At 58, the leadership in Nigeria should give serious consideration to ideas that excite and innovate. We have had enough of the old order.
In recent years, Nigeria’s celebration of its day of independence has become a hollow ritual. Whatever appeal the day had for the people has since petered out. It has dissipated into thin air. Nigerians are now more attached to the newly created Democracy Day, which takes place on the 29th of May every year.
READ ALSO: June 12 Democracy Day and rule of law
But why has October 1 taken flight? Why has it become distant in the memory of Nigerians? The answer to these questions are very much with us. They derive from what we have been doing with our country, and ourselves. Nigeria has been running around in circles. We, the dramatis personae, have continued to do the same thing the same way. There is no conscious effort to innovate. That is why we keep arriving at the same result. Even where or when we achieve a different result, that has largely been a product of accident. Nigerians are so complacent in their attitude to nationhood that things cannot be markedly different from what they have always been. As a matter of fact, if Nigeria were to be a subject of inquiry by the breed called metaphysical poets, they would, in their accustomed conceit, tell you that the country is busy standing still.
But why has Nigeria remained such a hopeless story of sameness? Let’s go back in time. You could say that the root of our crisis of statehood rests on the complete absence of a sense of nationhood at the time the country attained independence. The country’s independence was mere symbolism. The people delighted in self-rule without sparing a thought on what it would entail. That was why the shock of freedom was too quick in coming. The component units did not know how to manage their diversities. Consequently, a mad struggle for the control of the soul of the country ensued. It was soon to snowball out of control, eventuating in a civil war that changed the course of the country’s history.
Indeed, the war of 1967 to 1970 is at the root of Nigeria’s hopeless state. The war was about distrust. It was about mutual suspicion. Whereas it imbued one part with a sense of triumphalism, it engendered in the other a sense of loss and alienation. I dare say that Nigeria will remain a lame duck of a country for as long as this divide exists.
In fact, the debilitating sameness that Nigeria suffers is not just mental. It is equally physical. Following the distrust that crept into the national psyche, a country of three strong regions, which engaged in healthy competition, one with another, relapsed into balkanization. It was at the height of this national suspicion that the country was sliced into 12 states.
The state creation exercise, coming at the time it did, deepened our suspicion for one another. The exercise was, first and foremost, a war strategy. It was aimed at balkanizing the Eastern Region, which had declared itself an independent republic of Biafra. The expectation was that eastern minority elements who were ill at ease with the much-touted Igbo domination would heave a sigh of relief. The strategy worked to a large extent. It was in the new state of Rivers, headed by an Ijaw military governor, that the property of the Igbo were declared abandoned. Thus, whereas Biafra was battling hard to survive the war, it also had to contend with internal sabotage and distraction emerging from eastern minorities who felt that a state of their own was all that they needed to free themselves from Igbo stranglehold.
The state creation strategy of 1967 may have served its immediate purpose. But it has also had some unintended consequences for the Nigerian federation. It has reduced the country to a conclave of acrimonious competitors. It has entrenched North-South divide. It has also packaged Nigeria as booty to be shared. Each segment of the country is perpetually gnawing at the other’s feet in order to gain advantage. It is for reasons like this that we do not have a national agenda. We also do not have anything called national interest. Everything is sectional. Nothing is ever done for the good of all. We pursue agenda that will serve the interest of a few. In the end, the country is left in the lurch. It has been groping in a blind alley for decades. And that explains why it has not found the tree for the woods.
Nearly six decades after, the story of the country has not changed. It has remained that of woes, missed opportunities, maladministration, national decay, disunity, distrust and the like. Everything we do here is merely choreographed. None is well thought out. We have refused to task our imagination and creative faculties because we are not just interested in what works. We do not even believe that anything can work. This is the pattern and it is not likely to change in the years to come.
This being the case, the people have to try something different, if their country must work. A number of options have been toyed with over the years. But what appears to have gained the centre stage now is the issue of restructuring. Those who talk about this option argue that we have to enthrone a new order, if Nigerians will ever take their country seriously. But there appears to be some mischief around the advocacy. Those who want to make the idea of restructuring unattractive are giving the impression that the concept is omnibus; that it means different things to different people. Consequently, they want the idea to be stepped down until it is properly understood by all concerned. But we know that this position is less than honest.
When Nigerians talk about restructuring, they know exactly what they mean and what they want. By restructuring, they are saying that the present political order should change. They mean that the relationship between the federating units should change. It entails that regions or zones, into which Nigeria should be restructured, should control their resources and pay royalty to the centre. Proponents of restructuring are asking that local governments should be delisted from the Constitution. They want
Nigeria to operate a strict two-tier administration. Restructuring, as is being canvassed, supports the idea of states operating their own police so that governors or chief executives of regions or zones will truly be in control of security in their areas of jurisdiction. There are a lot more that come with restructuring. Suffice it to say, however, that the aforementioned issues provide the road map for anybody who wants to seriously reflect on restructuring.
READ ALSO: The restructuring debate
The point here is this: Nigerians want to move away from the old order. They want something that will excite them. They want something to look up to. They are tired of the old, jaded ways. They want to innovate. They want something that will challenge their mental faculties. They want to be spurred on into greater accomplishments. The people are promising themselves that they will move their country to a new, enviable height, if the right opportunity is provided. They beckon on their country’s leadership to move them away from the threadbare and anaemic tradition that has been crippling the country. At 58, the leadership in Nigeria should give serious consideration to ideas that excite and innovate. We have had enough of the old order that has not worked.