Continued from Part 2
‘There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion’ John, Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton.
he religion of Islam sets its laws over and above the constitution of the country and clearly teaches its adherents that its religious laws are superior to the constitution that guarantees peaceful co-existence and liberty of all. It makes no distinction between its moral laws and civil laws and claims that all of its laws are from God. This teaching often puts Muslims in collusion course with secular governments which see their obligations to all citizens, irrespective of religious beliefs, colour of the skin, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Those who subscribe to extreme Islam would want all to be under sharia laws because they belief that it is the will of God. They do not ask themselves how a man can know the will of God and what God would benefit, if all men are forced to do as some people belief he wishes. Their beliefs have no room for descent and evidence, and they do not see the intolerance in defending their beliefs by violence. Such is the power of religion to enable the human mind see evil as righteousness that it convinced Saul of Tarsus that persecuting Christians was what God wanted, and the priests who conspired against Jesus, called false witnesses against him, gave him a mock trial in violation of Jewish juripondence; and nailed him to the cross; that they were doing the will of God.
Islamic religion also enables Muslims to apply subterfuge in their dealings with none Muslims because it teaches that when dealing with unbelievers that they can be deceptive and that it is not wrong. Even though the educated and enlightened Muslim can see the irrationality of some of their beliefs, they often lack the courage to ask the questions that would led to improvement in insight amongst their members because the Quran does not allow then to condemn a fellow Muslim; whatever they do to an unbeliever in the name of Allah. Enlightened people can see that many things that pass as what God said, are simply primitive codes thought out at a time in evolutionary development when men believed that they had to kill or be killed and needed to justify the barbarity that characterised their existence. The danger that faces Nigeria is great. A group has taken up arms against a section and the rest of the country does not seem to understand that the country is at war. Igbos and ethnic minorities in the north are being killed daily and the government would not want it to be publicised for fear that it would inflame passion. This is wrong, immoral and unjustifiable. No country can achieve peace through deception and injustice. The country has to address the twin monsters of religious intolerance and ethnic prejudice to survive. It is inexcusable for anyone in a position to speak out to keep silent because of religious and/or ethnic considerations and loyalty. Sometimes, I wonder if the legislators understand their role, duties and obligations to the people they claim to represent .
It is therefore understandable, why it would be difficult; if not impossible for people who regard the Quran as the express word of God to find common ground with ‘unbelievers’ in a secular democracy. Their beliefs would not allow them to embrace equality of male and female before the law, accept diversity of opinions and plurality of views; and liberty of all to enable peace to flourish. Their dichotomous view of God would compel them to use violence against those they are certain, are breaking the law of Allah, whenever they can get away with it, or have the political power to enforce their religious beliefs and convictions. They will continue to misread ancient writings that prescribe death for sin, to mean kill the sinner. This is perhaps why in spite of the greatest goodwill and willingness on the part of South Nigeria to build a united Nigeria, Nigeria may never become the great country it could be. For a believer in multi ethnic democracy, it is very clear what Nigeria should do to survive but may never do, making it inevitable that a Nigeria, where Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos, Ijaws Effiks, Berons, Tivs Idomas Ibibios Binis, Ishekiris etc., would live together finding strength and peace in diversity may never be. This will not be because the ethnic nations cannot forge a multi ethnic country, but because those in a position to do so, do not seem to have the moral authority, convictions, sincerity of purpose and clarity of thought, to do so. They prefer to use religion as a divisive force to achieve their ephemeral, sectarian political objectives than building a united and peaceful country founded on freedom and justice,
Therefore, Nigerians should be thinking about how to build a united federal state, or peacefully disintegrate. To do nothing, and resign the future to prayer will only guarantee that those who have evil intentions will win. Nigeria cannot survive in its present form with its built in injustices, inequalities and institutionalised corruption. The government is too corrupt, the system too dysfunctional, too unjust, too unequal and the people have no faith or confidence in the corrupt leadership. Nigeria currently lacks the ingredient that makes for a great country and will fall apart with time unless these problems are addressed. No people have ever built a nation on the values and principles on which Nigeria leaders make decisions. Nigeria needs a new way of reinterpreting its reality, otherwise, it will implode. The status quo is simply unsustainable.
