Mazi Gerald Chukwudi MbonuFriday, November 21, 2003

Venice, Italy


Forwarded by: REMI OYEYEMI


ou have heard it in one form or the other: The British are the architects of Nigeria's political imbroglio. They set out to create a United Sultanate of Nigeria as an African equivalent of the United Kingdom. The North was "ordained" by them to dominate Nigeria just as England was "ordained" to dominate the United Kingdom. Once in a while England might concede the premiership of the United Kingdom to a Scot or a Welsh aspirant, but the heart of the Kingdom continues to beat in England. This was their plan in "creating" Nigeria. The amalgamation of the Protectorate of Lagos and the Colonies of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria in 1914 was effected merely on paper without any reference to geographical, religious or linguistic contiguity. No attempt was made to have the peoples of the new Nigeria interact with each other in order to promote the principle of divide and rule.

Today, we continue to burry our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich almost fifty years after independence. Today, we clamor for a Sovereign National Conference as if it is the magic wand to solve all our problems .We fail to ask ourselves, why the North has always stuck together while the South has never been able to agree on any common agenda to redress the political imbalance. The North has learnt the political dictum that there is no permanent friendship in politics, but permanent interests. Between the Southern zones, there is permanent enmity and no common interests. During the first Republic Northern Minorities in the Middle Belt and North East agitated for states of their own. With the creation of states, they moved to rediscover their Northernness. The Southern Minorities used their states on the other hand to emphasize their "differentness" and to underline their new found identity.

Or how else can you explain the rapport of Mid-Belt politicians like the late Senator Joseph Tarka and Governor Aper Aku with the NPN and PDP in the second and Fourth Republics, while the South South solidly have consistently toed the line of their "protectors," the Northern Oligarchy? Nigeria can only move forward, when the progressive forces in the Northern Minority zones can team up with their progressive brothers in the South. Until this is achieved the sleeping giant called Nigeria will continue in its slumber.

If a Sovereign National Conference were held today, the resultant constitution will not be any different from the present one. The Northern zones will be united in their desire for a strong central government and strong opposition to a loosening of the political bonds or resource control. The Southern zones will be totally divided as always. The South South will insist on resource control based on derivation but will support the indivisibility of the union as long as the desire for resource control is taken care of. The South East will approach the conference with the "monodemand" of rotational presidency based on the political zones. The South West will come to the table with the demand of devolution of power or a loose confederacy where it will be semi-autonomous. This will have set a stage for either an aborted conference or a compromise that might further complicate the fate of Nigeria.

For the South South their interest will be only economical. It lacks the homogeneity and the spirit of competitiveness necessary for its independent existence. Internal divisions in the zone will make it impossible to present a common political agenda. Its political interests are taken care of as long as their fears of the Southern major nationalities are taken care of. This assurance they see in their attachment to the apron strings of the perceived power brokers in the North. The fear of local domination by the Igbo or the Yoruba beclouds all other considerations.

For the South East, the cry for a President of their kinsman can only be realized through the rotation of the Presidency through the political zones. This zone has lost its bearings since the end of the civil war. The belief of the zone is that their marginalization will be ameliorated if the rest of the country accepts one of them as the President. The South East fails to see that rotation will not necessarily serve their collective interest. Today, it is said that the North conceded to the South West the presidency of Nigeria in 1999 to compensate them for the annulled June 12 elections. What did the North actually concede in 1999? Did the North actually concede to South West the choice of the Presidency in 1999? Was it not the same cabal, who have been ruling Nigeria, who anointed Gen. Obasanjo in 1999? Who in the South West zone nominated or voted for Gen. Obasanjo in 1999? What if in 2007 the same cabal foists on the South East either Sen. Arthur Nzeribe or Chief Chris Ubah as the presidential candidate? Would this be the Nigerian President of Igbo extraction they have been clamoring for? Or is the South East assuming that this is beyond what the cabal is capable of?

The South West finds itself in the position the Igbos found themselves in mid 1960s. They have just been robbed of their chance of choosing their presidential candidate. The entrenchment of rotationary presidency would mean that they cannot select their own candidate until in about half a century. They will not be very keen on such a provision. While they may not publicly oppose it, they will go behind the scenes to scuttle it. We can only hope that they have learnt from history and will not repeat it. The solution to the imbalance in the polity cannot be resolved by one entity, nationality or zone! The bonds that tie us together cannot be loosened by one hand. It was not tied by one hand.

The cabal that dominates Nigeria TODAY does not do so because of the British. The distortion in Nigerian polity is not because the Northern oligarchy has a Divine mandate to rule. It is not because the Kaduna Mafia has a monopoly on political sagacity. Nigeria is retrograding simply because Nigerians, who ought to know better, continue to mortgage their conscience for the crumbs that fall from the political banquet.

