A birthday message to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
I write to felicitate with you on the 67th birthday anniversary, which took place on March 29, 2019. It is no mean feat in a country where the average life expectancy is below 50 years, for you to clock 67 years and still appearing strong and looking forward to the future with hopes. So congratulations, sir.
Sir, if I have the wherewithal, I would have better expressed my feelings of warm regards and respect for you by inserting a full-page-colour newspaper advertorial instead of engaging in this laborious exercise of letter writing, being as it were time-consuming for busy men-of-power such as you are, to be subjected to the rigours of reading poorly crafted letter instead of the poetic renditions often employed by media experts in getting newspaper congratulatory messages, embellished with a pictorial depicting your regal and sartorial grandeur. So, I ask for pardon and entreat you to accept this poor medium as your sacrifice for your teeming millions of the poor masses for whom you are clothed with the office of the ‘National Leader’. Your entry into the murky waters of Nigerian politics has established your credentials as a great politician. You have done quite well, having been a senator and governor and now ‘National Leader’ of a ruling party.
Sir, part of the reasons for employing this medium to express my goodwill to you on this auspicious occasion is that it affords me the opportunity to unburden my mind to you with respect to Nigeria nation-building project, of which most of you are not mere co-workers but the ‘owners’, and of which the rulers of Nigeria from Balewa to Buhari have been emphasizing the duty obligatory for all to be dutiful participants. As stated earlier, every ruler, every succeeding administrations has emphasized the need for every citizen to contribute his/her quota to nation-building, even if it means a mere piece of advice.
It is this call to duty by the rulers, of which you are a prominent member that I, with trepidation summon the courage to reason with you in the hope that you make meaning out of the interaction and possibly take the message with you to President Buhari in your frequent liaisons with him. As it were, I am appealing that you become a statesman by using your vaunted political skills to help solve Nigeria’s problems, instead of deploying them for narrow ends of partisan political intrigues for power acquisition that gives personal gains as opposed to eternal national legacies.
I have read your address at the Colloquium, entitled, ‘Work for the People that the people may work for themselves’ which some newspapers graciously published for the consumption of the ‘hoi polloi’ as Nnamdi Azikiwe, was wont to label the Nigerian commoners, and I must confess that the address is laced with patriotic feelings. Reading the address, who can doubt you are concerned with the poor conditions of Nigerians, and perhaps, want amelioration of the situation? Such pro-poor standing is synonymous with ‘progressivism’ of Obafemi Awolowo political dynasty. But it seems you are quietly repudiating the philosophical underpinnings of that platform since it is clear that another ‘sage’ has emerged in the political horizon of Southwest Nigeria, if not Nigeria. That being the case, why should you be hibernating under the shadow of the hazy ‘Awoism’ when there is now new knowledge espoused by your new political platform of which the Bola Ahmed Tinubu colloquium is trying to explain and etch in the consciousness of Nigerians? So, I support you on that score and wish you well.
As National Leader of this new political tendency in Nigeria, and as former Awoist, you clearly subscribed to the so called ‘progressivism’ which with the hype of the media typification and constant repetition has been etched in the political consciousness of Nigeria. Inside this progressive fold of the period 1990 – 1993, 1998 – 2003 and 2007 -2013 you have been one of the strong pillars of support for the resolution of Nigerian’s existential questions, which has mutated from ‘national questions’, ‘True Federalism’ and is now coded under the single catch-word ‘restructuring’. I need not remind you of the several interventions, you and your colleagues (brother-governors and political leaders) from other Southern States, including Southeast and SouthSouth made in defence of the struggle for the reform of Nigeria’s political structure and its constitutional framework. These interventions are in the public space and records and need no further articulation.
But surprisingly sir, since the alliance which you struck with certain political tendencies from the far North in 2014/2015 and which alliance based on that political tendency is vehemently opposed to the resolution of the existential questions dogging Nigeria since 1966 to date, you have repudiated your prior struggles to remake Nigeria on equitable basis for the benefit of its people. You are now a champion and an apostle of the new idea that it is ‘good governance’ rather than the restructuring of the country’s political and constitutional framework that can lift Nigeria away from its decades-long dysfunctional autocracy, militarism and patrimonialism.