It is probable that if North Nigeria, declares Islamic Republic that it will end up like Pakistan. It would be preoccupied with Islam and consumed in violence and conflict with its ethnic Christian minorities, in an attempt to force them to do what they consider to be the will of God, while the south would continue to face the issue of corruption, impunity, ethnic conflicts and criminal leadership, and gradually find its way towards civilization but constantly have to defend and protect itself from aggression and terror from the north. These are the possible outcomes, if the government of Nigeria continue to sustain a system of government that is flawed in all its facets, detached from the people, institutionally corrupt, not fit for purpose; which creates a source of easy riches for a very small minority: who have no sense of responsibility that comes with great wealth and leadership. However, if the truth must be told, the north has no plan of declaring Arewa Islamic Republic, but preparing to continue its domination of Nigeria by the use of force. They are determined to regain the presidency in 2015, by hook or crook and continue the looting of the Nigerian natural resources and use of disproportionate force to quell descent or protests. They have put themselves in pole position by regaining the post of the national security Advised which seems to have too much power in Nigeria for an ‘adviser’.
How can a country have a future when its leaders are oblivious of the fact that those who encourage it on the path of its current democracy do not practice the same type of democracy in their own countries? There is nowhere in the world where a country practices the type of democracy being practiced in Nigeria. There is no country in the world where the legislators alone consume 25% of the recurrent expenditure and government as a whole consume 80%. There is no democracy that is not accountable to the law and the people. The cost of Nigeria democracy is simply criminal. What is happening in Nigeria is insanity. Nigerian government will have to downsize to realise the resources for its development. There should be no reason why the government cannot drastically reduce the cost of government in Nigeria by 50%. Our democracy is too expensive, our leaders too corrupt and blind, and our people too ignorant to realise that Nigeria faces ruin unless we embrace change and new way of doing things.
Every developed nation, has adopted its democracy to suit its means, people, history, culture and worldview. For instance, Britain has a monarchy and unelected House of Lords which cannot be said to be features of a classical democracy. This arrangement provides it with stability from corruption and disruptions of parochial party politics and selfish interests. Britain is wise enough not to leave its future entirely in the hands of career politicians who are often driven by selfish interests unlike Nigeria. Therefore, for Nigeria to survive and develop, it has to readapt its politics to reflect its economic realities, culture, ensure justice as fairness, enthrone honesty, and be ready to change when there is need for change. We cannot allow ethnic and religious prejudices and hate to blind us to the values that ensure enlightenment and emancipation and survive as a nation. Nigeria cannot afford to continue to allow its future to be shaped entirely by career politicians, especially the types that set the remuneration of politicians, perpetuate corruption and frustrate the prosecution of politicians for crimes. These are not the type of people to review or rewrite her constitution. It would be another monumental mistake for the current crop of politicians to write the new Nigerian constitution. Nigerians should elect or select Nigerians of vision, character and values to create a new constitution that would give it a chance to survive. Considering what the politicians have achieved so far, they will produce a constitution that would leave them with unaccountable power, and this would be worse that tyranny.
As much as I hate underserved advantage, maybe, it is time to find a stabilising, moderating and sanitizing role in our democracy for traditional rulers by giving them a place and role in a reconstituted independent second legislative chamber, more in line with the British House of Lords than the American Senate. They should also be extricated from the corrupting influence of politicians. The current arrangement that compels them to differ to the politicians is one of the weaknesses of our current system and reason why they appear impotent in the face of corruption and abuse of power. Nigeria needs to consider a non-partisan, independent second chamber which would be made up of best of Nigerians selected, elected and/ or appointed, instead of current corrupt and self-serving Senate. Our current system and structure enables corruption to flourish, disempowers the people, does not allow development to take place, protects criminals and leaves the politicians unaccountable and law and traditional rules impotent in the face of evil. It is not fit for purpose and must now come to an end in a civilised manner, if our country will endure.
