By Charles Ogbu
This is certainly not the best of times for Nigeria. And most certainly not for the advocates of #OneNigeriaas the recent “No Devolution of Power” vote at the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives appears to have finally given a very serious form of institutional credence to the assertion that the Nigeria state is salvageable.
But, beyond the rhetoric and verbal gymnastics, there are some wildly held opinions, which the Senate vote has simply elevated to the status of fact. Here are some of them.
Let us avoid prevarications and call a spade what it is- a spade. It is not the Senate and the National Assembly (NASS) as an institution that doesn’t want a restructured Nigeria. It is the North as a region as it was the Northern Senate and House caucuses that voted ‘No’ to Devolution of power, which is a very vital component of restructuring.
Sadly, long years of military rule and the apartheid manual masquerading as the 1999 Constitution championed by mostly northern military officers have succeeded in skewing the political equation of Nigeria in favour of the North. As it stands now, the North is in a default position to hold the rest of the country to ransom and that is exactly what is happening. She gets whatever she wants no matter how scandalous such a want might seem and she ensures that what the other regions want doesn’t see the light of day, no matter how fair and just such a want might be. Even with the combination of the numerical strength of southern lawmakers, the North still has the veto power.
The North East Development Commission bill was passed into law almost before it was presented on the floor of the parliament. But, a bill to “gift” Lagos state with special status was killed. A bill to set up a development commission commission for the southeast, which unlike the North East Development Bill does not require any extra contribution from the Federal Government, was equally shut down. Before the adulterated version of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was allowed to pass a Second Reading, northern lawmakers made sure that Kano and Kaduna were included as beneficiaries of the Host Community fund even when those two northern states do not produce even a litre of oil.
No form of re-organisation of the political and economic structure of the Nigerian state (a.k.a restructuring), can be effected through the existing constitutional structure. The status-quo is terribly skewed in favour of the only region (North) currently benefiting from it and they are hell-bent on retaining the advantages to the chagrin of the restof the country and indeed the nation’s progress.
The Yorubas want true federalism. The south-south want to be in charge of their resources. Igbo elders want a well-restructured Nigeria where every region will be able to harness her full potentials and develop at her own pace. Igbo youths, under Nnamdi kanu, are agitating for a total separation from Nigeria because they believe the North, which holds the numerical advantage in every facets of state institutions here would never allow for restructuring.
Under close examination, the aspirations by the aforementioned peoples/groups are not mutually exclusive, but the bitter truth is that no amount of sophistry and beautiful poetry robed in flawless grammar will give us restructuring. The born-to-rule and born-to-reap-where-they-did-not-sow will never allow it.
Meanwhile, it was the height of naivety in the first place to assume that our Northern neighbours will willingly relinquish the undue advantages their military Heads of State gifted them with, via the fraudulent Apartheid manual that is the 1999 Constitution, without a fight.
The North will never allow for a restructured Nigeria UNLESS she is confronted with an alternative such as a determined quest for a referendum by the other component units to let Nigerian peoples decide whether they will continue to live in perpetual slavery and servitude or make quantum
It is at this point that we must all admit that the leader of Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has been right all along. The action of the Northern Senate especially caucus has further legitimised the Biafra struggle. Above all, it has buried the argument that the Biafra strong man, Kanu, should use institutionalised politics to push his quest for a referendum.
Contrary to a very popular Igbo saying, what the young man, Nnamdi Kanu, saw while lying down, the elders have refused to see even while comfortably perched ontop of iroko tree.
Our biggest mistake was antagonising the IPOB leader rather than seizing the momentous occasion his Biafra agitation gifted us with to demand, in practical terms, an end to the grave injustices and institutionalised daylight roguery in the Nigerian system.
How can it be that an “Emeka” from Akpugo-Nkanu in Enugu State must score not less than 165 to get admitted into a Federal Government Unity College, while an “Ibrahim” from Daura in Katsina state only needs to score 10 to be admitted into the same school in the same country? And paradoxically funny enough, this same Ibrahim will most likely end up as the President of Nigeria even if he decides not to finish his secondary school education, while the more intellectually endowed Emeka has less than 1% chance of even getting a job at the end of his academic journey
Why should a State like Kano have the right to operate a parallel system of government with Sharia Court (judiciary), Sharia police known as the Hisbah working under the Office of the Governor (Executive) in a supposedly secular nation, plus another very powerful body known as the Sharia Commission (legislature) in the same country where Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose, was almost crucified for setting up a security outfit to confront the marauding fulani herdsmen?
Institutionalised injustices such as these should be unacceptable even by the lowest moral standard of natural justice.
The enemies of Nigeria are not those pushing for her balkanisation due to entrenched injustices in the system. The real enemies are the beneficiaries of the unjust system who have sworn to allow neither restructuring nor a referendum for us to determine our future. It is very important that we always remember this fact.
The fact that the advocates of restructuring are yet to hit the street in protest over the NASS’ action is a grave indictment on their seriousness and collective resolve as a group.
One thing is certain, the maintainability of the status-quo IS NOT an option. Eventually, something must give.
The sad position of not just the Igbos, but every southerner today DOES NOT call for political correctness. By making a comprehensive restructuring of the system impossible, the North is only making “To your tenths O Israel” inevitable.
- Charles Ogbu, a social analyst, writes from Port Harcourt.