It would now seem that the amalgamation project of 1914 has finally reached its apogee, 107 years after it was adopted and implemented as the best colonial policy for governing Nigeria as one colonial entity.
No one needs a seer to know that the colonialists had no good intention for the newly created Nigerian state when the amalgamation happened.
- PODCAST; Why Breastfeeding Is A Social Responsibility
- Powerful people mounting pressure for release of kidnappers’ collecting ransom through banks
Nigeria came into existence out of a sheer colonial necessity, rather than as a prelude to a governance template that has at its heart the well-being and future development of Nigerians. And a century plus later, the consequence of not only the act of the colonialists but also the ideological complacence of the nationalists stare every one of us right in the face. Nigeria’s present circumstance does not need any enumeration—from banditry to insurgency to kidnapping, and the sum of all the self-determination agitation speak to the singular fact that the Nigeria state stands ominously at the edge of a precipice.
The clamour for self-determination has now displaced the agitation for restructuring in the cacophony of political reactions that mix with the loud cries of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria. The Nigerian Civil War was fought around the issue of self-determination championed by Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on behalf of the agitation for a Biafran state. That agitation was grounded on the right to self-determination recognised in international law. Biafra failed to materialize, but the deep-seated resentment of the Nigerian state that fuelled it has refused to abate. With Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB, we see a persistent questioning of the legitimacy of the Nigerian state. The Sunday Igboho saga and the increasing call for the emergence of an Oduduwa State further reinforce growing insecurity is fuelling the urgency of rethinking Nigeria.
The agitation for the restructuring of the Nigerian state seems to have stalled on the unwillingness of the political class to genuinely engage with a lopsided Constitution that imposes a unitary logic on a diverse and federal realities. And quite contrary to the socioeconomic and sociopolitical advancements demonstrated by the regionalism experiment of the immediate post-independence era, the political leadership still finds it very hard to make the crucial constitutional moves that could move Nigeria away from impending dissolution. And in the fissure of this hesitation, the Nigerian state is throwing up accidental heroes and heroines as well as opportunistic criminal elements catching on the insecurity and the chaos it creates to perpetuate evils against ordinary citizens.
Between self-determination and restructuring, we stand face to face again with the ubiquitous problem of leadership in Nigeria. From the original prognostication of Chinua Achebe through the political poetry of Niyi Osundare, the political commentaries of several conscientious analysts to the vocal agitations and advocacy of Wole Soyinka and a class of other national figures, the leadership problem with Nigeria has been iterated into several issues in Nigeria’s national being. However, the brutal but incontrovertible fact of political leadership anywhere in the world is that it is the elite, through elite nationalism, that constitutes the fulcrum for transformational changes any state or nation needs to keep meeting the challenges of state- and nation-building. And Nigeria’s elite nationalism has its objectives and agenda already cut out for it. First, there is the necessity of coming to terms with the dynamics of Nigeria’s ethnic diversity and how to harness its cogent potentialities for national development. There is nothing more to this than the equally valid fact that human capital development is the intangible asset of a nation that unlocks the tangible infrastructural deliverances a nation requires to achieve legitimacy and well-being for its citizens. Second, the harnessing of Nigeria’s diverse human capital requires an ideological framework as the mold for transforming human capital into national asset for sustainable development.
It is the sincerity of purpose of the political class that makes the difference between Nigeria remaining a protracted national project that is always in the process of yielding something good or bad, and Nigeria as a transformed national entity, always in dialogue with its citizens over the conditions of their well-being. If only we can learn the lessons of history, it will become clear that civilizations have risen and fallen based on the failed juxtaposition between self-fulfillment and national commitment.
The potential break-up of the Nigerian state is conditioned on what we all now know as the Nigerian condition—a litany of systemic dysfunctional dynamics that undermine every legitimate attempt at transforming the Nigerian state and achieving good governance for Nigerians. The Nigerian condition is further exacerbated by the insincerity of the political class and the logic of primitive accumulation. This raises the urgent question of how a new breed of leadership with transformational capacities can be generated. The only way to break the vicious cycle of opportunistic politicking is to revise the vision around which Nigeria can make progress. The race for the planets has picked up significantly among the developed states of the world. And Nigeria stands the danger of being left behind.
It takes a transformational leadership with foresight and perspective to discern the times with regard to the dynamics of self-determination and restructuring. One could ask, for instance, whether self-determination and restructuring are mutually exclusive in ways that leave Nigeria with the need to choose one rather than the other. It should be accepted as a fact that no leader wants a state to be dissolved on his watch. The national question is one that all leaders want to resolve within the ambit of the existing Constitution. There is no side of the equation that is not faced with critical challenges or possibilities. The restructuring agitation is equally confronted by the unwillingness to implement a genuine constitutional amendment that will refocus the political strategy for managing plural Nigeria. On the other hand, while self-determination accords with the global convention that provides the right for any ethnonational entity to seek its own political path, restructuring also generates the strategy for realigning the constitutional direction of a state.
This dilemma therefore confronts a visionary leadership with the question of how to achieve a win-win balance between the two ends of the choices confronting Nigeria. In other words, the choice then comes down to how the two sides of the equation could be managed while not jeopardizing the well-being of the citizens. Can a genuinely federal constitution answer the agitation for self-determination? In other words, is self-determination, for instance, possible within a restructured political entity that gives its federal components the capacity to generate the legal framework for their own development? Does a self-determining nation obviate the constant need for restructuring its constitutional framework once it fails to answer to emerging realities? Answering these questions in the first place requires the sincere commitment of the political elite to the governance requirement of a state like Nigeria. It requires a commitment to institutionally building a country and making it work for the citizens. It requires a commitment to a type of politics that allows for the participation of the citizens in decision making.
That we are today confronted with a choice between self-determination and restructuring speaks to the failure of Nigeria’s political elite and its aggrandizing proclivity. There is a need to constitutionally re-amalgamate Nigeria in ways that undermine the fissiparous tendencies that undermine unity. Elite nationalism is required for the emergence of a new breed of political elite willing to commit class suicide in their commitment to a new type of politics and institutionalism that rates the citizens higher than any personal selfish interests.
Tunji Oloapa is a Directing Staff, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos