By Ehi Braimah
OVER the weekend, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), spoke on the possibilities of a New Nigeria that works for everyone. At a Symposium to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary with the theme, “Where will Nigeria be in 2060,” the highly revered Minister of God spoke like an oracle: Restructure Nigeria or break up. “Did Pastor Adeboye really utter those words?” a friend, who wanted confirmation of the story, asked me after I shared a link to the story. “Adeboye does not normally speak like that,” he continued. “Maybe he is seeing what the rest of us are not seeing,” I replied. “It is possible he wants to be brutally honest with Nigerians,” I added. Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka believes there are prospects for a New Nigeria, but he does not think we have a New Nigeria yet. We are definitely not there yet.
Restructuring Nigeria means different things to different people. Some advocate for a break up of the country but it must be stated that Pastor Adeboye does not want a disintegration of Nigeria. In fact, he said “God forbid”, meaning that is not his wish for the country. But how do you manage a break up? It is not as easy as it seems. I do not think that is the solution to our crisis of identity. In trying to solve a problem, we must avoid the temptation of creating new problems or compounding the current situation.
Another school of thought believes that power should be devolved from the centre to the constituent states. This was a key recommendation of the 2014 National Conference inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Again, how is this going to work in a country where mutual suspicion is strong and the putrefying smell of unbridled corruption stinks at all levels?
What system will work for Nigeria? In answering this question, Pastor Adeboye believes we should develop a new system of government that is uniquely Nigerian since the parliamentary system of government was unhelpful and, now, the presidential system of government has also become challenging – it is too expensive and not sustainable!
Pastor Adeboye has a large global audience and his views and comments are highly regarded. Going by his reputation, the General Overseer does not know how to speak from both sides of his mouth; so when he speaks, he should be taken seriously. He has proposed a model which is essentially a hybrid of the parliamentary and presidential systems of government. Under this model, Pastor Adeboye believes we can create the “United States of Nigeria (USN).” Let us be honest with ourselves, if there is one thing we need urgently at this time, it is a “United Nigeria.” I think we should all agree on this and build the Adeboye Model around it. As a mathematician with a PhD degree to boot, it is not surprising that Pastor Adeboye is thinking of solutions to our current situation. Mathematicians analyse problems through critical thinking and thereafter build models – where parameters are mostly represented by variables — by using mathematical concepts and language.
Is the system of government that we run really our problem? Honestly, I don’t think so. Without prejudice to Pastor Adeboye’s recommendation, my view is that operators of the system are the problem. They manipulate the system for their selfish interests. In the United Kingdom and United States where we borrowed the parliamentary and presidential systems of government respectively, there are enough checks and balances to make both systems work. They respect the rule of law and they enforce their laws.
I asked some of my colleagues and associates to react to the comment made by Pastor Adeboye. “I totally agree with the idea of restructuring Nigeria according to the nuances of our social and economic environment,” responded Toju Ogbe, a communications professional and doctoral candidate at Kings College, London. “But I think the bigger issue for Nigeria is corruption. If the culture of corruption is not addressed, a new structure of governance that decentralises power will simply decentralise looting from the centre to the regions,” Ogbe added.
In his own contribution, Akpandem James, Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board of Naija Times, explained that the parliamentary system of government bequeathed to Nigeria succeeded in economic terms but failed politically. “The intention of the colonial fathers was for the separate regions to grow at their own pace while having a central government focused on defence, foreign affairs, currency, boundary matters including territorial integrity, customs and excise, immigration and so on,” James stated.
“The political party that wins the majority votes at the federal election formed the government at the centre, otherwise a coalition of parties are required to form the government. The election that was to produce the leadership after independence did not produce an outright winner which led to the coalition government formed between NCNC and NPC. The NCNC had majority votes at the election but did not get the required spread. For reasons best known to its leaders, the party shunned Action Group which had the second highest number of votes and decided to work with NPC,” James continued.
In trying to consolidate its position as a national party, the NCNC not only tried to impose its candidates on the electorate in the South West, its members from the South East in particular flocked to the South West to contest elections during the Republican elections of 1963. What came out of those political gerrymandering, according to James, resulted in the 1966 coup. Since then, the story of Nigeria changed.
