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Is Nigeria’s unity really not negotiable? asks Ezenwaka Macdonald

By News Express on 13/07/2017

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It was a thing of joy to witness the Centenary celebration of Nigeria in 2014. And now, we’re a 103 old as one nation. However, within this period, there had been several agitations for self-determination by groups from different sections of the country. Notable among such groups are the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF) that was pioneered by late Major Isaac Adaka Boro; Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), pioneered by late Ken Saro-Wiwa; Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) of Western Nigeria, led by Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Arewa People’s Congress (APC), and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

And the agitations have greatly intensified more than ever before. At present, the music that’s sung across the country on daily basis is that of restructuring! The sounds of the drums of restructuring emit very high decibels that are almost deafening! In fact, no time in the history of our country are we so divided as it is now.

So, the drums of restructuring will continue to sound. In the face of glaring disenchantment with the present government, and the loss of sense of belonging by some sections of the country; some of our political leaders keep saying, “The unity of Nigeria is not negotiable.” The acting President, for example, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo has continued to harp that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. He cited the preamble of 1999 Constitution as amended that says, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria… solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God…”

Of course, that’s expected of him by virtue of his position. But is Nigeria’s unity really not negotiable?

I’m not a proponent of secession or disintegration of Nigeria as a country. Far from it! I strongly believe in ONE Nigeria! And I believe there’s strength in diversity. This was lent credence to by the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria in an event recently held to mark the 246th Independence Anniversary of the United States. However, I’m of the opinion that we can still renegotiate how we want to live together as a nation. There’s need for the restructuring of the country to correct the disparity amongst the component geo-political zones or states.

Restructuring, however, has been misunderstood by some people (especially from one section of the country) to mean secession. For instance, when one Alhaji TankoYakassai, an elder statesman from Kano State was asked his view about restructuring on a national radio live programme, he disdainfully responded: “Restructuring is selfishness.” According to him, those who’re clamouring for restructuring are looking for a way to diminish the power of their ‘God-given’ population. He rather advocated devolving power to the states. But when asked if devolution of power wasn’t the same thing as political restructuring; he said, “No.” Well, that to me is the same thing as calling half a dozen six.

We claim to be a federal republic on paper, but in practice, it’s a unitary system –where, at the end of every month, governors go to Abuja (that controls the resources) to collect handouts or bailouts these days. But to every right-thinking Nigerian, this system can no longer be sustained! In this regard, the National Leader of the ruling party, Bola Tinubu, during the 91st Anniversary of Daily Times newspapers and the Times Heroes Awards in Abuja, affirmed: “Let us streamline governance; federalism in word and deed. Our constitution declares Nigeria a federation of 36 states. However, we still function like a unitary state despite the constitution. More power and resources need to devolve to the states. The Federal Government is taking on too much. We cannot flourish with over-concentration of powers at the centre…”

Yes, the present structure encourages mental laziness, backwardness, mediocrity and gross imbalance amongst the states. A glaring instance is the provocative sharp disparity in the cut-off marks for entrance into the Unity Schools. An examination that was set for all candidates of the same age range, with the same curriculum, questions and the same time allotted to write the examination; but with DIFFERENT malicious cut-off marks! In the name of the so-called Federal Character, you give a cut-off mark of 139 for a boy from Anambra State, but an annoyingly infinitesimal mark of 2 for a boy from Yobe State! Again, a girl from Lagos State will have to score 133 to get admission, but a girl from Zamfara State is only required to score 2! This is unacceptable by all standards!

In the light of the above and other reasons not mentioned here, there’s need to renegotiate the union in order to correct the imbalance amongst states and injustice suffered by some regions or states. We can’t afford to live 50 years backward just because one region (out of the selfishness of its elites) has refused to develop, then, the rest of the country should pay for it. That’s why restructuring should be considered, so that every region or state will freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, educational, social and cultural development at its own pace.

However, while political restructuring should be considered, I believe the best form of restructuring is the RESTRUCTURING of our ATTITUDE! In my opinion, it’s the best solution to the myriad of the current ethnic, religious and political conflicts that are bedevilling our country. And the attitudinal restructuring must begin with our political leaders! They should think of what they’d do for Nigerians, and not what they’d do to enrich themselves. They should be reminded that “If a free society cannot help the poor who are many”, said John F. Kennedy, “It cannot save the few who are rich.”

To this end, it is pertinent to remind the President of the immortal advice the just passed on elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule gave him as President-elect in 2015 published by The Vanguard of July 7, “..With justice, you can rule Nigeria well. Justice is the key. If you do justice to all and sundry – and I say all and sundry – because Allah says if you are going to judge between people, do justice, irrespective of their tribe, religion or even political inclination; justice must be done to whosoever deserves it. Behind every crisis anywhere in the world is injustice and the solution to that crisis is justice…The weapons of governing the mind and conquering the spirit are justice and fair play. Justice! …Don’t change; don’t compromise justice with anything… I am not asking you – and I know you will not – to discriminate against any part of Nigeria. But I am asking you to do justice to all parts of NigeriaJustice will bring about peace….

•Ezenwaka Macdonald is of Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus.

Source News Express

Posted 13/07/2017 8:18:12 PM

 

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