To proffer solutions to our problems on all fronts in Nigeria, we must be thinking of how to make the present and future better for us and our children, therefore permit me to digress a little to our origin as a nation called Nigeria which comprises of many nations of different culture, believes and aspirations. Nigeria came into existence formally in the year 1960 following a journey of amalgamations. First was the Southern Nigeria of 1900, a British Protectorate which was chartered from the union of the Niger Coast Protectorate by the Royal Niger Company. It became the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria when the Colony of Lagos was amalgamated in 1906.
In 1914, Southern Nigeria was joined together with Northern Nigeria Protectorate to form the colony of Nigeria for economic rather than political reasons because the Northern Nigeria Protectorate had suffered a budget deficit, a situation that can be offset by the budget surpluses in Southern Nigeria.
Prior to the colonial incursion, in the period between the 16th and 18th centuries, a number of powerful West African kingdoms and empires existed. These include the Oyo empires and dynasties, the Edo Benin Empire, the Ife Kingdom, the Islamic Kanem Borno Empire in the north and west, and the Igbo kingdom of Onitsha in the southeast and various Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani kingdoms among others. Each of these kingdoms, empires and dynasties grew on many fronts at their level. Sadly internecine warfare and inter-tribal conflicts destroyed mutual trust between neighbours, delimit the people and sold great kingdoms and empires to the colonialists. To date, it will appear that despite the centuries that exist between these pre-colonial time and now, mutual suspicion still pervade the geographical space called Nigeria. Unfortunately, no country can experience real progress in such atmosphere. Quoting from the word of late Martin Luther King Jr,
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
It will appear that in Nigeria, we still have not been communicating properly with one another. The country will need to define the relationships that exist among nations with the Nigerian entity, and create opportunities for the review of such relationships. Every nation and tribe should learn to respect and live harmoniously with another. Perhaps the Nigerian civil war of 6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970, which was fought to counter the secession of Biafra from Nigeria, would have been avoided if this principle of mutual respect and communication has been instituted much earlier. Since the end of civil war to date, many tribes, people and nations have threatened to secede from the country and may only have refuse to actualize their plan only based on institutional memory from the civil war. It becomes imperative for us to conduct referendum perhaps every decade to determine the state of our associations, evaluate its continuity or modification thereof of the current structure, opt for alternatives including Confederacy or Unitary system, explore the redefinition of our socio-economic, cultural and spatial relationship including self-sustenance of Regions, Provinces or States without dependence on monthly allocation from FGN.
In a situation where certain section of the society feels that the relationship is strangulating to them, the country should not be afraid to entertain a referendum at any time. Nigerian national who wants to discuss the existence of smaller units within the larger space or who wants autonomy should be permitted to test the waters. While the idea of regional or provincial government has been touted, the following or its modifications are feasible: North East, North West, South West, South East, Niger Delta and Middle Belt, and the referendum can be used to aggregate the current state structures into the regions. Whereas Nigeria has gone through four attempts at being a republic (First Republic: 1960–1979; Civil War: 1967–1970; Second Republic 1979–1983; Third Republic: 1993–1999 and the Fourth Republic: 1999–present), it is yet to be seen if Nigeria truly enjoy a Republic status (a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch).
With the foregoing and having lay those background, I will personally like to suggest the following:
That all political relationship within the country should be redefined including the formation of:
Municipal Political Party (MPP):
This MPP will be closer to the people and will understand the critical need of the immediate society where they operate. Accountability will also be easier because the community can easily reach their party and demand direct answer from the party. They should be the organization that contest in local government elections and no national or regional party should be allowed to contest municipal election. The registration of such political organizations should also be resident within the Municipalities wherein they are registered.
Region Political Party (RPP):
The RPP should have the mandate to contest regionally including in the current state elections and also within the sub-region. For example, if a party is regional and based in Oyo State, it will have mandate to contest in the whole South-West region. It is envisaged that such party formation will enhance regional cooperation and foster regional development and economic growth. Given the current situation of similarity/common languages within each region, cultural integration will be easier and inter-regional healthy competitions on many fronts will be promoted. Such has been tested during the regional government structures in Nigeria, a period where Nigeria observed the greatest growth and those developmental strides remain to date.
National Political Party (NPP):
This structure should be allowed to have national spread. It may be through the close collaborations of some RPP without absorbing the later or by formation of such NPP directly. For any NPP to be approved, it must have noticeable presence in at least four of the six regions of the country including at least one region in the North, East, West and the South of the country. The NPP should be formed with the intention of fostering national integration, promoting things that will support national development, build our diplomatic and international profile and safeguard our national borders.
With those proposed structures above, room should be allowed for independent candidates (IC). Such independence should be based on concrete evidence of desire to serve and support from the community and not based on frivolities or the fact that such individuals just lost a party election. Hence for an independent candidate to stand, he or she must have adoption of at least a certain percentage of the society where the person is contesting as shall be determined. IC should be allowed to contest election in municipalities, regionally and nationally.
The electoral body should be truly independent. The National Assembly (NA) should endorse and confirm the Chairman of the electoral body at least two years before the next general election. In the event that the NA is unable to or unduly delay such confirmation, the President should propose nomination and this shall be confirmed by at least two-third number or states, region or provinces, whatever name shall be adopted. It should be stated that such Chairman of electoral body must be a politically conscious apolitical person.
In the event of a decision to maintain the status quo based on referendum, it becomes necessary to:
Discuss the continued feasibility and viability of two (2) bicameral Assembly at the national level. The number of representations per states should also be discussed based on certain important considerations. In my view, the current numbers are too large and unsustainable.
Discuss the viability of the current 36 State structure. The criteria for assessing viability should be set and any state that does not meet such criteria should be collapsed with a more viable state or merged with another contiguous non-viable state to form a new one based on referendum conducted by people that will be affected by such arrangement. A situation of continued dependence on federal allocation is unsustainable.
Whereas 60% derivation of states’ resource contributions should remain within the states, national resources should be revenue from crude oil, solid minerals and port duties. It is understood that the specific resources mentioned above are also located in specific states and or regions, because the development and tapping of those resources have been facilitated by federal funds, the suggestion above persists but an honest discussion should be held on what percentage should return to the source states as derivation allocation. While the national collections should be restricted to national resources, other collections should be done by states and the maximum of 40% should be released to the FGN.
The cardinal issues of access to affordable quality education, healthcare and housing, including food security should be a non negotiable right of every Nigerian.
Barack Obama once said
“Now, as a nation, we don’t promise equal outcomes, but we were founded on the idea everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. No matter whom you are, what you look like, where you come from, you can make it. That’s an essential promise of America. Where you start should not determine where you end up”.
We need to redefine ourselves as a country and know where we are headed. The outcomes may play out differently in the different regions but if we are all headed in the path of development; our country will achieve greatness through these multi-dimensional complementarities.
This piece was developed and delivered by:
Engr. Bola Babarinde Pro Tem Chairman (All Progressives Congress, South Africa Chapter)
Date: Saturday, May 27, 2017
Event: Roundtable Conversation between Nigerian Community in South Africa and Professor Owasanoye (The secretary to Federal Government of Nigeria’s Advisory Committee on Anti-curruption)
Venue: Nigerian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa
Acknowledgement: With inputs from
Prof. Folorunso Fasina. Pro Tem SecretaryAll Progressives Congress, South Africa Chapter