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Akinrinade, Atiku And The Restructuring Of Nigeria By Remi Oyeyemi

August 15, 2016

"From Agatu to Nupe, Tiv to Birom, Igbo to Ijaw, Ogoni to Ibibio, Mumuye to Kanuri, Hausa-Fulani to Kataf, Yoruba to Igbira, what all want is to have a reason to believe in Nigeria."

There is fire on the mountain. And that mountain is Nigeria. To put out this fire there is need for leadership from all strata of our society. But unfortunately, there are not many leaders with integrity left on our political landscape. This lack of integrity in itself is a major reason why Nigeria has continued to fall apart. While Nigerians are tired of corruption and want something to be done about it, it is obvious that the war against corruption needs some pre-conditions for Nigerian problems to begin to acquiesce solutions. 

Nigeria’s problem is deeper than corruption. Corruption seems to be symptomatic of a deeper challenge for Nigeria. Corruption, it has turned out, especially at the level at which it has manifested and is probably still manifesting, is a symptom of a country that belongs to no one, including those determined to pillage it. In fact, it could be posited that corruption is a compulsory corollary to an unfairly structured country; a country in which no one believes; a country in which no one has any faith; a country that belongs to no one and to which everyone within its boundaries are even ashamed to lay claim, not even when they are raping her! 

The fact that most Nigerians and the political dealers scavenging for Nigeria’s carcasses share the fundamental belief that they do not have a stake in the country serves as a psychological cocoon that allows them to loot the commonwealth without let or hindrance. This cocoon divorces them from the umbilical cord that ties them to Nigeria; it emblematizes lack of emotional connection to a country they ought to preserve, serve, protect and be proud of. What you have as a result of this psychological and emotional divorce from the country are citizens with deadened conscience; unfeeling, indifferent, cold, mean, brutish and monstrous. 

The absences of sense of belonging of many Nigerians and their ethnic nationalities have transmogrified the consciences of many against Nigeria and desensitize them to the intemperate atrocities being committed against the country which in their own unconscious estimation, does not belong to them and they do not belong to. To this end, everyone is consigned to the discombobulated psychological condition of desperation to scoop their own portion of spoils from this “no man’s land” from this dilapidated building called Nigeria, before it collapses. 

One of my professors of political science at Great Ife in the early 1980s postulated that those who have no stake in a polity really would never care if disaster befalls such. He contended that those who care about a polity do so because they have stakes in it and would do everything to ensure the survival and progress of such. By implication, it could be surmised that those who have been engaging in corruption and looting Nigeria’s commonwealth are obviously doing so because they really do not feel that they are part of Nigeria or Nigeria is part of them. 

If people are looting the “Commonwealth” because they do not believe they have a stake in Nigeria, it could then be further inferred that the faulty structure of Nigeria is functionally related to acts of corruption by its citizens. Deriving from this hypothesis is the synthesis that to really fight corruption and save Nigeria from total collapse, the starting point would be to engage in a restructuring of the country. The restructuring would be done deriving from the supplications of the citizenry, not just the political elites. It has to involve the people to be authentic and endure. All strata of the society must be involved in the process. 

One major attribute of a leader is to be able to listen to the people. Even though a leader may have a vision he or she espouses, such a vision has to be contextualized in the desires and aspiration of his or her people to come to fruition. A leader must have listening ears. He or she has to pay attention to the feelings, concerns and the desires of his or her people. The hallmark of a leader is to be adaptive, versatile and responsive to the changing dynamics of the times while not losing sight of the overall goal. Thus when such a leader goes forth to formulate a policy, he/she is articulating the interests of those that he/she represents. This is where the former Vice President Abubakar Atiku and retired General Alani Akinrinade come in, especially on the issue of RESTRUCTURING. 

General Akinrinade is a soft spoken man of integrity. From all records, his exploits in the Nigerian Army showcased profiles in courage and fortitude. He has enormous amount of self-respect and carries himself with a lot of dignity. He is a straight forward person. He does not beat about the bush. He abhors deception. He has always exude these qualities in public and private. His presentation of himself in conduct and speech has aligned with this image at all times. 

