Some undisputed facts are, first, Nigeria is a country of over 250 ethnic nationalities. Second: Nigeria was created by Britain for British interest. Third: From 1914 till date, Nigeria has enjoyed peace for only 31 years out of 105years. The peaceful years being from 1914 to 1945. Four: Before our colonial masters left in 1960, we agreed to stay together with enough slack built into our Constitution to allow each region to grow and develop their own Economy and their people, at their own pace. Five: Without actually understanding each other, we were told and we believed, that Natural Law favours the unity of many diverse people, and if well managed for positive production, it would lead to greatness. Six: It is also a fact backed by historical evidence that in our excitement to take over from the Colonial masters, we did not think through the caveat to that natural law, that is, there must be social justice. In other words, leaders of a diverse people must be mentally developed enough to know that it is in the interest of all,to regard fellow men as corner stones rather than stepping stones. The lack of this mental development has been the challenge of Nigerian leaders.
Just 8 years after the much talked about Amalgamation of Nigeria, Sir, Hugh Clifford, (the then Governor of Colonial Nigeria in 1922) actually said “i doubt the ability of the Nigerian to rule his country”. The educated Nigerians at that time saw this as an insult from a racist: but oddly enough, from that 1922 till date, Nigeria is still in search of an enduring constitution. Conference after conference witnessed more rancor and work-outs than civilized adjustment of compromises; until the miracle of 2014. (I shall return to this later)
Now, Let us listen to the comments of various notable men about Nigeria. On the 22rd of March 1969 Dr. Francois Duvalier( the then President of the Republic of Haiti) had this to say about us;-. “Federal Nigeria has never since her independence shown the distinctive mark of a united nation. It has been impossible for her to silence tribal rivalries so as to achieve that mixture of Ethnic/ Cultural bIend required to forge National unity”.Has anything changed? No! rather it is now worse.
Three years after Dr. Duvalier’s analysis and 50 years after Sir Clifford passed his verdict, our own Right. Hon Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe had this to say in 1972 “Since the political wind of change transformed the Colonial territories into independent sovereign states, it would appear as if the African lacksthe capacity for good governance. While I would have been in the front line of opponents to such a preposterous suggestion before 1stOctober 1960, I today have grave doubts in my mind and I havereasonable grounds to believe that quite a number of dedicated and well meaning compatriots are disillusion with the poor-performance of African Politicians”. This quote remains true about Nigerian, while Ghana, Rwanda and a few other African countries have broken the jinx.
Professor Chinua Achebe’s verdict(which was in agreement with Sir Clifford’s verdict) that leadership is the Nigerian problem,was corroborated in 1997 by the then British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook who said “Nigeria should be the second richest country in Africa. What holds it back is very poor standards of Government”. It is clear that those who are watching Nigeria know that our usual fierce struggle for power is really driven more by tribal insecurity, than a burning desire to lift Nigeria; hence the it is our turn to rule (read chop) mantra.
Two years after Robin Cook’s verdict, our own General Abdulsalam Abubakar gave Nigeria his own gift via decree 24 of 1999 and told us that it is now our constitution and written by“We the people”. This decree with 68 items on the exclusive legislative list ensured that the people of Nigeria are stripped of their assets, resources and even the power to protect themselves and their businesses, while such powers are given to the omnipotent and almighty Federal Government thereby reducing the States to groveling beggars at the feetof the Emperor at Abuja. We call this, home grown democracy. This constitution in Sec 14 sub 2a says”Sovereignty belongs to the people”, but with section 6 sub section 6c plus sect 308, leaders of Government were given absolute powers. We all know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now let’s hear what some notable Nigerian have to say about this decree 24 A.K.A 1999 constitution.
Ladipo Adamolekun wrote in the Vanguard of October 2008 on “The inevitability of devolution”. His message was “Devolution can unleashthe forces for consolidating democracy and achieving accelerated socio -economic progress in Nigeria. The alternative to devolution will likely be the death of the Federation”.Chief Anthony Enahoro, the same man who moved the motion for our independence in 1956, kept screaming with this Pronaco Group that Abdulsalam’s documents should be suspended. He even went to court on the matter. On April 28th 2009, one of Nigeria’s best legal brains Chief Bankole Oki, granted an interview to the Guardian on the burdens of 1999 constitution, he declared “This Presidential Constitution is the foundation for corruption”. As usual, Almighty Abuja and their court jesters never bother about anything that does not constitute a credible threat to the polity. So in 2013, When the United States Army war college in Pennsylvania prepared a 65 page documents titled ”Nigerian Unity in the Balance”, someone brought that to the notice of President Jonathan. He quickly consulted and decided on a national conference. That decision met with serious opposition, but it eventually happened. And for the first time in the history of Nigeria, no work-outs, no Ego or tribal gang-ups and various ethnic nationalities adjusted their compromises and unanimously agreed on 600 items for change.
