Is this the Nigeria of our dream? – A lecture by Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN on Ambrose Alli Day
THE MAN, PROFESSOR AMBROSE ALLI
No topic can be more befitting for a legend, a gargantuan colossus and a human prodigy, born an Esan man, but who traversed the world of academics, politics, administration, rural development and federalist beliefs, like the colossus that he was. The accomplished professor of Medicine, Morbid Anatomy and Neuro Pathology who was born on September 22, 1929, would have been 93 years old today, had his life not been cut short in a most brutish manner through obnoxious military dictatorial and fascist tendencies of the Major General Buhari –led Military Junta, which got him sentenced to 100 years imprisonment for allegedly misappropriating N983,000 only, in funds meant for a project. He never recovered from the shock, the horror, the lies, the treachery and the viciousness of the crude treatment melted out on him; all of which cut short his eventful and productive life at a mere 60, on the 22nd of September, 1989 – exactly his 60th birthday.
We are talking about the renowned political strategist, master tactician and educational czar who established over 600 Secondary schools in the then Bendel State (now Edo and Delta States). He is Professor Ambrose Folorunso Alli (Let us observe two minutes silence please). Alli may have died; but he lives in the hearts and souls of all true lovers of democracy, federalist principles, rule of law, human development and good governance. This University – The Ambrose Alli University – is one of the fitting and remarkable and remarkable landmarks named after the genius, to immortalise his name.
The answer to this question “is this the Nigeria of our dreams”, is as obvious as it is disturbing. Sixty years after independence, it is to Nigeria’s eternal shame that she has failed woefully in applicable indices, on all fronts and applying all relevant criteria. From its position, at independence, when it was widely tooted as possessing the potential to become the giant of Africa, Nigeria has spectacularly underperformed and underachieved, so consistently that it has become something of a by word for state failure. It is laughed at and mocked before the comity of nations. India, a once third world country like Nigeria, has hit the stars. She has developed her first cervical cancer vaccine; joined the world’s naval elites with her first home-grown aircraft carrier. Do you know that India manufactures aircraft except its turbine engine? Do you know that India is the 4th largest passenger vehicle producer in the world, and that she produced 4.06 million cars in 2018 -2019? Does Nigeria manufacture a bicycle?
NIGERIAN, AN ARTIFICIAL CREATION
Nigeria’s creation was fundamentally flawed with the British super-imposing Northern hegemony and dominance over Southern Nigeria. Nigeria is an artificial creation. Indeed, the name Nigeria was given to her by a young British journalist, Miss Flora Louisa Shaw (who later married Lord Lugard) on 8th January, 1897. What is today known as Nigeria was ruled by the Royal Niger Company around 1886 to 1899. Following the revocation of its character, the Royal Niger company sold its holdings in the territory which later became Nigeria to British for £865,000. This was the price for which Nigeria was purchased. (i.e., about N 735. 2 Million only). By 1900, the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate passed from the Royal Niger Company to Britain. By 1st January, 1914, these two territories were amalgamated as the Colony and Protectorates of Southern and Northern Nigeria. The fusion of these two territories was done for political and commercial reasons without any consideration on the preferences of the inhabitants of these territories. These people already had their set ways of life – the Benin and Oyo Empires; Hausa City States; Igbo City States; Kanem Bornu, Ile-Ife civilization cradle of the Yoruba race. We already had great historical figure like Oba Ovonranmwen Nogbaisi of Benin Empire, King Nana of Itsekiri, King Jaja of Opobo, Queen Amina, Mal Idriss Alooma, Queen Idia, etc.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Tafawa Balewa, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Joseph Tarka, Chief Dennis Osadebe, Herbert Macaulay, etc., who fought, unarguably, for the flag independence of Nigeria from Britain, in reality, projected the ideas of their enclaves. For example, while people from the Southern part of Nigeria craved for independence in the 50’s, the people from Northern Nigeria felt the timing was wrong. Chief Anthony Enahoro’s motion for Nigeria’s Independence suffered setbacks in parliament on several occasions with the northern members of parliament staging a walkout as a consequence of the motion. However, in 1953, Enahoro initiated move to self-government through the motion he sponsored in the Western House of Assembly. This eventually led to Nigeria’s independence on 1st October, 1960. While it could be argued that the people currently occupying the territory called Nigeria were never consulted before the amalgamation of 1914, all of them lifted the Nigerian flag the moment the Union Jack was lowered in October 1, 1960.
Many who felt granting independence to Nigeria would usher in unprecedented growth, were surprised to see unprecedented corruption, looting of the nation’s treasury and mismanagement of the country by the supposedly founding fathers of the Country. The military that came to salvage the problem on 15th January, 1966, even compounded it by their lop-sided manner of cleansing the system. There is a conspiracy theory that the Igbos used the coup to pave way for General Aguiyi-Ironsi to be Head of State of Nigeria. The Northern members of the Nigerian Army did not hold back as they retaliated over the killing of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Maimalar and others by also slaughtering many innocent Igbo soldiers and civilians through a genocidal ethnic-cleansing. This eventually led to the Nigerian Civil War. There have been many coup d’états in Nigeria since the 1966 coup d’état. However, since the year 1999, there has not been any coup. There have been different agitations springing up in some parts of the country.
If there is one thing all Nigerians are agreed upon, it is the belief – fueled by disappointment and frustration – that have we have failed to fulfil our potential as a nation, we are a long way from living up to the dreams of our founding fathers. Right from our 21st year of independence (when we hypothetically came of age), till date, few issues have consistently featured in our national discourse (particularly in the media) as the National Debate. By this is meant the seeming past time of virtually every Nigerian to bemoan our experience as a nation. Simply put, Nigeria is a failed, broken nation. Apply every conceivable yardstick, according to every knowledgeable (and not-so-knowledgeable) expert, the country is not just a disaster waiting to happen – IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.
Virtually every thing that can possibly go wrong, is wrong with our country: insecurity, collapsed infrastructure, failure of the public school system, an economy in shambles (epitomized by the free-fall of the value of the Naira and spiraling inflation), an unremitting insurgency, etc. The list is endless. With such a litany of woes, it is no surprise that many Nigerians have since given upon their country. But is all hope lost? Is the situation irredeemable? Can Nigerian be salvaged? If so, what does it take? As usual, the first step in tackling any problem is accurate diagnosis. Accordingly, in attempting to deconstruct “The Nigerian Conundrum”, the first task is to assess the scale of the challenge –to probe the depth of the rot.
In his book “The Trouble with Nigeria,” Professor Chinua Achebe surmised that Nigeria’s problem “is simply and squarely a failure of leadership . . . The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, the challenge of personal example, which are the hallmarks of true leadership”. He concluded that, with good leaders, we can overcome the challenges of tribalism, lack of patriotism, social injustice, mediocrity, indiscipline and corruption. Those sentiments were echoed a generation later by a notable scholar, who, when asked to identify the key “Issues/ Problems with Fix(ing) Nigeria “offered the following response:
- Complex ethno-religious composition that gives rise to tribalism,
- High power distance culture that makes institutional leaders see themselves as ‘Lords’ that cannot be questioned rather than as servants of the people,
- Corruption on steroids,
- Weak institutions, and
- High illiteracy/poverty rate, that make it easier for the political elite to weaponise poverty.
I will add, state captured by elite buccaneers and weak followership/civil society.
As pointed out Ehi Braimah “Bad planning, wrong choices/priorities, egregious greed and corruption are largely responsible for Nigeria’s fall from grace”. By that, he was alluding to a time (in 1974), when Nigeria was reportedly so prosperous, that she lent money to the International Monetary Fund, the IMF. The source of that revelation, Alhaji’ Abubakar Alhaji, the then Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, identified over-dependence on oil and the huge cost of governance at all levels as contributing to the comatose state of our economy.
A FUNNY COUNTRY: MISPLACED PRIORITIES
Naija & her ways
79,000 Nigerian muslims spent $5,000 each to go to Saudi Arabia to stone and kill the devil with stones. $395 Million from a poor underdeveloped Country like Nigeria. Saudi economy is growing through Tourism. 50,000 Christians went to lsrael to Kiss Jesus statue there and attach JP to their names. $250 Million ==$645 Million – (over Half a BILLION Dollars )… $1.3 billion. Let’s not convert it to naira because some of us will not sleep, but let’s try. (782 billion naira, Over half a Trillion naira.)
