A country is said to be founded on a solid foundation when its goals, ideals and aspirations are clear-cut and makes conscious efforts towards attaining the benefits of nationhood and nation building. This is achieved when political scientists say “the centripetal forces are greater than the centrifugal forces.”
Every nation undergoes embryonic stages. These teething problems are overcome only if its goals of nationhood are well defined and accepted freely by all its citizens. Beyond that, any attempt at coercing by deceit, manipulation, or bringing together people with diverse history of origin into one country, without clear defined goals and aspirations would amount to an acephalous and unrewarding gyration geared at chaos.
Professor Ade Ajayi, emeritus professor of history in his celebrated lecture “National Question in Historical Perspective” stressed elaborately the essence of Law, Justice and Equity as basic ingredients for nation building and the emergence of national unity and stability. A society based on a proper law would be orderly and prosperous. The purpose of law according to Frederic Bastiat in his book “The Law” is to prevent injustice from reigning…Justice is achieved only when injustice is absent. The Law is chiefly used to defend life, liberty, and property.
Clearly stated, no Nation can strive unless its laws are just and respected to a certain degree. Similarly, when law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. This can lead to the disintegration of the country in a disoriented fashion, particularly in a situation of a non agreed principle or ideals for nation building as is the case with Nigeria. It is therefore not surprising to note that Nigeria as a nation has a people with different destinies, since the component parts that make up the nation are not agreed on what ideal or philosophy or even what type of nation they expect to have.
Several writers have described Nigeria as a unique federation. Its unity clings precariously to the fringe of suppressed aspiration. It is only during sports events that you have a truly united Nigeria. Other than that, I make haste to state the obvious that such unity does not exist within the remotest contemplation based on the events in the past and the present. Since the historic decision of the 1914 amalgamation, the country was not oiled towards nationhood. It was ruled as different people only joined together for administrative and economic convenience. Even after 40 years of the Luggardian mistake, Nigerians are not bold enough to correct and address these fundamental flaws. One of the basic issues are what type of government Nigerians want, the aspirations, ideals and more importantly, whether Nigerians want to remain together and if yes on what conditions.
The absence of answers to these issues have fuelled the recent call to address the National Question through a Sovereign National Conference and in its absence the more radical call has been for the disintegration of the country with the moderates asking for a confederacy as the only answer to the problem.
To many scholars and writers, one issue in the National Question ultimately will untie all the rest. This is because all the issues affecting our federation are apparently linked to one another, therefore any solution proffered will ultimately solve the rest. The National Question has been viewed by the likes of notable historian Bala Usuman as being defined by whose interest it seeks to protect. To buttress that fact is to see it in the dimension of the various agenda canvassed by the proponent of the SNC or those wanting the federation to be restructured and those not in support.
The Izons, Ogonis and other Niger-Delta region ethnic nationalities have long started their call for self-determination in other to use their oil wealth to improve the life of its people. They are concerned with the dangers done to their environment and the inequitable share of the nations wealth which they currently produce the largest share. In the words of Late Saro-Wiwa, the present revenue formula adopted by the Government amounts to “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and trying to kill the hen that lays the golden egg.
The Igbos and Yorubas in the east and west also want an equitable entity where a Nigerian will be protected, and his right to live anywhere with his property, and his basic freedom to religion and life guaranteed. They argue that the federal structure as it is presently composed gives an undue advantage to a region and that this structural imbalance being a product of the 1914 mistake, should not be allowed to continue. Central to the problem is the resource allocation and resource distribution and election.
The Hausa/fulani in the North find the call for restructuring the present federal structure as a ploy to deprive and deny the northerners of whatever remains of their only share of the nation which to them is political advantage based on their supposedly numeric advantage. The reason being that “trait or street unwritten wisdom hold the view that the south is more educationally /economically advanced than the north” therefore, political advantage must – as a matter of courtesy – reside in the north either through the ballot box or military intervention. This has so far been the case.
The Middle belt region has always wanted a break from the claws of the domineering far northern neighbors and they have had nothing to show for it in terms of development. With their ranks swelling in the military, they have been able to create more states for the region to provide further development. Yet the middle belt basically asks that, having suffered marginalization too long, they are asking for equity and a just nation. It then could be seen why many Nigerians from all shades are too uncomfortable to discuss the defect of the federation. Nigerians cannot be fooled again with the N.P.N. motto “one nation, one destiny.”
After 42 years, Nigeria is like a child learning to crawl, pretending to know how to walk properly. Every Nigerian knows what is wrong with the federation depending on whose side of the divide the person belongs. This has created a tense mistrust. Equally, every Nigerian knows what the solution to the problem is and the different approaches to solving the problem. Some posit that the solution lies with the constitution. Others strongly feel SNC duly convened to discuss the National Question will solve it. Another group believes that the present legislature should be handed the responsibilities. Similarly others seek total break up.
The truth of the matter is that Nigeria has for a long time practiced a somewhat confused system of government. Our various leaders pretend to practice and profess federalist ideals. What operates now is definitely not federalism but a unitary government under the guise of federalism. Even though there exists no clear cut standard of federalism anywhere in the world, the basic standard features for federalism to work is a revenue sharing formula based on derivation, and a clearly stated share of responsibility, powers and functions between the component parts and the federal government. Federalism enhances competition among the component states and an independent means of generating revenue. Federalism does not presuppose strangulation of the states by the federal government through using federal wealth in such a way as to deny any group of their equal legitimate use or benefits of such resources. As a system of government, federalism guarantees the right to self-determination of those who feel dissatisfied or insecure in the union without being forced upon to remain. It is a system that ensures mutual co-operation and co-existence. A system that allows the federating units to contribute a quota to maintain the federal government from its share of derived revenue allocation and not vice versa. It encourages states to develop at their own pace.
It is therefore the inability to honestly tackle these fundamental steps that compound the agitation for break up. The present “undefined” system is viewed as a calculated means of enthroning injustice and promoting marginalization – a product of 1914. The situation is not that of a hopeless one. It takes determination, sincerity, trust and love filled with feeling of oneness for Nigerians to get Nigeria on the path of glory. Understanding, tolerance as a virtue must be exercised by all. Civic education should be encouraged in our primary and secondary schools. Issues of Statism must be discouraged and all other obstacle should gradually be removed toward providing the platform for harmony and peaceful coexistence. Once this is not done, the ideal of one united nation will at best be a utopian imagination.