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Yoruba Omonious Torpidity and the March to Restructure Nigeria

August 22, 2008

Critics of the extant political arrangement in Nigeria appear to have hit the roof tops. They are mostly from the south of the country. Day after day, they appear fiercer and more daring than ever. Most of these writers are gnashing their teeth, they are biting their fingers, they pour invectives on Nigeria’s political leaders; some preach revolution, some preach outright disintegration of the country. But a lot more blame the apparent resistance of the North’s political class to political/structural reforms for Nigeria’s afflictions.

Critics of the extant political arrangement in Nigeria appear to have hit the roof tops. They are mostly from the south of the country. Day after day, they appear fiercer and more daring than ever. Most of these writers are gnashing their teeth, they are biting their fingers, they pour invectives on Nigeria’s political leaders; some preach revolution, some preach outright disintegration of the country. But a lot more blame the apparent resistance of the North’s political class to political/structural reforms for Nigeria’s afflictions. Afflictions that are seen by many more today as the blight on the black race.

These days, the Yorubas appear to have taken the lead from the Igbos on the job of disparagement of Nigeria’s political structure and establishment. Reading newspaper columnists, editorialists, on-line writers (some are mere vanity writers) and their follow-up blogers, cynicism gradually takes the place of optimism regarding the Nigerian experiment on unity in diversity, more so, unity between the North and South of the country. Accentuating the North/South political divide is the periodic meetings of the Northern traditional leaders, Northern governors, Northern legislators, Arewa Consultative forum, Northern Youths Forum, etc. Often you are bent to believe Frederick John Lugard is history’s most myopic colonial administrator. But one common denominator of most of these writers (complainants) is their sit-outside-the-fence-and-expect-others-to-start-the-revolution attitude; you understand they believe that by their preaching they can nurture a nation-wide extreme left-wing group that can eventually rise, take up Nigeria and restructure it to a true and development-bound federation. But can there ever emerge such extreme left-of-centre group in numbers sufficient enough to carry out, without any social upheaval, the restructuring and subsequent repositioning of Nigeria on the path to development? I shrug.

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Firstly, Nigeria, a country of diverse ethnic and religious groups has as the biggest stumbling block to her unity the differences in the value systems of the two largest religious groups; differences that tend to broaden the farther you move from the centre of the country in opposite directions towards the North and South. Secondly, over the last three decades, Nigerians have been so progressively ill-educated that most of the country’s population have come to accept Nigeria for what it is today. No questions to be asked. The tiny rich class that profits from the failed political structure to steal the nation blind cannot ask questions either. Thirdly, the lumpenproletariat at Ochanja, Oshodi or Tudun Wada, or the average Nigerian university undergraduate who cannot afford newspapers, cannot listen to the radio or watch television, and cannot access the internet may never know the importance of true federalism and may never rise to kick against the present unworkable federal structure. These factors lean against the likelihood of the emergence of any popular, nation-wide, left-wing group that can confront the ruling cabal and successfully return fiscal federalism to Nigeria. It is not stated any where that people of diverse ethnic and religious groups cannot leave peacefully together and develop their country. Ask people from the eldorado of Europe - the Swiss federation - whose German, French and Italian founders had to assemble their representatives to first negotiate and agree on the terms of the union. On the contrary, near-by Belgium is facing serious threats of disintegration because of a hazy political arrangement that has left some constituent ethnic groups with a feeling of marginalization.

In Nigeria, marginalization of ethnic groups has taken a disturbing turn. Furthermore, it is not stated anywhere that resources found in one part of a country must be deployed to develop that part of the country alone. But there has never been this level of exploitation and intimidation elsewhere by one part of a country against the other as we have had them in the oil producing areas of Nigeria over the last four decades; European colonialists could not have been so predatory. The most disturbing aspect of the quagmire in Nigeria is the glaring but ominous inability of the Yoruba ethnic group to realise it holds the ace in the gambit at restructuring Nigeria and putting it back on the route to development. Or, if the Yoruba is aware she holds this ace, her hesitation to employ it for the good of Nigeria speaks volumes. The Southwest needs not be reminded it is the bridge between the North and the South of Nigeria. The time has therefore come for the Yoruba elite and her other leaders to jointly come out with an action plan to bring a neutralised North to an unfettered conference the outcome of which shall abolish the present federal structure. The conference must end leaving every federating group in Nigeria pursuing its development based on its priorities, with the ultimate aim of a greater, evenly developed and united Nigeria. Any day Yoruba leaders unanimously agree that Nigeria in its present structure has failed not only its people, but also the black race, and subsequently issue a threat that the ethnic group intends to pull out of the federation if the North continues to demonstrate its present disdain for true federalism, those in the North who are holding tenaciously to the present political structure shall come begging for a peace conference aimed at getting the North accommodated in the type of Nigeria the Southerners want.

