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Re: Beyond 60 years of independence

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I read with great interest and delight, in the Opinion Page, The Guardian of Monday, 28-09-2020, an article by Dr. Akinola of Oxford, United Kingdom.

The article which dealt with the vexed question of restructuring of Nigeria into a true and sustainable federation, so that Nigeria can develop and make economic progress in peace as one nation. 

Dr Akinola made the following inspiring and wonderful cases for Nigeria to be structured into a nation-state as one great indivisible nation, namely:
(1) Our founding fathers might have at various times made unhelpful and easily exploding statements about Nigeria’s amalgamation being a mistake, understandably as mortals.

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(2) Most of the powerful nations of the world are an amalgamation of one or the other.

(3) Britain, our colonial master, is a merger of nations of England, Scotland and Wales domiciled in one great Island called Great Britain, a merger which came into existence in 1706 and still going strong and sustainable as a great nation,

(4) United States of America (USA) started as a merger and progressed from being a mere Confederation of 13 Independent Colonies to the global colossus, it is today.

(5) China with a population of over 1.5 billion people has not stopped fighting over a tiny territory which she claims is part of its merger and

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(6) I will add that USSR, now disintegrated into its component parts, is a merger of 14 nations of which the Russian Federation is one of them.

It is in the light of the above, that I wrote an article on October 13, 2013, in the Opinion Page of The Guardian disagreeing with the Nigerian political elite that “all Nigeria's problems are due to the mistakes of amalgamation when I was insisting that it is not a mistake but due to lack of consensus negotiation of the different ethnic nationalities or nations comprised in Nigeria who are spread along the length and breadth of the River Niger from the North to the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean to enable them as a merger, meet and determine and agree by a consensus on the terms of their union for living together as one nation. This is the type of dialogue that led to the establishment of USA, UK, and Canada, respectively. This is the main reason, till today for unending Nigeria’s political instability and crises of good governance and a fight of which ethnic nationality, comprised in Nigeria will be the President or Prime Minister of Nigeria. No more no less and the fight has already begun on of which ethnic Nationality comprised in Nigeria should be the President of Nigeria, come 2023. This type of situation does not happen in any true federation / sustainable, where it does not matter who is the President or Prime Minister of a nation-state.

For the information of Nigerians and as a rejoinder to Dr. Akinola’s article, I quote herewith below, what I wrote about True / Sustainable Federation, in its entirety and got it published by The Guardian on October 13, 2013, namely, as follows:

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“I have to disagree with People, who say that all Nigeria’s Problems of Political Instability and Crises of Good Governance are due to “the Mistake of Amalgamation” in 1914 of over 200 differing and distinct ethnic Nationalities to set up Nigeria as a Nation-State. This is because it is “ Amalgamation” that made the United States of America (USA) a big and most powerful Nation on Earth, USSR the second most powerful nation on earth, and the United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain a great and formidable Colonial Power in Europe. 

Nigeria with its large population and talented human resources, huge natural resources, and large geographical space can be a Great Power, at least in Africa. However USA and UK respectively, came into being through a Strategy of negotiated Terms of Union in the case of USA, who are all immigrants from Europe, Asia, and Africa, respectively, but who found themselves in North America, originally owned by what is now history, called the Red Indians, and in the case of UK of Great Britain is also through a negotiated Union of independent Nations of England, Scotland and Wales, living independently in one big Island called Great Britain, which through the resulting Consensus Treaty of Union of 1706, brought the UK into being. What I believe is the “Mistake” in the case of Nigeria is the Strategy of “forced Amalgamation” in 1914.  

Britain herself, to her credit, as a Colonial Power, later realized her “Mistake” and corrected it in 1951, when she organized a National Conference of Representatives of Nigeria’s over 200 constituent ethnic Nationalities led by Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, leading the Northern Nigeria’s Group of Nationalities (now the 19 Northern States), Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe leading the Eastern Nigeria Group of Nationalities (now the South East States, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo leading the Western Nigeria Group of Nationalities (now the 6 South West Sates, Edo and Delta States) respectively, in Ibadan, Western Nigeria for a negotiated Federation in 1951, to make  Nigeria a true Federation, which sustained Nigeria in relative Unity, Peace and Progress from 1952 to January 15, 1966 when Nigeria, by Military Fiat, jettisoned and disbanded the well worked out Terms of Nigeria Union by our Founding Fathers in 1952 to set up and introduce a destructive / factious Military Unitary Administration to set Nigeria since 1966 to a state of instability and bad governance.’’

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Let me end this rejoinder, which is really for the interest of the young Nigerian generation, with a brief explanation of the concept of “true” / “sustainable federalism”, that operated in Nigeria from 1952-January 15, 1966, when the military intervention in politics, destroyed it  but which is not now well understood by our new leadership elite in politics and in government.

