|Monday, October 12, 2020|
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)
nyone who has been following the political debate in Nigeria these days, will notice immediately that two thoughts have continued recurring in the whole discourse. The two recurring thoughts or ideas that have remained constant in Nigeria's political debate all this while are, namely, a) Restructuring, and b) Igbo-Presidency ("Rotational-Presidency"). These are two ideas that cut across the political discourse and contestations in Nigeria's political landscape these days. They dominate the political debate from all the spectrum of the Nigerian ruling class - politicians, religious leaders, traditional rulers as well as leaders of socio-cultural groups and civil society organizations, etc.
This makes one to ask, is restructuring or Igbo-Presidency ("Rotational-Presidency"), the real problem with Nigeria today? This is because since its inception as a nation-state after independence from Britain in 1960 till 1967, Nigeria had more or less, and in one way or the other, experimented progressive restructuring that led to the creation of Mid-Western region in 1963. In addition, another restructuring of unitary system of government that co-existed with regionalism occurred came after the January 15, 1966 military muting. That restructuring saw an Igbo man, in the person of Aguyi Ironsi, become the Nigerian head of State, though for six months only. Thereafter, another restructuring, which entrenched unitary system of government in the country, took place. That is, after the counter-coup of July 1967 staged by the Northern Nigeria senior military officers against Ironsi administration.
The July 1967 military coup laid the foundation for the entrenchment of both unitary system of government and the Northern military generals cum ruling Oligarchy's hold unto power in the country, which is still in force till today. General Yakubu Gowon, a Northern Christian from Plateau State became the Head of State. Gowon's military junta discarded regionalism and started the culture of multiplication of politically ill-conceived States with the creation of 12 States in 1967. This action of Gowon irked Chukwuemeka Odimmegwu Ojukwu (the then military governor of Eastern region), who saw Gowon's action as a plot to divide and rule the Eastern region and to sabotage the Biafra Republic underway. Gradually, all these, eventually snowballed into the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967 by General Ojukwu, and the three-year Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). The rest is now history!
Thus, gradually, since after the war in 1970, the country started downward slide in its governance structure and political system, leading to the present-day pseudo-Sharia ideology driven presidential system of unitary government of General Abubakar Abdulsalami's 1999 Constitution. A Constitution, which, in all intent and purpose, has permanently entrenched the Northern Muslims in power, enabling them to take full control of the affairs of the central government of the Nigerian State, creating more problems for the country than it can solve!
This is the present situation of things in the country! Anybody thinking that if restructuring is done today, and "Rotational-Presidency" - shifting of power from North to the South, agreed upon, things will be better in the country, is not being truthful to himself/herself. Because neither restructuring nor "Rotational Presidency" will ever succeed in making politics in Nigeria be issue-based. On the contrary, restructuring and "Rotational Presidency" will even exponentially help to entrench more vigorously, the existing passive politics devoid of ideas of true democracy. Above all, restructuring or "Rotational-Presidency" will continue to serve as ready-made ingredient for the existing primitive ethnic and religious political infightings that have been the bane of the country.
Considering all these, I have chosen to emphasis in this article, that the problem with Nigeria is beyond restructuring and Igbo-Presidency (or "Rotational-Presidency"). That even if any or both of the two principals (restructuring or "Rotational-Presidency"), are conceded today, the result won't be different from what we are experiencing already in the country under the present dispensation and even under the regimes before it.
Our article is divided into two parts. In this Part 1 of the article, our focus is on the issue of restructuring. In Part 2 (which we intend to publish later), we shall discuss in some details, the question of "Igbo-Presidency" under the present dispensation.
The Issue of Restructuring vis-à-vis Security Challenges
Our submission in this article is that the main problem confronting Nigeria today is security issue - survival of various indigenous ethnic-groups in the country in the face of seemingly present Nigerian Government-sponsored Muslim terrorist groups from the North. Most of those calling for restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (Rotational-Presidency) often base their argument on resource-control, growing economy and capturing political posts for their ethnic-groups. None of them, however, addresses the urgent and most important issue of security of lives and property, as the case may be. We have to be alive first, before talking of economic-growth or capturing political post like Igbo-Presidency or "Rotational-Presidency."
