He jinxed his presidency right from the podium after he was sworn in. He declared: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. Since that May 29th, 2015, it has been an avalanche of bungles, failures, and questionable decisions. Many are so distinctive as to merit special acknowledgement, like the herdsmen menace, where the killing fields of Plateau and Benue tells the story. Even the anti-corruption fight has been a mighty bungle. Buhari has made himself an administrator of contemptuous silence. He has proven it to us once again, that leaders are not created equal; that someone holds a position of leadership, does not mean he should. Below is his scorecard, two years into his presidency.
The popular saying of the South American priest that “the poor cannot sleep because they are hungry and the rich cannot sleep because the poor are awake” has a menacingly poignant relevance to the current insecurity, insurgency and separatist tendencies in Nigeria. Ever since the return of democratic rule in 1999, the country has witnessed upsurge in civil strives and outright armed insurgencies to the point that today we can assert, most unfortunately, that our country is uncertain. From the multiple ethnic militias, ravaging armed banditries, Niger Delta militants, the Boko Haram insurgency to the current IPOB/Biafra separatist movement, Nigeria has had no semblance of peace ever since. Not that the country had enjoyed absolute peace before, but the severity and intensity of the current insecurity and separatist tendencies in virtually all parts of the country is way out of all proportions to anything we saw since the end of the civil war in 1970. Nigerians today have become so wild against each other that the sanctity of human life has completely lost its essence amongst us. To kill one another, and to call for more killings of one another, have now become the vogue of our daily way of life. Whether the reasons for these genocidal murders are political, religious, economic, environmental, settler/indigence squabble, etc., we as a people have proven to the whole wide world that we have not grown beyond the instinct of wild animals. What a great pity! What a shame!!
In contrast, since 1999, Nigerians are being promised and assured of good life by our politicians seeking public offices. Under the generic parlance of “dividends of democracy”, we are being promised high standard of living – i.e. assured peace, security, education, healthcare, power, clean potable water, economic prosperity, political rights and freedom, transparency and honesty in leadership, etc. Understandably, yearning for such ‘high standard of living’, Nigerians trusted their political class, joined ranks to fight for the entrenchment of democracy and embraced their politicians. In other words, we elected our politicians into public offices in the hope that they will bring forth positive changes to our lives. How so disappointed Nigerians today have become!
While the ‘democratic constitution’ of the county, buoyed by international human rights environment, has brought in liberty, rights and freedom to individuals and groups in the country, the entrenched governments, both of the past PDP’s and the present APC’s, woefully failed to bring to fruition the promised ‘high standard of living’ expected by to the citizenry. On the contrary, what citizens got was large scale and wide spread of poverty and hardship across the land, chiefly brought about by poor or failed public policies, high level of corruption and dishonesty on the part of the very politicians elected into public offices, election and electoral malpractices by practitioners, a compromised and insincere judiciary, among many other vices in public service. Furthermore, in so short a time, there emerged a glaring disparity in the earnings and living standards amongst citizens never seen before in the history of economic and social mobility anywhere in the world; such that today in Nigeria less that 2% of Nigerians (most of whom are the very politicians we elected) own and control over 98% of the national wealth, while more than 98% of the citizens struggle daily to survive on less than 2% of the country’s resources. Worse of all, as these policies are seen being facilitated, driven and implemented by the political class over the years, naturally there is today no love lost between the people and politicians. Here then lies the real source of our social insecurity, armed insurgencies and separatist tendencies across the country.
As rightly maintained by Ted Gurr, a world renowned Criminologist, “when expectations go up and realities go down, men rebel”. For all the facts have shown that the insurgencies in the country, whether militants and militias in the South, the internecine ethnic fratricide in the Middle Belt, the Boko Haram in the North or the Biafran agitation in the East, are basically the results of failed expectations of improved living standard by Nigerians under democratic rule. Contrasting the personal and collective freedom and liberty of citizens ushered in through constitutional democracy with the failed promises and expectations of economic and social improvements of the standard of living of the citizens, one then sees clearly the seeds of crises being sown in our society. Add the polarization and great disparity of wealth among citizens, the overt and insensitive corruption by public servants, the increasing widespread of poverty and deprivation within the vast majority of the people, the extreme forms of election frauds by incumbent leaders, etc., relations between the government and the governed invariably have to come under severe stress. As it turned out to be, because our local civic cultures are unable to withstand the stresses and strains of these social, economic and political pressures, these naturally breed disappointment, despair and despise. It then takes very little for civil resistance to go virulent. Here then again lies the proper explanation of the various insurgencies and separatism ravaging our country today. Hence it makes no sense to debate whether these are ethnic, political, socioeconomic or religious. The answer is they are all of the above.
