Naturalness and governance
For thousands of years mankind have separated naturalness from their lives. The word naturalness sounds Greek in many a circle, whether in social, political, even in educational circles many would strain their ears and ask you to say that again. The nearest it gets seeming resonance is in science, even then it makes meaning largely when it leads to technological wonders. Yet all living things, all that is animate, man included, are products of Nature. By Nature is meant the work of the Almighty Creator. From this it is easy to see why it is said Nature is always right. Since the Creator is perfect so must Nature. Inherent in Nature are laws. So, we speak of the Laws of Nature and lawyers talk of Laws of Natural Justice. Whatever deviates from naturalness is in collision with the Laws of Nature and no matter how long it lasts it must collapse. The ill-success is triggered by absence of foundation which only naturalness provides.
One of such laws is the Law of Attraction of Homogeneous Species, also referred to as the Law of Similarities. It is not an idle talk when the people of old, in consequence of their closeness to Nature and following their observation of the consistency in the manner of association of birds, said “Birds of the same feather flock together.” The outworking of the law can be seen in animal kingdom and in the colony of fishes. In the bed of the seas, salmons do not mix with tilapia. Monkeys do not keep company with giraffe nor can one find hyena in the gathering of tigers. In human associations, the law is at work with people of the same characteristics coming together. People of the same tendencies find themselves clubbing. It requires no efforts for drinkers to find themselves. Does it not surprise us that the men who operate below the society drift towards one another to form gangs to menace the society? When people are united on the basis of common thought we say they are driven by an ideology. The foundational thought can sometimes lead to formation of political parties. True marriage is governed by currents of compatibility and bonds of complementarity, also products of the Law of Homogeneity and the Law of Balance.
Our various governments have been unable to grapple with the basic principle that birds of dissimilar feather do not flock together. They are uncomfortable with our diversities and they appear to think that these diversities can be ignored; that they do not matter. Yet everyone feels at home among his own kind.
Chief Awolowo hinted at this law when he said in his book, Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution: “If a country is unilingual or bilingual or multilingual, and also consists of communities which over periods of years have developed divergent nationalities, the constitution must be federal and the constituent states must be organized on the dual basis of language and nationality…any experiment with a unitary constitution in a bilingual or multilingual country must fail in the long run…since Nigeria is a multinational country per excellence, the only Constitution that is suitable for its peculiar circumstances is a Federal Constitution.”
The renowned diplomat, Emeka Anyaoku, contributing to the debate on restructuring, said in 2016: “I have maintained since 2005 on the basis of my over 10 years experience with over 50 countries of the Commonwealth that Nigeria cannot attain political stability and its desire of national and social-economic development unless it restructures its existing governance architecture.” Anyoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was speaking on the occasion of United States International Youth Day for that year held at the University of Lagos. He made it plain: “The restructuring that I am advocating for poses no threat to Nigeria’s unity. On the contrary, it is the continuation of the ongoing agitation in different parts of the country which is encouraged by the present governing structure that will most probably lead to the undoing of Nigeria’s unity.”
Indeed, Bishop Kukah said: “It is wrong for anybody or group of persons to see the call for restructuring as an attempt to dismember Nigeria.”
Atiku Abubakar must count among Nigeria’s leading lights that have pushed really hard for the overhauling of our governmental system. The product he has taken round marketing is no other than restructuring. He went from Kaduna where he addressed the Northern Establishment otherwise known as Consultative Forum (ACF). From Kaduna to Ife, that is Obafemi Awolowo University where he spoke at Ademola Popoola Public Lecture, Faculty of Law; from Ife to Lagos; from Lagos to Enugu and to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His next port of sales was London where he spoke at the 2nd Annual Convention of the Abia State Medical Alumni Association, U.K. held at Doubletree, Dartford, London. Everywhere his argument for restructuring was compelling. At Ife, the former Vice-President did say: “We even had the awkward situation where the Federal Government created local governments and continues to allocate resources directly to them through the so-called joint accounts with the state governments that essentially confiscate the funds and expend them as they wish…the intrusion of the Federal Government in local government administration has virtually destroyed local administration. We have a unique opportunity now, with all the agitation and clamour for restructuring…Ours should be a federal system that delegates to the Federal Government only powers and responsibilities that are better handled by a central government such as defence, foreign affairs, inter-governmental affairs, setting overall national economic policy and standards. Other powers and responsibilities should reside with the states which will include the power to create and fund local governments as they may deem fit. Why do we have federal roads all over the country that don’t get maintained? Why do we have federal hospitals and schools all over the country that are no better than their state counterparts? We even have increased clamour for federal take-over of some existing state institutions. This is not how to run a federation. Rather we are centralizing more and making a mockery of federalism, and we must get away from it.
“It is a myth to say we do not need restructuring, that all we need is good leadership. While leadership is critical, leaders also operate within structural and institutional constraints, which may impede or enhance their performance. Thus if you have a federal structure that encourages dependency while discouraging hard work, innovation, productivity and competition, your development as a nation will be less than optimal.” Atiku made the same sound argument in Enugu. “In 2012 I went before ALGON in Enugu and told them that their clamour for autonomy from state governments is misguided. What is the meaning of ‘local’ then, I asked? How does the transfer of local government dependence on state to central government translate to autonomy? Even our state governments are nearly totally dependent on the federal government, meaning they do not even have the autonomy that we are trying to give to the local governments that are below them. This is a complete absurdity.” When he went to Kaduna, according to him, “I told an audience mostly my compatriots from the North where most of the resistance against restructuring seems to come from, that restructuring is in the interest of the North and Nigeria.” On another occasion, Atiku said, using his words, “If a state is opposed to cattle tax or bicycle tax or alcohol tax, or pollution tax, for instance it should not expect to share in tax proceeds from those items.