This amount can be used to fund fresh graduates who have innovative Ideas and in turn, create millions of Jobs. Since we have been traveling to Israel and Saudi Arabia, has our Economy improved? What is Government’s business with pilgrimages? What is wrong with us?
Africans (especially Nigerians) what Is wrong with our logic?
Nowhere is the rot more noticeable than in the value of the Naira. From a high of US dollars to one naira back in the Seventies, it is shocking that the Naira has now plunged to an all-time low of N740 to the dollar. In terms of education, our public universities have been shut for the umpteenth time because of a prolonged strike (8 months strikes and counting) by lecturers over lack of payment of a mere living wage. Apart from threatening to proscribe their union, the Federal Government’s latest clearly desperate, response, was to ask affected students to sue the lecturers’ union.
Meanwhile, an assortment of Non- State Actors – from armed serenaded bandits to kidnappers and terrorists – have laid vicious siege on large swathes of the country, holding hapless citizens hostage with their campaign of unremitting terror and brigandage. No one and nowhere is either safe or immune – including the capital city, Abuja, the President’s home State (and home-town) of Kastina and Daura, respectively. Some of those abducted have remained in captivity for almost a decade (the Chibok and Dapchi hostages), Infrastructure such as prisons and trains/rail tracks are targeted seemingly at will – with little or no resistance from those paid to safeguard such assets and our very lives. With the next general elections half a year away, the political class have resumed their 4-yearly ritual of promise-making and mudslinging. Nigeria practices Electionocracy, plutocracy, gerotencracy, judocracy, Executocracy, and legistocracy but never democracy as defined by Abraham Lincoln in his November, 19, 1863 Gettys Burg declaration of democracy being a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The only difference this time is that the usual suspects have been joined by a seeming upstart who is giving the former a run for their money. Is he a genuine hope of a break from the past? Does he represent the future which his supporters (and they are legion) portray him to be?
THE SPECTACULAR FAILURE OF BUHARI
Time will tell. If the late Chinua Achebe and other informed analysts are correct (and there is no reason to believe that they are not), the historical failure of governance at all levels continues to this day with the incumbent Government at the center led by President Muhammed Buhari being particularly blameworthy. This is not political partisanship, but simply an informed, objective, conclusion from verifiable facts.
We all recall the enthusiasm and hope which greeted his election in 2015. The belief was that, at the very least, being a retired General, he would deal decisively with the rampant insecurity in the form of the dreaded, now proscribed Boko Haram terrorist organization within 3 months. Beyond that, there was also a perception (perhaps based on his seeming no-nonsense persona), that he would not condone official corruption. A young man Mohammed Isah) trekked from Lagos to Lokoja; Dahiru Buba from Gombe to Abuja, Suleiman Hashiman walked 750 kilometers from Lagos to Abuja (1.12 hours per day to celebrate Buhari’s victory in 2015. Mohammed Kabiru rode a bike from Kaduna to Abuja. Such euphoria that a messiah had come at last. Alas, both beliefs have turned out to be misplaced, as both ills have not only thrived under his watch, they have increased exponentially. The situation appears to be worse than it might actually be because of the President’s apparent insensitivity, as he always gives the impression (from media interviews and his famed dead-pan and inscrutinable ‘body language’) that he is detached from reality. His frequent foreign trips (some call them junkets) lend credence to this – especially their timing in the midst of the latest outrage by the aforesaid Non-State Actors. To many Nigerians, the President is simply not in charge – even if he is in office. He has perhaps never heard of Harry Truman’s dictum that “the buck stops here”.
Nigeria’s passport holders are regularly isolate for special checks and scrutiny in foreign airports because they have earned, as a class, a reputation for crime – especially economic crime. But, this is just the tip of the ice-berg. Among ourselves, back home, we are routinely uncharitable, unkind and unpatriotic. We see public property (especially public funds) as bona vacantia (ownerless property) to the mismanaged and, where possible plundered at will – with impunity. Critical institution which ought to make a difference in curbing such excesses – particularly law enforcement organizations and the judiciary – are themselves either gasping for breath, playing catch-up, or in some instances, wilfully complicit in the various malfeasances of the polity.
SOCIETAL VALUES DISAPPEARED
Our values have gone thrown overboard and jettisoned in the mad rush by seemingly everyone (but particularly our youths, the supposed future of tomorrow) to get rich quick by all means, fair or foul. Religious institutions are not left out. Many of them glorify wealth and openly glorify its acquisition and its conspicuous display, with celebrity clergy now rubbing shoulders with the jet-set and becoming as glamorous as rock stars, actors, politicians and other celebrities. Known thieves and celebrated criminals are given front rows in churches; front row mats in mosques and are garlanded with national honours and doctorate degrees in our university. All these in a atmosphere were, as a result of the activities of a motley crew of terrorists, bandits and kidnappers, life has – to quote John Hobbes – became increasingly solitary nasty, brutish and short.This is not an exaggeration, as even egg-heads – university lecturers – have joined in the scramble for the good things of life and they are presently involved in an industrial action (for the umpteenth time) which is in its seventh month – and it doesn’t look like it will end any time soon.
In short, everything that can possibly go wrong with Nigeria seems to have been done or is doing so. There is seemingly no end in sight as the outlook is all doom and gloom. The political class must be sampled out for blame – for obvious reasons: they control the levers of power. Unfortunately, they have failed, calamitously, to wield it for the public good and have, collectively, been responsible – more than any other group of Nigerians (except, perhaps, the Military) – for the sorry state in which we find ourselves. Each of them, to a man (or woman), has been singularly (and shockingly) selfish clannish, uninspiring and largely incompetent and unpatriotic. As role models, they have been anything except that. On the contrary, Nigerians are routinely regaled with stories of official corruption and graft, which in some instances, assumed bizarre – if not comical – dimensions, with an assortment of wild animals – from chimpanzees, to snakes and even termites being blamed for the disappearance of humongous amounts of cash in public coffers. Civil servants have graduated from crèches under President Yar’ Adua and Jonathan where they fleeced the country of few billions, to tertiary and post-graduate institution where they now pocket hundred of billion of naira.
It is hardly surprising, then, that an increasing number of young Nigerians have become disillusioned and lost hope in their country and, as a consequence, taken their destinies in their hands by choosing to vote with their feet and emigrating, some by road, other through the deserts and seas.
The demographics of those involved is diverse – from the not-so-educated to professionals, with Nigeria doctors and nurses, in particularly, reportedly among the highest arrivals in the EU,UK, Canada, the US, the UAE and elsewhere.
The cost of this obvious brain-drain is incalculable and it remains to be seen how it will affect our development and future generations. Beyond even all that, it is equally clear that, politically, Nigeria has never been as divided as now, with large sections of the country openly clamouring for secession while others, who are not going that far, ask for the country to be re-structured with more power devolved to its component parts, particularly in the areas of security and fiscal federalism paradox of our situation than the following by an anonymous online analyst1:
NIGERIA HAS BORROWED HER FUTURE
The D-G of the Debt Management Office (DMO) recently alarmed Nigerians when she casually confirmed that Nigeria’s total debt as at March, 2022, stands at N41.60 trillion. Nigeria has been running serious budget defiats. According to the World bank Survey report of 197 Countries, Nigeria came 195 beating only Yemen and Afghanistan.
Nigeria that used N10trillion for the 2022, oil subsidy regime is expected to use N9trillion in 2023. The size of the borrowing is 62% of the budget. Nigeria now borrows to service debt interest; not the debt itself. We have literally become a vassal of and dependant on China, that has its shy lock fingers on different aspects of the economy, ranging from metrol light rails, hydro power dams, free trade zones, to transportation and telecommunications. The trade deficit between Nigeria and China is 80% – 200% of bilateral trade volumes. Nigeria imports 10 times more than it exports to China.
NIGERIA PAYS FOR DARKNESS
Nigeria ought to be producing at least 12,522 MW of electricity today with abundant sources of power through coal, hydro, oil (petroleum) and natural gas, Nigeria has every options the TCN (Transmission Companies of Nigeria) and the Discos that distribute electricity generated by Gencos. The Discos call the shot, forcing Nigeria to pay for darkness. Small Kenya of ….. people generates 1.043 gigawatts; Ghana installed capacity of 3,655.5 MW. Compare Nigeria, a country of 217.4million people generating …… of electricity, less than 1000 of South Africa with 60.9 million people which generates 5,095MW. What a shame!