To resolve these problems, the government must try to understand their fundamental underpinnings, rather than allow unwarranted sentiments of fringe groups of politicians, or even main stream interest groups, like the irredentist ethnic, sectional or religious sects, to poison the atmosphere with wild and virulent claims and accusations. The fundamental challenge is for the government to resolve the two most critical elements to these separatist tendencies – i.e. the economic, political and social elements. On the economic level, the government must find ways and means of decentralizing economic opportunities and national resources in such a way as to bridge this unacceptable wide gap between the rich and the poor amongst our citizens. On the political side, the government must freely open the political space, institute credible electoral process both at the party and general levels, by creating level playing fields in politics where incumbents do not invariably win all elections anyhow, shun winner-takes-all tendency governance and make government an all-inclusive affair. On the social side, the government must strengthen public authorities in all aspects of life by enforcing all laws, rules and regulations. No person or authority must circumvent any law or regulation, micro or macro; thus engraining public obedience and enhancing societal orderliness. Applying these measures would invariably help prevent system breakdown.
Without us getting such economic policies, democratic tenets and social practices in place at the community, Local Government, State and Federal levels we cannot halt and prevent individual and group revolts against the establishment. Not that over the years successive regimes did not come up with policies aimed at achieving these objectives; certainly efforts were made in the past, but they all came to naught. The reason for these failures is simple – inapt policies and strategies were applied, hence failing to give us the results we expect. For us to succeed as a nation will depend on the policies and strategies the government ultimately adopts in pursuit of the desired collective objectives. We therefore need not only appropriate policy options on these three prongs but we also need the right strategy in conceiving and applying such policies. These, undoubtedly, are the plausible ways to resolve the current security and separatist challenges, mitigate the calls for restructuring and achieve national unity, stability and development for our country.
Note: This edited post was first published in May, 2013.
How else can one describe the letter of lamentation by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, to President Muhammadu Buhari on the contracts scam and the serial misdemeanor of the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, if not to say it was not only childish but outrightly naive? Is there anything in government that makes even our brightest minds think and act like dullards once they join the cult? What made Kachikwu think the NNPC boss had been acting unilaterally without the full backing and approval of the substantive Petroleum Minister who also doubles as the President of the Federal Republic? Who was supposed to receive this letter and appropriately advise the President? Is it not the Chief of Staff, the same man that removed Kachikwu and installed Baru as the NNPC helmsman? So what was the rationale in taking the case to this same man?
For the nearly two and half years of being in office, President Buhari’s leadership has been considerably fledging. The president is been continuously challenged from all directions, by even members of his governing party and cabinet. Over this period, his popularity has visibly ebbed and waned; and public support for his government has correspondingly crumbled and dwindled significantly. He has greatly demoralized his supporters who are daily growing disappointed and frustrated, and compatibly energized his opponents who are increasingly becoming vindicated and emboldened. The reason for this unpleasant trend is that his regime has so far failed to make any appreciable impact in the dire developmental needs of the country; and the reason for the failure is evidently borne out of his leadership style.
Like President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States 80 years before him, President Buhari ran for office and was elected president on a set of principles, and not on a set of policies. The overriding factor in his campaign was Buhari himself; his assumed integrity, incorruptibility and forthrightness! The entire 2015 presidential campaign was about Buhari; it was Buhari the person– not his policies, nor his programmes, nor even his political party, but Buhari the man – that had received the drumming endorsement of the Nigerian people, particularly the northerners. That is why sagacious political strategists would draw up and hand to him sophisticated electoral blueprint after 3-failed attempts without asking him for something in return. That is why an old woman of over 80 years would sit out in the scorching sun of the northern desert for a whole day just to see Buhari the person and donate her life-long savings towards his election bid without expecting anything back from him. That is why poor wretched wheel barrow pushers, nail cutters, shoe shiners, hewers of woods and fetchers of water, literally the wretched of the earth, would starve themselves to buy cards and donate their meager earnings towards his election without any hope of ever meeting him. And that is why someone would trek from Lagos or Yola to Abuja in joyous celebration of Buhari’s electoral victory without a price tag.
