In time past, some have dared to suggest that only a violent revolutionary change will transform Nigeria from its current 18th century fief into a competitive modern state. The mention of the word “revolution” always sounded toxic to most belle-full Nigerian educated and economic elites who draw their sustenance from the corrupt arms of government and the private sector.
To them, revolution will upset the conventional game plan, many people will lose their lives and “radicals” will impose draconian laws and civic discipline upon “law-abiding” Nigerians. Yet, these arm-chair philosopher- journalists always fail to recognize that contemporary great countries such as the United States, Russia, France, China, to name a few, were transformed from conditions of stupendous underdevelopment, inequity, official corruption, waste, ignorance, poverty, idle monarchical indulgences and immoral socio-economic and religious suffocation into modern states through violent revolutions. In these countries, a new re-alignment of political forces faced down the ubiquitous status quo with its tone-deaf political oligarchs and swept them out of history so that creative opportunities in industry and the national economy can soar. This same experience will be required of Nigeria, whether we like it or not. To paraphrase the Holy Book that most Nigerian Christians often like to quote for convenience: Without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sin. I am sure some aspect of this scripture can also be found in the Koran.
If anyone is still drowsy about the possibility of a revolution in Nigeria, I think it has already started in earnest. Currently wrapped in religious garbs in Bornu and Plateau that many are still denying even when the perpetrators have identified themselves, and couched in series of bombings in Abuja, the Niger Delta and elsewhere, these caricatures will spread until the slumbering eyes of Nigerians will open and will be forced to pit their tents with the contending ideological mongers. This historical event is inevitable because the gods we call upon everyday in vain have thrown their towels into the combat ring. In fact, I never really quite understood how any sane Nigerian would believe for one moment that the overbearing Nigerian contradictions will somehow be glossed over without a violent duel.
The template for a revolution in Nigeria has long been sown even before Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960. The British, in their quest to outdo the French in the scramble for Africa, cobbled together tribes, ethnicities and religious traditions from the south and the north of Nigeria without regards to their political and social fit. The British first experimented this imperial gerrymandering in British India when it foolishly amalgamated present-day Islamic Pakistan with India’s Hindus in its expansionist policy. The result, of course, was the inevitable India/Pakistan partition in 1947. The Nigerian experiment was a much more patronizing case as northern Nigeria, a haven of emirate oligarchies that suited British monarchical traditions, was willing to hang unto a Nigerian federation if the British would favor them as the majority group. Thus, to the emerging political forces in both the north and the south, independence had contrasting connotations and meant different things. For the south, led by Awolowo and Azikiwe, independence meant a golden opportunity to sever significant cultural and political ties with England and establish a nationalist state for creative engineering. With the north, having delayed independence once to catch up with the south, it sought to retain the British as diplomatic consultants and conniving bulwarks against the transformation-inclined southern Nigeria. The 1952-1953 national census conducted by the British inevitably sealed their ulterior motive to declare the north the majority region and to apply this status as the cornerstone for the so-called parliamentary democratic rule after political independence. Top put it more mildly, this meant that any future elections based on one-man-one-vote will necessarily make the majority north the winner with the accompanying privilege of heading the national government. Thus, the first national government of 1960 witnessed a coalition of strange bedfellows between the Islamic north as senior partners and the Christian east as junior partners. Then, using the putative slogan of “One Nigeria”, Zik, an Igbo nationalist, broke ranks with the southern nationalist strategy in order to accommodate the collective interest of his expansionist and nomadic commercial-merchant Igbo clansmen who had set up vast trading posts across the entire northern landscape. Strangely enough, the north was not all united as Joseph Tarka, the ebullient Middle-Belt nationalist statesman, joined forces with the opposition radical Yoruba west.
The manifestation of this colonial arrangement gave birth to a system whereby unity was predicated upon the major tribes of Hausa/Fulani-Igbo-Yoruba sharing national political power proportionally while the minor tribes were content with crumbs from the table. Within this same setting, subsequent ruling political parties automatically put the core north (Hausa-Fulani Sunni Muslim oligarchy) at the head of the table while others scrambled for whatever they could get. It is thus no wonder that today, core northern political elites and political zonists are asserting their privileged right to the presidency even with the threat to make the country ungovernable for Jonathan if he contested the 2011 elections on the PDP platform.
Whether this threat is connected with the current series of bombings in Abuja and elsewhere is hard to say but the recent public pronouncements of the core northern consensus candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has struck a war-mongering tone to observers here in the United States. If the identities of perpetrators of recent bombings represent one side of the emerging revolutionary force, then it is not the vanguard force that the vast majority of restive Nigerians are clamoring for. Neither will they join this operating force as comrades when the revolution gets underway. For a quick study of the current violent force, it represents the old school, the discredited status quo, the privileged idle class which is quite comfortable with the way things are and could care less if Nigeria was stuck in an 18th century world. It is strange that such a revolutionary force, if that is what it can be called, has no perceptible ideological identity except for its claims to a ruptured religious bigotry and an eccentric political nihilism.
The other side of the revolutionary force has not yet taken up arms and their bearings are largely progressive. They thrive on competition and creativity and are sore ashamed that Nigeria has lagged so far behind in the global roster. They are technologically inclined, experimentally minded and at the moment, are studying the tactics and modalities of the indiscriminate bombing fanatics of recent months. They are methodical and are overtly ready to match dollar-for-dollar with the financiers of the current violent religious and regional warlords. These progressives come from all across Nigeria’s vast space but are largely identified with the West, the East, the Mid-West and the Middle-Belt regions. These regions, if they wish to take advantage of it, now have the opportunity, as never before, to enter into a new political re-alignment and framework, including a solid majority to rule Nigeria for the next century without the insulting privilege of zoning. Thus, the battle is already joined and I am betting my last dollar on a sound progressive victory. Then shall a national constitutional convention be finally convened to re-configure a working Nigerian federalism that gives more powers to the states to develop on their own and at their pace. Then shall the rule of law that enshrines equality before the law be established and a justice system that focuses on the facts of the law rather than on social status be mandated to deliver fair justice to all. Then shall a reasoned and intellectually designed Constitution stipulate a rational paycheck for the people’s representatives without those spurious allowances that make us look mental across the globe. Of course, the security forces will be modernized and contesting all elections will be open to all who qualify and made to strictly apply the one-man-one-vote democratic principle. For all intent and purposes, the 1999 Constitution was an intellectual aberration, a document prepared largely to assuage the semi-literate military government that appointed numerous academic stooges to the constitutional writing committees with guns over their heads. A victorious progressive revolution will change all that for good.
Cliff I. Edogun, Ph.D.
North American Coordinator, The NIGERIA RALLY MOVEMENT