Again, the unfolding scenario in the country today, confirms our proposition that the Nigerian State, especially since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War, has been undergoing restructuring in favour of a particular ethnic-group and religion for many years now. The country, since after the war in 1970, has been undergoing, though, subtly and in a hidden way, some form of restructuring that favours one particular ethnic-group and religion. That lopsided restructuring has now entrenched firmly, the Fulani Muslim North as "born-to-rule" masters of the Nigerian State. Today, the same people head all the governance structure, machinery and security architecture of the Nigerian State. This means that anybody attempting to take-away this privileged advantage from them today must be ready for a serious combat.
Warriors as they are, the Fulani ruling class can hardly surrender that privileged advantage to another person or group of people. In a situation of this kind, it is no longer a question of restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (or "Rotational-Presidency"), but rather of determination and concrete steps of the indigenous populations that will lead to their second independence from the domineering ethnic-group and religion in Nigeria today, namely, the Fulani Oligarchy and Caliphate. It is a struggle for survival of the indigenous populations and communities living in Nigeria - all those who have been at the receiving end of the domineering power of the Muslim North ruling class and Oligarchy.
This is the major challenge we have today in Nigeria. It is neither restructuring nor "Rotational-Presidency", but rather a struggle for survival, self-determination and second independence from those killing our indigenous populations, destroying their villages, rampaging on their farmlands, appropriating their ancestral lands, and raping their women while the Nigerian government and security operatives look elsewhere. This problem of general insecurity in the land takes priority over and above the clamour for restructuring and rotational presidency.
Again, as said earlier, the question of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency (or "Rotational-Presidency"), is as old as the Nigerian State itself. But while the rest of the geopolitical zones in the Southern and Middle-Belt States have always favoured the restructuring of the country and "Rotational-Presidency", only one zone, an ethnic-group and religion has been opposing it. The ruling class from the core-North has remained constant in its opposition to restructuring and Rotational-Presidency. This makes one to think that the present security challenges the country is experiencing today under the watch of the present administration, are part of the efforts by Northern elements at the corridors of power (those most favoured by the present political order), to derail any attempt towards restructuring or Rotational-Presidency.
Today, under the present administration, for the first time since the return to democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria's three-arms of the federal government - executive, legislative and judiciary are controlled by people from one particular ethnic-group and religion, the Northern Fulani Muslims. The same people control all the architectures of Nigeria's security operatives - army, air force, navy, police, civil defence corps, customs, immigration, paramilitaries, etc. They are also in-charge of all the most sensitive principal federal ministries, companies, parastatals, etc. This is in a country where the percentage of Christian population is 54% and Muslims 44%. In the midst of all these, only someone without sense of history would think that people who enjoy such a privileged status and position over their neighbours would ever agree to share power or even to relinquish it without serious fight and resistance.
The most painful of it all is the abnormality of General Abubakar Abdulsalami's 1999 Constitution, which smuggled in Sharia legal system and ideology into the Constitution from backdoor, and from nowhere enthroned Islam as the main religion of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the Christian politicians and Church leaders were so much in a hurry to return to "democratic rule" after the infamous regime of General Sani Abacha, that they did not bother so much to scrutinize the Constitution the military junta General Abdulsalami was handing over to them in 1999.
Think of it: In the 1999 Constitution, Islam is mentioned 28 times, Sharia 73 times, Grand Qadi (Sharia Court Magistrates or Judges) 54 times, Muslim 10 times. But no single mention of Christ in the same 1999 Constitution? No single mention of the word Christian, no single mention of Christianity or Church in the Constitution. But Mosque is mentioned many times in the same Constitution? Yet, we pretend and still call Nigeria a secular State! What a deception.
Is Nigeria a secular State while the 12 States in Northern Nigeria had since 2001 adopted and have been practicing Sharia legal system and quasi-Islamic system of government, without considering the harm such a thing has done to the minority ethnic-groups from those states? The fact is that only the gullible can say today that Nigeria is a secular state.
Christianity in Nigeria today is under serious siege under the present administration. The fact is that indigenous ethnic-groups, from which most of the Nigerian Christians come, have been the major targets of the all the Muslim terrorist groups, killer-hands and bandits' attacks in the country. At least this is enough to convince us of the sinister agenda of the present federal government, their agenda of Islamization and Fulanization of Nigeria, and the use of non-State actors - all those Muslim terrorist groups operating from the North and who are behind the terrorist attacks and destruction of Christian and indigenous ethnic communities across the land.
