I watched on Channels Television in the evening of Tuesday January 30, 2018, a report of the meeting of traditional rulers who gathered in Owerri, Imo State, to review the state of the nation. I watched the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar, and the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba EnitanAdeyeye pour out their minds in disapproval ofthe recent disturbing occurrences that have heated up the polity. They spoke not only as the custodians of our rich heritage; but also, as the chief mobilizers of their people. One could read from the expressions on the faces of participants genuine concern for the unity and peace of Nigeria. The Sultan declared categorically, and I read his pensivecountenance that should he violate any law of the land, he should be prosecuted. I note recalled that the royal father once requested whoever wished that Igbos should vacate the northern Nigeria to come for him first, because he would never support such an illegality. Similarly, Oba Ogunwusi spoke against bitterness and rancourand pleaded for peaceful conducts.
Whoever initiated that forum deserves huge commendation, given the need for all segments of the Nigerian society to continue to dialogue as a means of resolving their differences. Essentially, one of the issues thrown up by those statements from royal fathers is genuine respect for the rule of law. The rule of law stipulates equality before the law; and elsewhere, The Oxford English Dictionarydefines the legal terminology as:‘’the principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by decisions of individual government officials. ‘’It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behaviour; including behaviour of government officials.’’Only Nigerians that are protected by the constitution are immune to prosecution in law courts. I feel sure, that traditional rulers who met in Owerri and other local ptatforms must have discussed very pertinent issues, without which failures would be recorded in the quest for peace and development. And that is citizenship, that must override all other claims in a plural society such as to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging, no matter where he or she might have been privileged to originate. Until such issues like place of origin are de-emphasized in favour of merit and competence, the nation might continue to witness sordid developments.
CLOGS IN THE WHEEL OF PROGRESS
Other issues like zoning of political offices, application of federal character in appointments and other areas of the country’s life have put solid question marks on the nation’s claim that it is a land where justice, fair play and equity are accorded due considerations. These issues have caused deep rooted and congenital hatred among different groups, while the secularity of the nation, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal of Nigeria has at different periods of the nation’s history threatened the very fabric of its foundation and existence as a country. Other incidents that demand urgent attention would be the problem of state of local government of origin and rights and obligations of settlers in any community. Therefore, there must be dialogue, dialogue and dialogue; and not war.Those who have lived in any part of the country for the number of years stipulated in the Constitution should ideally not be regarded as strangers in that part of the country. These are problems that have periodically led to heightened fears about the possible dismemberment or balkanization of Nigeria. Nigerians cannot be foreigners within the Nigerian territory. Interestingly, an average American in the United States, is expected to move 11.4 times in his lifetime. And we imported our constitution wholesale from that nation.
ROLE OF THE CIVIL POPULACE
The story of the political development of Nigeria is a mixed grill of hardship and ease; regrets, truth and joy. If the truth must be told, embers of ethnic and tribal prejudices have been fanned largely by those who should encourage national unity and those who understand political history of the developed world whose style of governance we are copying. Nigeria is expected to be a land where all men are born equal and have access to the same opportunities without any form of discrimination. An examination of the role of the civil populace in the Nigeria fiasco, particularly the intelligentsia are inextricably linked to the issues identified as responsible for the drift of Nigeria. Who are the opinion leaders, and who are those who shape the perception of issues and events in the country for the majority of the followership? Arguably,they are the political class and the intelligentsia, who are regarded as children of traditional rulers who might be able to call them to order. Our royal fathers, therefore, have a great role to play by remaining apolitical and take more active interest in encouraging peaceful conducts and development.It is improper and barbaric for anybody to terminate human lives. The task is burdensome; but achievable.
Obafemi Awolowo, in his book ‘Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution’ stressed the need for Nigerians to be honest in their appraisal of events and admit their failings and limitations.Awolowo asserted that: “what we lack very much is a sufficient number of powerful leaders with the calibre, character, and qualities, requisite for uniting and keeping happily together the diverse elements in our nation, and for the courageous and effective assault on the multitudinous and intractable-looking problems which beset us. ‘’Whatever we do, we must not permit ourselves to run away from this stark reality. ‘’Besides, the much talked about tribalism must be recognized for what it really is. It is more of a psychological and economic problem than a political one. As a political epiphenomenon, we can certainly minimize its evil effects”.
The foregoing translates into the fact that unless true leadership is offered, the polity may not witness remarkable progress. To be able to achieve greater development and even-handedness, all of us, no matter our places of origin and religion, must work harder and avoid making utterances that have the tendencies of erodingunity, mutual trust, and progress. In their present positions, our royal fathers and leaders of our socio-cultural organization must act with wisdom and lead the way to stemming the tide of current challenges, and others that would be encountered periodically.