Now that Buhari has won the contest and sworn-in as president, it was expected Buhari the man would solve the numerous problems of the country; to better the lot of the over 40 million Nigerians who have no employment; solve the problems of the employed but who’s wages cannot feed them through the days of the month; solve the problems of those living in abject poverty across the land, of those who go to bed on empty stomachs; solve the problem of parents who stay awake late into the night thinking of how to feed the family the next day, how to pay the children’s school fees already due and how to settle the landlords their housing rents; solve the problems of those who are frightened by the mere thought of illness either of themselves or members of their families for reason that they cannot afford to pay hospital bills; solve the issue of those people to whom electricity, good roads and portable water are unaffordable luxuries; of children who drop out of schools or go without school all together merely because their parents cannot afford to pay their school fees; of youth who have gone wayward, left their homes, turned to thuggery, crime and drugs, killed or sent to jail while their parents and relatives looked on helplessly; of young girls who, forced by social difficulties, go astray just to earn the extra kobo to help in the upkeep of their households, and parents and relatives look the other way; solve the problems of corruption, terrorism and insurgency in our towns and villages. One can go on and on and on as the issues are uncountable. And these are a mere fraction of the numerous difficulties, agonies and frustrations being faced daily by the vast majority of Nigerians.
Other than these problems of individual survivals President Buhari is been expected to resolve, there are also along with them daunting challenges threatening the very survival of the nation. In his campaigns, Buhari summed these concerns up into three – insecurity, corruption and economy. In other words, the resolution of these three would resolve both the individuals’ and collective developmental challenges of the nation; to create sense of belonging and forge functional unity to a desperate and despairing nation torn apart by cries of marginalization, agitations and separatist tendencies. These are the problems President Buhari was expected to solve. And he could very well have done so if he had adopted the right approach of running an all-inclusive government. This means he would solve problems not as a person but as a leader of a government. But when Buhari took over power and astonishingly refused to set up a governing team of any sort to formulate and channel solutions to these daunting problems, his actions – or inactions – tended to reinforce a viewpoint that he wanted to solve the problems not as a government but as a person – that he could do it alone even without any set of policies and governing teams in place. Hence, his refusal to appoint key advisers, political and economic; and it took him over six months before he was pressured by public outcry to form even a constitutionally required ministerial cabinet.
Yet, it is a standard universal norm that no leader leads without a team of advisers. A consultative body representing different viewpoints exposes errors, debunks assumptions and gives alternative policy options, perspectives and strategies. Time has not only ascertained that the collaboration of several minds is more illuminating than the insights of a single man, but history has also proven that a leader who acts solely on his own judgment is sure to fail. That is why governance has always been a collective project and never a one-man-show in any clime. Consultations and taking of advice are therefore composite foundational elements of good leadership. Institutional offices and their functions are therefore vital in the due discharge of governance. Underscoring this point, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) creates at the federal level the Council of Ministers and Offices of Special Advisers for the good purpose of executing the powers and functions due to the Office of the President. The capacity for good and effective leadership therefore starts with the ability of the leader identifying and selecting competent persons to form a governing team. Indeed, the success or failure of a regime rests as much on the ability of the leader as on the competence or otherwise of his team. Whosoever fails in this is doomed to fail in leadership.
This invariably means that the stability and good governance of the country are dependent on the sound character, right practice and good judgment of the president; while the well-being and quality judgment of the president depend on the knowledge, skill and honesty of his officials. Blessed therefore is the president with truthful, knowledgeable, intelligent and right-doing officials to remind him if he forgets, to assist him if he remembers, to correct him if he is wrong, and to always lay before him the complete facts, circumstances and implications of every issue that may come to him to decide. If the president is able to appoint suitable men, then he is most likely going to succeed, for a good official is like the ornament of the leader; but if he is unable and appoints unsuitable men, or refuses to appoint any at all, then his regime is most likely going to fail. Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, said that when a leader has unsuitable [ignorant] officials, ‘his reign will be like a cloud which passes on without dropping rain’, warning that since what is most important in the polity is the leadership institution, no effort must be spared in getting the right officials to help protect it. Aristotle then compared a leader without ‘competent advisers’ to a man leading a regime in his sleep. The president may well need to heed to Aristotle’s admonition, as ‘good advisers are needed to help the King spare his reign’.
