizing too fast, and in the wrong areas of western culture. The effect is what Mazrui called Mal-modernization – a state of urbanization without industrialization, western states without western skills, capitalist greed without capitalist discipline, western consumption patterns without western production techniques.
With these negative indices, the competitive edge needed to cope with and derive the benefits of the globalization phenomenon, is lacking. This will make nonsense whatever economic and political structures or processes are inherited from the phenomenon.

For there to be the entrenchment of the essence of Africa in the consciousness of the globe, in order to accentuate the necessity of the development of Africa as a continent and as a people, the mind of the African must be imbued with the substance of knowledge of self. The environment of Africa must be explored with the support of other nations as colleagues, not as bosses who sit in Hague, New York or London to create a typhoon that Africa has to battle with. Africa must be wary of the toxic nature of globalization. In seeking for “a good society”, we need to be careful as to what constitutes it. Development antecedents have shown that culture, tradition and indeed values of the society in question are imperatives, as the Asian example typifies. This means that we should avoid the reflexibility belief that excessive individualism, freedom and western political systems are prerequisites to economic success.
Societal values and culture must be part of the political process so that a sense of belonging is felt by the people. Before political subjugation comes mental and intellectual subordination. African intellectual elites must be at the vanguard of leading the restoration of the continent and in the formulation of sound political ideas, ideals and ideologies.

Micah Stephen is a practising Lawyer. He tweets via @Micahesq