If you have, like my humble self ever wondered how our crop of patriotic founding fathers would feel, should they be brought back to life to see the Nigeria of today, you would be compelled by sheer moral compunction to call on our current political helmsmen to govern us differently. They should exercise more dexterity and be more nationalistic in handling the country’s rather intricate, socio-economic and political affairs.
Certainly, the heroes of the struggle for Nigeria’s political independence would ask what has made the difference between countries such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Nigeria, whose independence came within the same decade or two, if not quality leadership, or the absence of it. They would cringe at the crying shame of a people still struggling for economic survival in the midst of the vast natural resources, 59 years after.
They would wonder just how, like the prodigal son, we have squandered huge revenues from our God-given oil and gas, solid minerals, agricultural and tourism potential and ask our leaders to explain why we are currently trapped in state and federal government debts running into trillion of Naira. The likes of Michael Imoudu, T.A. Bankole, A. A. Adio-Moses, M.A Tokunbo and T.A Songonuga, who once ran the affairs of the Nigerian Trade Union Congress(NTUC) would even ask our state governors to explain just how it has become difficult to pay a minimum wage of N30,000 at a time our honourable lawmakers cruise around in luxury automobiles, with some state governors boasting of private jets flying over children studying under trees in their long-forgotten states!
The handwriting is on the wall, as it was back in the Biblical times. But some of our political helmsmen, with self-serving and greed-driven agendas, rather than nationalistic principles have blatantly refused to read it. The call for the holistic restructuring of my dear nation, Nigeria has reached a crescendo, reverberating across the national space. But some have obstinately turned deaf ears to it, or heed its clarion toll.
So, we caution, as we have to do under trying times such as this, out of sheer patriotic fervor that Nigeria, can no longer be ruled the way it is being run against the ethos of equity and justice. Nigeria can no longer be ruled by the tools of treachery, the weapons of witch-hunt and the cudgels of coercion, worse still under a democratic dispensation. Recent signs in the political horizon are scary enough.
To begin with, not a few observers of the polity would agree that Nigerians have not been as divided along ethnic and religious cleavages as we find ourselves today. For instance, while some concerned Nigerians had expected President Muhammadu Buhari to be guided by the noble mantra of nationalism and give out political appointments to guarantee ethnic equity, that of his First Term were obviously skewed in favour of the North and his political acolytes.
Now, we are in his Second Term and the paradigm is yet to shift. Add the controversial RUGA policy and the increasing vexation of the Myetti Allah group in national discourse. What about the inexplicable move by the Katsina State governor, Alhaji Aminu Masari hobnobbing with armed bandits in the name of a spurious amnesty? So, the lives of their voiceless victims are worthless compared to that of the mindless killers!
According to Umar Sani, spokesperson of the PDP presidential campaign, Masari’s recent move is a clear indication of the failure of security across the country. Yet, there is another worrisome development that is currently riddling the political sphere that calls for utter caution and concern.
Barely five months of Buhari’s second term, the issue of the geo-political zones to produce the 2023 presidency has taken precedence over how to pull Nigeria out of the ignoble status of the world’s poverty capital. There are already posters of the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai adorning the walls of some cities as he reportedly gears up for the plum political post. Both Babachir Lawal and Ahmed Yerima of the Arewa Youth group are making it loud and clear that the North is not about to hand over the presidential baton to any other section of the country in the next dispensation.
This has expectedly triggered off worries, anger and disbelief in some of those zones. Some people are even thinking of how Nigerians can go their separate ways, a move that is against the grains of the 1999 Constitution and is treasonable!
In response, however, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a chieftain of theAfenifere group said: “People are talking of breaking up because the term of coming together has been abrogated by the Northern Muslims who are dominating us. This is why the young elements, extremists in the South East, South South and Middle Belt are yearning for break –up just because of their refusal to yield to our demand for peaceful co-existence”. This situation calls for utmost caution, especially from the executive arm of government.
Truth be told, Nigeria cannot be governed by instilling fear in the hapless, hungry and hounded citizenry. Unity is never forged by the fierce flames of fiat, or by feisty, fratricidal force of inequity. No! Not in a democracy and not in the 21stCentury for a country made up of some 200 million people of diverse ethnicity, culture, class and religion.
Rather, unity evolves out of the clear understanding of who we are as a people and the mutual respect for our obvious differences. There is a bond of brotherhood that binds us all, if only we are humble enough to admit it; that we are here to complement one another’s efforts and overcome our weaknesses.
Let us therefore, listen to the voices of reason. According to the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, restructuring of Nigeria is the answer to the wave of agitations currently hitting Nigeria. At a lecture titled: ‘Restructuring Nigeria: Decentralisation for National Cohesion’ delivered in 2017 at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House in London, he said: “Our present constitution is not autochthonous. It was not written by the people of Nigeria. It was not approved in a national referendum. In jurisprudence, its effectiveness will score a very low grade on account of its unacceptability”.
In a similar patriotic tone, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), stated thus in 2017: “We all lined up to call ourselves Nigerians without gathering to discuss what it meant, so Nigerians should not condemn but listen and understand the agitations by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).” He however, warned against any attempt to split the country.
That should be food-for- thought for all of us.
¬¬––Ayo Oyoze Baje, Lagos.