Instructively, in our presidential system of government, all officials are solely appointed by the president. This means that the quality of advice is also solely dependent on the kind of advisers the president assembles to himself. In appointing advisers, the president’s skill or lack of it to distinguish the great disparity that exists between men who are suitable and men who are not itself can decide the ultimate destiny of his regime. To this extent, therefore, President Buhari must necessarily think deeply, consult widely and select carefully in matters regarding the appointment of his officials; and thus when ultimately making these appointments to ensure that only competent and very skillful ones are chosen. So far we have not seen that happening in this regime and that, to me, is the explanation of why President Buhari’s leadership is fledging. And, undoubtedly, it will continue to fledge till it collapses if the necessary changes in approach, attitude and personnel are not immediately effected. Again, to me, this is the only way to save Buhari’s leadership from an inevitable complete collapse.
When on 19th April this year President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, he instituted a three-man committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate the allegations against the duo. For those who felt that setting a committee to deal with straight-forward matters was needless, they were comforted by the fact that there would be a quick closure on the matter since the committee had just two weeks to submit its report.
However, more than five months after, the opposition politicians who dismiss President Buhari’s war against graft as insincere in conception and selective in implementation may be having the last laugh. In case the president is not aware, the talk in town is that the much touted war against corruption of his administration is more a weapon to deal with political opponents than an agenda to enthrone transparency and accountability in Nigeria. And he has done so much in the last two years to prove them right.
Regardless of all the tales about the former Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke and Dame Patience Jonathan, which is all that the corruption war has been reduced to lately, what discerning Nigerians can see is the same hypocrisy, deceit and double standards of the past. While I support all genuine efforts to rid our country of corruption and all forms of abuses within the system, such efforts must be blind to personal or political affiliations of the leader if it is to be enduring. Selective application of those to hold accountable and those to allow free reign can only undermine any attempt to fight graft. Unfortunately, that is what is happening in Nigeria today.
Indeed, there is a general perception that this administration protects its own and that may explain why many opposition politicians who have corruption cases against them are trooping to the All Progressive Congress (APC) where the broom is evidently big enough to sweep any and every act of corruption under the Aso Rock carpet. In a way, the statement by Senator Shehu Sani has become prophetic: “When it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly and the Judiciary and in the larger Nigerian sectors, the President uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the Presidency, they use deodorants.”
Against the background that President Buhari came to power with his personal integrity and a campaign promise that he would fight corruption in office, Senator’s Sani’s description, which fits, should compel introspection in Aso Rock. After several political big wigs in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been called to account, including some of them being handcuffed to court, the big one came when a committee of the Senate, controlled by the same ruling party, indicted the SGF of fiddling with the money meant for the most vulnerable of our society: those displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The expectation was that the president would use the opportunity to prove the credibility of his anti-corruption war. One, the president said, and quite correctly, that Lawal had a right to defend himself against allegations of impropriety, a right he believed the Senate denied his man before coming up with the report. So, one cannot fault the president’s decision to subject the Senate report to his own investigation. Two, the person involved is close to President Buhari who has a reputation when it comes to dealing with friends and associates. It is said that if you have the trust of the president, you can get away with any wrongdoing because he would defend you regardless of the evidence.
Given the foregoing, Nigerians waited eagerly to see how the president would handle this scandal. In the statement signed by presidential spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, a three-man committee comprising the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the National Security Adviser and headed by the Vice President was directed to investigate “the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).”
The same committee was also directed “to conduct a full scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has made a claim.” The investigation, according to the statement, “is also to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.”
As it turned out, the investigations commenced the day the president was travelling out of the country on a medical vacation that lasted more than a hundred days. But upon return, the report was submitted to him on 23rd August with so much song and dance. In fact, the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) that was scheduled to hold the next day was cancelled because, as we were told, the president was busy reading the report.
