I was graciously invited to a political meeting recently in Abuja. I hadn’t been to such in a while and of course, my political interest in Nigeria is waning, but not my interest in Nigeria herself. In such meetings where there are quite a number of individuals with heavy political credentials in their own rights, it is often difficult to get a space to speak, or to express oneself as much as one will like. I will not mention which meeting and who was there because I have no authority to put their meetings out in the open.
However, I have great respect for anyone who is struggling, at their own expense, to get Nigerians to come together to discuss the future, as against those who insist that the end has come for the entity. I managed to get a word in, but the things I said – and those I couldn’t – have weighed on my mind, prompting this article. There is a need to expand on my thoughts at this critical juncture of Nigeria’s sociopolitical evolution.
My key prompt for the intervention I made at the meeting, was the expected skewness of the discussions at some point, towards issues of the tribe, ethnic nationalities, religion, and all the issues that have divided us. A few of the commenters also believed that Nigeria faces an existential crisis to the extent that the biggest question before us is whether we want to remain as one. Few people questioned the legitimacy of the country as is. Those who shared this view projected that opinion on the majority of Nigerians, saying that that was the feeling on the streets.
Whereas it is true that many Nigerians are disenchanted with the current situation of things – especially security and the economy – I felt it was important to interrogate how those issues have translated into mass calls for disintegration and whether leaders from all the constituent parts of this nation were leading especially the young people who looked up to them aright or helping the less-experienced folk to find hope where none seem to exist, or whether indeed it was these political people that were infusing fear and despair to worsen the situation.
NEVER TAKE GOVERNMENT BY DECEIT
I also managed to put in the fact that from my point of view, all I see are prospects and opportunities for Nigeria, and indeed, if we ended Nigeria today, we may as well label her tombstone “returned unopened” (well I forgot to tell the audience this but that is my thought). In other words, we haven’t worked the potentials of this nation at all. Give this space to the Germans, Chinese or Americans and woah! So the challenge is how to make this country work and how to maximise her potentials.
I believe that Africa does not need smaller countries – like those ones that France kneels on their necks and chokes the life out of them; I’m talking of those ones that cannot have their own currencies or central banks and which have to keep their reserves in France and get caned on their palms if their ‘profligacy’ makes them come back for some of the cake that Big Auntie Francisca is keeping for them because she doesn’t think they could ever be responsible enough to manage their own affairs. In fact, I am thinking about the manifest destiny of this country that we have lampooned, denigrated, raped, and robbed so often and so much. Close to the end of the 19th Century, the leaders of the USA spoke at length about the ‘manifest destiny’ of that country. Some presidential candidates adopted that as a slogan.
Nigeria’s manifest destiny is clear – to be the leading light in Africa, a country run by black Africans without oppression, a country that sets the standards for others in its class, a country that uplifts the status of the black man and woman anywhere that they may be found. Apparently, we have been faffing about and moving that destiny in reverse. But I believe that at some point, we must make progress.
RESTRUCTURING AND THE CONSTITUTION
I never miss the opportunity to speak about my understanding of restructuring and at this meeting, many big wigs believed that the idea was even dead as we should be talking about something more fundamental – like self-determination for the constituent parts of Nigeria. Some said it was already too late, while others said the focus should be on inserting only one clause in that constitution; referendum.
Others rose against this idea, seeing it as an avenue by which some parts of Nigeria hoped to activate the disintegration of the nation. I must say that I also told the meeting that the views of the average 20 or 30 years old Nigeria would not be to disintegrate the country except if the minds of the young had been poisoned by old folks. Yes, many young Nigerians now believe strongly that Nigeria is finished but when interrogated you find out they don’t have the full picture; the nuanced history about how we got here.
They only re-echo what they have been told by old folks, many of whom had benefited one way or another as the country hurtled down the slope. If someone with a more optimistic vision of the country spoke to these youths, and we can extract a bit more equity from governmental structures, they will see that someone is about to con them and make them lose this huge, plain canvass in front of them, upon which they are to create the most beautiful artwork for their own delight and that of their children – Nigeria. My view of restructuring remains that no structure is perfect.
The fact that regions who detested regional policing in 1965 now want it by all means, while those who wanted it then now despise it, the fact that those who wanted out of the structure then, now want a united Nigeria today, while those who begged to keep Nigeria together want out today, means that human beings will always change their minds, structures will always expire or become unfit for purpose, and therefore what is needed is dynamism. This dynamism must be codified into our constitution – that that document should be reviewed say every 4 years thoroughly so that it delivers more to the average Nigerian. Therefore, the constitution that embeds the structure too, can never be perfect.
All the talk of a new constitution and such is over-the-top and a recipe for more confusion. It could even be argued that the military that ‘allegedly’ wrote the current constitution are Nigerians like the rest of us. Outlawing everything they did – if that was possible – is a bit preposterous.