THE DESERTION AND RELOCATION OF INDUSTRIES
Most major industries that were very famous in Nigeria in the 70%, 80% and 90% have either withered and died away or relocated to neighboring countries due to incumbent and uncondusive prevailing conditions. Between 2009-2014, 322 private firms closed down in Nigeria due to strangulating business regulations, corruption and unstable political environment, according to a World Bank Enterprise Survey.
Factories and companies that have folded up in Nigeria include Berec Batteries, Exide Batteries, Okin Biscuits, Aladja, Jos and Osogbo Steel Rolling Mills; Nigeria Sugar Company, Tale and Lyle sugar company; Nigeria Paper Mill Ltd, Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company at Oku-Iboku; and the Nigeria National Paper Manufacturing Company in Ogun State.
Six Automobile Assembly Plants, including Peugeot, Volkswagen, Anambra Motor Manufacturing Ltd, Steyr, National Truck Manufacturers, Fiat and Leyland, have all kissed the canvas and gone into extinction. 38 textile companies, including Afprint, Aswani, Arewa Textiles, Unitex, Supertex, Asaba, Odua, Edo and Aba Textile Mills; Nigerian Synthethic Fabrics, First Spinners, Kaduna and United Nigeria Textile Mills, have gone into historical oblivion. What about the Ughelli Glass Industry; Okpella Cement Factory? Glaxo Smithe Khline, Agbare, Industrial hub? Gone or, about to.
HAVE WE ALWAYS BEEN DOOMED? NO!
NOTABLE ACHIEVMENTS BY NIGERIANS
BRITISH Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin once notes that the University of Lagos was one of the world centres of expertise in her specialist field of chemical crystallography. Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, had the first world class computer centre in Africa. The University of Ife had a notable pool of expertise in nuclear physics. Our premier University of Ibadan had an international reputation as a leading centre of excellence in tropical medicine, development economics and historical sciences. The Saudi Royal family used to frequent UCH for medical treatment in the sixties. The engineering scientist Ayodele Awojobi, a graduate of ABU Zaria, was a rather troubled genius. He tragically dies of frustration because our environment could not contain, let alone utilize his talents. Ishaya Shuaibu Audu, pioneer Nigeria Vice-Chancellor of ABU Zaria, collected all the prizes at St. Mary’s University Medical School London. His successor in Zaria, Iya Abubakar, was a highly talented Cambridge mathematician who became a professor at 28 and was a notable consultant to NASA. Alexander Animalu was a gifted MIT physicist who did work of original importance in superconductivity. His book, intermediate Quantum Theory of Crystalline Solids, has been translated into several languages, including Russians.
Renowned mathematician Chike Obi solved Fermat’s 200-year old conjecture with pencil and paper while the Cambridge mathematician John Wiles achieved same with the help of a computer working over a decade. After the harsh environment of the 1980s IMF/WB structural adjustment programmes, the Babangida military dictatorship undertook massive budgetary cutbacks in higher education.
Our brightest and best fled abroad. Today, Nigerian doctors, scientists and engineers are making massive contributions in Europe and North America. Prof Philip Emeagwali won the 1989 Gordon Bell Award for his work in super-computing. Jelani Aliyu designed the first electric car for American automobile giant General Motors. Olufunmilayo Olopede, Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, won a McAurthur Genius Award for her work on cancer. Winston Soboyejo, who earned a Cambridge doctorate at 23, is a Princeton engineering professors laurelled for his contributions to materials research. He is Chairman of the scientific Advisory Board to the Secretary-General of the UN. Washington University biomedical engineering professor Samuel Achilefu received the St. Louis Award for his invention of cancer-seeing glasses that is a major advance in radiology.
Kunle Olukotun of Stanford did work of original importance on multi-processors. National Merit laureate Omowunmi Sadik of State University of Binghamton owns patents for biosensors technology. Young Nigerians are also recording stellar performances at home and abroad. A Nigerian family, the Imafidons, were voted “the smartest family in Britain” in 2015. Anne Marie Imafidon earned her Oxford Masters’ in Mathematics and Computer Science when she was only 19. Today, she sits on several corporate boards and was awarded an MBE in 2017 for services to science. Recently, Benue State University mathematician Atovigba Michael Vershima is believed to have solved the two centuries old Riemann Conjecture that has defied giants such as Gauss, Minkowski and Polya.
Another young man, Hallowed Olaoluwa, was one of a dozen “future Einstein” awarded postdoctoral fellowship by Harvard University. He completed a remarkable doctorate in mathematical physics at the University of Lagos age 21. While at Harvard he aims to focus on solving problems relating to “quantum ergodicity and quantum chaos”, with applications to medical imaging and robotics. Another Unilag alumnus, Ayodele Dada, graduated with a perfect 5.0 GPA, an unprecedented feat in a Nigerian University. Victor Olalusi recently graduated with such stellar performance at the Russian Medical Research University, Moscow, and was feted the best graduate throughout the Russian Federation. Habiba Daggash, daughter of my friend Senator Sanusi Daggash recently graduated with a starred rust in Engineering at Oxford University.
Emmanuel Ohuabunwa earned a CPA of 3,98 out of a possible 4.0 as the best overall graduate of the Ivy-League Johns Hopkins University. Stewart Hendry, Johns Hopkins Professor of Neuroscience, described the young man as having “an intellect so rare that it touches on the unique…a personality that is once-in-a-life-time”. There is also young Yemi Adesokan, postdoctoral fellow of Harvard Medical School who patented procedures for tracking spread of viral epidemics in developing countries. Ufot Ekong recently solved a 50-year mathematical riddle at Tokai – University in Japan and was voted the most outstanding graduate of the institution. He currently works as an engineer for Nissan, having pocketed two patent in his discipline. This is only the tip of the iceberg. If our system were not so inclement to talent, we would be celebrating a bountiful harvest of geniuses in all the fields of human endeavour. This is why the correlates between our gene-pool and national development are so diametrically opposed. Unfortunately, the success stories are the exception rather than the rule. This is because, we are becoming a failed state.
NIGERIA AS A FAILED STATE
Has Nigeria really become a failed State? What is a failed state, anyway? A failed state is one whose political or economic fabric has become so weak that the government loses control. In such a state, basic responsibilities of government that make the state sovereign are absent, as they no longer function properly. Such a state is so fragile that it can collapse anytime, because it becomes incapable of exercising authority over its peoples and territory, nor protect its national boundaries. Such a state merely provides minimal public services, since it lacks organizational and administrative capacity to control its people, territory and resources. Suffering from crumbling infrastructures, poor utility, educational and health facilities, a failed state loses legitimacy both in the eyes of its citizens and the comity of Nations. State institutions collapse; control over internal security deteriorates. Indeed, such a state is divested of a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence; whilst it loses capacity to protect its citizens, fundamental rights, and defend civil, political and economic rights of its populace. It manifests in lack of observance of rule of law.
Most failed states are in Africa; a handful in the Middle East and Asia. An example of a failed state at some point in time was Somalia (now one of the fastest developing nations in Africa), when rival warlords ravaged the land. Another is Afghanistan, which harboured the deadly terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, under the Taliban. Thus, a failed state can be determined by all or some of the following indices: her weak economy, porous defence capability, lack of transparency and poverty-stricken workforce; high infant/maternal morbidity and mortality rate; high level of illiteracy; malnourishment, orphanage, child labour, congestion; where organized crime and black market control reign supreme; where a country is largely dependent on imported food; where it cannot respond to natural disasters; and where there is no clear order of business and commerce, with a weak currency dominating.
In the case of Nigeria, we punch miserably below our weight in the hierarchy of world economics and politics. None of our institutions come. near the top 500 in the World Universities League Table. An estimated 50% of our people live in extreme poverty, with Nigeria besting India Youth unemployment hovers around 45 percent (70% for the far North). The poverty is heartbreaking; our per capita GDP is less than $3,000 as compared to Singapore’s $55,252. We have the worst road carnage record in the world, with more than 20,000 lost to road accidents annually. We wasted over $18 billion on the power sector and our people still live in darkness. The state governments are virtually bankrupt.