In an interview widely reported in the Media, General Akinrinade did not mince words about his disappointment on how the APC and its leaders have been trying to deny their promise on RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA in the days leading to the 2015 elections. Whatever must have been responsible for this “change of tone” by the APC and Buhari led administration, has not been and evidently, would not be acceptable to the distinguished General. Characteristically, he candidly accused the APC of “lying” to Nigerians. He said inter alia: 

“First, the APC must be told, in no uncertain terms that it is fraudulent. They led us down the garden path, lying to us about what is in the end of the tunnel. What was in the end of the tunnel was RESTRUCTURING and each one of them, the party chairman, the president, his vice, and in that order are all talking from the other side of their mouths now. In other words, they lied to us in 2015 before the election.” (capital letters mine) 

General Akinrinade currently feels betrayed by President Buhari and the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. He also thinks that the party chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun is being perfidious on this issue. One could understand why the General is livid. This writer is privy to a meeting at which General Akinrinade was vouching for the then candidate Buhari. General Akinrinade was brutally subjected to tough questioning by all those participating in that meeting on why he was supporting someone like Buhari who could not be trusted. He vowed that Buhari was worthy of trust and he should be given a chance and be supported. 

Still fresh in one’s memory at that meeting was a question by a young lawyer at the meeting who asked if there was a written agreement between Buhari and all the Yoruba leaders vouching for him. The young lawyer, while insisting that history ought to be a guide, expressed concern that Buhari, because of his trajectory, could flip and disappoint. The young lawyer stubbornly, almost to the point of irritating the respected General never known to have lost his cool, kept insisting and underscoring the need to have something in writing or in recording to show the world that Buhari was never a man of his word if and when he failed to deliver. So far, the young lawyer has been proved right by events. 

If General Akinrinade is reading this, one is confident that he would remember this incident very vividly. One would not be surprised to find out that the meeting in question was not the only one at which General Akinrinade vouched vehemently on his own honor and integrity for the reliability and dependability of Candidate Buhari. Having vouched for President Buhari so vehemently and to be betrayed this way could really hurt. It could really hurt someone who places a lot of premium on personal integrity and honor like General Akinrinade. General Akinrinade had thought that like a “true soldier”, Candidate Buhari would be honorable and be a man of his words by keeping to the promise to RESTRUCTURE NIGERIA.

As expected of a true soldier, and a General for that matter, General Akinrinade has shown courage to call out the President for whom he campaigned ceaselessly, for “lying” to the people. His action is not just a show of courage; it is a show of patriotism. He is placing the love of country above that of personal friendship with President Buhari. As someone aware of General Akinrinade’s moderating influence on the increasingly impatient self determination groups in Yoruba Nation, this writer could understand the depth of the hurt that the General feels by the treachery of the APC leadership and President Buhari’s refusal to come through with the promise to RESTRUCTURE NIGERIA. 

Also, former Vice President Atiku’s recent open acknowledgement of the need to RESTRUCTURE NIGERIA to put an end to self-determination agitation is very commendable. In one’s opinion, his advocacy of this modality to address the extant national crisis, is a demonstration of courage given his background and his trajectory. By taking this stand openly, the former Vice President is demonstrating that he listens and that he cares. Nigeria is currently burning. If anyone is on the ground, he or she would understand the urgent need to stand up for any solution that can calm the tense situation across the country. 

It is very easy for former Vice President’s detractors to dismiss this as “playing politics.” Well, everything is politics because politics is about who gets what, when and how. It is politics when a segment of ethnic nationalities in the country feel sidelined. It is politics when people rise up in arms against the state. It is politics when there is contention among the constituent units on resource control. It is politics when there is economic hardship and social discomfort. It will also be politics when steps are taken by leaders who have back bone to tackle such issues of creating a more conducive atmosphere for prosperity, peace, unity and progress of the country. 