Unless these or similar honest reforms are made to the current system in Nigeria, die hard believers in Nigeria, will come to the conclusion that Nigeria is indeed, a marriage of incompatible partner and, that the differences between the north and south, though surmountable, have been made irreconcilable by religion, ethnic prejudices, corruption and ignorance. Moreover, that the refusal of the government to catalyse the change necessary to give the marriage a future, leaves them no choice but to think beyond Nigeria. In addition, the failure of the north to accept the changes it must make to give Nigeria a chance and its lack of insight that it is what it wants to achieve and wishes to impose on the marriage are the problems; may ensure the demise of Nigeria. Therefore, it is difficult to be optimistic about the future of Nigeria. Not because I have seen the’ light’ as those who have never believed in Nigeria would parochially conclude to justify their attitude and lack of effort to save her; but because in the time many and I have warned about the danger that faces Nigeria; the government has failed to take a single step that would alter the variables that make the demise of Nigeria inevitable, and I do not see the government doing in a few months what it has failed to do for many years.
Nigeria has been like a student who has refused to do the things that ensure exam success or an athlete who have neglected the gruelling training session that ensure victory, and now the teacher or coach must predict her future. Truly in the case of Nigeria, many people will say they saw it coming, and this is the real tragedy of Nigeria because it all the more confirms that its failure was preventable. Anything that is predictable cannot be completely inevitable. Like the democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria will become another example that great wealth and endowment in the hands of the ignorant, greedy and foolish, only leads to destruction. It would seem that , the countries which the gods wants to destroy, they first endow with many natural resources some may conclude, but fail to add may be, only in Africa.
Sadly sooner than later, the partners would either need to head to the court for the peaceful dissolution of their unholy marriage, which has been flawed from the beginning and in which the partners learnt nothing about each other; or engage in a fight in which one of them may not live to tell the tale. At the moment, it is the turn of Jonathan and his people to loot the treasury, and in their own case, they may feel a peculiar justification because for many years they have borne the brunt of the environmental cost of oil extraction in Nigeria. For eight years it was the turn of Obasanjo and his people to loot and for the rest of the more than fifty years of the existence of Nigeria as a nation, it was the north who masterminded the looting. Now, the north is poised again to have another go at the looting centre. Unfortunately, the Igbos have been the greatest losers in Nigeria, which may explain their almost complete loss of faith in the country and the increasing quest for a state of Biafra where many of them BELIEVE would be the Promised Land. First they fought a war of independence and lost and have been systematically impoverished and subjugated by successive Nigerian governments and their own inept and corrupt political elites and leaders who have failed to provide the leadership they need.
They have not had their chance to lead Nigeria and loot its treasury, and cannot make up their mind, whether to fight for their right to produce the next looter in chief or fight again for independence in a civilised and democratic way and manner. This is the dilemma which lack of leadership, criminality, selfish individualism and greed in Igbo leaders have created for Igbos. This has been compounded by their lack of strategic thinking, diplomatic attitude, wisdom and level headedess; in the conduct of their fractious politics. The big question is, will Igbos resist the temptation to be predictable and disappoint those who have looted the country and waiting for her to start another war where they would use their looted wealth to destroy her, or will she play into their hand and give them reasons again to deploy the Nigerian army against her in an unequal war? It is pertinent that Igbos demonstrate that they understand that the Nigerian equation is such that an Igbo revolt would automatically unite the north and west, and vice versa. Therefore, for any part of Nigeria to survive independently, it must seek a fourth realm which must align with it, in its struggle for self-determination or seek a political part to freedom by exploiting the present fragile and imperfect democracy.