INSECURITY REIGNS SUPREME
In terms of security, Nigeria is becoming a killing field. The daily slaughter ritual in Nigeria that has turned the Nigerian geographical space into a killing field is not only criminal, but also smacks of total abdication of governance by the current government. It is most cruel, hideous, horrific, inhuman, dastardly and barbaric. The latest theatre of the absurd is Plateau state, where hundreds of innocent and helpless Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable (children, women and elderly), have been mindlessly hacked down in cold blood. Nigerians have become “walking corpses” or “the living dead” (apologies, AyiKwei Armah: “The Beautiful Ones Are not yet Born”). The government that appears overtly overwhelmed (if it ever cared at all), wrings its hands in utter helplessness and blames everything and any one, but itself. PMB says he can only pray to God for miracles. The Commander-in-Chief (C-in–C) in saying this, breaks the heart and freely donates to the citizens, helplessness and hopelessness. What is the military there for, since the Police has been overrun? Sections 130 (2) and 215 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered, make the President the C-in-C of both the Armed Forces and the Police. Never before, or after the three year bloody Nigerian fratricidal civil war has Nigeria witnessed such barefaced butchery of innocent souls in a most horrendous manner that portends ethnic cleansing and genocidal tendencies.
The entire security architecture of Nigeria has been greatly compromised and doctored. The Nigerian Constitution (section 14 (2) (b), makes the welfare and security of lives and property the primary purpose of government. Any government that cannot protect its citizens is not worth being called a government by any description or appellation. We have become a laughing stock before international circles. We make merriment and hold political rallies on the cold graves of hot steaming blood of innocent Nigerians. We wanted to win the world cup at all cost, amidst vengeful slaughter of fellow Nigerians. But, God is a just and righteous God. He does not tolerate injustice, wickedness. He does not condone unearned adulation and hero-worshipping: The Bible: Job 34:12; Col 3:25; Deut 10:18; 32:4; Isaiah 30:18. The Holy Quran: 5:8; 16:90; 59: 22-24. Die hard politicians are already busy, politicking about 2019, while our citizens are daily massacred in cold blood. A governor that is supposed to be the Chief Security Officer of his state is nothing but a mere toothless crying bulldog, having been stripped of such luxury of controlling powers by sections 215 (4) of the Constitution. This section enthrones a behemoth, elephantine and immobile Police Force at the center, with the governor at the mercy of the IGP and president. That is why I have, over the years, consistently and persistently clamoured for true fiscal federalism that allows for state Police and community policing. From Agatu, Naka and Agasha in Benue state, Demsa, Suwa and Burukulu in Adamawa state, Riyom, BarkinLadi and Jos in Plateau state, to BirninGwari, Dangaji, UnguwarGajere in Kaduna State; from Izza, Wudula, Blakule and Darajimal in Borno State; to Takum, Shaakaa, Donga and Ntule in Taraba State; to Maraban –Udege Village, Aisa and Aguma in Nassarawa State; from Ugbona, Okpella, Odiguetue and Igiode in Edo State, Nigeria knows no peace. Things have fallen apart. The falcon can no longer hear the falconer.
Even in Uwheru, Oreba, Ovwor, Onicha-Olona and Abraka in Delta State; to Okpanku, Ozzala, UkpabiNimbo, Ngwoko, Ebor, Umuome, Ugwuijoro and Ugwuachara in Enugu State, the story is the same: gory and hideous blood-letting and festival of blood. The greatest worry of it all is that these killers are not ghosts or apparitions. They are known. They even come out openly, thump their chests, confess and own up to their criminal acts. The Herdsmen umbrella, Miyetti-Allah, claimed the blood-chilling murder of over 200 Plateau citizens was because 300 of its cows were rustled. It boasted that no one could have expected peace without retaliation, under such circumstances. The same group has, over time, infamously given various reasons for its herdsmen’s killings: Nimbo massacre, Enugu State (deadly attack): “we killed because they stole our cows”. Benue State (several progroms): “we killed because of anti-grazing law”. Taraba State (several): “we killed because they blocked our grazing routes”. Adamawa State (many Communities): “we killed because they broke our cow’s leg”. Zamfara State: “we killed because the farmers said we were grazing on their farm lands”. Haba!
A PROSTRATE GOVERNMENT
Nearly seven years down the line, there have been no arrests, no prosecution, no arraignment, no convictions. Rather, some five Christians were arrested in Adamawa, tried and sentenced to death by hanging, for allegedly killing one Fulani herdsman. Some lives are now more precious than others. Rather than kill cow for meal to celebrate occasions, as we know it, we now kill human beings to celebrate cows. The government not only looks the other way, but actually condones the heartless cold-blooded slaughter. Nigeria cannot continue like this. The federal government must rise up to the occasion, draft military personnel to these volatile areas and wash its hands off, like Pontius Pilate, of compromise, condonation, aiding and abetting, of this national horror. The saddest and deepest of all the national cuts and travesty of justice is that there is no one to complain to. The president himself, the very C–in–C, who had promised to lead from the front during his campaigns in 2015, wrings his hands in utter helplessness, and moans (like any of us):“There is nothing I can do to help the situation except to pray to God to help us out of the security challenges”.
Interpretation: “I am helpless; Be prepared to take what you get”. But, the Holy Bible tells us that “God helps those who help themselves” (Hezekiah 6:1). In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, we are admonished that “the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat”. In the Holy Quran, it is, “Allah helps those who help themselves” 13:11; (Tafsir of Chapter 022 verse 40). Is the president being fed the true and genuine situation of horrific and grisly events across Nigeria? Can he, when virtually all his security apparatchik consists of nepotic and cronystic appointees from his ethnic and religious groups only: Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, IGP, DSS, EFCC, Immigration, Customs, NSCDC, Prisons, NSA, C of S, etc, etc? Are we in the Fulani Republic of Nigeria, or Republic of Northern Nigeria?
The non-prosecution of these marauding herdsmen has emboldened them to commit more crimes. Daily carnage and spilling of innocent blood have become the norm. Nigerians now appear unshockable. Many lamentably try to justify this modern day genocide with partisan political interpretations, pretending all is well. Meanwhile, Nigeria dies by installment. Most Nigerians have become more cowardly than ever before, afraid even of their own shadows. Nigerians should stand and speak up before we are all eclipsed in dismemberment. Reasonating voices appear suddenly mute. Where is the “Occupy Nigeria” group that vehemently protested against GEJ across Nigeria, especially in Lagos and Abuja. Even PMB had himself joined them. Where is General Yakubu Gowon and his praying Orchestral? Where is the voice of gap-toothed IBB? What of roving Ambassador, General Abdusallam Abubakar? Where is GEJ’s voice (even if he will be accused of partisanship, having lost the last elections)? Where are the human rights activists, emergency NGOs proprietors, CSOs, FBOs, etc? I cannot hear the voice of strong willed Ebitu Ukiwe? Where is respected Col. Dangiwa?
Why is everyone keeping silent when Nigeria is sliding towards totalitarianism, absolutism and even fascism? May God forbid “Ruandanization” of our already beleaguered contraption called Nigeria. Perhaps, to prick government’s conscience on the daily butchery of innocent Nigerians in their homes and farms, and the consequential seizure and renaming of their ancestral communities, we should implement the recent suggestion of my good friend, Senator Shehu Sani. He said:“We need a graveyard in the three arms zone of Abuja so that victims of the mindless killings in the country can be buried close to the seat of power. Then the Executive, Legislators & the Judiciary can feel the pains of the helpless widows and orphans we failed to protect.” Nigerians are crying. There is lamentation in the land. There is gnashing of teeth. Melancholy, despondency, hopelessness and regrets stare people in the face. These times are frightening.
Public trust that had initially been ballooned to a myth and anchored on the dizzying height of change mantra and PMB’s much touted integrity, has since considerably dwindled to a near zero level. Hear the sorrowful dirge of a victim of the Plateau genocide, Paul Wyom Zakka: “They told us to go to the farms because they could not provide us with jobs. We went to the farms without knowing that our produce were meant to feed their cows. When the cows came, we stopped them from destroying our farm produce; Today, they kill us daily so their cows can feed.”Thomas Jefferson, American president from 1801 to 1809, once famously said:“Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government”.
