Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 56
The ongoing civil conflict in Ethiopia is partly engendered by the exclusionary policy of the Ahmed Abiy government. Thus, the Tigrayans are locked in a brutal civil war with the Addis Ababa government on the autonomy question despite the clear provision in that country’s constitution on the management of the national question.
Perhaps a cautious thread by the once-promising government could have prevented the current situation in that country. All multinational countries have had to weave a delicate web to hold their countries together by accentuating inclusivity and granting internal autonomy, a crucial aspect of self-determinism. They did not have to wait for the seams to pull apart.
Between the late 1990s and 2017, Britain, though with a unitary constitution, unleashed devolution of power to the component nationalities, namely, Northern Island, Scotland, and Wales. Despite that, Scotland still went through an exit referendum in a most civilised way and was defeated in the polls. Nevertheless, the nationalists are still primed to take a short at another referendum. Such is the dynamism of state-building. In the 21st century, forced marriages concerning countries are likely to collapse without being nurtured with love, justice and pragmatism.
The above lessons appeared lost to the current minders of the Nigerian state. The clamour for restructuring was given a boost by the Alao Aka-Bashorun-led National Consultative Forum (NCF) in the early 1990s under the dictatorship of General Ibrahim Babangida. NCF tried to organise a national conference at the National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos and truncated the military regime with guns and tanks. It graduated to become of the key issues on the agenda of the successor organisation, the Beko Ransome-Kuti-led Campaign for Democracy (CD), which prioritised the end of military rule for all time and the convocation of a sovereign national conference. Although the campaign waged for this organisation and other pro-democracy groups in the country forced the military out of the polity, the disquieting issues in the polity, namely, skewed federal structures and monopoly of power and deliberated stalling of the development of the country by feudal elite from a section of the country have continued. The successive civil governments since 1999 have essayed at convoking one conference or another but have all met with fiasco. Failures have not hushed the voices clamouring for restructuring of the country in ways that can unleash autonomy of component units to unleash development and advance the country on the part of progress. Intriguingly, the opposition has always come from the core north of the country.
Recently, the urgency of the moment about restructuring was restated by Rivers State Ikwerre People’s Congress (IPC) Worldwide, which took a swipe at Northern leaders for opposing a call for restructuring and sovereign National Conference by some prominent Southern leaders. In a statement by its chairman, Livingstone Wechie accused the northern leaders of insensitivity to the call for a national conference. The statement reads inter alia, “It is almost inconceivable and irresponsible that the outburst by certain fellows who refer to themselves as Northern leaders to disparage the call for restructuring and sovereign National Conference by some notable leaders of Southern Nigeria particularly the Afenifere led by Pa Ayo Adebanjo.”
It would be recalled that Pa Adebanjo pointed out the other day the urgency of a sovereign national conference because Nigeria was dying but the Afenifere chieftain had restated his faith in a united Nigeria based on federalism. According to the elder statesman, “However, it is the considered position of Afenifere that the president urgently constitutes a Government of National Unity solely to undertake the restructuring of Nigeria, in consultation with the Nigerian peoples… The Nigeria that was agreed upon is one that was deliberately federal in structure. The Nigeria that was agreed was by design, based on a parliamentary system of government…We remain convinced that the need for a sovereign national conference is imperative. The basis of the Nigerian state must be clearly negotiated… but let it be heard loud and clear; Nigeria is not only negotiable, but it is also evidently dying.”
In this context, some elements from the north, namely, Anthony Sani, immediate past Secretary-General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Yerima Shettima, President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and Prof. Usman Yusuf, former chief executive of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), accused Adebanjo of a sinister political agenda that could incite ethno-religious crisis in the country.
However, the IPC let it be known that “the demand made by Pa Adebanjo is an irreducible minimum position of the rest of the disputed Nigeria and nothing short of a nation of equals irrespective of size as well as ethnic autonomy with regards to land and natural resources on and underneath including equal and balance of military and security control… These self-acclaimed Northern leaders must be told that the days of [the] Master-Servant relationship in Nigeria are over. This is to the effect that the born-to-rule arrangement by select Northern oligarchs that held sway resulting in the current uncontrollable terrorism, banditry, senseless killings and economic depression with total governance failure is no longer sustainable.”
That exactly is what drove some southern groups, which recently talked tough to the extent of insisting that the southern zone must produce a president in 2023. Doubtless, resistance to the voice of reason on federalism from a section of the country is the propeller of agitation for it as an idea whose time has indeed come.
While liking the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the apartheid order, the group went further to advise incumbent actors to learn from the legacy of Frederick De Klerk, the last ruler of Apartheid south Africa who birthed the Council for Democratic South Africa (CODESA), put the country on the path to black majority rule.
It is important to reiterate that restructuring the country to restore the federal essentialities of the Nigerian state is imperative. It is only those living a lie that can deny that all is not well in the country. In other words, the country is on a path of no return unless the federalist voices of reason prevail. That exactly is what drove some southern groups, which recently talked tough to the extent of insisting that the southern zone must produce a president in 2023.