The desire of the former Vice President to become the president of Nigeria is an open secret. But this does not remove from the fact that RESTRUCTURING is a challenge Nigeria must meet if Nigeria must survive. If at the worst, Atiku’s response is functionally related to obtaining votes, it only goes to show the power of the people in a democracy and this ought to be appreciated. At least, it is in this same democracy that we have had obdurate, insensitive, arrogant, condescending and incorrigible leaders. But leadership that listens and shows candor is gold in these times. 

However, what this demonstrates is that Atiku is willing to bring all segments and sections of Nigeria together as one family. He is taking a stand that his political party, All Progressive Congress (APC) is publicly against. This is an act of courage and it must be called what it is. Right now, this is what all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria need and want – a sense of belonging. The knowledge that someone is listening and showing concern about your worries, is not only therapeutic, it is deescalating in a tense and volatile situation that Nigeria currently is. 

Right now, there is sense of frustration about the country. Everyone and almost all of the ethnic nationalities feel alienated. From Agatu to Nupe, Tiv to Birom, Igbo to Ijaw, Ogoni to Ibibio, Mumuye to Kanuri, Hausa-Fulani to Kataf, Yoruba to Igbira, what all want is to have a reason to believe in Nigeria. To have someone who listens is a starting point for all the hurt across the land. Restructuring would create the basis to negotiate among the constituent units and have Nigeria reorganized in a manner assuring every ethnic nationality of equity, remove the specter of second- or third-class citizenship and defuse the mounting tension in the country. 

As someone who has had reasons to criticize Vice President Atiku openly in several portals in recent times, one expresses the hope that more leaders would follow his example, come out and candidly address this important issue of our time, RESTRUCTURE to save Nigeria. The task of a critic is not just to condemn when people cross the lines but to also underscore and encourage when the right things are done to advance the interest and progress of the polity. Nigeria is tottering on the precipice. We need courageous leaders to pull it back.   

To pull Nigeria back from the precipice, armed resistance bequeathed by the injustice of the State must be defused, we have to put an end to separatist agitation, not by war or force or detentions of leaders of such agitation but through RESTRUCTURING. As an advocate of self-determination, one is willing to give Nigeria a chance if Nigeria is willing to give its peoples a chance to belong to Nigeria on equal footing where everyone would have equal right to determine his or her own destiny. RESTRUCTURING would be the humus from whence a united, peaceful, prosperous and powerful Nigeria could germinate. 

Nigeria has to mean something to the citizens of its constituent units to be acceptable and survive. We have to recognize our differences; not adumbrate the beauty in our individual ethnic uniqueness but appreciate our diversity by mutually respecting it; mold the diversity into a centripetal mound from whence flows all genre of freedoms of which the most important is self determination in the context of collective good and in the concept of “All for one and one for all.” 

Nigeria meaning something to all citizens is the only viable catalyst to build a new, united and strong country. It guarantees every citizen of every ethnic nationality a stake in Nigeria. Such a stake would hold, in beautiful and satiating bondage, the emotional nectar of the people and inextricably tie it to the concept of Nigeria; it would command their love and loyalty. A stake in the country would shackle the psyche of the citizen to the pole of patriotism and make it difficult to betray through any act of perfidy, the least threatening of which would be corruption of any shape or form or wanton looting of its commonwealth. 

A Nigerian connected psychologically to the country, breast-fed on the emotional milk of sense of belonging, nurtured on the bread of belief “this belongs to me” and not “this belongs to them” or “belongs to no one” would be difficult to be railroaded or recruited into looting its resources. A Nigerian psychically immersed in milling meld of co-ownership, would not stand by while the country is being raped. Such a Nigerian would consciously and or unconsciously take good care of Nigeria, without being asked or preached to. 

There is urgent need to RESTRUCTURE NIGERIA to save her. Though, Nigeria does not necessarily have to be saved if we don’t want it, but the fact is that it could still be saved IF WE WANT NIGERIA.  All the leaders need to take a stand now. For those who have done so, they deserve commendations, encouragement and support. For those who are yet to take a stand, they have to do so and be counted. The TIME is NOW!    

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”
- John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961

You can follow Remi on Twitter @OyeyemiRemi.