Nigeria, challenge of unity: Beyond 2023 elections – Part 2
Continued from yesterday
The apparent lack of political will to crush the marauding bandits across the country, and the near absence of any sanctions for the criminal herders that are terrorising the population across the country, for example, have so utterly divided and polarised the population, have sown so much discord among the people who have lived together for generations; yes, these perceived acts of injustice on the part of the government, have so terribly induced and elevated political tension across the land, and precipitated so much distrust for and resentment towards the leadership, that indeed today we cannot continue to speak of the unity of Nigeria as non-negotiable with any measure of seriousness.
Our unity is indeed negotiable, and the terms and rules of engagement for our union should now and again be evaluated and subjected to review since we claim that ours is a democratic union, and democracy only finds expression in the mutual acknowledgement of the right to self-determination. (See Article 1 of the UN Charter and Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights).
Justice and the Rule of Law are the first conditions of humanity. The law is the anchor upon which the entire systems of society revolve.
The widespread demand for restructuring could be seen as a blanket cover for several grievances bordering on the impression that we do not all enjoy equal citizenship – yes, that in Nigeria there are super-citizens on the one hand, who often make up the ruling class who enjoy many rights and privileges, and non-citizens on the other, whose experience of the state is that of pain and distress, and in many instances, multi-generational trauma. But the demand for justice and equal citizenship can only be met where the rule of law is firmly in place. If the law does not rule, impunity reigns, as is largely the case with us today, whereby the state is configured to protect the rulers and their allies or kinsmen and women.
When people feel perpetually aggrieved by an unjust, inequitable, and iniquitous governance system – that nation or country will continually be in a state of war. And discerning persons can attest to the fact that our situation in Nigeria has for a long time been the moral equivalence of war.
The reason people are being killed with impunity everywhere across the country today, and others are being abducted or kidnapped, is that the perpetrators know they will often not have to answer for their crimes. They know that there are slim chances of their being apprehended or punished for their crimes. So, the crimes continue to flourish. This is the reign of impunity, and no nation can survive for long under such a regime of impunity.
Let us put political correctness aside and speak the hard truth to ourselves: Does any thinking Nigerian really believe that where we are today is sustainable beyond the immediate? Yes, notwithstanding the familiar posturing of those who are benefiting the most from our ignominious system, does any discerning Nigerian really believe that as presently configured, Nigeria will survive beyond a few more years of wobbling on the precipice? We can shout “God forbid” as we may, but quite frankly, my reading of the situation is that unless we change our course, and do so very quickly, we would end up where we are headed: And I say with all sense of responsibility that we are racing imperiously towards a predictable disaster in one form or the other.
True, everything on the horizon is suggestive of an imminent implosion, from Sokoto to Calabar, and from Maiduguri to Lagos. Where we find ourselves today is comparable to a boiling pot or a pressure cooker. If we do not find a way to let out the steam, it is bound to explode with devastating consequences.
Many discerning and privileged Nigerians have seen the handwriting on the wall, and they have been perfecting some form of “PLAN B” for themselves and their immediate family members. But those of us who have no Plan B of any sort must now take the bull by the horns and summon the courage to address the major cracks and crevices in our structural arrangements, in our perception and regard for the rule of law and equal citizenship, in our leadership recruitment processes, and in what priority we accord to leadership integrity and accountability.
Nigeria was not designed to be the monster it has become today, recklessly devouring its children, and callously inflicting pain and distress on the most talented and patriotic of its people.
The original terms agreed upon by the founding fathers of Nigeria (the result of the painstaking negotiations at the constitutional conferences held in Nigeria and in the U.K. between 1953 and 1959), have been severely violated and senselessly brutalised by both military adventurists and civilian conquerors.
Many legal experts today believe that the constitutional arrangement which the military bequeathed us by way of the 1999 Constitution, has little semblance with the 1960 Independence Constitution or the 1963 Republican Constitution, by which Nigeria became a federal republic.
This explains in large measure why 62 years after independence, and after fighting a bitter civil war, where we lost millions of our brothers and sisters, there is today a renewed clamour for not only self-determination but even outright secession by significant elements from some of our ethnic nationalities that came together in October 1960 to form the independent Nigerian federation.
Time for a critical dialogue toward 2023 and beyond
In the run-up to the 2023 general elections, therefore, those of us who have not given up on Nigeria must start asking – and we owe it as a duty to ask: National Unity – at what cost? And on what terms? What really are the fundamental bases of our being together? What do we hold in common? What do we agree should be our core national values, and the basic rules of engagement for our corporate existence? As individual politicians and political parties jostle for positions, come 2023, some of us recognise that just a change of ruling party or ruling persons (which the 2023 elections will hopefully achieve) is not enough, and it cannot take us far. A re-negotiation of the terms of our union (as a matter of utmost urgency and priority national imperative) is to be the most viable path for salvaging our failing and collapsing nation.
To be continued tomorrow
Rev. Fr. Ehusani, executive director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation delivered this as a Keynote Address at the Savannah Centre Leadership Effectiveness and Accountability Dialogue, in Abuja, on June 6, 2022.