Now, my worry is: if the problems of Nigeria are simply caused by “bad governance” why is it that no ruler of Nigeria has got it right from 1966 to date? In any case sir, there are questions, which whether you accept them as existential threats to the peace, unity and well-being of Nigeria will continue to dog the sustenance of present Nigerian system. The questions are follows: Is Nigeria a union of free peoples or a conquered territory held in subjugation and thraldom; and if it is a union of free peoples; why is it impossible for them to meet to discuss the existence and function of Nigeria? And if Nigeria is a conquered territory, who conquered it and subsequently controls it? If sincere answers are supplied to these questions, further questions may not be necessary but it will still be necessary to ask if Nigeria is a union of free peoples, what is the agreed political and constitutional framework?
Sir, let’s attempt to supply answers to the posed questions and I believe the historicity of Nigeria’s development will help us to make good discourse that may yield possible answers. We accept the fact that Nigeria was conquered, colonized and ruled as an autocracy by Britain Between 1859 and 1960. With time, Nigerians revolted against Britain and gained independence in 1960. Despites challenges, the nationalists managed to establish a federation in 1960, which disintegrated between 1964 and 1966.
The second conquest and recolonization of Nigeria is a fact which nobody accepts, except few deep-thinkers, but curiously this view is not shared widely but two Nigerians; Wole Soyinka in his book, “You Must Set Forth at Dawn” and surprisingly by a member of the military-colonizers in the person of General Mohammed Chris Ali (Nigeria’s former Chief of Army Staff) who in his book, “The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army: The Siege of a Nation”; pointedly declared that Nigeria has been seized by force of arms and converted to private exploitation and enjoyment. This second conquest and colonization started with January 15 and July 29, 1966 coups, the aftermath of which induced crisis of confidence in the ethnic relations in Nigeria, which finally led to secession by Eastern Region as ‘Republic of Biafra’. This secession led to Biafra War but Biafra capitulated and surrendered in January 1970 and Nigeria was unified again.
During and after the war, a new political tendency had unfurled. This tendency had taken Nigeria as a conquered territory and through laws and policies appropriated and organised it as such. Under this Nigerian political system, a class of rulers became outlaws and acted above the law. They treated the state as theirs and the people as their subjects. It was this situation that Wole Soyinka in January 1969 when he was released from prisons and stepping out of plane at Ibadan airport beheld; a people labouring under the yoke of slavery, but ironically according to him celebrating freedom supposedly got from the defeat of Biafra. From 1970 onwards, several decrees were made to appropriate and centralize supreme power and natural resources while constricting freedoms of the people through autocratic laws.
Sir, you were active participant in the political transitions under Generals Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar, which culminated in the present era. You know that Nigerians endured the shenanigans of this caste of military rulers but it was the sheer socio-economic and political incongruities of this caste of rulers between 1984 and early 1990s that provoked the sensibilities of their enslavement and awakened them from their conditioned slavery. It was then that the din of the people’s cries of marginalization, impunities and oppression visited on them were articulated under the catchphrase ‘national question’. National questions agitation and their resolution gained so much currency and traction that General Babangida in 1989 after the SAP riots queried its meaning, declaring that he did not understand what it meant.
As at then, ‘national question’ agitations were concerned with the obvious domination of the institutions of the state by certain class of people and the skewing of public policies against targeted groups in Nigeria. And these cries of marginalization, domination and misrule were confined to journalistic interrogations. As these agitations and consequent interrogations gained currency, the Orkar Coup of April 22, 1990 happened which sought radical changes. This particular coup led mainly by Middle-Belt, Niger-Delta soldiers and a sprinkle of their Igbo and Yoruba colleagues jolted Nigerians – and I believe the ruling caste itself. But failure of the Orkar Coup only reinforced their belief in their invincibility and immutability of their existence.