Even if revenues from oil and gas are subsequently controlled in the new Nigeria 100% by the areas they are derived, the North shall still stick to the South for a united Nigeria. For it is not just oil alone that is attracting the North to the South, the North is attracted more to the South by its desire for access to the sea which is paramount to the North’s long term development needs. If a Yoruba threat of secession fails to sway the North to the negotiating table, its (the Yoruba) leadership then enters into a written pact with the leaders of the rest of South of Nigeria stipulating the following: (1) That the Southwest zone secedes from the rest of Nigeria with a provision that the zone must rejoin the rest of the Southern Union or alliance whatever is the outcome of the Southwest’s act of secession. (2) That the Southwest’s secession is aimed at bringing the North to the negotiating table in a humble manner devoid of its militarily acquired political leverages. (3) That the secession is aimed at watering the grounds for an unfettered sovereign national conference (SNC) where the terms for a truly federated Nigeria are to be determined, (an SNC under a sitting government of a sovereign nation must either be manipulated or deadlocked). (4) That if during this period the Southeast or the Southsouth or any part therein tries to exploit the situation and declares independence unilaterally, the rest of the South shall join the North in forcing back the erring group and the rest of the South to the old, scorching, one Nigeria. (5) That if the North snubs the Southwest’s secession act and refuses to negotiate, or there comes a deadlock during the negotiations arising from an intransigent North, the South shall have no other option to declaring independence for Southern Nigeria. (6) That the new independent Southern Nigeria shall be willing to accept the sections at the southern fringes of the North that may opt to join the South in the new federation. If events reach the fifth clause above, the North, even if not instantly splintered cannot contemplate a war against any part of Southern Nigeria. To achieve this feat (threat of secession or real secession), the Southwest must play down the suspicion and fear that the Southeast may exploit the situation to subsequently declare Biafra.

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Post-civil war migration trends and the comparative conviviality between the peoples of the three zones currently stand against the idea of the Igbo not willing to coexist with others in a sovereign Southern Nigeria with true federalism in practice. Of course, in a truly federal Southern Nigeria, there shall be little or no more incentives for Biafra for the average Igbo. Those in the Southsouth whose demands have been consistent with returning Nigeria to a true federation may never want to secede from a truly federal Southern Nigeria either. The common value system shared by the three groups in the South is the utmost pre-requisite for nationhood and patriotism. The lesson on shared value system was enunciated at the on-set of the sharia law imbroglio when a BBC female reporter asked the then governor of Zamfara state, Yerima Sani, if he thought that in about a decade from then he could still find Nigeria as a single entity. Sani’s reply was: yes, because people from the predominantly Christian South and the predominantly Muslim North intermarried, and that the cause of the friction between the two groups was the difference in their value systems. This writer hastens to add that this difference in value systems suggests why a Nigeria permanently controlled by a Mecca-focused Northern political machinery can never drive a Detroit or Munich-dreaming South to a prosperous destination. Electoral reforms, Police reforms, committees on this, committees on that, magical vision year 2020, they are like adding maggi cubes to an already soured pot of soup. Most Yoruba writers today employ the word - South - in apparent efforts to forge an alliance of the Southwest, Southeast and Southsouth zones, perhaps, to liberate the three zones from what many regard as the colonisation of the South by the North of Nigeria. Good strategy. However, there are cynics who still believe that the drive to have a stake in oil found in greater quantities in the former Southeast region of Nigeria is the major propellent of the Yoruba enthusiasm for this new Southern alliance. On this score, it is therefore necessary that the Yoruba work harder to wean itself from the distrust it attracts from some people from the other two zones in the South. For instance, during the last National Political Reforms Conference, apart from the Umaru Dikkos of the North, the Bola Ajibolas of the Southwest were among the loudest voices that frustrated the people on the Niger Delta in their quest for a partial control of the resources found in their back-yard. Again, time is the healer of wounds, we must therefore assume that the Igbos must have cast to the dust bin of history the unsavoury role of the Yoruba before, during and immediately after the civil war. Aside the often disconcerted, but honest and laudable efforts by the Wole Soyinkas , the Gani Fawhinmis, the Gbenga Daniels, the Beko Ransome and Fela Anikulapo Kutis, at challenging the injustices in Nigeria’s system, in the past, many Yoruba politicians would preach this alliance any time they wanted to advance their selfish interests. Nigeria’s history is replete with instances of this. The most recent: Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigeria’s president looking for an unconstitutional third term in office dispatched his right-hand man – Tony Anenih – (supported by many prominent Yoruba politicians) - to Enugu on the thicket of Southern alliance to preach that Nigeria’s development was stunted because revenues ‘from oil’ were not managed by people from the areas the revenues were derived. (Read: the South personified then by Obasanjo must be supported to get a third term to continue the management of oil revenues and leadership of Nigeria). When Obasanjo failed in his third term bid, the Southern alliance collapsed like a pack of cards.

