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Unending Insecurity, Presidential Primaries and Injustice: Restructuring or Separation as a Desideratum
Bola A. Akinterinwa
Today is June 12, a date set aside in 2000 as ‘Abiola Day’, then as ‘Nigeria’s Democracy Day’ under President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) since 6 June 2018. Before then, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, made every May 29 the ‘Democracy Day.’ By Democracy Day, two points are intrinsic in it. First is to remember the very day Chief M.K.O. Abiola won the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was the fairest, freest, and most credible election devoid of ethno-religious bigotry and political chicanery ever organised in Nigeria’s election history. However, the election victory of Chief Abiola was unpatriotically jettisoned by the Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, under the pretext that some politico-military stakeholders were not ready to accommodate the election results.
Interestingly, how can an election that took place be annulled? It is not possible to annul a fait accompli. In the same vein, it makes very little sense to talk about annulling election results that had been made known to the general public. The election results, as published, clearly showed that Chief Abiola won without any jot of doubt. An election that took place cannot be annulled. It cannot be disagreed with because it is already a fait accompli. However, the election results, which cannot be annulled, can be agreed or disagreed with. Agreeing with or disagreeing with does not neutralise the fact of their existence. This is what the marking or celebration of every June 12 was meant to keep alive.
Secondly, when Nigeria acceded to national sovereignty on October 1st, 1960 parliamentary democracy was adopted as the system of government. In a democracy, particularly, under a pure democracy, laws are made directly by the voting majority and the interests of the majority are generally well protected. The interests of the minority are not so protected. Under a republican system, laws are made by representatives of the people and the laws must comply with the Constitution, considered the grundnorm and which requires the protection of the rights of the minorities from any political tyranny of the majority.
n other words, in a pure democracy, be it under direct, representative, or constitutional democracy, authority always belongs to the people; all laws are made by the majority, who, as representatives, have the right to override existing rights; democracy generally protects the political will of the people; and no constraints are placed on the government. On the contrary, under a republican system, power only belongs to individuals under a Constitutional Republic, Parliamentary Republic, Presidential Republic, Federal Republic and Theocratic Republic. In this case, laws are made by elected representatives of the people. Emphasis is on the Constitution, which protects the rights of everyone. Unlike in a democracy under which there are no constraints on Government, there are from time to time constraints on Government. In Nigeria, it is the federal system of government and Presidential Republic that are operated but recklessly. These constraints led to the disruption of the First Republic, 1960-1966 and of the Second Republic, 1979-1983. The Third Republic never took off (1992-1993). Consequently, marking June 12 is also to remember the return of power to civilians.
Injustice and Violent Brutalities
Political governance in Nigeria is interesting principally because of the intrigues always involved. It is largely predicated on chicanery and injustice, on the one hand, and on the use of brute force to advocate political objectives, on the other. Government admits that there is terrorism and that the terrorists are foreigners, thus giving the impression that there is no problem between and among the peoples of Nigeria. Whereas the major dynamics of insecurity in Nigeria are dishonesty and selfishness on the one hand, and both religious and political bigotry, on the other. In all cases, however, there is very little regard for implications for national unity and sustainable development. Politics is always played as if there is never insecurity in the land. Though the government is insolvent, the PMB administration donates to Afghanistan to show the untrue solvency of Nigeria.
One good illustration of dishonesty in politics is the particular issue of zoning. Considering that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society, a country of many countries, the need to reflect equity, fairness, and justice in the governance of Nigeria, it was rightly agreed by the political parties that the presidency of the country should be rotated between the North and the South. In this regard, it is expected that when a president of Nigeria is elected from the North and he or she serves two terms of four years each, it must be the turn of the South to produce the next president.
It is also believed that, if one region of the North produces the president, another region of the North should be considered for the position when it is again the turn of the North, in other words, there will be micro-zoning within the North. This is ditto for the Southern turns. In the 2022 presidential primaries, this principle of zoning and micro-zoning was stricto sensu, not complied with.
For instance, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for various reasons of force majeure, decided at the last minute to zone the choice of its standard bearer to the South. The party leaders initially toyed with the idea of consensus, which, in itself, has a dictatorial character. PMB, who is also adjudged the leader of the party wanted to be allowed to present his anointed candidate for the primaries. The challenges created by the contestants, many of whom refused ab initio to accept the politics of consensus and the rejection of PMB’s suggestion of an anointed candidate eventually compelled PMB to jettison both the idea of consensus and anointed candidate.
And true enough, initially PMB told Nigerians that he had a preferential candidate to succeed him but that he would not reveal his name so that he would not be neutralised before the election time. However, he said he had no anointed candidate at the last minute before the election. The critical point of observation here is the Northern APC governors who recommended that the APC standard bearer should be allowed to come from the South but without mentioning the issue of micro-zoning.