It is not enough for two ex-presidents, (Obasanjo and Babangida) to continue to declare that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. They should know that the repetition of an old mantra is not a solution to a problem that begs for intelligent intervention. Their proclamation brings neither insight nor offer new solution to the problem. When they should be offering serious and well thought out solutions to the Nigerian problems, all they could do is conspire and make covert threat to those they love to hate. Who is threatening the unity of Nigeria? Is it the Hausa-Fulani sponsored Boko Haram terrorist groups and Fulani herdsmen, or the unarmed MASSOB members who are compelled by their understanding of the injustice and systematic marginalisation of their people to seek self-determination? How can Obasanjo and Babangida in good conscience, continue to say that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable when they did more than any other individuals or groups to in sow the seeds of corruption, impunity and nepotism which are now threating the unity of Nigeria? Together they ruled Nigeria for about 19 years in her 50 years history. They blighting many lives, and in that periodand destroyed everything they met. They did not lay solid foundation for the unity and development of Nigeria. They institutionalised corruption, destroyed the civil service, decimated, NEPA, NITEL, Nigerian railways and Airways; they destroyed education ,precipitated the brain drain, and excluded Igbos from certain senior positions in the country and did not improve the NYSC beyond what Gowon did. In 19 years, they did not lay a single rail line in Nigeria. They presided over one of the richest countries in the world, and did not ensure that the people benefit from the dividends of oil boom. In power, they were ruthless and vicious, without respect for human rights and individual autonomy. They forgave their enemies very little. They both failed Nigeria and its future generations by choosing to enrich themselves from her natural resources, yet they have the audacity to wax sanctimonious about the ills their greed and corruption created.
Obasanjo and Babangida abused their powers and positions to become obscenely rich and destroyed individual liberty, institutionalised corruption and wrecked accountability and rule of law. In their watches Nigeria experience its first assassination of critics by parcel bomb and the cold blooded murder of a serving Minister of Justice and Attorney general of the country. They were simply audacious in their rape of moral values, due process, individual liberty, and the principles on which good societies are built. It is hard to fathom how they find the courage to act holier-than-thou in the face of the evils which they literarily created, except in the unique way their minds works. These two men made no real contribution to Nigeria. They destroyed anything that could hold them accountable for their actions and left Nigeria worse than they met her. They are the men who destroyed the rule of law in Nigeria and instituted impunity. For all these Nigeria honoured them with the highest honour, Grand commander of the federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR). What an irony? No wonder Chinua Achebe would not touch any national honour with a barge pole. They may be living in mansion on a hill or palace in a farm, but the world knows that they failed their country and people, and when the history of Nigeria will be written, theirs will be the dark ages of Nigeria.
This is their legacy, and they have the audacity to proclaim that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. How can the unity of a country based on injustice, inequality, and discrimination be non-negotiable? What do Obasanjo and Babangida want those who are paying the blood price of the non-negotiable unity of Nigeria to do? It is unfortunate, that they have failed to speak the language of peace, remorse and reconciliation, and preferred the language of oppression, bullies and autocrats, whose concept of unity has no place for choice and justice as fairness. I must differ from the ex-generals. A unity that is non-negotiable is a unity that is founded on injustice, coercion and corruption. Those who pronounce Nigeria’s unity non-negotiable, make her disintegration inevitable. Nigerians must be given opportunity to determine their future, and only then; can they willingly enter into a union that will stand the test of time. Nigeria cannot continue to exist merely because those who benefit from her unfair arrangement, corrupt government and inequality; want to preserve the status quo. Nigeria must renegotiate its unity to have a future.
