‘Only restructuring can guarantee Nigeria’s survival’
As Nigeria marks 57 years of nationhood, a former governor of Ogun State and chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Olusegun Osoba, said the country was gradually moving towards disintegration and only the restructuring of the polity can pull it back. Seye Olumide reports:
How do you feel about Nigeria at 57?
I am frustrated, disillusioned and I feel perplexed. We grew up believing strongly in one nation, that time things were well organised. The drainages were clean, things were well done and there was high cultural value. We knew nothing about robbery or cultism and other vices. All these values have being destroyed. So much have being disrupted that made me feel disillusioned like I said earlier.
Getting back from the brink
We can only get back on course if we address the lopsidedness in the structure of Nigeria. There is a lot of imbalance and lack of fairness in the conduct of the affairs of our country due to the nature of our constitution. A country of multi-ethnic diversity in a situation where we have an over centralised government at the centre, will always continuously create tension and apprehension. That’s why we are in this situation today.
I will take part of the solutions from the colonialists who created the problem for us in Nigeria. The United Kingdom (UK), after centuries of claiming to be united as a country is in itself disintegrating. About a year ago there was a referendum in Scotland where the separatists who want to break away from UK had the upper hand. It took the efforts of past Prime Ministers and leaders from Scotland to stem the tide of separatism. The issue of Ireland is still very strong. Northern Ireland is still not on same with UK, the Welsh still do not see themselves as same as UK. If Britain that handed over parts of the institutions we have today to us is itself facing problems after centuries of claiming to be one, what makes them or us think that a country like Nigeria with diverse culture and diverse historical antecedents, can easily move together if we don’t respect the norms and the attributes of each of the nations. That is why we must seriously think and learn from the so-called British masters, who in their wisdom are regularly devolving powers from the British Parliament to Scotland and other parts of UK.
But Nigeria’s political leaders are not convinced about this
They will be convinced by force. The younger elements in this country are not going to be as tolerant as my generation and generations before us are. I grow up in Nigeria where people from different parts of the country were my classmates at school. Since independence, we have been drifting into our little cocoons in certain ways but the children of today don’t really have other counterparts to relate with. My own attitude of one Nigeria is becoming outdated to the views of the younger generations. The younger ones are better educated and more exposed and have access to much information through the Internet and they are not going to tolerate some of the things that we tolerated. Boko Haram is a major issue in itself threatening the oligarchy in the north. When I said it would be done by force, you can see the agitations in the country. The Biafra agitation is a mere name to request for the wants of the people in the east, the militants in the Niger Delta are not different from the OPC in the Southwest. They only take the issue from different perspectives.
But the North is against restructuring
I don’t want to turn this to a tribal issue. The north itself and those who oppose true federalism and restructuring are doing so because they are myopic. They would have been the real beneficiaries of true federalism because they would even have a free hand in carrying out their Sharia laws. They are agricultural producing region, why can’t they use the vast lands in the north, the landmass there could be used as a food basket for the entire nation, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The mistake they are making especially about crude oil, very soon the oil would be of no value. Developed countries are already making vehicles that will run on solar and electric power energy. If the oil crashes, then we have to look inward; you can see states are beginning to encourage taxation. UK for example survives on the taxes of the masses. It will still come to a point where the north will be the one to agitate for true federalism.
What about the arguments about greatness in Nigeria’s oneness?
When I was young, there was massive trading between Benin Republic and Lagos. Everyday traders came from Port Novo via Idi Iroko to trade and go back. That is to show you that whether there is this division or not, the economic activities and cultural affinity will always be there. Devolving power does not remove the economic relationship between the different ethnic groups at all.
Do you blame Nigeria’s political elites for not seeing this?
Some of our leaders think they would be in public offices for life. Some think they will become a Mugabe. You don’t give general condemnation of politicians, yes some have failed us but some have equally lived up to the expectations. I for example and some past governors have won cases in the court, which show true administration and federalism. We should not therefore make generalised condemnation of politicians.