In this regard, Yoruba Southwest has had opportunity of providing the President of Nigeria, though under the People’s Democratic Party, and the Vice President under the APC. The South-South has also produced President Goodluck Jonathan. It is basically the Southeast that is yet to be given the opportunity of producing a President of Nigerian and should have been, in the spirit of fairness and justice, be assisted to produce a candidate-designate.
Even though the Southeast politicians do not appear to be politically dependable, for their apparent political selfishness or non-belief in the need for justice and in Igbo presidency, there is still the need for such equity and justice in nation-building. It is unbelievable, but true that Igbo delegates did not vote for the Igbo presidential candidates. They voted for the non-Igbo candidates. In fact, apart from Rotimi Amaechi, though from Rivers State, who came second with a distant score of 316 votes, when compared to that of the winner, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who scored 1,271 votes, other Igbo candidates scored woefully: Ogbonnaya Onu, former Governor of Abia State, had only one vote, while Dave Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State, had thirty-eight votes. This was not the ideal situation expected. If the Igbo people strongly believed that it is their turn to present the president, the commitment must be there. But possibly for reasons of monetisation of voting, Igbo delegates did not have the commitment required for self-promotion. And even if they did not have that culture, other Nigerians, especially the Yoruba politicians in the PDP and APC should have collaborated to ensure the micro-zoning of the presidential to the Southeast.
As regards violent brutalities, there are three main dynamics: Islamic fundamentalism, open grazing controversy, and alleged Fulanisation-cum Islamisation agenda. All these dynamics put together, coupled with the don’t care attitude of PMB on allegations of his openly promoting nepotistic policies in the governance of Nigeria. His disregard for the principles of fairness and Federal Character has sent different signals of suspicion that, indeed, he has a Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda.
On Islamic fundamentalism, apart from the publicly declared intention to Islamise Nigeria, beginning from the North, the Boko Haram put their Islamic flag in every town or community they conquered and occupied. President Muammar Gaddafi explained this intention differently and more clearly when he said that Nigeria would never have peace until the country is partitioned into Muslim North and Christian South. Since Gaddafi made known his point, has Nigeria known peace? Even if the Nigerian military says the Boko Haram has been desecrated or neutralised, or technically defeated, boko haramism has only changed in style, while the insurrection is still gradually being strengthened.
In fact, Nigeria is currently playing host to brutalities through allegations of Islamic blasphemy, which are many. One of the recent cases is that of Deborah Samuel, the Christian student of Shehu Shagari college of Education, Sokoto. She was gruesomely murdered in May 2022 allegedly for blasphemy. After being killed, she was set ablaze and the assailants took to the street rejoicing and violently protesting against the arrest of the assailants. The problem here is the jungle justice and not like it was the case of Yahaya Sharif, 22 years old, who was sentenced on 10 August 2020 by a Kano State Shariah court for the offence of blasphemy against the prophet in his song in March 2020.
Besides, what about the indiscriminate massacre of congregants at the Saint Francis Catholic Church in Owo State? Government says it was the making of ISWAP? Government cannot ascribe responsibility for the senseless killings to ISWAP when it is on record that the same PMB administration gave all illegally residing Africans in Nigeria, many of whom not to say most, were West African Fulani people, to regularise their illegal stay within six months. Instead of sanctioning illegality, it is encouraged. The Governor of Bauchi State, Mr Bala Mohammed, similarly told Nigerians in 2019 that foreign Fulani herders would benefit from the RUGA initiative (Channels TV, 16 September 16, 2019). In May 2022, he also said that efforts were also being made to settle nomadic Fulani in West Africa in Nigeria. Why is Government complaining about the ISWAP when it has consciously provided a legal basis for the ISWAP to take advantage of it?
Specifically on the question of herdsmen-farmers dispute, the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has clearly drawn attention to the belief amongst Southern Nigerians in general. Nnamdi Kanu said on 6th February, 2014 that ‘the Fulani herdsmen will be armed and encouraged to slaughter us with impunity and their masters will protect them. They are coming to ensure that my people (Igbo) are enslaved forever … They are coming to elevate Hausa-Fulani supremacy, to reposition the security agencies by sacking all competent hands and replace them with their kinsmen to drive their ethnic domination of the Biafrans and other tribes in Nigeria.’ This is a common feeling in southern Nigeria.
Put differently, the Government, truly or not, is arming the herdsmen; the herdsmen kill with impunity, and that In May 2022, he also said there is a Hausa-Fulani supremacy or ethnic domination agenda. The foregoing are some of the main dynamics of insecurity in Nigeria and which, for the umpteenth time, we repeat have the potential to destroy Nigeria permanently. The foreign policy scenarios are therefore self-explanatory.
Desideratum: Restructuring or Separation?