I suppose, it is time, for Nigerians to debate her future openly in a civilised manner. Every unity is negotiable. A non-negotiable unity is nothing but forced imprisonment. It is a forced marriage where a spouse is exploited for what he or her has. The notion of a non-negotiable unity itself, runs contrary to one of the most fundamentals of human rights; the right to free association. Non-negotiable unity is nothing but tyranny. There cannot be unity when the parties do not agree to the union. It is an illogical concept that has no real meaning when you think about it. It is like talking about a peaceful war. Can war ever be peaceful? For true unity to exist, it must be achieved through a process that enables the people to consider the cost, and make a free choice. This is the beauty of democracy, that fact that people are given the choice to choose those who would ruin their lives. The evil in the idea of non-negotiable unity is that it denies the people the opportunity to choose, and choice is the only thing most people ever get in democracies. Without choice, there is no democracy. Democracy and the rule of laws accommodate the principle of self- determination. Nobody, no matter the strength of his army, has any right to compel a people to be part of a union in which they feel unjustly treated. Therefore to continue to proclaim that the unity of Nigeria non-negotiable is both a threat and insult to those who are suffering and paying the blood price of this forced marriage.
At the moment, many Igbos and ethnic minorities in the north have lost their lives and left the north with loss of their wealth. Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen supported by prominent and rich northerners, and extreme Islamic organisations are continuing the killing of Igbos and ethnic minorities in the north. North Nigeria is a silent killing field where many Igbos and minorities in the north are killed daily because of who they are. The government must be seen to be addressing this serious issue honestly and adequately compensating those who have suffered and continue to suffer in this tragedy, if reconciliation will ever be possible. Particularly, Igbos should be compensated for the injustice of the pogroms they have suffered in north Nigeria, and for confiscating all their money and giving Igbo men with money in the bank before the civil war only twenty pounds after the war. Without justice, the cry for Biafra will get louder and stronger and will gather unstoppable momentum. As long as the attitude of the north remains intransigent and insensitive, and Islamic worldviews remains the only one they would accept; the Nigeria that is possible may never become a reality: and the claim that Nigerian unity is non-negotiable will remain hollow.
Sadly, one must conclude, hoping that one would be proved wrong; that the north will not work for a united Nigeria under a secular constitution which will override the unjustifiable liberties which Islam allows men over women and children, and the atrocities it sanctions against ‘unbelievers.’ They may be more interested in defending the right of men to enter into relationships with minors that would be described as Child abuse in developed countries, than working to end immoral and primitive practices sanctioned by its religion which undermine the Nigerian union and condemn women to injustice and discrimination. It is perhaps time to begin to challenge the ignorant and unjust dogmas of religion that have provided succour to those who use it in the name of God to do evil.
If the north insists on an Islamic Republic, an amicable disintegration of Nigeria should be discussed so that the rest of Nigerians can move on and dream new dreams. The north cannot have it both ways as she has had for the last fifty years, giving verbal ascent to a secular constitution, while operating an Islamic Republic and undermine the unity and security of the country. The future is for all ethnic nations in Nigeria to accept a secular democracy under the rule of law. Unless this paradigm shift takes place, the odds will remain against a viable Nigeria. If the north continues to consider non-negotiable what it must give up, to make Nigeria work, Nigeria will have no future. No one should expect this to be easy, it has to do with its religion, but the north must be helped to understand it is a sacrifice it must make, if it wants to be part of the new Nigeria. If it finds it difficult to reconsider its attitude to its religion, Nigerians may sadly sue for divorce but must work hard to ensure amicable separation and remain best friends. At this point it is appropriate to suggest that Nigerians be offered a referendum to decide their future for once, to avert another possible Civil war.
Furthermore, to give Nigeria any chance of survival, Nigerian elites would need to become differentiated in their religious beliefs, deal with their ethnic prejudices, and accept democratic process, the rule of law and due process; as the basis for peaceful co- existence. They will have to accept the reduction of influence of religion in government and make it a private affair which should give no one justification for violence, no matter what the Quran or Bible says. In essence, they will have to do with the Quran and Bible, what enlightened western Christians did with the Bible, which is to extract its moral values and reject its prejudices. Unless Muslims and Christians in Nigeria as a whole do this, Islam, because of its intolerant teachings, will continue to be a cause of conflict, evil, suffering and terror in Nigeria in particular world in general, and Christianity would continue to provide easy means for the unscrupulous to exploit the ignorant and gullible. This is the inconvenient truth.
To be continued