To continue to argue about what happened or did not happen in the Western House of Assembly in 1952/54 is imbecile. Whether the Yoruba left the Igbo in the lurch before the civil war or whether hunger was a weapon of war or not is not relevant today.. The Ijaws, the Urhobos and the Itsekiris have lived together for centuries. What changed now that they are daily mauling and maiming each other? The nationalities in South South have lived in peace with their Igbo brethren for generations. . The Igbos, Efiks, Ijaws, Ogonis and the Yoruba died side by side on the streets of Kaduna and Kano in 1945. The Igbos died with their Southern minorities during the progroms of 1954 , 1966 and 1999.What has changed now? If they had been marginalized in an agrarian Eastern Nigeria, are their lots any better today now that their homestead is being devastated by oil exploration - and they are condemned to watch while their Northern friends smile to foreign banks with their loot?

Fortunately this lesson is being learnt in the zone of late. In the words of the head of King James House, Bakassi and Calabar South, Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey, "Whether we like it or not, our destiny is tied up with that of the Igbos." The one time Alliance for Democracy National Vice Chairman in the zone continued, "The fact is, whether we support Biafra or not, the communality of our guild in Eastern Nigeria is assured and if we do not take strong counter measures in concert with the Igbos, we are doomed to supporting either the North or the West in the unending Nigerian crises."

Does the South West really believe that it go it alone without its natural neighbors? Will the fate of an average Yoruba man be better in an Oodua Republic? Will the present lebensraum of the South West provide for the welfare of an average Yoruba man? How can the Yoruba nation explain their current romance with Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida? What have become of the principles exemplified by the late Obafemi Awolowo? Has all become well as long as political relevance is achieved? What has happened to the progressive and welfarist antecedents of the Yoruba nation?

Until the southern and northern central zones learn that in politics there are no permanent friends, but permanent interests the distortion in the Nigerian polity cannot be restructured. Even if the southern zones will unite, the polity will not be more balanced than 55% to 45% under the current situation where one zone dictates the fate of Nigeria. Until more Nigerians learn that their fate is in their hands and stop blaming colonialists, who departed our shores more than forty years ago, Nigeria will continue to stagnate.

The British did not introduce the obnoxious "Federal character" clause in our constitution, They did not introduce zoning, quotas and rotation of presidency. Nothing has done more to stagnate Nigeria and enthrone "mediocracy" in Nigeria than these constitutional mandates. Federal character means that we set a minimum standard. Anyone who meets it will be chosen on regional/state bases. It is like setting the standard that anyone who can kick a football 100 meters will qualify for the national team, the Super Eagles. What about other skills and the required team work? It obviously, takes more than the ability to kick the ball 100 meters by team members to win the world cup!

It is mind-boggling to see the leaders of South East flirting again with their Northern nemesis ( Buhari/Okadigbo, Buhari/Ojukwu, Atiku/Kalu, Atiku/Babangida). It is nauseating to see a once principled people of South West tripping each other to foist the flag of IBB on the altar of political expediency. Have they forgotten so soon how many people sacrificed their lives for NADECO? Have they forgotten how Dele Giwa died? How do you explain the fact that people like Prof Bolaji Akinyemi? Chief Olu Falae and Mr. Clement Akpamgbo, SAN are today errand boys IBB? What qualifies IBB better than any one of them to rule Nigeria?

Can a Sovereign National Conference reverse the brain wash that has distorted Nigerian political atmosphere? Only in Nigeria can such elephants worship such ants? Only a nation of happy people (forgive the palace jesters) can parade such absurdities. They are singing their nunc dimitis today in anticipation of political appointments. Nobody bothers about principles and self respect any more. What can IBB offer Nigeria that a Falae, Akinyemi or Akpamgbo cannot? With such example, what do we expect our coming generation to learn? Are the British responsible for this sycophancy? Will a Sovereign National Conference give our psyche the necessary electrical shock to awaken us from our moral slumber?

The truth is that until progressive politicians learn that there cannot be permanent friends in politics, Nigerian polity can not be restructured. The Igbo man must learn to forget the abandoned properties issue and the rivalry between them and the Yoruba. The southern minorities must learn that without the support of the southern majorities, they can at best exchange local domination for an alien one. The Abiola and Obasanjo episodes should teach the Yoruba that without southern solidarity there cannot be a true restructuring of the Nigerian polity. The North once in a while foists their surrogates on the south, while real power remains with the North. Only a well planned and organized southern solidarity can truly bring about a balanced political system.

A just and equitable balance of power can only evolve on the basis of southern and progressive solidarity. It cannot be bought by kowtowing to those in the corridors of power. It cannot be achieved by a single conference. The concept of rotating the presidency cannot assure that a truly national President is presented to the Nation. It is anti-democractic and it is not desirable in principle. It will put generations of capable Nigerians at a disadvantage from occupying the highest office in the land. The principle of rotating the presidency is not served, if the same set of people selects who contests no matter what zone the rotation falls upon. OBJ has taught us a lesson. He is not a Southern candidate. He was a Northern candidate foist on us and we are paying dearly for it. The next time around, we may have a President Nzeribe, or Chris Ubah or Tony Anenih! It is time for Nigerians to wake up