Thereafter, the ruling party presidential aspirants from the former Southeast region spent fortunes campaigning around the country only to be rail-roaded from the race at the last minute by President Obasanjo. There are others that also believe that today’s amplified outcry from the Southwest against the unjust and debilitating political structure in Nigeria gets instantly dimmed any time another Olusegun Obasanjo or Ernest Shonekan (or even a co-opted Oladipo Diya) is foisted upon Nigeria by those who wield political power by virtue of the political machinations of past military leaders. And that it may not matter to the Yoruba that the Obafemi Awolowos, the Moshood Abiolas, the Olu Falaes, must always be denied Nigeria’s apex leadership position if our present forced federal structure is not dismantled. As a teenager this writer noted Ebenezer Babatope as Nigeria’s fiercest critic of military dictators. Yet, it did not take any pre-conditions or any serious prodding to have Babatope serve for so long the worst of those dictators. The people of the Southeast have been challenging the unjust system, take into account how many young Igbo men and women that have been murdered or are today languishing in various prisons for mere association in a non-violent organisation. The Ijaws, the Ogonis, the Kalabaris, the Itsekiris, etc: they have been challenging the rigged federal structure in Nigeria; theirs have also been either murdered or imprisoned for that. Even the Middle belt men grouped to the North had in their own various ways challenged those that resist changes in this dysfunctional federation. But without the deafening silence, or in some cases, tacit approval from the Yoruba who seemingly would want radical changes but not ready to lose a hair for them, these atrocities perpetrated by the core-North against the rest of Nigeria could not have been possible. The objective of this write-up is to highlight the imperativeness for a Yoruba co-ordinated action in the race to salvage Nigeria. Paper and lap-top tiger-ing aren’t just enough. No blackmail meant. LIP-SIDE PATRIOTISM The constant product of Nigeria’s lop-sided federal structure is the constant emergence of political charlatans and lip-side patriots at most of the important positions of political leadership in the country. Perhaps, it is an exaggeration, but not too far from the truth to state that they are gradually leading the rest of the Nigerian population like sheep to the slaughter. Average life expectancy has gone down to 49 years in the country. Military dictators so distorted the nation’s federal structure and subsequently imposed a constitution on it such that any effort to redress the skewed federal structure through the National Assembly shall come to nought. For having unjustifiably amassed nineteen states in the North that on some issues come together, this zone is assured of the overwhelming legislative majority to torpedo any form of restructuring/constitutional amendment that is not in its favour. And so long as revenue from fossil fuels from the South keeps flowing in, the North can never give up its political grip on the country. It must strive to retain the existing federal structure even if Nigerians are perishing from want and disease and Nigeria’s development infrastructures regressing to a ridiculous level. The present propaganda for support for a nuclear energy plant which must, of course, be located in the North, and probably, have a Yoruba-appointed facilitator, may be the last straw to break the camel’s back. If a nuclear reactor is built in the North of Nigeria, it may in the not too distant future become another Iran. It is aimed at keeping the South of Nigeria permanently at awe of the North’s military capabilities. It is a long term design to hold on to this forced federal structure. Besides, contemplating an expatriates-engineered nuclear energy plant in a country whose larger portion of science graduates can hardly differentiate between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission amounts to outright desperation of the North not for electric power but for political power. Think of the billions of petro-dollars that must surely go down the drains here and you think of lip-side patriotism.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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