By Nwokedi Nworisara
Recently Bayelsa State played host to one of Nigeria’s foremost thinkers ,the Nobel Laureate, Prof ‘ Wole Soyinka ,who was visiting the Ijaw National Academy and celebrating his birthday, and there was a consensus between the Professor and the host Governor Henry Seriake Dickson that the Nigerian union is negotiable but they prefer to sustain one nation.
Ever since and even before this event, many people have come out to call for restructuring of Nigeria. Some advocates even go further to suggest a true federalism or even confederal arrangement with weak centre. However there are still thinkers like Nnamdi Kanu, Olisa Agbakoba who insist that a part ‘Biafra’ should be allowed to attain complete Independence.
With the highest respect for the patriotism that brought an intellectually sound governor and a Nobel Laureate rubbing minds to proffer for us a way, and thereby throwing the floor open, there is still need here for deeper critical thinking on this issue to avoid Nigeria descending into another merry-go-round on the renegotiation or restructuring issue.
I am concerned that we get it right this time around. I know how Nigerians felt when our hopes that President Jonathan would restructure Nigeria were dashed. The reason being that intellectuals were so taken by the prospect for a Southern leader that there was no more commensurate push for change of structure. I remember when I differed with the Nobel laureate and the Save Nigeria group over whether the structure determines good governance or the person occupying the office. My lone voice was drowned at that time. I had been insistent that the structure determines how well the leader would act and advocated that getting a change of structure was more important than pushing the President Jonathan into power. But our learned colleagues thought otherwise and here we are today. We are back to square one.
Going through history, I have found out that the Nigerian union of 1960 was perhaps the best document that Nigerians ever had. The document that was indeed closest to the laws of nature and the natural process of development for each of the peoples. Of course it wasn’t perfect, nothing is actually perfect in this world but it was a document that could be built upon. It was a good foundation. Unfortunately this document has never really been allowed to be. It was never really implemented. Starting from the first year of independence there were concerted attempts by the various units and groups not to build upon this foundation but rather to scatter it. The prevailing sentiment then was that it was a British document protecting colonial interest. Today we know better. The structure that was known as the Tripod was a well thought out structure customized for Nigeria, bearing 50 years of British colonial experience as well as more than two decades of self rule experiments. There had been constitutional conferences in Nigeria and London leading up to this Independence document. There were a surfeit of pan-Nigerian intellectual inputs into the document. It had more Nigerian interests protected than what we have today. The Document was properly produced and scored into music for better and wider comprehension of the citizens in their various levels of existence. This process made it possible for Nigerians to point out quickly the core objective of the Nigerian State ( To build a nation where no man is oppressed) something that led to unrivaled consensus across the country, north, South ,East and West for independence. This singular situation has never been reached again in Nigerians history. Now what you can get is majorly sectionalized voices, everyone thinking primordially about his area and its primary interests before what is nationally expedient.
My argument stands out to say; Yes it is true that what Nigeria stands in reality today is not what the founding fathers wanted it to be and facing us are the ugly symptoms leading our intellect to take decisions for immediate gratification not minding that we are still a nation, an organic union which ensures that the decisions we make today takes national effect not sectional one. So how do we sit down under such a sectional atmosphere to consider national question without descending into only resolving in the short run symptoms of the problem, abandoning the root causes and postponing the evil day?. To avoid such situations that will not serve any of us in the long run, it is better to go back for solution to the only time we had true national consensus devoid of sectional considerations ,when we produced a document that was unfortunately never implemented. That was the 1960 independence constitution that became the 1963 republican constitution by way of removing the last vestige of colonial control. But what did we get? We began to change the solid structure in 1964 less than a year later, when we created the Mid -West Region thereby destroying a delicate power balance and pitching the North against the South, creating suspicion that the South wanted to increase its power over the North. So the consensus and trust was broken by one singular seemingly innocent act that finally cascaded Nigeria into an avoidable civil war and military rule.
Our collective duty today is first of all to comprehend and understand that our infantile attempts at sectional supremacy, power struggle has failed us, our children and this nation. That Nigeria remains organic no matter how many states we create or local governments, that the advantage we seek in politics is only ephemeral and our victory pyrrhic but never really fulfilling since the eternal yardstick remains Nigeria as a whole. That Nigeria can still fulfill our individual and collective dreams in life if allowed by us once again to stand on her only viable structure through our participation and prayers. That secession of part is not a cost effective way to achieve happiness and fulfillment since we would still have to partake in a heterogeneous world now becoming a global village. So what is more important is that we understand that the structure determines how good is the governance and the people living in it.
As to renegotiation, in Igbo culture one does not really sit in judgement over the decisions his father or grand fathers took because he or she is also the product of such bad or good decisions. Of course one can criticize it and seek to make sure the same road is not taken by him at present. I believe we have similar customs across board. If ones mother was a harlot or conceived him through a rape, and now one is respectable in society the Igbo culture sees such sitting in judgement or renegotiation as renunciation of ones self. So the culture frowns generally at such moves.
In the same vein a man that introduced a style in a game cannot just pull out of it while the game lasts. It is even worse when you designed the journey and called upon your brothers to join you along the part they had not understood properly but you cajoled them along and even conceded the leadership at a point to get them going with you. After they have come to enjoy the journey then suddenly you say you want to pull out of the journey. Since truly they don’t even know where the vehicle is arriving at, there is a likelihood that they will be hostile to your request. It may even be seen as a betrayal of the others. Maybe its better you accept some blame and work to get control of this vehicle to put things right rather than attempting to jump down.
Nigeria has become a building of concrete walls and rooms inhabited by people. The house building plan itself may have been bastardized by later ignorant managers but generation have known it as home .These people do not like to be taken out of their comfort zones by changes so when one whole floor wants to leave the building, they know that it means that the entire building has to come down and they do not view lightly. It becomes a threat even though they know that the building is not even giving them proper shade as planned. It may indeed be better that we all join hands to ensure that the wrong practices of covering some parts of the building with corrugated roofing sheets ,others asbestos and still some with just raffia palm is discouraged because we are all living in one building and we have no other building to go to if this one falls.
I have reduced these explanations to such simple pictures to get us to understand that time has come for us to look beyond mondäne politicking and focus on the pan Nigerian solution so that we do not unconsciously sustain the undesirable status quo in our present quest to restructure or renegotiate our union.