Bala Usman at Times Like This


The received wisdom has it that it is a Chinese curse to say, “May he live in interesting times.” Interesting times are often defined as “times of danger and uncertainty” while conversely “uninteresting” times are times of uninterrupted peace and tranquillity.
Certainly all nations pass through both interesting and uninteresting times so defined. Nigeria cannot be different.

But unarguably very few countries parade citizens living in seemingly endless “interesting” times like Nigeria. What with almost a century long British colonial occupation, brutal exploitation and oppression (1861-1960)? Even much earlier, what with 16th -18th centuries long inhuman slave trade in which millionsof Nigerians (among other Africans) were forcibly kidnapped to the Americas to forced labour on plantations? What with a Civil (Biafran) War, (from 6 July 1967 – to 15 January 1970), between the Federal government and the secessionist state withover 100,000combatant casualties and as many as over 2 million civilian casualties? What with 30 years of military dictatorships (1966-1979) and (1983-1998), almost half the nationhood and almost twice 20 years of “democratic” rule? What with decade long economic structural adjustment (remember SAP?) with political regimentation? What with scores have communal and ethnic-religious feuds, militancy and insurgency? And endless constitutional / political debates and reports? What with mind-boggling revelations of serial vertical and horizontal corruption? What about elections as wars of attritions? What with ever-predictable National Assembly versus executive wholesome confrontation and half-hearted cooperation amidst governance challenges on security, economy and fight against corruption? And what with the current political frustrations and shouting matches of unity and disunity, “restructuring” and self determination and even audacity of hysteria about disintegration in a country which witnessed avoidable civil war just 50 years ago?

Some nations certainly do have bagful of interesting issues, but Nigeria ever lives in interesting times with scores of interesting issues.

Paradoxically interesting times do throw up interesting historic figures that commendably turned adversities into national progress. Nigeria has had its fair share of historic figures, heroes and heroines of anti-colonialism, independence and democracy. Just as the country like any other nations had produced scores of rouge leaders and anti-heroes.

With so much media reportage of the rouge leaders, our interest here is to bring to the fore the fact that there was a country which indeed paraded notable leaders who symbolized dignity of labour. In an age in which leadership is becoming an endangered species and even scandalously and shamelessly synonymous with crass corruption, the point cannot be overstated until recently Nigeria had a fine tradition of popular earned leadership. Some of these great leaders include Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Hajia Gambo Sawaba, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Pa Michael Imoudu, Mallam Aminu Kano, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Kudirat Abiola, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and Dr Yusufu Bala Usman.

What marked Dr Yusufu Bala Usman (1945 – 2005) out was that he was a great historic participant figure as well as a leading scholar of Nigerian historiography. We are indeed living in an interesting times in which common sense is far from being common with cheap shut-down of communities and cheap quit -notices feverishly served to fellow compatriots, with even cheaper social media proclamation of “self determination” by misguided youths of various shades.

Obviously to be academic and seek for real knowledge in this interesting time in Nigeria is a luxury. All this negative development then raises the question; what would be the reactions of the philosopher-patriot that was Dr Bala Usman were to be alive today?
What would be the reactionof Usman, who founded of the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to our collective scandalous return of the long discredited TINA (There Is No Alternative) to, this time “Restructuring, ” but in the 90s toSAP (Structural Adjustment Programme)? What would be Bala Usman’s reaction to Prof. Wole Soyinka’s seemingly uncritical new position that “Nigeria is negotiable” as if we have successively revisited Green-tree agreement on Bakkasi?

There is no doubt that, for sure, Dr Bala Usman would have audaciously taken the Centre stage to put issues inthe historic perspective making a passionate case for the unity of Nigeria and indeed Africa. He would have taken an exception to the recent fashionable insular shoddy analysis of a complex issue of development and good governance. He would have interrogated the one-buzz word that some believe solves all Nigeria’s problems, “restructuring”. He wouldhave reminded all of the danger of the nostalgia for the old regions, the failings of which led to the old clamour for the old state creation.

The power of memory eludes most Nigerians with the loud silence of historians. Dr. Usman would have gone ahead to profile the new emergency “reformers” ” re-structuralists” for what they have always been; the wreckers of nation-building projects and warned the citizens against a renewed manipulation of religions and regions for selfish agenda.

