As a People, Are We Asking The Right Questions? – Adakole Ijogi
I have resisted bearing my thoughts on happenings within the Nigerian polity in recent times, deliberately choosing an out of body experience literally, to observe and be the on-looker for clarity and composite assessment. The on-going national debate and conversations on Restructuring, Self-Determination, Secession, Marginalization, Ethnic Correctness and more recently Hate Speeches if I may add, has in its core ethos of a Country dangerously going down the familiar path of inextricable incongruity.
Utterances from both the government and most people have largely portrayed us as a people with a marginal or rather abysmal nation building configuration. This inversely proportionate differentiations in most of our standpoints, allude to a people still lost in an intergalactic wilderness of sublime ethnic and religious conjectures, where primordial and mundane sentiments, essentially rules our thought processes and blindsides us from the fundamental task of asking the right question for nation building. The question begging to be asked and more importantly also requires an answer: Who are we as a people? Evidently, in a melodramatic but narcissistic pessimism that we all indulge in about our country over time has encumbered us from building a nation in over half a century. These we have supplementary done by asking the wrong questions and NOT seeking the right Answers or even more heinous, is asking the wrong questions and arriving at an answer to question NOT asked.
Kindly allow me to inseminate my subjective position with the bequest of hindsight and further pollinate with the benefit of foresight, as I try an implicit attempt to throw a stone in a water pool christened Nigeria and watch the ripples move in expanded circles, forming rings that fore shadow’s hypothetical national uncertainties, political brinkmanship and intermittent bubbles of ethnic and religious naysayers.
On restructuring, I still hold the position that what is needed is a “New Governance Model” for Nigeria, as we must accord critical prominence to the content rather than the form, as we engage existing fault lines in the governance of our dear country. Furthermore, if we must give legitimacy and legality to the “white lie” document we call the 1999 Constitution, we MUST then get majority of the “people” to assent to it and give it “LIFE”. NOT the National Assembly and certainly NOT the National Council of States. In reverence of the fact that in a constitutional democracy, legitimacy only comes from popular participation.
Right Questions: What are the marginal costs of fiscal federalism on Rivers State and Yobe State comparatively? What powers should be devolved to states? Should States or Zones be the federating units? Is federal character and quota system still relevant 57 years on? Why should we have policy conflicts and inconsistencies on land ownership and mineral rights? And Lastly, What will restructuring or new governance model do to strengthen Nigeria and Nigerians?
On Marginalization, Self-Determination and Secession. Generally, non-inclusion and ethnic/tribal or racial victimization in governance breeds internal strife and rebellious tendencies. It is unjust, divisive and inhuman to say the least. In any union, the right/choice to be together must also come with the right/choice to be apart. The union called Nigeria is negotiable and its unity traversable. As nations evolve, national or state boundaries can be expanded and annexed beyond visible fringes with tanks, bombs and guns, BUT the unity of a people cannot be forced into existence or coerced into alliance. This process MUST evolve in an almost socio-political osmosis based on a consented peoples accord angling equity, justice and fairness. One can say with prime certainty and unambiguously that an overwhelming percentage of Nigerians and even those in South East Nigeria, would rather stay in the country Nigeria. But however, that Nigeria MUST be a Nigeria for ALL, with equal stakes, NOT a REGION, NOT a TRIBE, NOT a RELIGION, but Nigeria. As a multi ethnic, cultural and religious society, one must acknowledge that fact that we are ONE but not the SAME, and also agree to live a nation where TRUTH and JUSTICE reigns.
Right Question: What does it mean to be a Nigeria? Should we as a matter of urgency initiate the promulgation of a Bill of Rights for all Nigerians? Should we emphasise Place of Residence rather than state of origin in our constitution? Should we insert rotation of executive political offices within senatorial districts in our constitution? Should we not have a near accurate population figure with full biometric capture which includes TRIBE, STATE OF ORIGIN, RELIGION and GENDER information in our data banks? What are the best civic models to enable citizens hold public officers accountable? How can we make state government more viable to deliver development? What is the cost of dismemberment of the Nigerian Nation?
On Ethnic and Religious Correctness and its incursion into governance in Nigeria, this is perhaps the most ubiquitous and pervasive predisposition in our body politics. Tribal eccentricities and religious idiosyncrasies is a structural defect perpetuated by the colonialists and further accentuated by the Military in Nigeria. However it is my considered opinion that as long as we base the struggle for a better Nigeria on these unproductive persuasions, we will miscue the opportunity to build a truly great nation. These imaginary lines have cost us more turmoil and grief than any other encumbrances. As a people, I dare say We are ONE but NOT the SAME, kindly allow me to buttress further. If we have pre-colonial indigenous settlement of Igalas in Enugu State, some Edo people in Ekiti and Ondo State, Yoruba in Kwara and Kogi States, Tiv in Taraba State, Kanuri in Nasarawa State, Iyala [Idoma] in Cross River State, Ufia in Ebonyi State, Jukun in Plateau State, Higgi in Borno State, Fulani in Kwara State, Ijaw in Delta State, Hausa in Southern Kaduna. Whether Northern Nigeria, Middle Belt Nigeria, South East Nigeria, South West Nigeria or South South Nigeria, we should without incongruity attest to the fact that we have been living together as a people long before the imaginary lines crafted by British and re-echoed by the military. What should be paramount is the need to move away from these primordial and unproductive sentiments, towards building a nation of citizens for this great Country called Nigeria. On religion and region, I tend to hold the inalienable truth which is self evident, that we have essentially little or no cherry-picking into what religion or which part of country you will be born into, as it is purely accidental in the annals of procreation. What is by far a luminous truth is the better understanding of the fact that ethnicity, tribe religion or gender has no correlation to honesty, integrity, patriotism and intelligence, as we are all but human and our humanity entwined with its fallibilities.
Right Question: Can we not replace Religious Tolerance with Religious Acceptance? Should we not de-emphasize tribe in our national polity? Should we not de-emphasize religion in our governance system? With all the Christians and Muslims, how come corruption and unethical behaviour still adorn our national and everyday life? Does tribe or religion account for the content of ones character?
On Nigeria Today, in an overview of happenings in our polity and an inquisition on “Naija Things”, one can with a quick whiff recap as thus: The economy is still groaning from high inflation, high unemployment and a weakened Naira, which essentially is poverty, hunger and desperation across the land. Justice, No Justice, just us, as we rarely get Justice in our Law Courts, hence the uncivilized and barbaric tire, petrol and matches approach. Some miscreants kidnap our children, who are we as a people if we cannot protect our children. Other bandits are kidnapping and murdering Priests, senior Citizens and men of Honour. Our undergraduates are at home; ASUU is on an indefinite strike, our Resident Doctors are also on an indefinite strike, you know the attendant undesirable consequences. Benue is ravaged by flood, another tale in the upsurge of internally displace people. Boko Haram still on the rampage, our kith and kin in the North East being slaughtered needlessly. General outlook headlining today: A country in Disarray, a nation in Desperation, a people Displaced, a family in Deprivation laden with Diseases and a person [Nigerian] facing imminent Death.
………With all of these, the right question will be:
DO ALL OF THESE DEFINE US AS A PEOPLE?
Adakole Ijogi is an Abuja Based Politician and Social Commentator.
He is an aspirant for the post of the Deputy National Secretary of the PDP.