Friday, May 14, 2010

Serious thoughts on the Nigerian Union – By Jesse Adeniji.

IBB, recently taunted the much maligned Nigerian youth about his/her inability to grasp the complexities and intricacies of governance. I do believe in order to prove the gap-tooth, self confessed wrong, we, as the youth of Nigeria, need to demonstrate intelligence and keenness of mind in dissecting, analysing and presenting workable options our dear country can explore in the journey to true independence and respect in the comity of nations.

I have two major overarching drives in sitting down to put this little thought of mine together:

(a) To prove to IBB that contrary to his warped sense of judgement, the Nigerian youth is one heck of a miracle. Denied opportunities in his/her own home turf, by unauthorised, dubious and autocratic rulers like IBB, we have found ways to thrive in the nooks and crannies of the world including Nigeria.

(b) To kick-start a revolution in the intellectual sphere of the Nigerian youth. We are actively involved in activism. That’s not enough, we need to propose alternative viewpoints to the existing lies being used to put our nation in bondage by those forces of neo-colonialism, among which IBB is king.

I reckon if we all bring our grey matters to bear on postulating real, credible solutions to the Nigerian debacle, we could somehow come to a convergence from our different perch-points and rise up to make Nigeria better. It is my belief that the revolution that will work will start first as an intellectual revolution. When it grows and prospers on the streets, no form of corruption or bribery would stop its all conquering impact.


Many scholars and critics have eloquently written about the Why’s of the debacle we face as a nation. Few have ever dug really deep to open our eyes to how things could be.

As a nation, we have practised 2 distinct forms of government. We started with the Parliamentary system. Some school of thought maybe we weren’t getting the right deal from that and nudged us in favour of the American presidential system.

After over 48 years of experiment, it’s mighty clear to us that the problem isn’t with the systems – there have been proven continuous success stories of both systems of government by Britain and America and a few other countries – it’s with us as a people.

It’s obvious to us then that something is either wrong with us as a people, or the basis for our union is mighty faulty. It’s my belief that we’re no less endowed as humans from others and that the problem lies in the union – both the form and the structure.

Excuses & Lies

We have advanced a lot of silly excuses as to why where still languishing in the comity of backward nations of the earth.

The foremost lie we hear is : ‘ Rome wasn’t built in a day’. I quite agree that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Fact. What is also more factual is, Dubai took a fraction of the time it took Rome to be built! And with better infrastructure and precision engineering.

In today’s world, once you develop a blueprint, anyone can copy it and therefore, you do not need to spend as much time as it took for the prototype to be developed. The atomic particle was first identified by Athenian scientists in the ancient world. It took several scientists and an awful lot of resources and 2nd World War urgency to develop the H-bomb after Einstein split the atom.

Nowadays, it takes a couple of months for a nation that has the know-how {blueprint} and materials necessary. No right thinking nation asks her scientists to take as much time as it took the pioneers to develop one for them.

The second excuse is: ‘Oh, Nigeria is much too diverse to have one voice!’. True. We’re diverse just as other nations! America was wrested from the Red Indians by a combination of disillusioned and disenfranchised Europeans of diverse background – Germans, English, Irish, Scots, Netherlanders, Belgians e.t.c

Indonesia has almost the same number of ethnic group as Nigeria, with deep religious fault lines running through, yet, they are a thriving nation.

China is the same. It’s got all sorts of tribes and races and yet has become the manufacturing capital of the world with a strong voice in International politics. There are many other countries to mention if not all the countries of the world! Our situation is not unique and therefore isn’t an excuse for flunking our nation building classes.

The third most prevalent lie is: ‘The British are responsible for our debacle! They joined us together by force.’ Hahahahaha Nigerians! Tell me of a country that hasn’t been nipped and tucked and shifted around like chess pieces by ruling powers from time immemorial?

The Romans have been known to relocate entire tribes and nations to preserve their power. The Mongols did same. The Babylonians, The Ottomans, Napoleonic France, The British, USSR and other European powers. Belgium was under slavery for so many years and has so many tribes smashed together – French, Germans, Flemish + other tribes – yet they have thrived and found a way to be relevant.

A nation that blames her failure on the past isn’t fit for the future.

Structure of Nigeria.