Unfortunately, more than a month after receiving the said report, the president has done nothing about the matter thus confirming Senator Sani’s declaration. Yet, if the war against corruption in Nigeria is to have any meaning, the targets of those to scrutinize and the reward system cannot continue to be selective. You cannot treat some corruption cases with insecticide and some others with deodorant and expect anybody to take you seriously.
To the extent that justice is the anchor of peace and the premise of social development, it is easy to locate some of the current problems in the country in the arbitrary use of power and the promotion of selective application of justice. And when such becomes manifest in the public space, as it is in Nigeria today, what follows is that the people will begin to lose trust in both the leader and the system.
The most significant appeal of President Buhari’s candidacy in 2015 was the national consensus then that he would be principled, decisive, firm and precise on matters of public morality. Sadly, his failure to act promptly and decisively at critical moments when the public expected clarity has dulled his original appeal and cast doubts on his sincerity. In the process, the dividing line between right and wrong in our nation has further blurred. Therefore, the burden for the president at this most critical period is twofold: first to salvage the credibility of his wobbly administration and, most importantly, to restore public confidence in his personal integrity as a genuine national leader and moral beacon.
While the sharp division of opinions over the government’s Operation Python Dance 11 in the Southeast, the proscription of IPOB and the consequent designation of the organization as a terrorist organization could be interpreted either as a reflection of the vibrancy of our putative democracy or a reflection of how polarized the society has become, what is clear is that there are useful lessons to be learnt from the entangled affair:
RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA: DECENTRALISATION FOR NATIONAL COHESION
Let me begin by extending my deep sense of gratitude to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, for inviting me to participate in this current series of discussions on, Next Generation Nigeria: Accountability and National Cohesion. The involvement of this reputable British Institute in discussing and proffering suggestions for extant Nigeria’s problems is not only commendable, but I believe most relieving for the British establishment, who must understandably feel a deep sense of vicarious responsibility for putting together a country confronted which such grim future.
Nigeria became a united British colony by the amalgamation of its Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914. In 1960 it attained independence, fashioned a federal Constitution which had three and subsequently four regions as its federating units. The pre-1960 and the 1963 constitutions of Nigeria were fashioned by the people of Nigeria as represented by the leaders of their ethnic nationalities. The coup of January 1966 and the counter-coup of the same year occasioned by ethnic tensions and disagreements within the military-led our country to disastrous consequences.
Our first Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Tafawa Balewa and the then premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, as well as the then Minister for Finance Festus Okotie-Eboh, were murdered. A massive pogrom was unleashed on South Eastern Nigerians living in the Northern Nigeria. A sitting Head of State from the South East, Major General Aguiyi Ironsi and a governor from the South West Col. Adekunle Fajuyi were murdered. The military suspended our 1963 constitution and adopted a unitary system of government to fit their command and control structures. Opposition to this move by Southern Nigeria led to constitutional talks in Aburi, Ghana. The agreements reached Aburi were jettisoned. War broke out and claimed more than three and a half million lives mostly from the South East. After the war, the military-authored two more constitutions, one in 1979 and another in 1998/99. The two military constitutions were finally approved by the Supreme Military Council.
Under military rule, this organ was the highest legislative organ for the country. It was made up of senior military officers, a majority of whom were from Northern Nigeria. The last constitution of 1998/99 which the military approved was the legal instrument that governed Nigeria’s transition to democracy. It is still in use in Nigeria today. It was not subjected to a national referendum. It created 19 states out of the old Northern Region, 6 states out of the Western Region, 2 states out of the old Midwestern Region and 9 states out of the old Eastern Region.
An agreement by a constitutional conference convened by General Abacha divided the country into six geopolitical zones. This agreement was never incorporated into a legislation even though it continues to be adopted for administrative purposes by Government and the political parties. The creation of states and local governments in these six geographical areas did not respect any equitable parameter.
Our present constitution is not autochthonous. It was not written by the people of Nigeria. It was not approved in a National referendum. In jurisprudence, its effectiveness will score a very low grade on account of its unacceptability. Regrettably, it continues to hold sway and begins with a false proclamation, “We the People of Nigeria….”
Our present constitution was written at a time of unprecedented increase in National revenue following the massive discovery of oil in Nigeria and its global reliance as a source of fuel for mechanical machines. It had as its centrepiece, the distribution of national revenue and national offices using states and local governments as units for division. It constructed a federation in name but a unitary government in practice following the pattern enunciated in 1966 from the inception of military administration in Nigeria.
Competition and drive for production by the federating units was destroyed. Each state and local government waited every month for proceeds from oil generated revenue to be divided out to them.
The Federal Government became enormously powerful taking over mining rights, construction of interstate highways, major educational establishments, rail and water transportation, power and several infrastructural responsibilities previously undertaken by the regions. Competition for control of the Federal Government became intense and corrupted our electoral system. Corruption became perverse as the Federal Government became too big to be effectively policed by auditing and administrative regulations.
As I speak to you today, Nigeria has a grim economic outlook. Nigeria’s external debt has grown from $10.3 billion in 2015 to $15 billion in 2017. Her domestic debt has also grown from 8.8 trillion Naira in 2015, to 14 trillion Naira in 2017. Domestic debt component for the 36 states rose from 1.69 trillion Naira in 2015 to 2.9 trillion Naira in June 2017.
The Federal government has on two occasions released bailout funds to enable states to meet their recurrent expenditure requirements. Only about eight states in Nigeria namely Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Edo, Delta, Abia, Rivers, and Kwara have their internally generated revenue sufficient enough to cover their interest repayments on their debts without depending on allocations from Federally collected revenue.
For the Federal Government close to 40% of its annual revenue was spent on servicing of interest repayments on debts and according to International Monetary Fund (IMF), this percentage is expected to increase further. According to Fitch ratings, Nigeria’s Government gross debts is 320% of its annual revenue!! – one of the highest in the world.
In the face of this economic reality, the Population Reference Bureau predicts that Nigeria will in 2050 become the world’s fourth-largest population with a population of 397 million coming after China, India and the United States of America. This is only 33 years away.
In 2011, five Colonels in the United States Centre for Strategy and Technology, Air War College did a case study on Nigeria and the global consequences of its implosion and came out with a conclusion that, “despite its best efforts, Nigeria has a long-term struggle ahead to remain a viable state, much less a top-20 economy”.
Faced with this grim economic outlook and a structure inimical to growth what is, therefore, our way forward? Our growth model has to change for us to survive as a country.
A model based on sharing of Government revenue must give way to a new structure that will challenge and drive productivity in different regions across the country. This new model must take into account that the factors driving productivity in today’s world are no longer driven by fossil oil but rather the proliferation of a knowledge-based economy. The restructuring of Nigeria into smaller and independent federations limits and the devolution of powers to these federating units to control exclusively their human capital development, mineral resources, agriculture, and power (albeit with an obligation to contribute to the federal government) is the only way to salvage our fledging economy. Restructuring will devote attention to the new wealth areas, promote competition and productivity as the new federating units struggle to survive. It will drastically reduce corruption as the large federal parastatals which gulp Government revenue for little or no impact dissolve and give way to small and viable organs in the new federating units.
Those campaigning against restructuring in Nigeria have painted an unfortunate and untrue picture that those of us in support of restructuring are doing so in order to deny the Northern States who have not yet any proven oil reserves of the ability to survive. This is unfortunate. The new model we propose for Nigeria recognizes that revenue in the world today is promoted by two main sources namely, human capital development leveraging on technology to drive the critical sectors of the economy and agriculture. Ten years ago the top ten companies in the world were the likes of Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Total. Today the top eight companies in the world are represented by technology related companies. They include Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
The example of Netherlands in Agriculture is also relevant here. The Netherlands is the 18th largest economy in the world. It has a land area of about 33.9,000 square kilometres. Niger State, one of Nigeria’s 37 administrative units has about 74,000 square kilometres. Netherlands has over $100 billion from agricultural exports annually, contributed mainly by vegetables and dairy. Nigeria’s oil revenue has never in any one year reached $100 billion. Northern Nigeria is the most endowed agriculturally in Nigeria. Its tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, cucumbers, tubers, grains, livestock and dairy feed the majority of Nigerians in spite of its huge reserve of unexploited export potentials. In a restructured Nigeria, Northern Nigeria with the right agricultural policies will be the richest part of Nigeria.