From the forgoing it can be seen that, in the words of Sulaimon Olanrewaju (firstname.lastname@example.org), “Nigeria is a paradox; so wealthy, yet so poor; so endowed, yet so deprived. Nigeria makes more money than many countries of the world but is unfortunately ranked among the poorest because many Nigerians live below the poverty line as they earn less than two dollars a day. According to the Brookings Institution in a report, The Start of a New Poverty Narrative, Nigeria is now home to the highest number of people living in extreme poverty on the globe. Similarly, a United Nations report on Nigeria’s Common Country Analysis, says youth unemployment is 42 per cent, while the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) puts the number of out of school children at over 10.5million. Infant mortality rate is 85.8 of 1000 live births, while the country has the highest rate of under-five mortality in the world. Malnutrition prevalence, according to the UN, ranges between approximately 46.9 per cent in the South West to 74.3 per cent in North West and North East.”
NIGERIA PANACEA VIDE TRUE FISCAL FEDERALISM
Before the 15th January, 1966 Military Coup led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu Chukwuma from Okpanam, Nigeria operated true fiscal federalism amongst the then three regions-Western, Northern and Eastern Regions. They were later joined by the Midwest region which was excised out of Western region by popular Plebiscite and referendum on the 10th of August, 1963. The Architects of that federalist feat were Dr Dennis Osadebay (later Prime Minister); Oba Akenzua II; Dr Christopher Okojie; Justice Kessington Momoh, Chief James Otoboh, Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie; Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh (Omimi Ejoh) abd Chief Jereton Mariere and Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom.
Section 140 of the 1963 Republican Constitution which replicated section 134 of the 1960 Independence Constitution provided that 50% proceeds of royalty received by the Federation in respect of minerals extracted from a region, including any mining rents derived by the federation belonged to a Region. Effectively, this made the Regions which also had their separate regional Constitution (with a Federal one at the centre) to control their resources. Only 20% was paid to the Federation; and another 30% shared by all the Regions, including those that had already shared 50%.
In the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Northern Premier who had sent his NPC Deputy (Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa) to the centre to be Prime Minister, preferring to govern his people, utilized the resources of Northern Nigeria. With the famous Kano groundnut pyramid, cotton, Hides and skin, the imperious by cerebral Sardauna, who had valiantly fought for, but failed to become the Sultan of Sokoto at 29, losing to Sultan Siddiq Abubakar III, who reigned for 50 years till 1988. The great grand son of Uthman Dan Fodio (of “Conscience is an open wound; only the truth can heal it” fame), built the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) which stretched from Samaru, Zaria, to Funtua in the present day Katsina. He set up the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC); built the Yankari Games Reserve; the Ahmadu Bello Stadium; and the Hamdala hotel, Kaduna.
In the Eastern Region, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (First Premier 1954-1959) and later Dr Michael Okpara, and his Governor, Dr Akanu Ibiom and others with Dr Mbonu Ojike embarked upon major organ on revolution; they built the Trans-Amadi Industrial Estates and Presidential hotels in Enugu and Portharcourt. They built the University of Enugu; the Obudu Cattle Ranch and Resort, the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC); Cement fatory at Nkalagu, breweries, textile Mills and Enugu Stadium. They could do this because they controlled their palm produce. This was time fiscal federalism at work.
In western Region, the late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, used proceeds from the coca product to build the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, the first television station in Africa, (1957); introduced free universal primary education and free health service; The liberty stadium and Cocoa House in Ibadan and the University of Ife (now OAU) were built by him. Because he controlled the resources of the West.
In the Mid west Region, Dr Dennis Osadebay spear headed the setting up of the Ughelli Glass Industry and the Okpellla Cement Factory, amongst others. What has changed? Why do we now operate a Unitary System of government, with centralized powers, a behemoth Central federal government and beleaguered, subservient states as federating units. Commissioners for finance congregate at Abuja at the end of every month to take state allocations under section 162 of the 1999 Constitution. Nigeria can never grow that way.
So much for the diagnosis. What about the prognosis? Is there a way back or out of this self-inflicted cocktail of challenges? If so, what does it take – and how do we realize or achieve it? In other words, what is the solution to the puzzle implied in the title of this piece? How do we pull Nigeria from the brink? There is no doubt that there are no easy answers to these posers and it is simplistic to assume that what has been tried successfully elsewhere will necessarily work here. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is equally true, however, that, while it is fool-hardy to seek to re-invent the wheel, valuable lessons can be learned from those who have trodden similar paths as ours and have emerged stronger, more prosperous and stable in every possible way. Indeed, in some cases – particularly, the so-called ‘Asian Tigers’, their transformation from Third World status to First World economies, has been as dramatic as it is unprecedented. How did they achieve it? Is there any magic wand? Is it appropriate to apply them to Nigeria or would that be comparing grapes to apples?
THE ASIAN TIGERS: HOW THEY DID IT
I believe the answers to all these posers are self-evident, given the common history of backwardness and virtually complete non-industrialization (with the exception of Japan) which the so-called Asian Tigers shared with Nigeria at independence. This is because all the Tigers – South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia – were, like Nigeria, under prolonged periods of colonial and/or military rule. Even Japan, which was a relatively prosperous and industrialized society, prior to the Second World War, had to start virtually from scratch afterwards, following its defeat in that conflict. Accordingly, these comparisons are in no way odious. The question, then is: how did these countries do it? In terms of strategy, it appears that the following are key to the seeming miracle achieved by these erstwhile developing countries:
- Investment in skills;
- Advancements in Technology;
- Engagement of specialized agencies;
- Establishment of pilot projects; and
- Involvement of International Agencies such as the U.N.
LESSONS FOR NIGERIA FROM THE ASIAN TIGERS
Scholars have suggested that Nigeria can benefit from the experience of the Asian Tigers in the following ways:
- Formulating and implementing deliberate government policies;
- Strengthening the development of agriculture;
- Encouraging industrial development;
- Developing small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).
The following have also been proffered as additional take-away from the ‘miracle’ of the Asian Tigers, which can be adopted or applied profitably in Nigeria, viz:
Focus on exports. Domestic production should be encouraged especially targeted at exports, through government policies such as high import tariffs to discourage the latter;
Human capital development. This focuses on developing specialized skills aimed at enhancing productivity through improved educational standards;
Creating a sound financial system. A well- developed capital market will facilitate mobilization of capital for industrial and economic development;
Maintenance of political, social as well as macroeconomic stability;
Leadership that priorities citizens’ welfare thereby motivating labour to increase productivity;
Encouraging a savings culture in order to increase capital formation (preferably through private institutions);
Developing export-oriented industries to produce selected goods with a relatively competitive advantage in world markets,
The Specific Case of Japan
The following have been identified as lessons for Nigeria from the so-called ‘Japanese Miracle’, viz:
Massive investments in research and development with a view to developing, inter alia, efficient production techniques;
Adaptation of foreign/imported technology;
Massive investments in infrastructure and heavy manufacturing industries;
Proper and prudent management of our natural resources (particularly oil and gas);
A disciplined, relatively cheap, highly educated and skilled work-force, with reasonable wage demands;
Targeting high literacy rate and high education standards;
Private Sector-driven investment. The profit incentive of the private sector results in large-scale investment culminating in economies of scale in production.
WHAT OF EUROPE AND THE U.S.?
In addition to the foregoing, it does appear that both Europe and the US offer valuable lessons in economic integration or co-operation with regional countries which will eliminate waste and create economies of scale and increase investment levels.
THE BIG PICTURE
On a broader, political and macro-economic level, Onigbinde identified the following as key issues in the quest to solve the riddle of “How to Fix Nigeria,” viz: – Enhancing Security; Promoting National Unity; Improving Public Health; Economic Competitiveness and Diversity (away from oil and natural gas); Tackling the Revenue or Income Challenge; Putting People to Work; and Governance Accountability. He, then, concludes, insightfully, that “Nigeria will only move forward as a nation forged in unity, by optimizing every single public resource and making the health, safety and prosperity of its people an urgent concern. There are no short-cuts; fixing Nigeria requires a consistent, long-term approach, not those constantly watching four-year elections, like a ‘dieter watching the scale every hour”.
To the foregoing, we agree that tackling corruption, promoting the rule of law, and strengthening civil society organizations, are also relevant touchstones. Beyond even that, however, we must include leadership by example, as well as re-orientation of the citizenry on the benefits of a new national ethos of true patriotism, which de-emphasizes the prevailing culture of primitive acquisition of wealth by all means, fair or foul – and its obscene display.