Then the “Chanji” Government came in, dismissed the exercise and said the constitution that has been adjudged the foundation for corruption is very ok. That the problem was that the past administration did not have Saints, Integrity nor the will to fight corruption. That they can. So if the major roads in my State are not motorable, ¡ must come to Abuja to beg for it to be fixed. If there are resources in my state that can be tapped for wealth and job creation, I must come to Abuja to beg for permission to touch them. If my child needs admission into the University, his/her chance can be affected by State of origin. 52% of the national budget must continue to be spent by Abuja in accordance to the will of the Emperor and his trusted aides. That to them, is social justice. To disagree is to be declared a hater ,a corrupt opposition member, and unpatriotic.
Anyone who has read Harold Smith’s book on Nigeria would realize that while the likes of our great Zik thought we got independence on a platter of gold, it actually came with a built-in programme. A programme designed to make the new sovereign State of Nigeria to fail, using tribal misunderstandings and mutual suspicion. Mr. Smith posited, that part of the programme was to ensure that our future leaders emerged from those with military background;(Why? Because Nigeria was put together by fiat and must be held together by fiat): True to this, we have had 40years out of 59yrs of such leaders. These Military men are not bad people; it’s just that MANAGING DIVERSITY has never been one of their strong points. As human beings, our training affects our perceptions and attitude, so you cannot be trained for years in a unitary command structure without it affecting your world view. It is not surprising therefore that by decree 34 of 1966 General Ironsi killed Federalism. Then 33 years later, by decree 24 of 1999 General Abubakar gave Nigeria a unitary constitution with lies that we gave it to ourselves and it should be called Federal Constitution, despite the concentration of absolute Powers at Abuja.
We can decode this programme and install a new one for the benefit of all. Those who wrote the programme that has held us down for years were brilliant enough to know that the most important imperative in human development is the MINDSET FACTOR. They worked on our minds, hence we have remained on one spot heckling that there is nothing wrong with the engine of Nigeria, that all that is required is a good driver from one tribe or the other to make the vehicle of Nigeria to move.
Evidence of our ability to change any programme is that in 1911, while trying to defend why he had refused missionaries from establishing schools in Northern Nigeria, Lord Frederick Lugard said “Western education made the African less fertile, more susceptible to lung troubles and other diseases and defective dentition”. Today, we all know that this is a big lie from the Governor General. The question now remains, when shall we take on the challenge of the other former Governor (Sir Hugh Clifford) who said we lack capacity to rule ourselves. I would give visibility to the quotes from the best paper ever presented by our own former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar GCON on the 30th of July 2016, which was his opinion on the issue of Restructuring Nigeria for greater National Integration and Democratic Stability.
In that paper, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar defined national Integration. Then he said, we have only been struggling to live up to this ideal but have not done enough in terms of making the required sacrifices. He talked about the disengagement of a large portion of the population from economic opportunities and also the excessive centralization and concentration of power at the federal level and weakening of the Federating States. Thereafter he said, “it is not a secret that many Nigerians from outside the North hold the view that the main beneficiaries of the status quo has been the North, (an undifferentiated North)”, one of the reasons being “what some see as knee-jerk resistance from Northern elements to calls for restructuring of the Federation”. He ended by saying that “Nigeria’s unity is under severe stress and Statesmen must rise up tothe occasion and proffer solutions that are sustainable and canendure” He said further “We cannot tell a person who feels pain that he does not feel pain. Rather we should find out what the person says is the nature of the pain and try to find effective remedies” He then said tothe Northern Elders gathered “interestingly, we too feel pain and need urgent remedies”. I need not say more.
My friend Barrister Tony Nnadi iof LNC is almost losing his voice shouting about the stifling effects of Abdulsalam Abubakar’s constitution on Nigeria; but the “CHANGE” government seems to be more committed to resisting CHANGE. If there is life after death, I can imagine Sir Clifford laughing and punctuating his laughter with “I told you Nigerians can never rule themselves. I did not even know that conducting credible elections would also be impossible for them”
We have prove Lord Lugard wrong that education is not good for the black man. So as at today,
Nigerian writers have made Nigeria proud before the World.
Nigerian sport men/women have made Nigeria proud before the World
Nigerian Professionals in different fields have made Nigeria proud before the World
Nigerian innovators (particularly the youths) have made Nigeria proud. All before the watching world.
When will Nigerian Politicians make Nigeria proud?
When will Nigerian government institutions (particularly those in charge of maintenance of law and order) make Nigeria proud? YET WE SPEND MORE MONEY ON THEM AND FOR THEM.
Last time President Buhari visited to address the National Assembly, some Politicians kept rudely interrupting his speech. The President paused and reminded the unruly Politicians that THE WORLD WAS WATCHING. I was excited to hear that our President knows that the world is watching. I hope he knows how his style of governance is being interpreted by the watching world.
How do you fight corruption with a constitution that breeds corruption? Who would take the challenge of proving Sir Clifford wrong? When? How many more Nigerians would die for the ambition of our Politicians ?When shall we get it right?
Nigeria’s failure was predicted in 1922, that is 97years ago. Today, we are more divided than we were back then. The world is watching and it is hoped that our Politician will find shame and be determined to emulate Ghana and Rwanda. .
––Oscar Onwudiwe esq
Is a Legal Attorney & President of Aka-Ikenga