Saturday, 23rd September 2023

Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 22

By Editorial Board
25 March 2021   |   4:14 am
There is a sense in which we can claim now that the internal contradictions of the Nigerian state have reached the height of rude awakening. There is also some general awareness that the constitutional scaffolding upon which ....

There is a sense in which we can claim now that the internal contradictions of the Nigerian state have reached the height of rude awakening. There is also some general awareness that the constitutional scaffolding upon which the extant Nigerian state is hoisted is false and shaky and many who have been emasculated by the de facto constitutional frames would not tolerate it anymore. Over the years, owing to the prevalence of the false state structure, the peoples inhabiting the Nigerian space have witnessed retrogression, arrested development and carnage. For them, the time has come to end it irrespective of the wish of the standpatters, beneficiaries of a lopsided state edifice. Historically, when unions of peoples in a state are no longer agreeable, many countries have had the political sagacity to re-jig such unions for harmonious existence through the cession of autonomy to the union partners for an enduring relationship. We have seen this demonstrated in United Kingdom ironically a unitary state that devolved powers to North Island, Wales and Scotland. Countries such as the former USSR and Present-day Ethiopia had succession clauses for federating units to opt out of the union without resorting to conflict.  

It is a realisation of the fundamental political freedom of self-determination, which itself is a fundamental human right of a people.  Many Nigerians with the full knowledge of these historical contexts and lessons have sought to resolve amicably the fractious union imposed by colonialism. The inclination is to renegotiate the union with more autonomy for parties to the union and ensure a true federation and if impossible draw new national boundaries. Czechoslovakia went different ways without firing any shots, and where you had standpatters like Yugoslavia, they went into violent dissolution.   

The need to avoid these doomsday scenarios perhaps informed the voice of reason sounding from a congregation of Nigerian peoples under the aegis of The Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination. The alliance parading prominent Nigerians, including former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, Second Republic Senator, Prof. Banji Akintoye, erstwhile President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former Vice-Chairman of Arik Air, Senator Anietie Okon, leader of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, professor of religion, and Prof. Yusuf Turaki among others petitioned the foremost global governance body, the United Nations (UN), the European Union and the continental organisation, the Africa Union, United States of America and the British Government,  over the faulty Nigerian state structure and the constitutional framework known as the 1999 Constitution, which they claimed is flawed or in the words of the late Rotimi Williams, “a constitution that lied against itself.”  In the petition, the alliance noted the incongruity of the extant 1999 constitution evident in its skewed nature in favour of the northern region to the de-autonomisation of other regions, especially the South and Middle Belt regions of the country.  

According to the alliance, “We gather here today before the global community, to formally proclaim a sovereignty dispute in rejection of the further operation of the imposed, unitary constitutional arrangements of Nigeria and in assertion of our inalienable right to self-determination.” Besides, the alliance drew attention to the fact of a country-wide consensus against “the unitary constitutional arrangements imposed incrementally on Nigeria by a combination of guile, brute force and impunity between 1966 and 1999, now codified by the 1999 Constitution, saying, the countrywide consensus had manifested in several unilateral regional and joint multi-regional actions in repudiation and rejection of the 1999 Constitution.” All said, the alliance called on Nigeria to urgently convoke a Sovereign National Conference to discuss Nigeria’s constitutionality and the 1914 Amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Nigeria within 90 days as the pathway to freedom from an obvious internal colonisation.  

We think that the alliance has spoken and its action is in the direct direction. Nigeria has become ‘‘the sick man of Africa,’’ saving the patient, itself a recalcitrant bully requires the prodding of agencies of global governance and great powers to avoid an implosion that would have devastating and domino effect on the West Africa sub-region.  The global community should look the other way. The reality today is that the country has been badly governed, its resources squandered by a most backward elite that continue to preside over the looting of the common till of the peoples in ways that have stunted economic growth and development. We would like to put the world on notice that things have virtually fallen apart in Africa’s most populous nation and the centre may not hold without dialogue to restore freedom and autonomy to the component nationalities of the country. The tenor of the debate so far evinces a window for a negotiated federal union.

The essential ingredients of such a union have been well canvassed and engrossed in several documents, which the alliance have copiously adverted to.  As the alliance has rightly noted, “Between 2005 and 2006, a Sovereign Conference of the Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria, convened by the Pro-National Conference Organizations (PRONACO), deliberated exhaustively and produced a Draft Peoples’ Constitution 2006, which had the potential of restoring Nigeria to its damaged federal foundations. Though ignored by successive Federal Governments, that draft became the new Federating Consensus against the prevailing unitary constitutional order in Nigeria.” 

It is to be noted that the federal thread runs though these documents acknowledging it as an instrument of governability in the context of managing diversity and multi-ethnic entities like Nigeria. Which is why the governing party in the country should wake up from its lethargy and disdain towards calls for restructuring of the federation in the context of practice of federalism, which we consider the only answer to our ticklish national question, after all.