By Jerome-Mario Utomi
THERE are many reasons Nigeria must take the present call for restructuring seriously. It is in the long-term interests of all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to restructure Nigeria into a true and sustainable federation. It is, however, clear that there is at present no love lost politically between Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Tiv, Ibibio and other ethnic nationalities that makeup Nigeria.
What all ethnic nationalities are now engaged in is primarily what they can get from Nigeria. No ethnic nationality really wants Nigeria to disintegrate into its component parts. Every ethnic nationality both large and small is now fighting for its own political and economic interests and what it can get as a nation-state in Nigeria.
On the urgent need to achieve the path to peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political existential impasse, Felix N.C. Oragwu’s memorandum, entitled ‘Critical Steps towards the Resolution of Nigeria as a True Federation,’ proffers that Nigeria should borrow a leaf from the experience of other federations such as the UK of Great Britain, a federation of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; Canada which is a federation of English- speaking and French-speaking Americans which came into existence after the American War of Independence from Europe; the now disintegrated USSR, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia federations which came into existence through the force of Socialism/Communism; and nearer home, the former Sudan now disintegrated into North and South Sudan and even South Sudan that is threatening to disintegrate into two ethnic nationalities.
I believe that the interests ofNigeria’s ethnic nationalities can be harmonised through dialogue and by a consensus of union through debate in the National and state assemblies as now constituted. What is happening in Nigeria is not unique, it has happened in most forced Federations such as USSR and Yugoslavia which had since disintegrated into their respective component parts. We should not wish such fate to befall Nigeria.
For the record, in 1952, Nigeria was first restructured from one British Colonial amalgamated entity into a three federating regions of Northern Nigeria, dominated by Hausa-Fulani ethnic nationality led by Alhaji Ahmadu Bello; Western Region of Nigeria with a Yoruba ethnic nationality led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Eastern Region of Nigeria with an Igbo ethnic nationality led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
In each of these regional set-ups, there are other smaller ethnic nationalities. The capitals of the respective regional governments are Kaduna, Ibadan and Enugu respectively, while Lagos, though part of Yoruba land, was unanimously chosen as capital of the Nigerian Federation, during the restructuring meetings of the Amalgamated Nigeria in 1951 at Ibadan Western Nigeria.
In the subsequent election of 1952 to the National Assembly, it was found that Northern Nigeria had 175 elected members all belonging to one party, namely: Northern Nigeria People’s Party, NPC, and Southern Nigeria put together had a total of 157 elected Members, respectively. It was also found in the Northern Regional Assembly that the Hausa-Fulani and Kanuri ethnic nationalities dominated the Northern Regional Parliament with no opposition.
The Western Nigeria Regional Parliament was dominated by the Yoruba ethnic nationality, while the Eastern Nigeria Regional Parliament was dominated by the Igbo ethnic nationality, respectively. In each of these Regions there was a good number of distinct ethnic nationalities which are not Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, or Igbo.
That is where Nigeria’s political instability and crises of good governance started and culminated into the military intervention in politics in 1966 and the subsequent Nigeria-Biafra Civil War of 1967-1970. After the Civil War and specifically from 1979, several attempts were again made to restructure Nigeria but no success. In the light of Nigeria’s complex political situation, the following proposed steps were recommended by the memo for consideration. In resolving the vexed question of restructuring Nigeria so that the country Nigeria will truly develop and grow in unity, peace and economic progress.
Step one: There is now the need to consider eventually a new name for the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this respect, Nigeria may be renamed the United States of Nigeria, USN. This may erase the ugly history or memory of Nigeria’s forced amalgamation without the consent of the different/distinct ethnic nationalities comprised in Nigeria and located along the length and breadth of the River Niger by Lord Frederick Lugard, the first Governor-General of Nigeria, acting on the Authority of British Imperial Power and Colonial Diplomacy. This transaction took place without the consent and agreement of ethnic Nationalities concerned.
Step two: Suggested terms of union for Nigeria as a True Federation: The terms of union were already well spelt out early in 1951 during the British Colonial sponsored national conference of representatives of the ethnic nationalities at Ibadan, South-West Nigeria, to restructure the amalgamated unitary administration of Nigeria operating since 1914.
The restructuring conference of 1951 was attended by the true representatives of the ethnic nationalities, with Sir Ahmadu Bello leading the representatives of Northern Region of Nigeria (now 19 States of Northern Nigeria); Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe leading the Representatives of Eastern Region of Nigeria (now the five states of Igbo land and Akwa Ibom State (Ibibio/Annang) and Cross River State (Efik/Ogoja) land; and Chief Obafemi Awolowo leading the representatives of South West Nigeria (now the six Yoruba states of Western Nigeria and the present Edo and Delta states. The Conference was chaired by the British Colonial Secretary, then Sir Oliver Littleton.
The terms of union of the nation-state of Nigeria should be adopted with necessary amendments. The details of these terms of union of Nigerian Federation operating from 1952-1965, are captured by the Macpherson Constitution of Nigeria of 1952, and are also well documented in 2019 articles by Felix N. C. Oragwu, titled “The Imperative of a True Federation for Nigeria” and “Do we (Nigerians) need 36 States Federation”.
Highlights of these terms of union that operated from 1952-1965 are namely that: the Federal (Central) Government is to operate as a Coordinating Government and not as a Controlling Government but has the exclusive responsibility for the mutually agreed common national services, such as Armed Forces, Nigerian Police, Citizenship, Customs, Central Bank of Nigeria, national currency, immigration, foreign affairs including foreign trade, national education standards, but not educational institutions, national scientific, technological and industrial goods standards including agricultural/mineral commodity export standards, trunk a roads or interconnecting high ways.
Source: Vanguard News Nigeria