Building on flawed foundation
I always find it puzzling when some people disagree with the proposition that the effective resolution of Nigeria’s lingering political problems lay in restructuring the country’s political architecture. It’s doubly puzzling when a personage who sits in Nigeria’s most important political chair suggests he cannot decide one way or the other on the crucial issue of the country’s dysfunctional political structure. The seeming conundrum is puzzling to me because l fail to see that any objective argument could be proffered against the proposition to restructure Nigeria, in response to extant realities.
For example, how could anyone deny that the three regional political structure (Eastern, Northern, and Western), which the British bequeathed to Nigeria at independence was fundamentally flawed? A compass essentially comprised four parts; therefore, it is apt to question the rationale for converting the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria into three regions, instead of four. Or, more to the point, what happened to the Southern region in the primordial scheme of things? It is yet a puzzle to me that Nigeria’s founding fathers didn’t interrogate that significant omission closely. This short piece is therefore, an attempt to stimulate a vision of what would have been an ideal political map for Nigeria at independence in 1960.
It requires no imagination to figure out that the so-called South-South region in Nigeria’s present-day six geo-political configurations would have constituted the Southern region in a balanced four-regional political map. Incidentally, the South-South region also approximates the present-day Niger Delta region(?) Recall that the map of the Niger Delta region is a broad “U” whose two legs penetrate deep into the arbitrarily created Eastern and Western regions in the First Republic. Had a Southern region been rightfully created prior to independence, both the old Eastern and Western regions would respectively have been comparatively too small in land-mass to constitute a region each; both regions each would have had to be expanded northwards.
Consequently, a large chunk of present-day Kwara State would have been part of the old Western region; while huge chunks of present-day Benue and Taraba states would have comprised the old Eastern region. What flight of fancy! Some persons may be tempted to exclaim. But l would plead for indulgence, if only for a brief moment. Recall that the indigenes of both the old Western and Eastern regions had (from the First Republic) agitated for reunification with their kith and kin that have been forcefully separated from them as a consequence of arbitrary, if artificial boundary adjustments. These agitations persist to this day.
Now, let us imagine for a moment that, instead of three, four regions (Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western) were created as projected in this piece; in such a scenario, a newly independent Nigeria wouldn’t have been seemingly land-mass “top-heavy.” Thus, the temptation to fancy that one region is more populous than the other regions put together wouldn’t have crossed the minds of overly ambitious politicians, as proved to be the case in the First Republic. Such a prospectus would have saved Nigeria from the unending elections and census-related controversies, and the concomitants thereof. Secondly, the four regions would have thus been better poised to develop their respective economies unhindered: the Eastern region, its palm oil-based economy; the Northern region, its groundnut and livestock-based economy; the Western region, its cocoa-based economy; and the Southern region, its oil and gas based economy. Simply put, Nigeria’s developmental trajectory wouldn’t have been anywhere near as turbulent as it has been.
Unfortunately, the British, apparently for imperialistic designs for Nigeria’s secret enormous wealth, chose to stand logic on its head by bequeathing a curious political structure to Nigeria’s founding fathers at the expense of whole communities. And because we inhabit a world of consequences, human actions invariably provoke in their wake, reactions; some of which may not be to our liking. The British chickens are now coming home to roost: Nigeria is now suffering the consequences of purposeful marginalisation of the Niger Delta region; first, they manifested in an Adaka Boro; then, a Ken Saro-Wiwa; they then spiraled dangerously out of control by way of the militancy in the Niger Delta. The same imperialistic forces which inspired the killing of Adaka Boro, remotely superintended the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Self-same forces have been prodding the Buhari administration to apply maximum force to crush the Niger Delta militancy. (It is curious that President Buhari made his declaration to crush the Niger Delta militants in far-away London!)
As the Americans say, “you can fool some of the people some of the times; but not all the people all the time.” Truth is: the British has had its greedy eyes on the monumental hydrocarbon wealth lurking under the Niger Delta region long before Nigeria’s independence. That latent greed explains the curious political structure, which the First Republic politicians inherited from the British; that greed also sheds light on the reason for the endless controversies over census exercises in Nigeria, even before independence (Blood money isn’t exactly a novel concept, after all).
Therefore, to deny that Nigeria is in urgent need of political restructuring is, at best, to play the Ostrich, and at worst, to be downright idiotic. If Nigeria is truly worthy of her independence she ought to seek to clean up the British mess. Over 56 years of living in denial have reduced an otherwise global economic giant to a mere fraction of what would have been. Nigeria cannot continue to build on fundamentally flawed foundations and expect to arrive at her great destiny. It is time to face up to the reality of Nigeria’s tragic history.
• Nkemdiche, an engineering consultant, writes from Abuja.