BY CHARLES KUMOLU
NIGERIA, a nation often on the edge, is at it again. Like the familiar pitfalls that have so far defined its 57-year existence as a sovereign entity, the country is once again walking the usual scattered paths that led it to nowhere.
With ethnic divisiveness that has reached such a pitch, many fear Nigeria may be pushed from the brink to chaos once again.
The country is tensed, the leadership appears lost, while the people are beating the drums of war louder than ever.
Sadly, those energizing the drummers, the drummers themselves and listeners are dancing to the ominous tunes from the drums.
This is going on despite being cognisant of the perilous consequences of the dance hinged on inebriation.
In The Origin and Development of Ethnic Politics and its Impacts on Post-Colonial Governance in Nigeria, Felicia Ayatse and Isaac Akuva observed thus:”Since the end of colonialism in 1960, Nigeria has carried forward the spirit of ethnicity into the post-colonial Nigeria; this vice has been discovered to have been responsible for most of the political, administrative, economic, social and cultural maladies in Nigeria.”
Despite the knowledge of the above, many are alarmed that those promoting the current tension in the country hardly care about where the trend may lead Nigeria.
This is more chagrin to analysts, when, apart from the Nigerian Civil War, the Rwandan Genocide is a fitting example of an ethnically inspired warfare.
The above cited examples share many characteristics with the provocative things happening in Nigeria today.
Specifically, the fact that ethnic consciousness and agitations were at the centre of the issues leading to those episodes, speak volumes about why lessons should be drawn from them.
Historical lessons and perspectives
However, the unperturbed stance of the promoters of the current tensión, confirms that historical lessons and perspectives matter less in Nigeria.
And it confirms the assertion of a renowned English philosopher and theologian, Samuel Coleridge, who observed that: “If the world could learn from history, what lessons it might teach. But passion and party, blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.”
Therefore, a nation that has endured a tortured history and still bears the burden of political instability, religious, social and ethnic strife, should not be seen taking the path the country is walking currently.
But prevailing events suggest that there is an absence of a national consensus on the dangers of the prevailing circumstances in Nigeria.
And such posture corroborates Richard Dowden’s assertion about Nigeria in his book: Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles.
In the book which was forwarded by the late Prof Chinua Achebe, Dowden observed that: “Nigerians have a strong sense of being Nigerian, but they do not share with each other the same concept of what this means. Nigerians have never agreed or even been given the chance to agree what Nigeria is. They feel no loyalty to this house called Nigeria. They are all outsiders.”
Nigerians have no loyalty to Nigeria
Indeed, the trending events occasioned by provocative statements across the country suggest that Nigerians feel no loyalty to their country and are truly all outsiders.
Consider this: “With the effective date of this declaration, which is today, Tuesday, June 06, 2017, all Igbos currently residing in any part of Northern Nigeria are hereby served notice to relocate within three months and all northerners residing in the east are advised likewise,” a coalition of Arewa youth groups said.
The leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, also, in like manner, said:” Nigerian government should build as many prisons as possible to jail all Biafrans because there is no ging back and we are ready to go there (prisons) unless the federal government gives us Biafra.”
Instructively, the above statements which are microcosms of the rate of hate speeches in Nigeria underscore the boiling point the country found itself.
Restructuring as antidote
With the positions of the two groups already setting the country on fire, it didn’t come surprising that calls for restructuring have emerged as antidote.
While the traction of every agitation for restructuring in the country varies in every dispensation since 1993, the current tensed political climate somewhat confirms that the time for rejigging may have come.
The trend may have provided a point of convergence for strange bedfellows, revived ailing political careers and even become a tool in the hands of politicians. Yet, analysts are undaunted in their conviction that it may be ominous to wish the current agitations away.
But how far what appears to be a growing national consensus on the matter will go in dousing the tension, is still vague as a result of so many factors.
First among the ambiguities surrounding it is that the both groups, whose actions brought the country to the cliff, are obviously not disposed to restructuring.
Thus, getting them to drop their divisive demands in place of an overhaul of Nigeria’s structure, observers think, may not be a tea party, especially because of the interests of those backing them.
Other factors were found by SundayVanguard to be inherent in the kind of people, who expressed support for the idea. Some had, through their actions and inactions in time past, have pooh-poohed the idea of restructuring; while a few others, who had talked restructuring have suddenly turned their backs.
However, it is believed that the coming together of familiar and new supporters of restructuring may produce the synergy needed to defeat the forces of disunity.
In fact, it is believed that this turn around by those, who for ages, opposed restructuring, presents a rare opportunity that must be utilized in addressing the structural imbalances in Nigeria.
Nonetheless, in doing that, a re-evaluation of the term, restructuring, within the context of the current tension in the country, is imperative.
In pushing forward this argument, the need to consider the dynamics fuelling the current tension in Nigeria was highlighted by observers.
Such dynamics as identified by SundayVanguard include feelings of marginalisation, deprivation on account of ethnicity, double standards in dealing with some national issues, lopsided nature of appointments into sensitive national positions, inaction over killer herdsmen, alleged selective prosecution in the anti-graft campaign, anger over agitation for self-determination and resource control, among others.
Though the promoters of restructuring calls are using Nigeria’s independence and 1963 Republican Constitutions, which allowed for regionalism, as a template, it is believed that any attempt at reorganising Nigeria’s configuration without the identified dynamics, may be counterproductive.
SundayVanguard, however, observed that restructuring, in the light of current ethno-political consciousness suggests prospects and fears across different camps in the country.
To some, the term restructuring means an end to politics of self-preservation, dependency on oil wealth for survival and mistrust among others.
Others see the advocacy in the light of the following: fiscal federalism, devolution of powers, resource control, state police, sovereign national conference, implementation of Confab report, secesation, and political reforms among others.
Whichever way it is construed, the cacophony of voices for and against the idea, seem too loud to be ignored. Indeed, the advocacy to restructure did not commence in this dispensation, as it was however, reactivated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement last year that Nigeria’s sovereignty is non-negotiable and made louder by the rate of hate speeches across the country.
SundayVanguard can point out that the calls to rejig Nigeria emerged in the South in the late 1980s with the great lawyer, Alao Aka-Bashorun, gaining more traction in the 1990s especially after the annulment of June 12 presidential elections.
Tracing the origin in a piece entitled: What are Restructuring, Mohammed Usman observed thus: “It has been the political talking point this last quarter-century, ever since the late Mr. Alao Aka-Bashorun sought the convocation of a sovereign national conference, in imitation of events taking place in neighbouring Francophone West African countries then seeking the dethronement of dictators.
“The annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election provided the fertile ground for the idea to grow, uniting its promoters and the opposition to the late General Sani Abacha dictatorship. NADECO galvanised the opposition to Abacha, while PRONACO took the lead in the emerging campaign for restructuring”.
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