The federating regions or units (Northern, Western and Eastern Nigeria regional governments, respectively) were fully responsible and in control of their respective land, natural resources, education at all levels of their respective Citizens, Economic/ industrial production activities, etc., and operated at their own pace and factor endowments. They contributed through their respective export revenues to national revenue pool or wealth. The federal (central) government had responsibility only for mutually agreed common services and had no export revenue as it was only limited to a capital territory, then in Lagos, and therefore could contribute little to the national revenue pool or wealth as it has no economic production base or activities. This means that the wealth of the nation must come from the federating units and each federating unit got its own allocation from the national revenue pool or wealth after deduction of what was required to run the federal (central) government, exactly in proportion to the contribution of each federating regional government to the national revenue pool or wealth. This is what assured accountability, real unity and economic productivity in the then nation-state of Nigeria.

Each federating regional government had to work hard and diligently to improve the education of its citizens and has to develop its own capacity for the exploitation of its natural resources and its industrial production base so that it can compete effectively with other regional governments in the export of primary raw materials and industrial processed goods. that capacity is mostly possible through (a) high-quality education at all levels for all its citizens and (b) Science and Technology (S&T) activities, in order, to improve its Economic/industrial production Base. Here for the avoidance of doubt, S&T refer to (i) Education in the disciplines of S&T (namely Physical, Biological, Engineering, Agricultural, and Medical Sciences), (ii) Scientific Research (discipline or problem-oriented), (iii) Research and Development (R&D) of the Output of Scientific Research or inventions/discoveries into Industrial Goods and technical Processes (namely Technologies of production and services in the Economy), (iv) Mass production of Technologies, and (v) Technology Innovation (that is a modification and or upgrading of existing Technologies) to produce/manufacture new Technologies in the Economy. Technologies, here refer to modern Equipment including Power Equipment, Machines, Engineering Tools, Measuring and Control instruments including fast Computers, etc. Are these what is going on now in Nigeria?

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In 1954 National Revenue Allocation based on contributions by the Federating Regional Governments to the National Revenue Pool or Wealth,  Western Nigeria (now southwest states and the states of Edo and Delta) had the largest Revenue allocation of 45 million Pounds Sterling, Northern Nigeria (now 19 Northern States) got 35 million Pounds Sterling, Federal (Central) Government got 30 million Pounds Sterling and Eastern Nigeria Regional Government (now NdiIgbo southeast states, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River states) got 10 million Pounds Sterling, the lowest allocation of that year. 

Western Nigeria highest allocation was reported to be due to the vision and leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who led Western Regional  Government, which saw the education of its citizens as a critical instrument for economic development and which set up industrial estates for modern industrial production and went ahead to give its citizens free education and massive scholarships for higher education in and outside Nigeria, in addition to setting up industrial estates in Ikeja, Illupeju, Apapa then not under the Federal (Central) Government, and Ibadan and made enormous economic achievements.  

Eastern Nigeria Regional Government under the leadership of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. Michael Okpara immediately after 1954, followed Awolowo’s example and set up the University of Nigeria Nsukka with emphasis on all aspects of science and technology and professional courses including economics, land economics, and mineral studies, then unknown in the University College, Ibadan, to facilitate the development of Eastern Nigeria’s Economy.

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The Eastern Nigeria Regional Government also established Industrial Estates at Enugu, Calabar, and Port Harcourt in order to compete effectively with Western Nigeria Regional Government in the Export of Raw material Commodities and processed industrial Goods and by 1964 was able to leapfrog from the least Federal Revenue Allocation of 10 million pound Sterling in 1954 to be the fastest-growing economy in West Africa in 1964. 

The Northern Nigeria relative economic and industrial underdevelopment, in spite her huge natural commodities/resources potential, was then credited primarily to the initial denial of modern education to her citizens by her then political leadership elite and or rejection of what is then referred to as “White” man’s education, which left the Mass of her population mostly without Modern education at all levels of education, and is well known that modern education is a critical instrument for modern Economic Growth and development, Prosperity and modern Economic progress.   

It is also observed that during the period 1952-1965, however, there was accountability in government, there was little corruption as any person found corrupt had a most harrowing, humiliating and devastating sanction, there was nothing like Federal Character or quota nor cries of marginalisation by any ethnic Nationality group, a phenomena that began in 1970, following the Military dismantling of the Terms of Nigeria’s Union of 1952-1965. Every regional government then was seen to be in robust and in healthy competition with each other, worked hard to improve the lot of its respective citizens because every federating regional government knew that no other federating regional government owed her a living. There was very little support from the federal (central) government which was itself struggling to meet its own responsibility of common services for the nation with its own allocation from the national revenue allocation and with no other source of revenue except from the taxes of Nigerians working for the federal central government. There were no “turn by turn” political fights to control and or little agitation to grab the federal (central) government. This federal structure arrangement is what Nigeria should aim at so that the aspirations of Nigeria at independence in 1960, should be realised, namely, “a united, strong and self-reliant nation, a great and dynamic economy, a just and egalitarian society, a land full of bright and full of opportunities for all its citizens  and a free and democratic society.” This is what I believe Akinola is telling Nigeria and me too.

Oragwu, FSAN, pioneer director, Department of Science and Technology Policy, Planning and Development, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) 1979-1987. 

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