The benefits of a committed and conscientious, leadership-driven attempt at re-directing the Nigerian ship away from its calamitous down-ward slide, are too obvious to need re-telling. Suffice it to say that it might literally be the difference between our survival as a nation and our much-predicted collapse or fragmentation into any number of sub-national, ethnic-based units. In other words, the challenge is simply existential. Such an outcome should be avoided at all costs – unless its benefits outweigh its costs. Such perceived benefits are, frankly, hard to envisage and, the more desirable option is to cultivate an elite consensus towards an orderly resolution by means of a suitable medium – such as a referendum.
Though it seems that many are averse to the potential outcome of this option (because, it is apparently a Pandora’s Box of sorts), the alternative might be far worse, with some predicting a Somalia-style No Man’s Land where there is no viable Central Government worthy of that name and where literally anything goes. This scenario might be unduly pessimistic but, the possibility that it will become our reality is a scenario which no reasonable person can dismiss with a wave of the hand. All hands must, therefore, be on deck to save this ship. This nation must not fail and, by the grace of God, it will not fail.
Given the above depressing scenario and narrative, the question to be asked is: how did we get here and how can be ‘get out of jail,’ as it were?How do we resolve our diverse, hydra-headed challenges?
A BRAND NEW OR AN AMENDED CONSTITUTION?
Many solutions have been suggested, with constitutional amendment or reenactment top of the list. The reason is obvious: it is a country’s birth certificate; the foundation, basis or as we call it in law, the grundnorm. In this regard The 1999 Constitution is the product of the military led by General Abdusalami Alhaji Abubakar. The explanatory note to the said Constitution is worth considering as it explains the purport of the Constitution. The explanatory note to the 1999 Constitution (the subject matter of this article), states thus: “The Decree promulgates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 199 into law and provides for the said Constitution to come into force on 29th May, 1999.”The explanatory note above contains extra information to the effect that the explanatory:“…note does not form part of the above Decree but is intended to explain its purport.”The term “promulgate” means to spread an idea, a belief, etc. among the people. Whose beliefs and ideas are the military spreading and at what point did this idea or belief come into force? It is pertinent to note that the 1999 Constitution divested the military over the governance of Nigeria and re-enforces the original ideas and beliefs of the people at the time they got independence.
Prof. Ben Nwabueze on ‘Further Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution and Polity, noted that the declaration ‘we the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [are] one nation under God’ is only an aspiration and not a reality. The learned author stated that the statement implied that “we are one people” and submitted that not only are we not one people, we are not yet one nation. Looking at the prevailing challenges confronting the unity of Nigeria now, one will agree with the learned author. The country has been polarized now. However, the preamble is the ideas being spread at a time the nation was emerging from dictatorship. The Abacha regime was the precursor to that declaration. That idea was promulgated at a time the nation was emerging from the dungeon and when national interests were long forgotten. The preamble to the 1999 Constitution sheds light on how the entire constitution should be construed. The Constitution is for the promotion of good governance and welfare of all persons in Nigeria, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of Nigerians.I agree with the views of the mythicthat there was never a time Nigerians gathered to fashion the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution was promulgated by the Military and since it came into force, the people through their democratically elected lawmakers have not abolished or suspended the operation of the Constitution. What the people have done are piecemeal amendments. By usage, however, the people have adopted the ideas in the 1999 Constitution. Thus, it is safe to submit that the expression “we the people” is a reality.
In analysing this phrase ‘’we the people’’ it will be necessary to have an amplified and microscopic view of the component words of the phrase. In doing justice to them it will be proper to begin from the first word in the phrase viz:WE: The word “WE” is a pronoun that is used to denote one self and another or others as the case may be. This therefore implies that for the word “WE” is referring to not just a person but a group of persons who are most likely in agreement and having the same motive. Anything other than this will amount to the misapplication of the pronoun “WE”. This analysis also implies that wherever the pronoun “WE” is used, it connotes that the word emanated from the collective ideology of a group of people. Conversely, the application of the word “we” in the preamble of the Nigerian constitution connotes that the constitution is a document that emanated from the Nigerian people and that even though every Nigerian did not directly contribute to the making of the constitution, a vast percentage of the Nigerian populace, through their representatives, was involved. Even though this position has so much criticisms, this is the general view of the word “WE”.
THE PEOPLE: Whenever the phrase THE PEOPLE comes to mind, another thought that follows is that, a group of persons are involved. The phrase which connotes that a group of people are involved, is also used to refer to a given set of persons who share the same ideology. The implication of this phrase in the preamble of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other democratic states of the world is that, the Constitution is for the people, (i.e)the Constitution, having a root in the people, is formatted by the people to be a standard of conduct for the people. This is what is meant by the phrase THE PEOPLE. This in another hand will also imply that, only the particular people that were referred to, are the people who have business to do with the subject in question.The tendency to concentrate power in the chief executive, while tenable in advanced countries with all the institutionalized means of checking dictatorship makes the system vulnerable in an African setting. Thus, any system that reinforces concentration of power in one person will provide fertile ground for breeding dictatorship. One of “the perils” of presidentialism is political gridlock resulting from competing claims for legitimacy by the President and the Legislature which inevitably slows down governance process. This serves as another factor that supports a re-consideration of presidential system in Nigeria.
No doubt, the separation of power provided in the Constitution is to curb the tendency of tyranny and to reduce the work load of one-arm of government. The expectations of the constitution makers are for cooperation between the three arms of government.However, the expectation turns to be a mirage when the relationship between the executive and the legislature is frosty. According to Maman & Dahiru, this can make or mar democracy. The relationship between the two arms of government has impacts on democracy as a system of governance. It can facilitate and deepen democracy from which the nation can benefit immensely. A frosty relationship on the other hand, can lead to slow and even at times bad governance. The struggle between the 8th National Assembly and the executive arm almost degenerated to superiority contest. With regards to cordial relationship between legislature and the executive, the parliamentary system has this enduring attribute. This is because of the fusion of both. As a result, it will not be difficult for the legislators to explain clearly government policies because the interface between the executive and the legislature will make them to be on the same page. Thus, the switch to the parliamentary system will not only trim the government but also cure the ills of dissipation of energy by the executive and the legislature on mundane issues. In spite of the alluring attributes of the parliamentary system, one cannot dismiss is fundamental weaknesses. One of such defects is that the government is not as strong as expected. The government can be brought down within days through a vote of no confidence in the parliament which is regarded as the crown jewel of parliamentary democracy. It is believed that such flexibility will not augur well in a polity with no strong sense of nationhood like Nigeria.
REWORKING NIGERIA’S FEDERAL STRUCTURE THROUGH A NEW CONSTITUTION
Complaints about the federal structure go as far back to the pre-independence period, when minority groups felt dominated by majority groups.
The Willink’s Minority Commission of 1957, which looked into the matter, recommended the inclusion of a bill of rights in the Independence Constitution, to guarantee basic fundamental rights; rather than creating states for minority groups. But by 1963 the carving up of the country had begun, and eventually by 1 October 1996 there were 36 states.The creation of states grants access to public offices and infrastructure for local elites. It also creates new majority and minority groups in the new states. Unviable states have proliferated, dependent on the common pool revenues and unable to fund their bureaucracies.Scholars have attentively stated that the fiscal arrangement, especially the formula for sharing the common pool account, is not an incentive for states to produce revenue. States angle to get more revenue share from the central pool rather than generate revenue within their territories.
State governors make the complain that the share of revenue that goes to the national government is too large, making competition for offices at the center too intense. They call for revision to grant more revenue to the states. Some of the governors also call for more responsibilities, to get access to ways of generating revenue. Some governors believe that decentralization, when extended to policing, would also improve security. In not too far back, everything in the political space of Nigeria is fraught with some damning or potentially disturbing undertones which keep the citizenry in perpetual frenzy. Our case is worsened by the fervency and maddening frequency of messages of doom, conflagration, pestilence, and all sorts of conspiracy theories and morbid predictions churned out on the ubiquitous social media networks. If it were possible to do a holistic national diagnostic on all the estimated 215 million Nigerians within a space of 48 hours that it took the latest special presidential convention of the ruling political party, the barometer would have crashed into nether regions, making our laboratory technicians collapse in bewilderment.
Such is the weight of our fears and follies that we continually anticipate the catastrophic, even when we look up to the Supreme Being for the miracle of surviving another year. Yet, our leaders continue to act and speak as if they are in control of the very air we breathe, and thus have the capacity to moderate the unknown or mitigate the frightening.