Our analysis here must be viewed from the background that datelines have been fixed by OECD countries and China for the cessation of production of automobiles and machines dependent on fossil oil. This development and the new technology for production of shale oil in the United States has made world dependence on Nigeria’s crude oil a rapidly declining phenomenon.
This brings me to the question of what form Nigeria will assume under a restructured arrangement and how this restructuring can be brought about. Two basic models have been canvassed for restructuring in Nigeria. A conservative model aimed at maintaining the status quo has been proposed to mean simply a shedding of some of the exclusive powers of the federal government like issuing of mining licences, permission for constructing of federal roads and shedding of regulatory powers over investments in critical sectors of the economy like power. This model merely scratches the surface of the problem. It avoids fundamental devolution of powers.
The second model calls for a fundamental devolution of powers to the States as federating units and a lean Federal Government with exclusive powers for external defence, customs, immigration, foreign relations and a Federal legislature and judiciary to make and interpret laws in these exclusive areas.
This second model proposes states at the federating units with two different approaches. The first approach simply wants the states as the federating units and a federal government with limited powers. It wants the states to control a percentage of revenue accruing from their areas and contribute an agreed percentage of such revenue to the federal government.
The second approach proposes the states as the federating units with a region at each of the six geopolitical units whose constitution will be agreed to and adopted by the states in the geopolitical region. The regions will have the powers to merge existing states or create new ones. There will be regional and state legislatures and judiciary dealing with making and interpreting laws made in the respective political entities. This approach proposes a revenue sharing formulae of 15% to the Federal Government, 35% to the State Government and 50% to the State Governments.
To achieve a national consensus on this subject requires a national discussion. Regrettably, the ruling party, APC which promised restructuring in its manifesto after two years and four months in office is still appointing a committee to define what sort of restructuring it wants for Nigeria. To make matters worse, none of the other political parties have come up with any clear-cut route for achieving a consensus on this matter.
The National Assembly itself is a reflection of the deep ethnic divisions in the country and the Northern majority conferred on it by the military makes it highly unacceptable to Southern Nigeria. Recent resolutions made by it on devolution of powers have not helped the situation. Happily, the Senate President has promised a revisit of the subject matter.
In the recent past, self-determination groups have sprung up in Nigeria. The self-determination groups include IPOB, MASSOB, YELICOM, Arewa Youths, Niger Delta Republic and Republic of the Middle Belt.
Of all these groups IPOB and Boko Haram have been designated as terrorist organisations by the federal government. This development in relation to IPOB is unfortunate. Boko Haram is an armed organisation which has attacked and occupied Nigerian territory hoisted its flag and appointed local authority governments.
It has abducted and abused Nigerian women, kidnapped and imprisoned many and killed over two hundred thousand people. It is still involved in guerrilla warfare against Nigeria yet the Federal government is negotiating with them. No member of Boko Haram captured by the military is under trial. Members of this Federal government are on record for condemning the previous government for brutal murder of Boko Haram members and condemning the retired Chief of Army Staff for zealous prosecution of the anti-terror campaign. Members of the sect who confess to a change of mind have been received along with their abducted female partners in the Presidency and rehabilitated.
The declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation is in my view hurried, unfair, and not in conformity with the intendment of the law. Whereas I am not completely in agreement with some of the methods of IPOB like its inappropriate and divisive broadcast, the uncontested evidence given by the Attorney General of the Federation in an interlocutory action claiming that IPOB attempted and/or actually snatched guns from law enforcement agents are, if proven, merely criminal offences. They do not constitute enough evidence to meet international law definitions of a terrorist organisation. Happily, the United States Embassy in Nigeria only three days ago shared this conclusion and asserted that the United States Government does not recognise IPOB as a terrorist organisation. This same unarmed IPOB that is being stigmatised by the Nigerian government had its members murdered in Asaba, Nkpor, Aba and Port Harcourt simply for having public demonstrations without the federal government ordering a judicial inquiry. Instead, after I called for one and Amnesty International provided evidence that 150 of them were killed, the Chief of Army Staff set up an inquiry composed of serving and retired army officers thus abandoning the rules of natural justice which prescribes that you cannot be a judge in your own court.
The Igbos in Nigeria feel the treatment of IPOB as unfair, discriminatory and overhanded. They see the move as an attempt to encourage a profiling of Igbos in the international security arena.
We know of other self-determination groups in Nigeria that are armed and have destroyed government and private sector installations and wells that government prefers to negotiate with rather than label them as terrorist organisations.
Fulani Herdsmen otherwise called the Fulani militants have ravaged farms in Middlebelt, South West, and South Eastern Nigeria killing several farmers in the process. In January 2016 they killed 500 farmers and their families in Agatu in Benue state. In Enugu state, they murdered more than 100 farmers in Ukpabi Nimbo in April 2016. Photographs depicting them with automatic rifles trend in the entire world media, yet not one of them is facing criminal charges, nor is Operation Python Dance being conducted in the areas where they ravage and kill and the Federal government describes them as criminals and not a terrorist organisation notwithstanding their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world (see British Independent Newspaper, 18th November 2015). The London Guardian Newspaper of 12th July 2016 indicated that Fulani herdsmen killed one thousand people in 2014.
Let me seize this opportunity to once more thank the Royal Institute of International Affairs for inviting me as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to speak here today. In Nigeria, Ndigbo whose social cultured organisation I lead are, notwithstanding their historical experiences in Nigeria, the most loyal ethnic group to the concept of one Nigeria. We are the largest ethnic group other than the indigenous group in any part of Nigeria. We invest and contribute to the economic and social life of the committees wherever we live. We are proudly Christians but very accommodating of our brothers of other religious persuasions. We are grossly marginalised and still treated by the Federal government as second-class citizens. No Igboman, for instance, heads any security arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Our area is the most heavily policed as if there was a deliberate policy to intimidate us and hold us down.
Our endurance has been stretched beyond Hooke’s gauge for elastic limit. The deployment of the Nigerian Army under the guise of Operation Python dance to the South East was unconstitutional under S. 271 of the 1999 Constitution.Deployment of the army is only allowed in circumstances of insurrection, terrorism and external aggression not in killing of priests, or fighting kidnapping. And in those circumstances where they can be deployed, leave of the Senate must be sought. This brazen impunity in dealing with matters which concern the South East is provocative.
The Arewa Youths Council by issuing a quit notice for Igbos to leave Northern Nigeria and declaring a Federal Republic of Nigeria without Igboland had committed serious infractions of the law. First by declaring a new Republic of Nigeria which excises the South East unilaterally, they were committing treason. By issuing a proclamation for Nigerians to leave any part of Nigeria forcibly they were infringing the fundamental rights of innocent Nigerians, as guaranteed by the Constitution to live and do business anywhere. By commencing an inventory of Igbo property in Nigeria for seizure by October 1st, 2017, they were attempting conversion. By proclaiming a mop-up action of those who did not comply with their order by October 1st, they were, without doubt, inciting genocide. Yet in spite of all these orders to arrest them by the Kaduna State Government and the Inspector General of Police were not enforced nor were they prevented from holding court with Governors and leading elders from the North.
The only hope for change in Nigeria today is the rising call for restructuring pioneered by the Southern leadership forum, supported lately by ex Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, former President Ibrahim Babangida and leaders of the Middle belt including Dan Suleiman and Prof. Jerry Gana.
Our expectation is that now that our President is fully recovered and back to work, he will address the situation by constituting a nationwide conversation of all ethnic nationalities to look into the 2014 National Conference report and the trending views on this subject matter so as to come up with a consensus proposal that the national and state assemblies will be persuaded to adopt.
To continue to neglect a resolution of this impasse will spell doom for our dear country.
Our argument is further reinforced by a two-year extensive study by the UNDP titled, JOURNEY TO EXTREMISM released in September 2017 which indicated that exposure to state abuse and marginalisation not religious ideology are better predictors of radicalisation.
It also indicates that those living on the periphery of their country with less access to education and health services are more vulnerable to be recruited into violent extremist groups. In Nigeria, millions of unemployed graduates from universities waiting for up to 10 years without gainful employment are restive, agitated and veritable cannon fodders for escalating restiveness.
In conclusion, I hope that the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the British Government and British interests associated with Nigeria will continue to offer useful advice to our polity that will lead to an early resolution of our situation.
I thank you for your kind attention.
John Nnia Nwodo
Chatham House, London
Wednesday 27th September 2017.