FEATURE ARTICLE

‘Kunle FalowoTuesday, April 30, 2013
peterfalowo@hotmail.com
Miami, Florida, USA

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THE PROBLEM OF NIGERIA (1)

"…In the course of my evidence during my trial, I stated that my Party favoured and was actively working for alliance with the N.C.N.C. as a means, among other things, of solving what I described as the problem of Nigeria, and strengthening the unity of the Federation. - Chief Obafemi Awolowo (28th March, 1966).


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f the gods were to help solve the problem of Nigeria and we need them to tell us the truth about our problem so we can channel our resources to the right steps to solving the puzzle. We know god of truth always speaks truly, god of false always speaks falsely, but whether god of random speaks truly or falsely is a completely random matter. Now we have to find the right answers to: is tribalism the source of Nigerian problems? Is tribalism just a smokescreen by politicians practicing corruption to evade justice? Is genuine fear of political and economic domination the underlying factor for both ethnic distrust and corruption in Nigeria? The gods have to answer yes or no, and we can only ask one question to one god. The gods can answer in their own language in which yes or no is simply "da" and "ja" only we don't know which one means yes. That is the most difficult problem of logic. If the abc conjecture (a+b=c) reputed as the most complex mathematical problem seems to have been solved by dedication of Shinichi Mochizuki's time for four good years; and even the 100 years old Poincarè conjecture was solved by Grigori Perelman; then all hope might not be lost for Nigeria.

What exactly can we describe as the problem of Nigeria? The problem of Nigeria, generally speaking, is lack of development when development has been explicitly defined in the UN Declaration on the Right to Development as "a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom" So why then have we not been able to rise above financial and material dearth even when we are so blessed with such vast natural and human resources, and a tremendously fertile land? The answer ranks amongst the above examples, soluble but requires time, sound brains, sincerity and unalloyed dedication.

Is it possible to understand the problem with Nigeria? Understanding the difficulty in sincerely answering this question is in itself one major step towards removing the obstacles to solving it. Accepting the daunting nature, and the willingness to devote the quality of time required for the tasks of identifying the core causes and analyzing the various strands of what constitute the apparently complex problem confronting the Nigerian nation today, put together is just one pertinent step in the thousand miles journey of finding the solution. Charles Kettering had posited that "a problem well stated in a problem half solved", can one really well state a problem as hydra-headed, complicated, growing in complexity, knotty and puzzling as the problem of Nigeria?

Chinua Achebe stated that "[T]he trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership"; Goodluck Jonathan in his farewell speech to Andrew Owoye Azazi would rather put the problem of Nigeria as attitude. Except one deliberately wants to embark on a superficial assay, the problem of Nigeria is much more intricate than what a word or phrase can fully describe. To illustrate the intricacy of the problems, the continuous ossification of ethnic tensions and distrust comes as a handy example. Was the reason for the amalgamation of 1914 i.e. the need to use the economic resources of the Southern Protectorate to augment the insufficient resources to run the Northern Protectorate a major factor in the resentment the major ethnic components in Nigeria express towards one another even 100 years after that action? Was that truly the reason for that amalgamation? Or did the ethnic tension start at the formation of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa in 1947, to which the Igbo State Union (within the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons -NCNC) was formed as a response, and the Jam'iyyar Mutanen Arewa was consequently formed in 1948 to complete the tri-polar ethnic division of the Nigerian political community? Cognizant that even the Bauchi Discussion Circle had to be constricted for criticizing the colonial indirect rule policy, could it truly be the case that these ethnic 'nationalist' movements which all later metamorphosed to political parties were started as subtle protests against apparent favoritism of the colonial administrations towards a particular ethnic group against others? Observing that this pre-independence trend of forming political parties along ethnic lines as Northern People's Congress, Action Group (West) and the NCNC (East) had continued through the National Party of Nigeria (North), Unity Party of Nigeria (West) and Nigerian People's Party (East) unto the current People's Democratic Party (North), AD/Action Congress of Nigeria (West) and All Progressive Grand Alliance (East); is the Nigeria political development just fulfilling the academic calculations that the colonial policies of indirect rule a.k.a. divide and rule following the rather heartless hubble-jumbling of the African continent at the 1885 Berlin Conference will forever set African tribes against one another and make post-independence national unity impossible? Is the root cause of contemporary mutual bitterness amongst Nigerian tribes lying in the January 1966 coup by Igbo Officers of the Nigerian Army who killed Northern leaders and others while they spared their own kinsmen which prompted a retaliatory coup and further military coups along ethnic lines and became the only way we know how to govern ourselves up till now? Was the January 1966 coup a response to the ever dreaded political domination of an ethnic group? The lists of probable causes are inexhaustible.

The illustration above is just of one aspect of one matter in the multifarious problem Nigeria is facing today and urgently needs to start solving. The foregoing has shown how difficult it is to identify to any degree of certainty the main reason or historical roots of the problem. However, restorative justice demands that before we can access its therapeutic benefits, Nigerians must first understand the truth about their history and only on the basis of that can the process of healing begin. This is the key to the required coming together as a united people focused and energetically pursuing development. For Nigeria at that point, development will start from a sincerely felt and shown love among her citizens as Nigerians and not as Northerners, Easterners or Westerners, and the treatment of corrupt officials or whoever comes against the collective will as enemies of the state, proper traitors. Felons.

The question is: Can Nigeria attain that level in reality? Will Yakubu Gowon ever come out to lay the whole truth on the table? Will Maitama Sule divulge all he knows? Will Olusegun Obasanjo ever reveal the theories and calculations behind the two-third of nineteen? Are we ever going to know anything about our contemporary history? Was there a deal to leave Sani Abacha behind after the stepping aside? How did he die? Who are the "they" in the annulment of June 12, 1993 election? Will Abdulsalami Abubakar and Mike Akhigbe tell us how Abiola died? Why and how was Olusegun Obasanjo chosen against the will of the people of the West whose turn, it was said to be, to produce a compensatory Executive President? Will Ibrahim Babangida ever open his mouth? Real truth and reconciliation will forever remain a mirage in Nigerian history for the simple fact that there is the real existence of a Generals Cult that has admitted their cohorts as members and had taken the rest of us for ransom. To stop daydreaming is to stop believing that we shall be set free one day of their free volition. In the words of Richard Akinjide, "When you are in government, you know a lot of things; you see a lot of things. A lot of things you know or did or saw will die with you… there are certain things I can never reveal."

I have argued at several fora that the problem of Nigeria had grown so big, such that interests of the people have become so diversified and renders the country immune to any central treatment. Nigeria cannot be changed from the centre. I have also opined that if the energies channeled on correcting the anomalies of Nigeria by the likes of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome Kuti, Femi Falana, Baba Omojola etc. had been focused on their respective states, not only would they have died as more fulfilled individuals, they would also had experienced the satisfaction of seeing their desired changes in effect. This is for the simple reason that they would have faced less resistance and oppositions, earn more respect by successive or become Governors themselves and have more control on putting their ideals into practical advantageous use of the people.

I am of the strong belief that no problem as 'complexicated' as the problem of Nigeria can be solved without a deep understanding of 'how did we get here and why?' It is only the full understanding of the 'root' causes of the problem we face today as a nation that will afford us the chances of discerning what solutions are possible, which can work and which cannot. This therefore, is the introductory part of a writing that will be a comprehensive analysis of the problem of Nigeria (or the trouble with Nigeria, if you like) with the aim of identifying with the readers where the very foundation of the problems lies; the sole goal is proffering solutions to them. Following this introduction, I will embark forthwith on identifying the major problems including corruption, political culture, ethnic distrusts, the judiciary as a political tool, military incursions in politics, social culture, constitutional deficiencies and manipulations, structural delineation, betrayals of academics in government, census and electoral frauds, loss of a sense of standard, the national legislature, religious tension and violence and contemporary moral bankruptcy. Each of these problems will be discussed in detail. Thereafter, I will embark on analysing the past trends i.e. the various attempts in policies, laws, actions et hoc genus omne that have been made over the years with the aim of solving one or more of these problems, including federal character and quota system, outright break up, true federalism, legislative approach, litigation approach, secession or self-determination, resource control, sovereign national conference, state police and militancy. I will also be reviewing major academic works, political and other analyses that contain suggestions on how these problems can be resolved. The concluding part will be my suggestion of the ultimate solution based on past efforts, realities of what can possibly be done to irreversible mistakes and established structures. I will be demonstrating (in writing) practicable solutions giving due attention to reasonable evaluation of alternative choices over the traditional adversarial and prejudiced nature of analyzing historical and political events in Nigeria which had always been to the detriment of objective conclusions and recommendations for ways out of the Nigerian dilemma.

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