By Yinka Odumakin
I was going to call Gen Yakubu Gowon out three weeks ago to say something on the raging debate in the country over the structure of Nigeria.I had written the piece half-way before I archived (no pun intended!) it after an inner voice told me to still hold on. I titled the write-up “Gowon,should we go on this way ?”
I will not publish that material again as the man who presided over the Nigerian un-civil war from 1967-70 and from whose name we coined “Go on with one Nigeria” already stated where he stands when he received my good friend, Senator Shehu Sani in Abuja last week .The former Head of State in his usual non-ruffling posture said: “We can restructure within one Nigeria context. I did it in 1967. We created states to stop Eastern Nigeria from seceding”.
Gen Gowon has toed the path of reason the way he did in July 1966 when Murtala Mohamned and his co-hotheads gave him a speech to take the North out of Nigeria.He called for legal advice which led to a three-day conference of the North before the idea was shelved.The old war horse obviously is persuaded that Nigeria has become unworkable .He would have been pardoned if he had joined the “Nigeria unity is not negotiable orchestra” on account of leading the war against Biafra.
Gen Gowon’s intervention came a few days after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar made his second and perhaps most seminal contribution to the restructuring debate.The full text of Atiku’s speech at Gen Usman Katsina conference is a must read from which space would only allow me to take the following excerpts:
We have over the years responded to these agitations in a variety of ways and with a variety of measures. These include the creation of states from the earlier three (and later four) regions to the current 36 states; a civil war, and other military operations in different parts of the country at different times; federal character principle; changes to revenue allocation formula; National Youth Service Corps; federal take-over or establishment and management of schools, universities, hospitals, and huge federal presence in the economy as an investor. Others include the excessive centralisation and concentration of power at the federal level and the weakening of the federating states; and amnesty for “repentant ex-militants” of the Niger Delta.
….If anything, our unity has been fragile, our democracy unstable, and our people more aggrieved by their state in the federation. We have always responded with a suspicion of the “other” in trying to deal with these challenges to our integration and democratic survival. And, quite naturally, our responses/solutions have also been, at least partly, shaped by sectional interests and sentiments. The problem though is that sometimes what is in the short-term interest of a group may not be so in the long-run. And, more importantly, nation-building requires sacrifices of some sectional interests for the overall interest of the nation and all the segments. Unless we do not think that the nation’s unity is worth sacrificing for or that the sacrifices have to be made only by others and not by us!
….Personally I believe in one strong and united Nigeria. I believe that we are stronger united, and that together our potentials are enormous. And I believe that Nigeria’s unity is worth sacrificing for.
It is not a secret that many Nigerians from outside the North hold the view that the main beneficiary of the status quo has been the North, an undifferentiated North. Sometimes they say it is the northern elite or the “Kaduna Mafia”. This sentiment, I think, stems largely from the following reasons:
- people of northern extraction being the heads of government at the national level for much of our post-independence period until 1999, during which period much of the current structure was put in place,
- the leading role that the North played in the war to keep the country united between 1967 and 1970,
- the country’s reliance on oil revenues which comes mainly from the Niger Delta, far away from the North, as well as
- what some see as a knee-jack(sic) resistance from northern elements to calls for the restructuring of the federation. Having led the federal side in the war to keep the country together, it is understandable that northern leaders would have less tolerance for what they perceive as another attempt to break up the country.
My focus here, however, is to show that the North and Nigeria have not been served well by the status quo and there is need for change. Who among us who went to primary and secondary school in the 1960s had much to do with the Federal Government? Did the northern regional government wait to collect monthly revenue allocations from Lagos before paying salaries to its civil servants and teachers or fixing its bridges and roads? In May this year the Governor of Niger State publicly stated that his state could no longer pay salaries because of dwindling federal allocations. And he is not alone. A recent report by Economic Intelligence published in a number of Nigerian newspapers showed that nine out of the 10 states with the lowest internally generated revenue are in the North. And they are among the 15 states that the report said may go bankrupt if federal allocations to states continue to decline because their IGR is less than 10% of their federal allocations. There is something wrong with the structure of this country and we must see it for what it is. Even in the unlikely event that federal allocations are shared equally among all the states, we would still be in trouble if we cannot generate revenues internally.”
As usual of our country,the knee-jerk analysis or what I call poor scholarship in our country has been to dismiss Atiku’s thoughts as borne out of his desire to get enough support for his presidential ambition.
While there is nothing wrong with that ,I am fully persuaded that thinkers should see his intervention beyond desire for office.I know about a dozen people from the North who have their eyes on the presidency in 2019 who will ensure he does not appear in their speech.
Atiku like Col Dangiwa Umar and other voices of reason from the North can clearly see where all this would end if it gets to the tipping point and snaps.They know it is better to negotiate 50% of 100 than owing 100% of zero.This is the true meaning of their Atikulation!
…Fajuyi and revisionist northern elders (2)
By Pastor Tunde Bakare
Thirdly, our current lead-ers must find courage in the heroic deed of Adekunle Fajuyi. They must find the courage to restructure; they must find the courage to reconcile aggrieved sections within the nation; they must find the courage to reintegrate into united nationhood the diverse interest groups in the Nigerian nation. Then, and only then, would we have truly honoured Adekunle Fajuyi and the ideals he died for.
In conclusion, again and again, the Yorubas have lost illustrious sons and daughters to the black hole of the National Question. What shall we say of M.K.O Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Bola Ige and others? The Yoruba people have continued to be the targets of attacks, killings, rape and kidnappings perpetrated by elements from other parts of the country such as herdsmen from the North and militants from the Niger Delta. The sacrifice of Fajuyi for a united nationhood has been forgotten.
By this, I am reminded of a classic case of the political economy of forgetfulness, the Biblical story of David the king of Israel who had a cordial relationship with Nahash the king of Ammon. After the death of Nahash, his son Hanun became king. David then sent envoys to Hanun the new king to comfort him concerning his father, but the princes of Ammon wrongly advised the new king that the well-wishers sent by David were indeed spies. So, upon the order of King Hanun, the envoys were physically abused; their beards were forcefully shaved and their garments were cut in the middle at their buttocks. The Ammonites then came up in battle against Israel and were destroyed by David’s army(2Samuel 10). This is what happens when history is forgotten and the narrative is rewritten by subsequent generations to minimize or belittle the contribution of a part to the common good.
Furthermore, I would like to point out a vital lesson in this narrative especially for those wondering about the unfolding events in our country, viz- the quality of decisions made by a leader is determined by those surrounding him and the information at his disposal. This, I believe, is one of the reasons we are enjoined to pray for those in authority so that we may live a quiet and peaceable life.
Meanwhile, Prof. Osundare has upped the ante of the lingering negotiation debate by stating that there is as yet no nation to negotiate. I believe the true Nigerian nation is a spiritual reality on the verge of a breakthrough emergence. That emerging nation must be negotiated,but we must do so not with the intent to disintegrate, but with the intent to find an acceptable framework for coexistence. As the Prof.observed, the 2014 National Conference provides a platform for negotiation that will lead to reconciliation, reintegration and restructuring. Then, and only then, can we lay claim to the appellation, “the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
May the good Lord deliver our people “from the hand of strange children whose mouth speak lying words and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. May our sons be as plants grown up in their youth and our daughters as pillars sculptured in palace style. “May our barns be full supplying all kinds of produce. May our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields. May our oxen be well laden. So that there be no breaking in or going out, that there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state. Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen and Amen.(Psalm 144:11–15; NKJV, slightly reworded).