The founding fathers, in retrospect, understood Nigeria better than the likes of IBB and his ilks. In attaining independence from the British, they recognized that we aren’t ‘one’ people. They knew we are aeons away from the ‘one Nigeria’ mantra that has brought us the civil war and become a rallying cry for dictators like IBB and Obasanjo.

As such, they opted for a system that allowed each region to develop at its own pace. At least the Northern region was formed by some political consensus even if later, the Middle Belt felt it needed her own identity.

When we opted for the American Presidential style, the spirit was to maintain some form of autonomy for the constituent units.

It was that spirit of healthy competition, engendered by the pre-independence political arrangement that helped us develop ahead of the likes of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and a few other now very prosperous nations of the world.

The North set its priority as trade. The West was education and commerce. The East was into trade, education and manufacturing. The Northern government paid wages commensurate to the standard of living in the North at £2 a month to the civil servants. The East paid £3 and the West paid £4. It’s the same kind of reward structure obtainable in America. Earning $200,000 in New York might not be as profitable as $140,000 in Wyoming. In UK, it’s called London Weighting.

The West started the University College Ibadan and later OAU, the East had UNN and the North ABU. There was healthy competition.

Even politically, the Mid-West saw themselves as neither West nor East and were able to negotiate their existence.

Enter the Military goons!

The military opportunists made a mess of a minor situation where the North was dangerously meddling in the affairs of the West, something not unexpected in a nascent union.

From that time, they became infested with the power syndrome. The detail is well documented, so i move to the consequences.

Apart from stymieing the political learning process, they imported a deadly poison into the system that has dogged our existence as a country today.


Because they didn’t have the brain and wherewithal to manage the Nigerian national economy, and the emergence of the oil commodity, they centralized the purse and linked all states to the apron strings of the government at the centre – whatever shape or size in which it came or appeared.

Federalism is not one unless it’s FISCAL in nature! The success of the regions at independence was absolutely founded on the ability of those regions to retain 60% of their own income and use it to pursue developmental needs relevant to their region.

It’s the access to income that makes a man! Not the clothes he puts on. Everyone knows that romance without finance is a nuisance. So they killed off the regional economies and made them dependent on handouts from the ‘goon’ in Ribadu Road and later Aso Rock!

As such, it’s the same power monger, or more succinctly, power Mongrel that determines what is spent in 31 states of the Federation and in about 770 local councils spread across the length and breadth of our dear nation.

My friends, that is, in effect is a UNITARY government! At least politically the ruling party is always a winner takes it all and all the national resources is therefore concentrated in their hands.

We’ve been living a lie. And we’ve ended with these fallouts;

(a) Too much power and resources was concentrated at the centre. Therefore, as a natural consequence, ‘capturing’ power at the centre is a DO or DIE affair.

(b) The power of the constituent units to compete healthily through innovation and invention was crippled. It’s far more expedient to sit on your arse as a governor and collect the handout called oil revenue sharing and loot than actively looking for ways to promote the economic empowerment of the people.

(c) Since they also took away the rights of the States to make the local councils under them accountable, and aligned it to the federal government, we’ve made accountability to the Nigerian voter doubly impossible. And yet about a quarter of Nigeria’s income is frittered away through that route. And the local councils have become a crucial ground not only for looting the country blind, but also for gaining power into Aso rock for any political party. Since the whole structure of government in Nigeria is one huge looting machine, people have surrendered their will to siding with a party that has ‘ captured’ the councils and that pattern is replicated on the other levels. {Reason why PDP is boasting of spending then next 50 years. They know whoever has enough loot in hand to bribe at that level will take hold of power}.

(d) Our skills at governing has been reduced to that of passing handout down the line, so we give little thought to research and development and pay more attention to politicking right across all fields of endeavour. Positions therefore exist merely as a ladder from which your knife might get a cut from the national cake.

(e) It ensures that the minority tribes in Nigeria remain that way. Neatly tucked away from the centre of things, unless you get feisty and acquire some Al-Qaida training and begin some Mujahedeen war against the government like the Niger Deltans are doing. And God save you if you’re not protected by a mix of heavy war equipment, African voodoo and labyrinth creeks to find refuge in. Ask those guys from Benue and Borno.

(f) Let’s face it, when there’s too much money at the disposal of the man at the centre, it’d take a miracle to keep his hand from it. Even if all we give the man at the centre to run Naija is just 40% of derivation from each constituent unit, it’s still a lot of money! Too much.