Dr. Usman would have thought outside the false box of restructuring and called for the “liberation of Nigeria” from wholesome state capture by the forces of corruption!

We must revisit the brilliant historic engaging essay by the great African patriot and scholar at the sixth Bala Mohammed (his friend!) Memorial Lecture entitle “Nigeria Unity and Nigeria History: the Basis of our Self –Determination” ably delivered at the conference Hall, Shukura Hotel, Sokoto, on the 10thJuly 1992.

On national unity here is quotable Bala Usman, which is still relevant at times like this: “It is necessary to be very clear from the beginning as to the nature of what we are talking about here. Nigerian unity is not an abstract thing existing in the minds of some people. It is not a figment of somebody’s imagination. Like the unity of other countries, of other polities, and indeed of all communities at all levels, it is made up legal and constitutional enactments. It is made up of network of human relationships. These relationships are real. There are ecological relationships, economic relationships, social relationships, psychological relationships and political relationships. Right now, these relationships are being strained and battered by the intensity and scale of the decline in the living conditions of almost all the people lives of Nigeria, except a handful. This devastation of the lives of Nigerians is a direct result of the economic crisis the country fell into from the early eighties and particularly due to the policies of the structural Adjustment Programme imposed by the present regime, over the last six years”

Comrade Aremu (mni)is the General Secretary of the Textile Workers Union, an affiliate of the Nigeria Labour Congress.


“Nigerian unity is not an abstract thing existing in the minds of some people. It is not a figment of somebody’s imagination. Like the unity of other countries, of other polities, and indeed of all communities at all levels, it is made up legal and constitutional enactments. It is made up of network of human relationships. These relationships are real”


By Kelechi Jeff Eme

Roadmap to Fiscal Restructuring

This is in response to Kayode Komolafe’s column in the THISDAY edition of June 28, 2017 entitled “The National Question and Its Perversion.”

The only route to restructuring is strict adherence to the provisions of the 1999 constitution. It could be through a constitutional amendment process initiated by the President or a National Conference backed by an Act of parliament. A sovereign conference is not a solution but a highway to anarchy. We have entrusted our sovereignty already to the President and the National Assembly. The Jonathan’s conference was not representative of the entire political spectrum of Nigeria. My position on this is that constitutional amendment process through NASS will be cheaper, precise and also engender clarity in objective accomplishment.

Restructuring must be a gradual process that is designed to ensure stability of the polity, peaceful coexistence and economic development that is mutually beneficial to all the federating units.

The benchmark for revenue allocation should be 33% derivation, 47% for the states to be shared based on the current criteria and 20% for the federal government.

Based on the need to avoid destabilisation of the governance and to enable the federal government to thoroughly prepare the public service for the new dispensation, I suggest themaintaining the followingschedule in reducing its allocation:the present allocation till 2020; 40% allocation between 2020 – 2025; 30% allocation between 2025 – 2035; 25% of allocation between 2035 – 2045
and 20% of allocation permanentlyfrom 2045

Based on the need to prepare the states for economic sustainability as witnessed during the First Republic, I suggest the following schedule in increasing derivation: maintaining status quo until 2025; increasing derivation to 20% between 2025 – 2035; raising derivation to 25% between 2035 – 2040; increasing derivation to 30% between 2040 – 2045 and keepingderivation permanently at 33% from 2045

Based on the need for equity in the states, all revenue generating local government areas shall be entitled to the operating percentage of derivation from their state governments. This is based on the calibration as stated above.

All the oil producing local government areas in Delta state should be entitled to 33% (if the derivation regime is 33%) of oil derivation and this must be shared based on production levels.

All mineral-producing communities should be entitled to 33% of derivation to local government areas. The same conditions should be applicable in the relationship between the states and local governments.

VAT proceeds should from 2019 be based on 70% derivation and 30% for the federal government
Important pre implementation agreements should include the following:

*all federating unites l signing an article of perpetual union prior to the implementation of the restructured parameters.

*The restructured system remaining irrevocable notwithstanding the political status of the country and

*the transitional timeline of 25 years notentertaining any form amendment either directly or indirectly.

I have no doubt that a focused restructuring process could take place within 25 years. Citizens of each state of the federation will have the incentive to make their state great.

Mr. Eme ( sent this piece from Mbieri, Mbaitoli,Imo State.