The lessons of the Orkar Coup were quickly buried in the massive debris of the sycophantic and hypocritical public opinion that followed their failure. By 1993 when June 12 presidential election was cancelled, it was clear what the meaning of ‘national questions’ was as it became clear that all animals are not equal in Nigeria. The June 12 crisis, I learnt gave you an opportunity to deploy your leadership and political skills as you joined the NADECO to resist the June 12 annulment and to agitate for its restoration and effectuation.
Throughout 1999 to 2007 and thereafter until 2013 you have been one of the advocates for true federalism, which term now supplanted the term ‘national question’. It is true sir that since your grand coalition seized power from the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015; you have repudiated the agitation for restructuring of Nigeria and instead settled for “good governance’, which according to you will solve Nigerian’s existential questions. But that is not true. The absence of ‘good governance’ in the rulership is attributable to those existential questions, which restructuring of Nigeria seeks to achieve.
The basic questions, which the restructurists seek to answer are: do we, the ethnic nationalities wish to live together as a country? If yes, what are the terms of the union and when these basic questions are answered affirmatively, then the consequential matters will follow suit by way of just resolution. I am sure, you know that a majority of ethnic nationalities want to have Nigeria but it must be a Nigeria that works for all in justice and equity. So, the fear by your new political tendency that agitation for restructuring is misplaced and that agitators are mischief- makers flies in face of reality.
At the threshold of this message, we posed certain existential questions about Nigerian Statehood and its operation. We asked whether Nigeria is a nation of free peoples or a conquered territory. We have already acknowledged that Britain conquered, colonized and ruled Nigeria. But on October 1, 1960 these ethnic nationalities constituted as Nigeria was granted Independence and made a republic on October 1, 1963. So, these peoples by the grant of independence by Britain became free peoples and having elected through their various representatives prior to 1960 to be part of Nigeria exercised their right to freedom of association.
We also accept that Nigeria was reconquered by virtue of the 1966 coups and the Biafra War and by laws legalizing these events, were ipso facto recolonized and reconstituted into a new Nigeria that suits the new legal order. So, until this legal order is abolished or the peoples of Nigeria renegotiate this legal order whose origin sprung from the same constitutional thread running from Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree, No. 1, 1966 and its mutations and the Constitution (Federal Military Government Enforcement of Powers) Decree, No. 28, 1970 culminating in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, Nigeria cannot be free. This legal order was not made by the peoples of Nigeria in their voluntary will as free and constituent Nigerian people.
So, sir, you can see that your generation and the generation before you which Prof. Wole Soyinka called ‘wasted generation’ conquered Nigeria and turned it into a colony, which one of the members of that militaristic generation, General Mohammed Chris Ali in his book of the same title called ‘Federal Republic of Nigerian Army: The Siege of a Nation’. Sir, it is this entity so grotesquely constituted and operated that you and your compatriots in the earlier political alliances confronted and tried to change to a livable polity but which your new political tendency has vehemently opposed and rejected all entreaties to allow any discussion or accept earlier resolutions made towards reforming it, even though former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in her books dismissed Nigeria as “irreformable.” In the light of the foregoing sir, you can see that Nigeria is a special case that requires special treatment.
Your generation and the earlier one are by biological selection and determination subject to degradation and elimination or incapacitation in the next 30 years and in your generation’s departure, Nigeria will be left in the hands of a generation that did not know Azikiwe, Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello or even fancied Biafra, the civil war and all the troubles. And given the fact that history has been long abolished in the educational system, there would be no institutional memory to draw from to solve the problems you are leaving behind. You can imagine the state in which you will be leaving Nigeria.
So, I challenge you to accept the fact that your new political tendency cannot help Nigeria in its avowed opposition to restructuring of Nigeria. The only enduring legacy you can leave behind to your glorious memory is to help organise Nigeria to accept its historical truths and seek avenues to mend its broken soul and body. Continuing in your new political trajectory will neither do your memory any good nor lead to the forlorn hopes of succeeding the present occupant of Nigerian Presidency through a democratic election. I do not see any person from Southwest or Southeast gaining the Presidency in 2023; if there shall be, certainly it shall not be you or your protégé, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo. This is a bitter prophecy but it is sure to come true.
The task requested of you in this message is a tall order but see what you can do.
Once more, Happy Birthday, sir! Enjoy your day.
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