As one Yoruba proverb has it, if you do not know where you are going to, you must know where you are coming from. Most unfortunately, however, in the context of Nigerian politics, Nigerians, especially the political elite, do not know where they are coming from, but are very sure of where they are going to. The destination is only known to themselves. This is the contradiction of the Nigerian project. The national question is quo vadis? No one has a sure answer on the destination of Nigeria’s political pilots. This is precisely why insecurity is waxing stronger, why presidential primaries consciously disregard the need for justice and equity, and also why there is the need to either restructure Nigeria, in which case the various political suspicions are tabled for reconciliation to avoid going to the extent of seeking the application of the principles of self-determination, or in the absence of political will to restructure, make it ‘to thy tent o Israel’ or separation should be allowed to serve as new basis for determining the making of a new Nigeria.
This is how an end can be put to the agitation for a Muslim North and a Christian South. Nigeria has been partitioned already on paper, but not in the mania of the 1884-1885 partitioning of Africa, in which case a sociological nation was split consciously along international borders. For instance, along the Nigeria-Benin Republic border, some Nigerian and Beninois families have their lounge and bedrooms on Nigerian territory and the other parts of the house on Beninois territory.
Whenever there is a case for arrest, people move to the other side to avoid law enforcement agents, especially when they come for payment of taxes. This time, it will be partitioning along full ethnic lines: Yoruba nation, Hausa or Fulani nation, Igbo nation, etc.
Without any shadow of doubt, restructuring has, for a long time, been a controversial issue in Nigeria. Yinka Odumakin has given several reasons why there is need for restructuring of Nigeria (vide his article, “Ten Reasons to Restructure Nigeria,” Vanguard newspaper, September 19, 2017). First, Nigeria used to be a country of great promise which is no more. Restructuring will bring back the conditions for return to that golden era of public service and effective governance. Secondly, a restructured Nigeria will enable an enhanced leadership-building culture and where ‘the process of recruitment into public leadership could be better subjected to closer local security for reputation, character and track record, as against the current practice where persons with dubious reputations and questionable bonafides among their own people, are chosen into high national office as leaders.’ Thirdly, restructuring will enable a strong central government that will be responsible for national defence, immigration and diplomacy and in which the federating parts are also strong in the appropriate areas of governance.
Fourthly and more important, restructuring will put an end to the current process-incentives system in which people seek public positions only for self-aggrandizement and not for the promotion of the national interest. Fifthly, it will prevent the central government to ‘automatically pool funds un-evenly from different parts of Nigeria, while re-distributing the same funds unfairly and inequitably (at the expense of the larger contributors) among the various states and local governments.’ Sixthly, it will enable every region to have an economic-growth and wealth-creating zone and put an end to the current system in which every state look forward to monthly allocations to the tune of 90% from Abuja. Seventhly, it will put an end to the current system of forced equalization of ever-downwards education opportunities across the whole country just to ensure federal character. It will surely compel investment of extra efforts to bring the low-performing students in the North up to the level of better-performing students elsewhere in the country. Eighthly, and perhaps most significantly, restructuring will enable educational liberation to millions of poor children in the North as well as healthy rivalry in educational achievement.
In essence, what has the great potential to destabilise Nigeria is the conscious attempt by government to use force to grab land to promote ethnic Fulani hegemony. The attacks on the Catholic Church in Owo is an indirect manifestation of the land grabbing. Ascribing the responsibility to ISWAP is a fraudulent academic exercise by government to distort the truth.
In this regard, one cannot but therefore agree with the submission of the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu who noted in a press release that ‘any ethnic group still trapped in anachronism may be assisted to embrace modernity.’
However, ‘dispossessing communities of their ancestral lands, encouraging denizens of the forests to overrun lands belonging to her people and forcing alien bands of migrants on the local populace to live side-by-side with other communities cannot be for the purpose of animal husbandry. It raises suspicion on a grand, deliberate, persistent and insidious design to use naked force to subjugate the real owners of the land.’ Governor Akeredolu said it all and cannot be more correct. This is the mother of all reasons why people are asking for restructuring or separation. Nigerians have reached the point of decision: restructuring or separation.
Explained differently, at the epicentre of the calls for restructuring of the polity is the consideration that the operation of Nigeria’s federal system as at today sustains the subservience of the federating units to the central government. Nigeria’s current federal system does not allow for the spirit of development competitiveness as it used to be under the regionalisation system under the First Republic. Federalism of today breeds nepotism, ethnic hegemony, corruption-ridden money politics, economic poverty, deepening insecurity, and unnecessary inter-ethnic suspicions which should not be. In fact, it is the lop-sidedness in the conduct and management of national affairs that has prompted the agitation for restructuring and self-determination struggle. Politics has become the easiest and fastest means of wealth acquisition and public embezzlement. Religious fanaticism has been with impunity. In Nigeria of today, it is very dangerous to be honest and patriotic. And because of this, people adopt the common slogan of ‘joining them if you cannot beat them.’ Nigeria cannot survive based on this sloganeering. Unless there is urgent restructuring, self-determination and separation cannot but be a desideratum. It is the only solution to insecurity and injustice in Nigeria. A stitch in time saves nine.