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‘COMPREHENDING & MASTERING NIGERIA’S CONFLICTS: THE IMPERATIVE OF RESTITUTING TRUE FEDERALISM’ Excerpts from a speech delivered by Prof. Adebayo Adedeji at the Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture, Held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, 2001 In 2001, Professor Adedeji delivered a paper titled ‘Comprehending and Mastering African Conflicts: The Search for Sustainable Peace and Good Governance’ The piece is reproduced below in memory of this great Nigerian and also for posterity, as the professor’s postulations still appear to be very apt, 17 years after the delivery of the treatise. The paper contains ideas and information that could still be useful for those tinkering with the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nigeria is once again at a turning point. Will it settle permanently the terms and conditions of living together in one polity of its diverse peoples so that it can indeed – and not just in words-become a united, strong and self-reliant nation with a free and democratic society? Or will it forever remain, in spite of the rhetoric’s to the contrary, a mere collection of independent native states separated from one another by a multiple of barriers and are merely cohabiting? The answers to these questions depend largely on the type of the country’s constitution that emerges in the months ahead to replace the military-crafted 1999 constitution. Because we have consistently botched earlier attempts to have a constitution that is in harmony with our social and political economies, we have had to face perennial conflicts particularly since independence some forty years ago. First, our colonial masters disdainfully refused to be influenced by the realities of the country’s diversity – hence they persisted throughout their rule in treating the whole of Northern Nigeria as one indivisible organic entity. Similarly, they chose, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, to treat Western and Eastern Nigeria as homogenous entities. They discounted the fact that there are minorities in the West and the East as they are in the North. Indeed, for twenty-five years after the amalgamation of 1914 both the West and the East were lumped together as Southern Nigeria and governed as one entity without regard to their extremely rich and unmistakable diversities. It was not until 1967 when, as an act of desperation to save the Nigerian polity from utter and violent disintegration, that the long-delayed constitutional recognition was given to the existence of…

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