NIGERIA IS DESTINED TO BE GREAT: The citizens of any democratic society are at the heart of democracy. The public good, refers to that which serves the interests of the entire populace, and not just those of a few people. Public service goes beyond attending to security and welfare of the people – which is the primary purpose of the government – to provision of important services. Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) affirms that ‘’The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice’’, and goes further to state that ‘’Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority. What could be termed part of the responsibilities of Government is the provision of welfare and security as recorded in S.16; which states that the responsibility of the State to the citizenry shall be as follows:
- Harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy;
- Control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;
- Without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy;
- Without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy.
- RACING TOWARDS 2023: It is obvious that the race towards 2023 has commenced. It is only the uninitiated who would believe the time is not ripe for strategizing. Direct and indirect moves should naturally be expected now because any serious-minded politician who wishes to rule any complex society must have a Plan of Action whose design and production would have to be for the common good. Researchers and policy analysts must by now be evolving workable agenda that goes beyond narrow confines to adopt a very broad outlook. The question of running political systems is one that has consistently raised its head in the polity, particularly among the elite and political classes.
Nigeria has had diverse problems over the years. Emotions have undoubtedly run very high. And it would be preposterous to bottle-up these emotions. Obafemi Awolowo, (1966) in his book on the Nigerian Constitution asserted that: “It is safer and wiser to cure unhealthy rivalry than to suppress it.” Nigerians must be able to periodically fashion out ways of achieving better results, and particularly how to live together in peace, harmony and prosperity. This is the essence of this discourse that should provoke interactions since we are looking for the best ways of managing our differences. Elsewhere, Awolowo, (1981) speaking about moral and spiritual reconstruction noted that: declared that: “There is an urgent and massive need for moral and spiritual reconstruction: the kind which will help to demolish morbid desire for unclad power and domination … and ensure justice equity and fair play for all.”
AHMED GULAK: NIGERIA’S PRESIDENCY – ZONING NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION OF POLITICAL PARTIES: One of such issues, as canvassed by Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan now a member of the All Progressives Congress is believed to have the potency of promoting discourse on the way forward through dialogue, consultations, and avoidance of ills that plagued the last three Republics. Voicing out our opinions would surely help us in our quest to construct an enduring democratic culture. Alhaji Ahmed Gulak has been quoted as stating that: ‘’There is no zoning in the constitution of the APC, and the North can produce the president in 2023. Those clamouring for Igbo president must know that the APC has no zoning arrangement backing such. “It does not matter to me because I am a realist and I don’t believe in this dichotomy of North, South. ‘’I will support whoever that is there and give him the opportunity to serve out his term. ‘’Some people claimed that for political balancing, the APC should give the presidential ticket to the Southeast, but such zoning and rotation is not written in our constitution.
Gulak continued: ’’I can also tell you that zoning is not written in the constitutions of most big parties in Nigeria. ‘’For many persons like me, it does not matter who rules or where the next president comes from. ‘’What matters is whether the country is faring better, united and whether every part is getting its own fair share. We must learn to treat individuals for what they are and who they are. If an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani will rule and treat the country fairly, I don’t have problem. ‘’Anywhere we can get somebody credible, sincere and who believes in the country, I am okay with it. The supporters want Tinubu, El-Rufai, Amaechi, Kingibe, Fayemi, Adamu Bello to be president in 2023, but those are their views. When the time comes, the parties will decide who flies their flag in the primaries while Nigerians will decide who becomes their president in 2023, after President Buhari.” I must commend Gulak for his opinion published in the SUN NEWSPAPER because it appears to have emanated from a sophisticated outlook.
WHO ARE THE BEST MATERIALS? This is very relative and is subject to thoughts of an individual or groups of individuals. Opinions would certainly differ about personalities, their inherent capabilities. From the proposition, the person that may be adjudged as the suitable material may emerge from any local government, States, or federal level. Choosing the best materials by political parties would also mean doing away with religion, tribalism, nepotism, and other ills that have plagued the polity. The government and the governed both have critical roles to play. The emphasis here would be how to galvanize Nigerians to wholeheartedly support their candidates at all levels, to bring about the desired development and improvements. They would ideally be propelled by political parties to choose their candidates dispassionately. You have heard all contestants seeking your votes. Therefore, all voters need do is to evaluate contestants and their inherent capabilities, and ability to satisfy the requirements of the greater majority. Governments need the citizenry; and vice-versa. All over the world, Governments and political actors at all levels realize the need for the introduction of workable measures that could develop the country. These would include working positively to embrace best governance practices, mapping out coherent and purposeful policies geared towards development, as well as paying proper attention to visioning and long-range planning.
UTILIZING MERIT & COMPETENCE: If merit would be the guiding principle as Ahmed Gulak advocates, then there would be a greater need for respect for core and shared values and the collective ability of the citizenry to do away with attitudes and cultures that have continued to incapacitate developmental strides. We would be on the road to greatness the day the principle of choosing the best is adopted as championed by Gulak, a former political adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan. But we must go the whole hog. This would result in working out plans to defeat those issues that provoke division and feelings of distrust. The ills that have brought democracy to its knees in Nigeria are very well documented by AHM Kirk-Greene in his book titled: ‘Crisis & Conflicts in Nigeria’.