The British parliamentary system did not envisage economic independence and political colonisation. It was the attempt at political colonisation of the component regions that dealt a blow at the parliamentary system. The same interlopers, who could not get what they wanted through the ballot box, seized it through the barrel of the gun when their boys in the military struck in 1966. The emergent military government abolished the regions and installed a unitary government. James’ revealing insights identified the greed to conquer and dominate all the sub-nationalities as what led to the fall of the parliamentary system of government in Nigeria.
A contributor who is a professor in the physical sciences prefers to remain anonymous. He said the fault lines in Nigeria are so obvious, so we need to act quickly and restructure the country. “If we do not restructure, we will definitely fracture. A multi-ethnic and diverse society where religion is central to our lives cannot continue to operate a unitary style governance model, though federal in name. People must be allowed to govern themselves at their own pace and according to their capabilities and capacity,” he remarked. “No nation is too big to fail; it simply depends on how the internal contradictions are managed. It is only a question of time unless we act expeditiously to embark on restructuring to at least save the eventual collapse of the nation,” he added.
The proposed system of government by Pastor Adeboye, in my view, should be inclusive, fair, equitable and transparent. The United States of Nigeria should be built on justice and respect for fundamental human rights. According to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “There is an urgent and massive need for moral and spiritual reconstruction; the kind which will help to demolish morbid desire for naked power and domination, and ensure justice, equity and fair play for all.” The biggest threat to our unity is the fear of domination of one ethnic group over the others. The moment we begin to understand that we are equal stakeholders in the Nigerian Project irrespective of region, tribe or religion; that would be a significant achievement. Without justice, equity and fair play, the proposed United States of Nigeria will not work.
Agitations for the “political structure and future” of Nigeria is not a new thing as I noted in “Making Nigeria a Better Place” project website. The problem is that the agitations are always for “sectional interest” and not “national interest”. This problem had been with us even before we gained independence 60 years ago. At independence, the three regions were largely independent of the federal government.
However, the minority groups feared domination by the majority ethnic groups in the three regional powers. These concerns led to the agitation for the creation of states, but it was only the Midwest region that was created on August 9, 1963 before the First Republic collapsed due to regional hostilities. Unfortunately, those fears are still with us – and it partly explains the strident calls for restructuring.
When I served in Awka, now the capital of Anambra State, I felt at home. All the youth corpers who served with me had the same experience – there was no discrimination. What we received was love and affection from the local community. The national youth service was designed to assist young graduates discover their country and immerse themselves fully into new experiences in view of our diversity.
The primary goal was to promote friendship, goodwill and citizenship to achieve national integration. As an idea, national service is good but implementation, like in other areas, is a huge challenge – we create bottlenecks deliberately to frustrate ideas that should ordinarily work because of our selfish orientation and unconscionable profit motives. In today’s Nigeria, is the national youth service still relevant? Your guess is as good as mine.
For the United States of Nigeria to work, we must build strong institutions where no one is above the law – the same standard should apply to everyone. That would be the glue that we need badly to hold everyone together. When a society has two sets of laws, it is a recipe for disaster. We must recognise dignity of labour so that we can discourage the culture of get-rich-quickly that has created a new generation of “hushpuppies” and “hushmummies”.
Under the proposed new government system, we should deliberately create a productive economy and move away from our present consumption-oriented economy. The Adeboye Model is saying to us that we should focus on solutions to our political and socio-economic challenges; enough of what is wrong with us because we all know what the issues are. We analyse our problems very well but we need to find solutions in a pragmatic way.
What will help the United States of Nigeria to succeed is visionary leadership. It means we should have a system that filters our best candidates for leadership positions in the public sector. This system must recognise merit and the capability of those vying for office bearing in mind that we also need to achieve a sense of balance and equity. There is no region in Nigeria that cannot produce good leaders who will serve well and refuse to abuse the public trust.
After 60 years of independence, we should look at the wisdom in Pastor Adeboye’s proposal for a new system of government that is uniquely Nigerian. We also need men and women of goodwill who are selfless to take up the leadership challenge and lead Nigeria to a glorious height; that is where we ought to be by now – a multi-trillion dollar economy status. The late author and novelist, Chinua Achebe, while lamenting the Nigerian situation, said, “Nigeria is what it is because its leaders are not what they should be.” God bless Nigeria.
Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng).