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Odumakin: integration is unrealisable within present context


Mr. Yinka Odumakin

Mr. Yinka Odumakin

Mr. Yinka Odumakin is spokesperson for Afenifere. As a delegate to the 2014 National Dialogue, he told KAMAL TAYO OROPO that the best way to address the national question is to back to recommendations of the confab.

Has government done enough to foster integration based on constitutional provision, as characterized by full residency in any part of the country, encourage inter-marriages among the ethnic groups and mobility of citizens?
The government of Nigeria has not been able to promote these laudable objectives of nationhood, because the country is not yet a nation; we are just pretending at it. Those who drafted the constitution put the cart before the horse, as you cannot realise these noble objectives in a void. It is like a woman who goes to the market to buy all the ingredients that are used to prepare a delicious soup, but has no cooking pot.

To that extent, the provisions are not worth the paper on which they are written, because they are unrealisable within the present context of the Nigerian State, where the country is fragmented into nations with no concrete effort to put all these ingredients together to have a salad bowl nation.

How can government make these provisions real?
The provisions can only be made real if we address the nationhood question properly and the report of the 2014 National Conference is a good starting point.

Interestingly, the report even has a charter of integration to blend us together as against the Lord Lugard amalgamation, which is the basis of our cat and mouse relationship at the moment.

But some say that the Constitution, more than the 2014 Confab has enough to unite the people if only there is political will?
There cannot be any political will where there is no way. These provisions are mere sound and fury signifying nothing until we have the architecture of integration in place. The difference with 2014 Confab report is that it goes to the root of the Nigerian crisis and proffers holistic solutions.

Can you elaborate more on how the 2014 Confab proffer such solutions?
The 2014 confab recognises the building blocks of the Nigerian federation and gives them the latitude to associate on the basis of cultural sanguinity. It also recommends equality of states for the six geo-political zones with the rights of states to merge.

Further, a group of states can merge, as well as, have zonal commissions to pursue common interests. As against the current arrangement, each state is allowed to dig under their soil and explore the resources therein in order to create many corridors of prosperity. The reason why these provisions are difficult to enforce at the moment has to do with limited opportunities. Where there are not enough to go round, the secondary contradictions acquire primacy and people would look for all manner of excuses like state of origin, marriage, religion and what have you, to shut people out of their party or association.

Where there is serious economic activities, skills and manpower would be in abundant demand, but where sharing of shrinking resources is the order, it would be more of the rule of the jungle and citizenship rights would come under assault.

In this light, and seeing that the ruling party is not a fan of the 2014 Confab, what should the government be doing?
We have to continue to hammer it on until they get it. They should pocket their ego and realise that peoples’ lives are at stake. All indices have gone worse in the last 10 months. Electricity has dropped to 1500 megawatts for the whole country, while fuel queues are now multi-mile long. There is no short-cut around this palm tree top anymore. But advocates of restructuring should push it in a friendly way, as this is about our survival as a people and not in a manner suggesting ‘did-we-not-tell-you’ fashion.

How confident are you that this government would yield ground on this?
It is in the best interest of the government and the people for those currently in the authority to yield. This house is falling, killings all over the place and shrinking opportunities for growth all around us. It is a quarter to midnight in Nigeria and we must address the drift.

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