No person willingly exits a club, association or union where his\her welfare, comfort and progress are assured and in situ. Yes, not even a fool would walk out of a room that provides him\her pleasure. If however, the room becomes a torment centre of torture, deprivation, oppression, persecution and discrimination, those who are given the short end of the stick would, undoubtedly, seek exit. Would the beneficiaries of the new order of the day have a moral right to say ‘No’ to the oppressed and uncomfortable willing to seek their survival and welfare elsewhere? That is the question facing Nigeria today.
Unfortunately, those in power at the federal level are quick to resort to subterfuge and dwell in casuistry. They cite a clause of indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria in the 1999 constitution to rationalize their opposition to self determination of any zone or ethnic group in the country. Their argument, to all intents and purposes, is standing logic on its head. The territory called Nigeria is a flawed contraption, considering the source of its constitutionand its structure and the name of the government system in operation in the country. All are engrained in dictatorship forced down the throat of people thereby giving the constitution a definition of lie and deceit.
The 1999 constitution that is said to espouse a federal system of government, but regretfully it is dotted and riddled with traits and attributes of UNITARISM. Except in name, Nigeria cannot be said to be a federal republic. The states in the country are not co-state with the federal government, as it should be in a federation. They are nothing but subordinates. They take order from the central authorities.
There is, of course, distribution of power outlined in the constitution. On the list are the exclusive, the concurrent and, of course, the residual areas of authorities. Powers in the exclusive list are in the purview of the federal government. It, however, shares powers on the concurrent list with the state governments. The federal government is much favoured in the sharing and allocation of revenue. It takes 51 percent, while the state and the local council administrations share the balance between them. The federal government has power and control over all mineral resources in the country. Petroleum resources are exclusive to the federal government too not to talk of taxes and levies generated in the country that are first taken to the centre before being shared.
Those who are loudly against balkanization of the country have buried their heads in sand as an ostrich, pretending that Nigeria is running a federal system of government. They should be reminded that India, after independence broke into three countries. India, Bangladesh and Parkistan, perhaps because of irreconcilable differences. India was a British colony as Nigeria. Again, Southern Sudan broke away from Sudan and as it was, Sudan was also a British colony. Those who are insisting on the indivisibility clause of the country in the 1999 constitution, have perhaps forgotten that Nigeria is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Charter and African Union Charter that granted a group or an ethnic group a right to self determination if they feel oppressed or persecuted by the power that be.
The indivisibility and indissolubility clause the group is brandishing as its amour is anchored in a skewed constitution foisted on the country by a military junta that handed over power to the civilian government headed by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. The preamble of the constitution is a lie from the pit of hellfire. The preamble reads: We, the people of Nigeria… That is not true. A military junta and its supporters wrote the constitution. It was the brain child of a dictator, General Sani Abacha who had self- succession agenda.
It’s, therefore, not a surprise that beneficiaries of the 1999 contraption called a constitution are hostile to those calling for RESTRUCTURING or outright balkanization of the country because those people are at the receiving end of the power game. Those holding the lever of power are opposed to restructuring that would effect devolution of power to states and ensure fairness, equity and equality for all the stakeholders in the enterprise called Nigeria. This is unwelcome to some people as it would be detrimental to their fortune and realization of their expectation. They do not pause for a moment that the unacceptable perpetuation of the present injustice and assumed invulnerability of the armed Fulani herdsmen who are rampaging and inflicting terror on law-abiding people prompted the emergence of Chief Sunday Adeyemo (IGBOHO), Yoruba nation advocate and Nnamdi Kanu who has renewed the struggle for the realization of the Republic of Biafra.
Based on suspicion, those clamouring for restructuring have reservation on 2023 general elections. They are quick to ask: Are the elections the solutions to challenges of insecurity, economic down-turn and super-inflation dogging the country? To them, restructuring should take precedent over the elections. They, therefore, suggested that the restructuring must come before 2023 as it is going to be the foundation of a new Nigeria where justice will prevail. There, however, are those who fear that the elections, especially the presidential poll could be used to divert attention away from the more serious issue of restructuring that is crucial to a peaceful and prosperous polity.
The issue on political agenda is which part of the country would provide the next president? That is why various groups have emerged from different zones of the country, championing the cause of their zones. The immense premium placed on the 2023 presidential election, has without mincing words, polarized Nigeria. It is a false belief that those who have upper hand in the present dispensation would agree to what could be called a rotational arrangement. The rationale for rotation of power in the country is in tandem with the division that is reminiscent of what was in place in the area called Nigeria today before the amalgamation of the two protectorates, the Northern and the Southern protectorates.
Before Lord Luggard effected the merger by fiat, each of the two protectorates was independently administered by the British colonialists. The Britons adopted direct administration in the south and embraced indirect administration in the north. The Britons believed that the dual system that was structurally different in features was the best for running the of administration of their area of influence for maximal efficiency and effectiveness, without losing sight for prudence in expenditure.
The Southern protectorate boasted many small distinct kingdoms and principalities. There were also flourishing city states in the south. Their different languages cultures, religions and, of course, the richness of resources available in the area, that is the southern protectorate, encouraged direct administration. The colonial masters could garner enough revenue to run the administration. They could impose taxes, levies and other sundry surcharges that ensured surplus at the end of every year.
In the north, however, the presence of the Fulani caliphate that covered a large expanse of land, sprawling from Sokoto to all parts of the North, and even extending to the fringes of the South-West of the country, made the colonialists adopt a different style of administration in the area. Before the advent of the British masters, there was effective administration in the north and even method of tax collection was in place. It was, therefore, not a surprise that the Britons thought it wise to adopt indirect rule in the Northern protectorate. Only a few white men were needed to supervise the Fulani administrators.