He asserted that: “In the final analysis, the Nigerian tragedy has been bedeviled by a set of oppositions — generalized, stereotype, not necessarily of the same order and may be imaginary, yet each widening the wound and reducing the hope of healing it: north vs south, Islam vs Christianity, alleged feudalism vs assumed socialism, Federal vs unitary preferences, traditional authority vs achieved elitism, haves vs have-nots, each with sinister undertones of tension, irreconcilability and threatened withdrawal” He added: “Each opposing set of these forces had sufficient seed of truth within it to permit, and even fertilize, the growth of feared fact from the semi-fiction of its existence. ‘’The search for the roots of the disaster of 1966 through the first military incursion into Nigerian politics and subsequent destabilization of the political scene could be directed at the aforementioned factors, each sufficient to erupt into a political volcano.
THE APPLICATION OF FEDERAL CHARACTER & QUOTA SYSTEM — THE FUNDAMENTAL OBJECTIVES AND DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY stipulates respect for multiplicity and the conduct of the affairs of Government in such manner as to recognize the diversity of the people within its jurisdiction. The Gulak idea would certainly afford Nigerians the opportunity of debating about the continued retention of quota system and federal character in the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic. In the past few decades, these issues have adversely affected quality, morale, and efficiency. Undue interference and manipulation of the system have greatly worked against attempts to ensure that merit and competence are the keywords for recognition of excellence. Section 15- (2) of the Constitution states pointedly that: ‘’National integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited. In support of Ahmed Gulak, therefore, zoning and similar parts of the extant constitution that hurt feelings of the citizenry should ideally be expunged in the interest of natural justice, fair play and healthy rivalry required for building a united and peaceful polity that we all aim to achieve. The constitutional matter that promotes national integration on one hand, also stipulates that discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited’’ It confuses a layman like this writer.
A QUESTION OF POLITICAL WILL: Beyond the foregoing, S.15 states that: Nigerians shall: ‘’Secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation, and also encourage inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of different religious, ethnic or linguistic association or ties. How well policies on national integration are embraced and implemented depends largely on the wielders of power at the trhe tiers. The point here is that it is possible to be fair and just in governance if the occupier of a public office decides to pursue pure and selfless service for the common good. It is not impossible for people who govern to abide by the provisions of the constitution religiously, and yet be firm in making decisions in public interest. The constitution stipulates that: ‘’loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties’’
NATIONAL INTEGRATION: Those who govern at the three tiers require all the tact, diplomacy, wisdom and prayers that they could muster, to garner the support of the populace, whose needs and interests are expectedly diverse. One other issue of paramount importance is the sustenance of the goodwill that a political actor may have succeeded in building before coming into office. The essence of power must be to satisfy the aspirations of the people in a defined territory. The issue of national integration and nation-building vis-à-vis the development of democracy calls for a proper examination. Benson Osadolor in his paper “The Development of the Federal Idea” submits that there must be the will to evolve a “coherent policy and ideology of national integration and nation-building instead of the ad-hoc solutions to natural problems such as the cake-sharing syndrome which has made Nigerian leaders to ignore the problems of national integration”.
EXAMPLES: THE DEFUNCT WESTERN REGION: In the old Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo was Premier, Adeleke Adedoyin was Hon. Speaker, Jonathan Odebiyi was Minister of Finance and Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Justice Adetokunbo Ademola was Chief Justice of the region before moving to Lagos, and Simeon Adebo headed the Civil Service. They all originated from today’s Ogun State, and nobody complained because they had the genuine interest of the people at heart. Nobody needed to preach any integration because they knew how best to secure the best for their people. It was during that era that the first television station in Africa was established, Cocoa House was constructed, Liberty Stadium was built and the whole of Ikeja, Lagos was literally turned to an industrial estate. Projects were located for reasons of economic and socio-political development and not on account of zoning or federal character.
OLD OYO STATE: A similar scenario was recorded in old Oyo State. In the political dispensation of 1979-1983, Bola Ige was governor, Sunday Afolabi was Deputy-Governor, Oyeluyi Agbaje-Williams was Chief Judge and Bisi Akande was Secretary to Government and Princes Tejumade Alakija was Head of the Civil Service. They all originated from today’s Osun State. Nobody complained because they were good hands who catered for the common good. A serious protest only occurred in 1982, when a pronouncement from the governor considered repulsive created disenchantment. It was not until the military came in 1984, that we started having demands for equal representation of Christians and Muslims in the cabinet. This extended till the return of the military in 1993. Rear-Admiral Sode’s convoy was attacked on a fateful day. Rear-Admiral Adetoye Sode, then the administrator of Oyo State had to pacify some people by attending Jumat services in Mosques. ( I told my good friend – Tunde Laniyan who was then Chief Press Secretary in the entourage of Military Administrator Sode that we must organize a thanksgiving service for escaping unbattered) But attending Churches and Mosques have no bearing with honest implementation of policies and programmes that have direct bearing on the lives of people.