So what do i think we need to do?

My belief.

I do believe that Nigeria can work. I also believe that our togetherness has already made us the biggest market in Africa; we have more potential for growth and prosperity.

But that unity HAS to be negotiated. It must come from the heart based on a set of agreements and rules enforceable by any party in a fair and honest way.

It’s a shame that adults have refused to talk to themselves 50 years after their oppressor left. Yet they want to drag each other along.

That’s exactly what our refusal to come to a conference table means. It means our friendship is based on coercion and deceit. If i have issues with my wife, we both sit down as adults and listen to one another, then we iron out our differences and agree some basic ground rules to help us navigate the future. It doesn’t mean we won’t have issues in the future, but if we refuse to hold a ‘ clear the air’ meeting and follow it up with ‘heartfelt tête-à-tête’, how on earth can we hope that there would be peace in the home?

I do believe that a National Conference or whatever name you want to call it, when held, will actually bring us together rather than alienate us. We will be stronger because we will have ironed out differences and given each other assurances and know where to proceed from and where we’re headed.

Case for Fiscal Federalism.

To my mind, a true fiscal federalism is still the best way to go. One, each region will have the chance to determine its own fate within a strong structure.

Two, each region will truly complement each other in the true sense of it as we’d be forced to engaged in an economic give and take. Imagine if Bayelsa keeps 60% of it’s resources, she will need to hire the best doctors from all over Nigeria, it will need the best teachers who might not be Bayelsans and also might have the best maritime industry that would employ professionals and artisans from all over Nigeria. In reverse, the less endowed states can start to look at people as its natural resources and establish the best training institutes to provide the best people to the super-endowed states.

How to start.

Based on my preference for a fiscal federalism, we do not necessarily have to start the derivation at 60%. We will of course need to be strategically progressive in achieving that aim. If we set a 10 year moratorium for all the 31 constituent units to revert to keeping 60% of all income generated, we’d give each state the opportunity to prepare for a different life.

In these 10 years each state will have to find where it can apply the law of comparative advantage. I refuse to accept that there are states not endowed in Nigeria! I refused it vehemently. One, if you have humans, you have wealth! Geological wealth {wealth from minerals hidden in the ground} have performed well below the potential of Anthropoid wealth { wealth from inventions and services}. The combined returns Google, Apple, Microsoft and Logitech is far more abundant than what oil has given Nigeria in all of it’s national life.

Two, the mineral mapping done by America through the satellite technology, places Nigeria as the second most wealthy after Democratic Republic of Congo {former Zaire} in Africa. I completed my NYSC program in Gombe State in 1998-1999. I was astonished to find out that the state has Uranium in commercial quantities! Nothing has been done about it because they’re content getting easy money from the centre!

Also, Gombe state happens to have the highest number of cattle per head in the whole of Nigeria. I didn’t see any corned beef manufacturing company there! In Biu, you have a plateau that produces the best tomatoes in the world the Italians would be proud of. There’s no tin-tomato making concern there.

You could replicate that in every state of the nation. Palm Oil has been called the new crude. It’s about the healthiest emulsifier allowed in European food manufacturing. It goes into everything from your soap to your wafers, chocolates, e.t.c What stops a state like Borno from acquiring land in Cross River in conjunction with a company with technical expertise from anywhere to develop such products using local labour while the profits go to the people of their own state?

In negotiating our unity, experts could be brought in to analyse of ascertain the amount of natural resources, human resources, climatic resources and the potential of each state. Any state found to be intrinsically weak will be supported by special funds from the money that goes to the centre by enforceable agreement for up to a period of time necessary for such state to stand on its own feet.

Benefits of freeing up the country by agreement

• The first benefit is an intrinsically humanistic one. We will be recognizing the ability of each constituent unit to devise a survival mechanism that leads to prosperity. After all, before Lugard showed up all the Nigerian regions have produced enduring dynasties and systems of survival!

• We will be encouraging recognition for the right to triumph through the dint of hard work and enterprise. The best will be able to prop up the weak just like the Bill Gates of this world founded companies that made other Americans and nationals millionaires! We are covering up the destinies of so many talented Nigerians up with the current pursuit of ‘chop-i-chop’ ideals.

