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