THE NIGRERIAN EXPERIMENT WITH CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY
THE COLONIAL ERA
Nigeria’s Constitutional history can be broken into two main eras: the colonial and the post-independence eras. The colonial era commenced from 1914 when the colony and protectorate of southern Nigeria was merged with the protectorate of Northern Nigeria and ended in 1960 at independence.
During this period, Constitution making was carried out by the colonial power acting by and through the British officials in Africa. In this era, we had the Clifford Constitution of 1922; the Arthur Richard Constitution of 1946; the McPherson Constitution of 1951; and the Federal Constitution (otherwise known as the Littleton Constitution) of 1954. That was before Independence in 1960. We then had the 1960 independence Constitution and the1963 Republican Constitutions. None of the Constitutional arrangements during the colonial era, including the Independence Constitution of 1960, derived from the popular or sovereign will of the peoples of Nigeria.
In the words of Olu Ariwoola, J.S.C., as he held in the case of UGBA v. SUSWAM (2014) All FWLR (Pt. 748) Page 825 @ 863, “The Constitution is the heart and soul of the people. That explains why the Constitution commences (with the word) ‘We the people…’ all provisions in the Constitution were put in by the accredited representatives of the people.”
Many Nigerians including most of the erudite constitutional law lawyers have expressed serious reservation about the process leading to the making of the 1999 Constitution and the resultant lack of popular acceptability occasioned by the process of its making. Again, Chief Rotimi Williams, SAN, a foremost Constitutional Law Lawyer described the 1999 Constitution as a “document that tells lie against itself.” Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, categorically described the Constitution as a “fraud.” The erudite constitutional law lawyer and a foremost Professor of Law, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, described the Constitution as an “illogicality”. That the 1999 Constitution is a “Unitary Constitution for a Federal System of Government.”
The Constitution was described as a fraud and a document that lies against itself at a seminar on the new Constitution organized by the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, on the 18th of June, 2009, because the Constitution purportedly stated in its opening recital that “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly and solemnly resolved… do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution.” Since the enactment of the 1999 Constitution, these pertinent questions have been asked repeatedly,
- “where and when did that resolution take place’’?
- “How did the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria arrive at that firm and solid resolution purportedly expressed in the recital to the 1999 Constitution?
Everyone or perhaps almost everyone in the Nigeria today accepts the fact that the Nation is faced with series of structural and systemic challenges, a good number of which are the products of the inadequacies of the 1999 Constitution. It is no longer news that there has been over concentration of power at the centre to the detriment of the federating units. Indeed, over the years the centre has been grabbing and grabbing powers at the expense of the federating units. The long years of military adventure in governance has not helped the situation. For the sake of comparison, the ‘1954 Constitution donated 43 items to the center’ in the Exclusive Legislative List, ‘45 items in the 1960 and 1963 Independence and Republican Constitutions; 66 items in the 1979 Constitution’ and ‘68 items to the center in the 1999 Constitution’ as amended.
THE WAY FORWARD
It is worthy of note that since the 1999 Constitution came into force, attempts have been made by previous administrations to remedy the situation. Two national (Constitutional) conferences have at different times been held unsuccessfully. The first was by the Obasanjo administration in 2005 tagged the National PoliticalReform Conference; and the second was by the Jonathan administration in 2014, simply known as the 2014 National Conference. I was a participant at both Conferences, including the Vision 2009 Conference. Attempts have also been made (and continue to be made) to amend the Constitution. Some of the amendments were successful and some unsuccessful. In 2017 alone, 32 new amendments to the Constitution were proposed by the Senate. Only 5 succeeded at the end of the day. Till date, there are still various Bills pending before the National Assembly for amendment to different provisions of the Constitution.
TWO OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE
As a way forward, two options are available to us to remedy the defects of the 1999 Constitution. The first option is to continue to amend the Constitution relying on the amendment clause in the 1999 Constitution. This option has its own challenges because the military after handing down the Constitution made it so rigid to amend, to the extent that getting an amendment is almost as difficult as getting a new Constitution. Despite its obvious short comings, this option is ever more appealing to those at the corridors of power because it gives them room to manipulate and promote their selfish interests. No party in power wants to hear about the idea of a new Constitution because they are afraid of losing their existing positions. For instance, the number one item on the APC manifesto was the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference to fashion a new Constitution for Nigeria; but since they came to power, they have resisted every discussion on that.
The second option is to jettison the Constitution completely in favour of a new one. I am more in agreement with this option. In his book ‘Forms of Constitution Making and Theories of Democracy’,Andrew Arato identified five different mechanisms of making a new Constitution in modern times: they are (1) through the Constitutional convention, (2) the sovereign constituent assembly, (3) the normal legislature, (4) the executive, and (5) an evolutionary process.
On his own part, Schmitt, C, in his book ‘Constitutional Theory, insists that for the Constitutional-making process to be considered to be fully democratic, it must pass through five stages. According to him, all previously constituted authorities must first be dissolved, followed by a popularly elected or acclaimed assembly with a sovereign power. The assembly then begins to function as the government on a provisional basis. Next, a new Constitution is drafted and offered to the people to be ratified in a national, popular referendum. As soon as the draft Constitution is finally ratified, the constituent assembly will be dissolved and a new government will be duly formed under the new Constitution.
A SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE?
We believe that this is what is borne in mind by those calling for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). It is understandable why this call is loudest among those in the opposition, while those in power tends to turn a deaf ear to it, because if this is implemented, they are going to lose their positions.
The truth of the matter is that if Nigeria truly wants to continue to be one indivisible entity and silence the various agitations for self-determination, it cannot shy away from the Sovereign National Conference. There is no amount of amendment of the present Constitution that can truly address the discontent and mutual distrust between the various ethnic nationalities. There must be an avenue where the people can meet and freely decide the way they want to stay together in a nation and be governed. Call it a Sovereign National Conference, Constitutional Conference, Constituent Assembly or simply National Conference, but the body must have the full power (sovereign power) to enact a new Constitution which can only be ratified by the people in a national referendum, devoid of any interference by any governmental authority. This is the only way we can stop running in a circle as a nation.
THE DIRE NEED FOR A NEW CONSTITUTION
Nigeria needs a new people-driven Constitution. It is not rocket sign. It has been done before.
COUNTRIES THAT SUBJECTED THEIR NEW CONSTITUTIONS TO CITIZENS’ REFERENDUM TO GAIN THEIR PEOPLE’S LEGITIMACY AND CREDIBILITY
THE CONSTITUTION OF IRAQ AND REFERENDUM
The first Monarchial Constitution of the Republic of Iraq came into force in 1925 and existed till the 1958 Revolution which established a Republic.
The current Constitution was adopted on September 18, 2005, by the Transitional National Assembly of Iraq, and confirmed by a constitutional referendum, held on October 15, 2005.It was published on December 28, 2005, in the Official Gazette of Iraq (No. 4012), in Arabic original, and thus came into force.
There were three versions of the Kenya Constitution; with the most recent being the 2010 redraft. This replaced the 1963 Independence Constitution. This version of 2010 was presented to the Attorney-General of Kenya on 7th April, 2010, officially published on 6th May, 2010, and was subjected to Referendum of the Kenya people on 4th August, 2010. It was voted for and approved by 67% of Kenya citizens. It was then promulgated on 27th August, 2010.
THE SOUTH AFRICA CONSTITUTION AND THE PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION
After the elections of 1994, the new Parliament – working as the ConstitutionalAssembly (CA) – began writing the final Constitution of South Africa. On May 8, 1996, the Constitutional Assembly completed two years of work on a draft of a final Constitution, replaced the interim Constitution of 1993 by the year 1999.
The objective to submit the draft to the Constitution court was to ensure that the final Constitution was legitimate,credible and accepted by all South Africans. The process of drafting involved many South Africans in the largest public participation programme ever carried out. Nearly two years later, representatives of political parties negotiated the formulations contained in the final draft and ignited an integration of ideas from ordinary citizens, civil society and political parties represented in and outside of the Constitutional Assembly. The Constitution therefore represents the collective wisdom and will of the South African people because it was arrived at by general agreement and consent of all South Africans.
THE DECEMBER 1979 IRANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM
A proposed new Constitution which would make Iran an Islamic Republic, introduce direct elections for the presidency, create a unicameral parliament and require any constitutional changes to go a referendum was proposed by the Iranian Government. To bring this about, a constitutional referendum was held in Iran on 2ndand 3rd December, 1979. The new Islamic constitution was approved by 99.5% of voters at the Referendum.