That is called fairness…Federal intrusion makes it more difficult for a state to collect tax that may be peculiar to it thereby narrowing the tax base. And it makes enforcement even more difficult. No section of the country can claim correctly that its people are better served by the current structure of our Federation… When the federating units had greater autonomy of action and were largely responsible for their affairs, they, that is, our regional governments did not owe workers their salaries for several months. They did not shut down schools and universities for several months because of teachers’ strike and inadequate funding. Take a look at the industries that the regional governments established and ran and the quality of schools that they established, and see if you can see a state government or group of state governments that have bested them since the emergence of our unitary federalism.”
There are still many who can attest to the phenomenal strides which the Regional Governments made in the First Republic to which former Vice-President Atiku made copious references. According to a research by Buhari L.O. of the Department of History and International Studies, University of Ado- Ekiti as cited by Akobi O. Benjamin, Chief Obafemi Awolowo recorded mind-blowing achievements unbelievably thought possible within his comparatively short tenure as Premier of Western Region. In an effort to diversify the economy of the state from agricultural production which was the main line of revenue, he built Lafia and Premier Hotels with Western Hotels Limited as the Holden Company. He established industries and companies, some in partnership with private investors.
These included National Bank; Wema Bank; Great Nigeria Insurance; Gravil Einthoven and Company; Lagos Airport Hotel; Vegetable Oil, Cocoa Industries; O’dua Textiles; Wrought Iron Limited; Union Beverages Ltd; Sunga Company; Wemabod Estates; Western Livestock; Fisheries services Ltd; Caxton Press; Epe Plywood; Askar Paints; Nigeria Crafts and Bags Ltd; Nipol Plastics; Phoenix Motors and many more. According to the research, they were consolidated under the umbrella of O’dua Group of Companies which is said to be largest conglomerate in the country. The 25-storey Cocoa House was the first high-rise building. The industrial and business district of Oba Akran, Ikeja was established by him. The vehicle used for the establishment of most of these was Western Nigeria Development Corporation, (WNDC) under the chairmanship of Chief Alfred Rewane.
What is fuelling the intensification of the agitation for restructuring are the forces of natural laws which are sweeping through all lands, although at varied levels of acceleration. People feel being torn away from unfreedom and an inexplicable unease of a stranglehold. There is the consciousness of a union and its diversities, and the concomitant sensing of values and goals of people which differ. The result is a stronger sensing and clamour for restructuring.
It is increasingly clear that for our society to move forward and for unity to be forged, diversities must be recognised and respected. The fact that all men have the same features does not make them one people. These are externals. What is decisive is the varying degrees of inner worth of each people. The inner worth is determined by the level of spiritual maturity of a people. The more clarified and freed from dross the spirit is the more mature it becomes. With inner maturity talents and abilities unfold. Different people are made to congregate in accordance with their level of maturity which also determines their values, their culture, their refinement or lack of it, their language and prosperity so that the less mature will not disturb the more mature. Thus, in the wisdom and perfection of Nature, families, tribes and what have you separate and form their own communities, clans and kingdoms according to their level of maturity. All men have the same origin but each person moves according to his own pace and in his own light in accordance with the choice he makes in the exercise of his inalienable free will. Once the free will has been exercised, he is tied to its consequences. Over time a character emerges. And people of similar character congregate to form their own community with their own language to cloak their inner stirring with words.
In other words, no single human being is a victim of circumstances. Men generally are ignorant about this, and wonder why all men cannot be together, why there should be races and tribes. They believe that Nature is in error and man cleverer. Any suggestion to the contrary is dismissed as primitive, racist and tribalistic. All these are flaws in human relationships. However, both the accuser and the accused know very little about the higher correlations of life, and they are in error. There are some people who may have arrived at the level of open government. They hold their leaders accountable openly for their private and public conduct. They expect their leaders to lay bare their credentials. They are alert and litigious. Those who are not in this region of maturity will dismiss such demands and litigious tendencies as destabilising, unpatriotic and treasonable. Acrimony and instability thus ensue in the polity and there is recourse to force to bring the dissimilar peoples together under one national umbrella.
Dr. Stephen Lampe, formerly of World Bank in the United States, wrote in The Guardian of 21 August, 1991, as follows: “No federation can last for long if some segments of it believe that they are not deriving any or sufficient advantage from it. Indeed, a successful and stable federation requires that all units be convinced that they are better off in it than they would be outside it.”And In his book, Building Future Societies, he says: “It must be easier for those who have a great deal in common to live together than it would be for people who differ in many respects. This natural tendency cannot be legislated against; it must always be taken into account…As national heterogeneity increases, so should the form of political association become looser and less centralized; and vice versa.”
What engenders stability and progress in a nation is allowing each group which is similar to run its own affairs and look after itself within the Federation. That is the proverbial true federation which restructuring of the nation’s governmental architecture will bring. The national resource from the common pool will then be distributed in a way that no section feels cheated. The equitable distribution can be better achieved if it is based on the percentage of how much has been distributed by each component part, what has been generally described as the principle of derivation. That is the point Awolowo, Anyaoku and Atiku were eloquently making. In other words for Nigeria to be free from insecurity and for her to make progress, there is hardly any other alternative to restructuring. The diversity of her people and the size of the country leave Nigerians with no other choice. It is the immutable law we must all interweave with our thinking and put into action. Such is the signpost for the greatness of individuals as it is for a nation. It is beckoning in the horizon.