LIKE the prodigal son, Nigeria has strayed from home as far as one can imagine; as far from a Federal Republic as you like to discover. He is the source of all his problems and until he returns to glory, like the prodigal son, he will continue to wander around like an aimless and disturbed nothingness.
Nigeria’s former colonial master, as well as his “founding fathers”, clearly appreciated the diversity of his people: politically, economically, culturally, religiously and ethnically. As part of a pan-African recognition of Africa’s cultural and historical unity, they realized that for the “mere geographical expression” to move forward as a country and become a nation, the best form of political coexistence is a FEDERAL REPUBLIC. Based on this, it gained independence and autonomy in 1960 and became a republic in 1963, with a proper constitution. However, the mismanagement of his freedom by his bewildered political elites led to military intervention in 1966, a civil war that lasted until 1970, and the maintenance of the military in government until 1979. This chain of events completely destroyed the foundation of the Federal Republic.
The return to democratic rule was then overseen by the very architect of the destruction of the federal and republican base – the military, who bequeathed a centralized dictatorship to their civilian colleagues under the guise of a democracy via the Constitution of 1979. The civilians stayed only four years before the military returned again uninvited, stayed until 1999 and bequeathed a repackaged 1979 Constitution as the much more anti-federal 1999 Constitution, anti-republic, dictatorial and anti-people, to their prodigal civilian partners, and Nigeria has wandered the wilderness since then to this day; away from his father’s house but still bearing his father’s name – Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A Republic “is a State in which the supreme power is held by the people”, the modern republic being based on the idea that sovereignty belongs to the people, who have equal rights and responsibilities before the law, without any person, class or group has none. special privileges of birth or association.
A federation is “a group of states with a central government but independent in internal affairs”. It is “the formation of a political unity, with a central government, by a number of separate states, each of which retains control of its own internal affairs”. The economic and political concerns, in particular territorial defence, which motivate the formation of political unity in a central government are always clearly defined, apart from these, each federating entity is independent in the conduct of its internal affairs.
Long years of military presence in government have left a negative legacy of centralism, arbitrariness, subversion of the rule of law, human rights and public service. It has spawned nepotism, irresponsibility, sole dependence on oil revenue while neglecting all other forms of productivity, and has encouraged patronage and sectoral oppressions along ethnic and religious lines. All of this was bequeathed to civilian political elites who were mostly fellow travelers of the military and whose greed, indolence, lack of imagination and sustained fixation on oil rent revenue sharing conditioned the rethinking the unsustainability of the current operating system and a return to true federalism. The sharing of the oil rent in the “federation account” and its inexplicable spending as the rulers see fit have become the all-purpose political goals of who takes charge.
The original unifying units were the regions, which were balkanized into states by the military. However, each state still knows its regional origin. Only two exemplary state governors since the return to âcivilian ruleâ in 1999 have made spirited attempts to challenge the exploitative, oppressive and unsustainable centralized system â Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos and Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola in Osun. In our next installment, we will examine their achievement and the resistance of a power elite clinging to the status quo, as well as the rights to choice and identity in a federal republic.
For now, even with a stable and guaranteed barrel of 2 million barrels per day at $100 for 365 days in the Federation account, the current system is a recipe for poverty, chaos, oppression, violent crime and inevitable national collapse that no “elected” president or governor can save, however shrewd or well-meaning. The return to a real federal republic that the elites are currently fleeing is the inevitable salvation.