THE 1991 BANGLADESHI CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM
A constitutional referendum was held in Bangladesh on 15th September, 1991. Voters were asked “Should or not the President assent to the Constitution (Twelfth Amendment) Bill, 1991 of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh?” The amendments altered the existing Constitution and reintroduced of Parliamentary system of government. It also abolished the position of Vice-President and provided that the President be elected by Parliament. 83.6% of Bangladeshis voted in the referendum, with a turnout of 35.2%.
THE 2011 MOROCCAN CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM
A referendum on constitutional reforms was held in Morocco on 1st July, 2011. It was called in response to a series of protests that spread across Morocco which had begun on 20th February, 2011, when over ten thousand Moroccans took to the streets in massive demonstrations demanding democratic reforms. A Commission was set up to draft proposals by June, 2011. A draft was released on 17th June, 2011, which brought about fundamental changes upon people’s referendum.
EGYPT’S NEW CONSTITUTION AND REFERENDUM
In October, 2012, the Egyptian Constituent Assembly announced that its first draft of a new Constitution and launched a public awareness campaign called “Know your Constitution”, to educate the public. On November 29, 2012, the Egyptian Constituent Assembly of finalized the drafting process of a new Egyptian Constitution. One week later, on December 8, 2012, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi issued a new constitutional declaration announcing that the constitutional draft would be voted on in a national referendum.
In accordance with article 60 of the Transitional Constitutional Declaration of March 2011, a special Judicial Commission was formed to supervise the referendum process and monitor vote counting. The referendum took place in two rounds on two different dates: December 15 and 22, 2012. The majority of Egyptians thus voted in favour of the newly drafted Constitution in a popular National Referendum, a Constitution that brought about profound reforms.
CONSTITUTION MAKING IN ERITREA
The Eritrea’s Proclamation 55/1994 established a Constitutional Commission which organized popular participation in the process of a new Constitution.
The Commission members and more than four hundred specially trained teachers instructed the public on constitutional issues and related political and social questions using local vernaculars. The process took three years to solicit the views of a broad cross section of Eritreans. The participation of a majority of Eritreans gave the people a “sense of ownership of the Constitution”.
CONSTITUTION OF TUNISIA
Tunisia’s first modern Constitution was the fundamental pact of 1857. This was followed by the Constitution of 1861, which was replaced in 1956, after the departure of French administrators in 1956. It was adopted on 1st June, 1959 and amended in 1999 and 2002, after the Tunisian Constitutional Referendum of 2002. Following the revolution and months of protests, a Constituent Assembly drafted a new Constitution in 2014, adopted on 26th January, 2014 after a referendum.
THE AMERICAN EXAMPLE OF A PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION
As a great contrast to the 1999 Nigerian experience, when America became independent from Britain in 1776, it held a Constitutional Convention under the leadership of George Washington, between May 14 and September 17, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 55 delegates represented the autonomous Confederates, with a view to creating a “more perfect union”. Broad outlines of a new union were proposed and hotly debated. This was how the American people achieved a federal system of Government, separation of powers among three branches of Government (Legislative, Executive and Judicial); bicameral, legislature; an Executive presidency; and Judicial Review. The Constitutional draft was signed by 39 of the 55 delegates on September 17, 1787; and thereafter released to the States and the American people to debate and ratify. It was this people’s Constitution that threw up great founders, such as George Washington (first president); Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay (the Federalists), Thomas Jefferson, etc.
The 1999 Constitutions lacks these. It is not autochthonous or indigenous Being imposed, it worsened the unitary nature of government, and concentrated enormous powers at the centre. While the 1979 Constitution had 67 items on the exclusive legislative list, and 12 items on the concurrent list, the 1999 Constitution increase this to 68 on the exclusive list, but retained only 12 items on the concurrent list. This indicates an unacceptable unbearably strong centre and very weak federating units.
The unity, development and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria as a country are currently imperial. Our diversities in area of culture language, tribe, andreligion, must be seen by all as a Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours, blessing and not a curse, becausevariety they say, is the spice of life. Concerted effort must be put inplace by formulation of policies and reforms that would help promotenational integration and peaceful co-existence. However, one of thestrategies that must be pursued to ensure a far-reaching national integration and peaceful co-existence are to create a meeting point that would ensure and enhance integration between one ethnic nationality
or tribe and another. One of the ways by which this noble idea can be
achieved is by putting up a strong advocacy and support for intertribaland interreligious marriage.
Philosophers, many say, have understood the world, but the problem is to change it. Albert Einsten’s dictum is apposite here: “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” Hippocrates the father of medicine once told us that desperate diseases requires desperate remedies. An economy based on oil and other depleting natural resources is fast becoming obsolete. The global economy is already in the 4th Industrial Revolution or digital age, dominated by Robotics, Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, Virtual reality, Augmented Reality and others. At the moment, Nigeria is largely bypassed and still grappling with the most basic aspects of the old economy. But given its geographic- demographic conundrum, Nigeria has to leapfrog the industrialization value chain or stagnate. Yet its institutions are those woven around the distribution and consumption of oil rents and the old economy. A system designed for consumption cannot be expected to become efficient for competition and production in the 21st century. Sadly, many people miss this point. As Professor Claude Ake once put it, Nigeria operates a disarticulate economy, where we produce what we don’t consume and consume what we don’t produce.
For a change since the military incursion into our body politics, let us sit down and craft a new Constitution that not only provides for a stable, equitable and just polity but even more so focuses on the incentive structure to usher a competitive and productive economy of the future.
Reforms at the meta-level would entail either embrassing our discarded Prime Minister system of government or dismantling and recoupling several of the institutions that help or hinder us, including a serious re-examination of the 36 state structure as federating units vis-à-vis their fiscal/economic viability or their consolidation into six or more regions with economies of scale and higher investment rates; multiple vice-presidency representing respective regions other than the region of the president, each with supervising powers over certain ministries to ensure equitable representation at the federal cabinet (the Central Bank has four Deputy Governors for instance); principle of equality of regions; multivariate judicial systems with state/regional appellate courts up to regional supreme courts while the federal supreme court becomes the constitutional court— and this is to decongest the centralized system and guarantee speedy dispensation of justice; introduction of commercial courts for speedy resolution of commercial disputes; institution of merit and equal opportunity principle; etc.
This will carry the majority along.
Devolution of functions between the central and federating states/regions should be guided by the principle of subsidiarity. According to the European Charter, subsidiarity means that: “Public responsibilities shall generally be exercised, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen. Allocation of the responsibility to another authority should weigh up the extent and nature of the task and requirements of efficiency and economy“. This principle is not observed in the 1999 Constitution. For a Constitution that proclaims a federal structure, the exclusive and concurrent lists constitute an atypical concentration of powers at the centre. Currently, the federal government is burdened with hundreds of parastatals and agencies trying to inefficiently micro manage the entire Nigeria, with the recurrent expenditure of the federal government exceeding total federal revenue. Every penny of capital spending by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) is borrowed, and its fiscal position is precarious. Put starkly, not one kobo of oil money is invested in infrastructure by the FGN: it is all consumed by the obtuse federal bureaucracy. The federal government should loosen its hold on policing, electricity (power), railways, ports, aviation, business incorporation, taxation powers, regulatory functions, etc. This will generate the economy.
The greatest challenge is how to get some of the elite whose privileges are provided by the existing system to support its dismantling into a system that is potentially beneficial to ‘society’ but perhaps disproportionately harmful to their interests in the short term. In other words, we are faced with the same kind of conundrum as some western countries with their welfare system. Having designed and implemented it for generations, it has grown into an unsustainable octopus of inefficiency but reforming it is not easy. In the US, millions of voters are hooked to the feeding bottle and its government keeps postponing the day of reckoning by borrowing to keep the system alive (the US, with the global reserve currency can afford to borrow for a while from the rest of the world but Nigeria cannot). Everywhere, such a distributional system has acquired a huge and powerful constituency, and the political cost of dismantling and recoupling is not trivial. There is also an intergenerational issue involved. The present beneficiaries don’t care if the same benefits do not extend to the future generations: they just want to have their share and go, and let the future generations take care of themselves. Nigeria cannot continue to share the national cake without caring how it is baked.