ENCOURAGE ASPIRATIONS: America’s democracy is 242 years old and is waxing stronger and has produced Barack Obama, an African-American as 44th president of the United States. Most Nigerians rejoiced at the development. If logical reasoning were to be applied, there should be no reason why a naturalized American-Nigerian or British-Nigerian should not be supported to vie for the highest political office in Nigeria, if we truly want progress, peace and development in the nation. Aspirations of citizens should not be curtailed on account of considerations of state or local government of origin. It is amusing how we talk about Yoruba nation, Ibo nation, Ijaw nation and Hausa nation, among others. But are we that united? This reminds me of the years of the military regime in Nigeria when calls came stridently for the creation of States out of States that were themselves not viable. The result we have today is the inability of States to finance governance.
UTILIZING THE BEST MATERIALS: On the merits on zoning and utilizing best materials, Ahmed Gulak finds an ally in Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth who captured the essence of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States who served from 2009 to 2017. Anyaoku in a Guardian newspaper interview noted that: “What is happening in the United States is a triumph for democracy. Triumph for the system, which allows the best candidate to become the president of his country. ‘’For our country, Nigeria, I think we still need to learn the lessons of putting forward our best people to run for governance and help lift the country upwards. In frigid temperatures, an exuberant crowd of more than a million packed National Mall and parade route to celebrate Obama’s inauguration in a high-noon ceremony. They filled the Nation Mall stretching from the inaugural platform at the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial in the distance”
REWORKING THE AGENDA: National integration, as highlighted in the grund norm ‘’shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited. But very sharp differences on account of development, religion, cultures and traditions are thick in the air. They date back to the first republic when the regions requested for independence from the colonialists. Moves for independence on the floor of the Federal Parliament provoked suspicion among the regions. The federal cabinet was divided and this promoted the emergence of very strong regions in the Federation. But the issue really needs to be looked into properly and dispassionately because of ur propensity for self-determination, even at the grassroots. Our mindset must change. Interestingly, an indigene of Oyo State may not be considered fit for employment or a political appointment in Osun State.
CITIZENSHIP etc: We would be deceiving ourselves about national unity and cohesion if we fail to subject all issues that seem to be dividing the nation to thorough discussions and agree on the most suitable political union. Until such issues like place of origin are de-emphasized in favour of merit and competence, the nation may continue to witness such grimy developments, and vice-versa. An Ondo state indigene may not be considered fit for public service employment in Ekiti or Ogun States. An Anambra indigene does not fit into the system in Abia while an Edo State indigene resident in Delta State may not be considered fit to contest for an elective office in that State. Same goes for Hausa speaking states. It is a case of some full-blooded Nigerians being treated as foreigners in their own country. It would profit the nation if contentious issues are subjected to amendments or total removal from the constitution because they have outlived their usefulness. We are in a very competitive world. Very touchy issues include greater fiscal federalism, citizenship rights.
RECIPE ACCORDING TO CHIEF RICHARD AKINJIDE, SAN: Elder Statesman, Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN in an interview with Guardian Newspapers is not convinced that something is wrong with the constitution Akinjide argues that: ‘’The military took over and scuttled the federal arrangement, effectively running a unitary system even it was they who created states. This always raises the question: how truly federal is the federal system we are running even now in 2009? He added: “What we are practicing in Nigeria is neither unitary nor federalism. What we are practicing is meaningless. In one way it is a unitary system masquerading as a Federal system because the military rulers which gave us the constitution were scared that another Ojukwu or another Biafra might come. So they created a centrifugal constitution.
Chief Akinjide argues that: ‘’No amount of amendment of the constitution can help us. ‘’We’ve already had about five constitutions and the problem has not been solved. When America had its constitution about 235 years ago, the population of America then was about three million people, now they are over 250 million and they are still using the same constitution. So you will see that the problem is not the constitution, it is just the people. Britain has no written constitution and yet the management of the system is working very well. Look at China with a population of 1.4 billion people. Look at the size of the constitution; it is less than that of Nigeria. So the problem here is that we have got a country not a nation. The Igbo see themselves as Igbos; not Nigerians. The same goes for the Yoruba and Hausa. The Deltans also see themselves as Deltans. Chief Akinjide alleged that Lord Lugard did this deliberately, Lugard said: “Amalgamate the country but not the people.” That is the cradle of the problem of Nigeria till today”.
Conclusively, it is possible, with sincerity, for us to drive Nigeria in a way that would make it evolve from the ruins of the past. Let merit, justice and fair play permeate every strata of our national life. We must deemphasize all issues that tie Nigeria down. Dialogue might prove beneficial. It would at least douse tension, tone down strong influences of separatist intentions, and move Nigeria into her place in destiny. May the Good Lord Bless Nigeria.
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