This gave the colonial masters an opportunity to cut cost and maximise utilization of manpower to run the government. Despite extreme prudence and judicious use of fund by the colonialists, enough revenue could not be generated to run the administration in the northern protectorate. As time, however, unfolded and 1914 was fast approaching, the excess revenue collected in the south and poor inadequate revenue yielded in the North despite the adoption of indirect rule made the merging of the two protectorates the wisest thing to do at that time.
That was why Britain gave Lord Luggard the green light to merge the two protectorates in 1914 and he became the governor-general of the new born country. A journalist, who was a girl friend to Luggard was to later give the country the name, Nigeria. Thus, from the inception of the country called Nigeria, the excess revenue generated in the south had been used to augment the paucity of revenue generated in the north to run the administration of the country.
From 1922 Clifford constitution to the Richard Constitution in 1945 and, of course the 1954 constitution that engendered regionalism, there had always been a wide gap of difference in the pace of development in the areas that could rightly be called former northern and Southern protectorates. The southerners aggressively embraced Western education brought by the colonial masters to Nigeria. This, undoubtedly expedited their absorption of Western culture, which imbued them with knowledge and prompted their confidence that they could run the administration of the country if granted independence.
The Northerners were, however, reluctant to embrace Western education. The leaders in the North believed in Arabic and Quoranic education, which they held fast on to. They believed that the Quoran, Muslim Holy Book, was the source of their power and rulership of their area and they were not ready to let go. Only children of the emirs, nobles and district heads in the area sent their children to school. Absolutely, this stance was completely in opposite to what was happening in the South where parents were eager to send their children to school.
It was, therefore, not a surprise that within a short period, the South had produced a large number of educated youths who could conveniently do the work of the white officials. The difference in the degree of embracing education in the North and South became a hurdle on the path of the country to independence. At the time the Southerners were agitating for independence with all necessary insistence to show and demonstrate seriousness, the Northerners made it clear that they were not ready.
It is on record that during the country’s representatives’ journey to Britain in a ship for a constitution conference in 1954, a resolution demanding independence in that year was drafted by the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. It was, that is the resolution, to be signed by all the Nigeria’s representatives in the ship to tell the British government in one voice that Nigerians were ready for independence. All the Southern representatives from the Eastern and Western regions signed the resolution, but the leading representative of the Northern region Abubakar Imam refused to sign. Imam was then the editor of a Hausa language tabloid, Takwabo.
He had his reason, which he tabled to back his refusal, for immediate independence for Nigeria in 1954. He said there was a large number of Western educated people in the South, which he pointed out was not the same in the North. Imam reasoned that if Nigeria was granted independence in 1954, the Southerners would be the greatest beneficiaries. He explained that independence for Nigeria means that the white men working in the North would leave their offices as those positions would become vacant. The North, he pointed out, did not have enough educated man power to fill the vacant positions that the Britons would quit. It then meant that the North would be compelled to look down South for qualified people to fill the vacant positions and run the government in the North.
On arrival in London and during the conference, the refusal of the Northern region’s delegation to support independence now stalled the Nigerian independence. The two other regions were, however, too eager for independence. This means that they could seek separate independence for their regions not the whole country. That was why the defunct, Western region became independence in 1958. It was followed by the Eastern region in 1959, while independence for the country was granted in 1960.
The differences in the pace of development, language, culture and religion could be fingered as factors that induced the choice of system of government for the country. Federalism was the choice. To all intents and purposes, that was why a constitution that espoused federalism came with independence in 1960. Each region was largely independent. Each had its flag, its quote of arm, anthem, police and judicial system. All the above listed items were independent of the federal institutions. The 1960 independence constitution spelts out separation of power, areas where federal and regional government are competent to make law and administer the same.
The constitution gave the regions freedom to generate revenues from mining activities and other areas of economic activities.
The regions must however, pay royalty to the federal government. All this made the regions to develop at their different paces that brought competition and fast development as no region wanted to be a largard. In 1966, to be precise, the military came and sacked the legitimate government of the country. That was the beginning of Nigeria’s problem. Military government is devoid of the necessary legislative arm of government. The military rules by decree. This means the pronouncement of the military leaders is the law. Again, the military has a culture of order. A superior officer gives a subordinate or an inferior officer an order and it must be obeyed without questionining. Call it dictatorship if you like.
Since 1966 when the military intervened in the governance of the country, there has been intermittent of civilian rule. The present democratic dispensation came courtesy of Gen. Abdul Salam Abubarka who handed power over to an elected President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. The constitution, which is the grund norm of the democratic government was produced by the late head of state, General Sani Abacha. No thanks to Abacha, who because he had intention of succeeding himself and also perpetuating himself in power gave the country a flawed constitution. Instead of a federal constitution that allows wide and deep devolution of power to the constituent states as the 1960 constitution, he imposed a unitary system of government on Nigerians despite our diversity.
With this constitution, a governor, though called the Chief Security Officer of his state has no control over the police in his state. He has to seek and obtain the President’s permission before a Commissioner of Police in the state could carry out his order.
Now, most things are centralised in the country. Revenue generatated in the states must be sent to the federal account. Add value tax faces the same fate. For example many states in the North placed a ban on beer and its consumption. It is, however, a pussle that such states benefit from sharing of tax collected on beer.
To portray the federal government as the big brother, while the states are always looking to it in the sharing formula of revenue, the federal government takes 51 percent of the collected revenue, while the states and local councils share the balance. If a state generates electric power, it has to first send what it generated to the national grid from where it would be shared to states.
The centralisation of most government activities or what is called a unitary system of government is decried by patroits who said it was the bane of rapid development in the country. That is why perhaps they are loud, calling for restructuring of the country.