Why do we have to go this far in evaluating the political impasse in Nigeria today? In the first place, it is not to demonize our Nigerian Fulani neighbours. Since it is obvious that not all Nigerian Fulanis are in support of what is happening. But only the minority ruling class, those lost in their feudalistic medieval mind-set and lust for power (a phenomenon not peculiar to one particular ethnic-group alone), are the ones holding everybody in Nigeria today at ransom. It is this minority group and ruling-class holding the entire Nigerian peoples in bondage that we speak about in this article.
Unfortunately, as history has shown, there is no way this group of people who have been controlling the affairs of Nigerian State since independence in 1960, will ever succumb to any pressure from those clamouring for restructuring or Rotational-Presidency. Because for them, the question of governance structure and presidency of Nigeria is long settled and therefore, non-negotiable. They see Nigerian State as their property and so feel they have the birth-right to rule and control the country in perpetuity. This is the crux of the matter!
In other words, if truth be told, any restructuring or Igbo-Presidency today is another invitation to pogroms of Southerners, especially, the Igbos living in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the country. God forbid! But should that happen, however, it will be the greatest battle of the century. Because it will make the Nigeria-Biafra War of the 1960s look like a child's play.
To avoid such catastrophe and scenario, we have proposed in this article a change of direction and focus in Nigeria's political discourse. That is, from the political discourse of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency (Rotational-Presidency), to the issues of 'referendum' for self-determination and possible independence of any of the federating ethnic-nationalities that want to form a separate state of their own from Nigeria. And of those other ethnic-nationalities that may want to join together with others with which they share cultural affinity and worldview with, to do so.
This is the price of democracy Nigerian state must accept. Forcing unity among mutual-hostile groups or peoples, in an unbalanced Nigerian union will continue to prove an effort in futility. There is no way you can force oil and water to be one. It is impossible and tempting God! Thus, the historical reality of the country impinges on the ruling class of today to do the needful - to toe the honourable road and line of action in resolving the reoccurring political impasse and bloodbaths that have become like a second nature to the Nigerian State.
Once more, this is important because, the problem with Nigeria has gone beyond issues of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency. It is also no longer the problem of governance structure or even of leadership deficiency (apologies to Prof Chinua Achebe's "The Trouble with Nigeria"). Neither, is it about resource-control or growing economy. The problem with Nigeria has gone beyond all these. But once the problem of security, freedom and self-determination of oppressed indigenous ethnic-nationalities is fixed, and the people themselves begin to live in freedom and justice, and to relate well with their neighbours in their own chosen-state, all these other problems will naturally be resolved.
Again, Nigeria's problem is not a matter that could be resolved through restructuring or Igbo-Presidency, but rather through referendum for self-determination and second independence from the domineering ethnic-group. The problem with Nigeria is the unwillingness of the ruling Oligarchy and their collaborators to appreciate the reasons for the ongoing struggle for second independence and self-determination of the aggrieved indigenous ethnic-nationalities in the country. Only referendum for self-determination could resolve this problem once, and for all. Referendum supervised by international community that is neutral, will help each federating ethnic-nationality to decide whether to continue staying in the Nigerian union or opt out freely, for an independent state of their own in order to relate well with their neighbours.
This is very important and cogent today than ever, considering the fact that it is now 60 years since independence, that people have been crying and clamouring for just and equitable Nigerian State, but which unfortunately, had each time, fallen on deaf ears. There is a limit to human endurance. When it is clear that the person you are dealing with is not prepared in any way at all to give peace a chance and allow common sense to prevail, you have no other alternative than to go for your freedom and take it, no matter what it takes.
This is the stage we are today in Nigeria, if we want to tell ourselves the naked truth. If we want really to put a stop to the ongoing bloodbaths and carnage in the land, the only viable and peaceful option left is referendum! But if those in the corridors of power are not ready to play the ball, that means they are the ones to be blamed for the consequences of whatever may befall the country thereafter.
Since there is no other alternative left for the oppressed than to go for his freedom and take it by all means, possible. That is, considering the fact that no oppressor would never surrender your freedom to you without a fight or force. Nobody will give you your freedom without some serious sacrifices and price paid by you to take your freedom yourself. You either pay the price and take your freedom, or remain in your bondage forever. This is the challenge of freedom fighting and struggle for justice, equity and social change in the society in which one is born or lives. That means you are responsible for your freedom, not the oppressor. Period!