• We will free Nigeria from the shackles of decadent and despotic leadership. If you realize that the centre involves too much work required of true patriots, and less opportunity for self aggrandizement, less charlatans will sign up for Nigeria2011 or whatever year. Only people with will and vision will put themselves forward.

• We will be able to conquer our fear to do the right thing! Those who’ve hidden behind religious and ethnic banners to loot us blind will be exposed. How? Because each component unit will now be the focus of real political attention, it’d be easy for those component units to enforce their own laws as there will be openness as we know ourselves very well and there’s no covering from the Abuja godfather as we’ve witnessed in Anambra and Oyo. For instance in Ogun state, I’d be able to challenge a sitting governor better because he knows that when runs foul of the law, we know where to get him! You cannot use assassins freely because the monopoly of the law will not be absolute.

• The stranglehold of the neo-colonial forces in Nigeria would be broken. As the constituent units assert their powers and wield it, corruption will be reduced and prosperity freed up. As of now, a sitting governor cannot initiate a rail development scheme without first getting permission from the president through moribund and useless National Railway Commission. A situation that arrogates extensive power to a mere civil servant to rubbish the dreams of the people of a particular state and gives controlling powers to the president in undermining a governor.

• Same thing as above is obtainable with the security apparatus. The constitution gives the power to protect lives and property, and promise of prosperity to the governor of a state. Yet that governor has to rely on the assurance of the Inspector General of Police who’s politically appointed by the President to fulfil a constitutional demand. How does that work? The result is what transpired in Jos when the governor could only run to the military authorities who did nothing. Thousands of people were murdered and it’s not swept under the carpet. Business has continued as usual. We need to follow the spirit of the letter that we agree to! We need to have state police! America has it and the heavens haven’t fallen. The British have it. How can we refuse to do the needful on the basis of our fears?

• We’d be able to make it impossible for business oligarchs to buy Nigeria off. Glo is the second national carrier. It controls the call data and infrastructure plus internet access for about 50% of the whole populace. That is a big security risk. In case we do get into war and it’s infiltrated, we’re doomed. It’s one of the reasons we’ve not exposed the killers in our midst. They give orders over the phone, they access the internet.........the vital monitoring tool isn’t in the hands of govt. Ever wondered why the BT line runs through every home and is linked to the national security centre in Britain?

• We’d be ale to free up civil servants who are concerned with making their councils economically viable. So they’d offer business friendly services, encourage businesses to set up with them and not turn to touts running after Okadas and street traders for registration! They even employ Area Boys nowadays to collect revenue!

What Next?

I have started this debate so that all the more brainy, qualified and brilliant minds than i am, some of whom i have met on Facebook – Kayode Ogundamisi {whom i have discussed the need for the solution focussed activism}, Babatunde Rosanwo, Feyi Fawehinmi, Seyi Osiyemi, Cee Won, Seun Kolade, Phil Smart, Ken Davidson, DJ Abass, Ayo Sonaiya, Wale Adedayo, Franco Francis, Gbola Bowale X, and all others i can’t remember now, who constitute the vital link between the Nigerian teenagers and all less than 45, the true future of Nigeria.

I expect rejoinders and new line of thoughts. We need to start providing our solutions no matter how crude. Once we get talking to each other, we’d add more wisdom. We can also put pressure on the elderly democrats and thinkers like Prof. Sola Adeyeye and the likes to write and support us with experience.

I am offering as many as are interested in this project to let us like AWOLOWO provide some intellectual context that’s so much lacking in our dear country and make it available via a website we’d co-build. I am sure we will come to a convergence and spread the news as much as possible for others to imbibe so we can flag off the true revolution – the one that comes from understanding imbibed in the heart and displayed on the streets if necessary to get Nigeria out of the woods.

It’d be a shame for all these despots to challenge us and not give them good answers.

The race for Aso Rock and the future of Nigerians have begun. None of the candidates yet have any thematic thrust or real manifesto, written that specifies how we can reach the promise land. Most will sell the usual crap – road, water, light, hospital. At 50 years?

We’ve got to wake up!

Jesse Adeniji is a marketing communications specialist. He runs Jessemay Consulting, London.

1 comment:

Tomi Davies said...

this is a well thought out piece for which I commend you. I will be sharing it with as many people as I can!