Debating The Nigerian Nation: The Build Up Towards The National Conference

(By Owa Eyitayo)

Every nation starts out with its own mix of evil and good, the task is to develop out of the ills and to consolidate on the good. Our hearts as our laws should be mended too. Nigerians themselves assume the worst of this country and it is no wonder but no surprise that while most Nigerians know every wrong about Nigeria, very few can mention not one good. No nation can have everything wrong and have not one good, certainly not this country Nigeria. There is, I solemnly believe, nothing that is wrong with Nigeria that cannot be righted with what is right about it. We should not make this dialogue a discussion of only what does not work but also of what works and what can work better.

IT is good that the yearning for a national dialogue has finally culminated into acquiescence from government and the debates have hitherto commenced with the occasion of the maiden town hall meeting in Akure on October 18. Two most essential ingredients of any debate, however, are that it has to have both consensus and conflict. A debate without any conflict in ideas, in values or standards would bore its audience to a stupor just as a debate that is devoid of a common ground is not only guaranteed to end up a tumultuous lost labour but also, it would in the end lack a common evaluation means essential to settling it.

   Therefore, going into this national dialogue, clear must the imperatives be in our minds of the ideas that have arrived and are settled already as distinct from those we yet fight over. The advisory committee headed by Senator Femi Okurounmu must therefore bear this in mind as it makes to suggest the structure, modalities and nomenclature as it has been mandated to. And many are these doctrines that must remain sacrosanct if we are to stay genuine about our true aspirations and the honest collective hopes of our humanity since the attainment of a more perfect political union is, supposedly, the overriding objective of our confabulating.

   Also, there is a part of these hopes and aspirations that, admittedly, is best achieved if the entity Nigeria endures as is, and there are some that are being circumvented far too severely under the current socio-political architecture. Conflicts within consensus must be contained just as consensus within conflicts ought to be promoted throughout the course of the dialogue and yet, none of the two should, however, be at the expense of the other.

   Very rarely, if ever, does one  come across Nigerians of fair understanding that in sincerity argue against the concepts of federalism, unity, republicanism, democracy, equality, secularism, free market economy and  freedom, being the founding ideals of the Nigerian government. However, we yet must agree to disagree, especially about how these ideas can be realised more assuredly, and more rapidly. A debate like this is what builds a united society and it is from this special essence that democracy itself derives life. There is an entrenched ambivalence over whether each of the ethnic nationalities comprised in Nigeria would fare better autonomously and that then problems and profits at least, would no longer have to be shared discriminately, or maybe the blind optimism that if Nigeria continues this way, somehow its woes would just disappear; I reject these choices because given our multi-ethic society type,  a part of any sovereign nations from the secession would always find a difference, no matter how unjustifiable, amongst themselves, and the spinmeisters would again and always put divisive wedges of marginalisation, “untrue” federalism and disparate federal character and push incessantly for further division until secession becomes a perpetuity. More so, it is a no-brainer in this globalised competitive world that we now live in that the size of a nation’s human resource is vital. If ASEAN, OECD, GCC, EU etc. are being formed and emboldened for the benefits of a shared bigger market, economic  diversity, better effective democratic institutions, etc.,  how possibly can Nigeria be too unmanageably big?

   The working assumption that if the terms of coexistence between Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities are reworked along some certain lines then we would somehow be able to muddle through in our national advancement quest is highly objectionable. Nigeria, to my mind, has not been facing these challenges essentially because our laws are bad but in part because sense of national purpose, social values and the sense of who we are and what we are about have been utterly lost. We should remind ourselves that good people implementing bad laws can still attain justice while a bad people implementing perfect laws would continue to wallow hopelessly in the doldrums. Laws are mere handiworks of men and it is laughable when we expect they would be more perfect than their creators, little wonder we have been living in a mobocracy. Even some nations we look up to have no written laws. Our problems are deeply rooted in established culture of wickedness as epitomised by the prevalent injustice of the most heinous brand in Nigeria.  It is a jaundiced knowledge of our history that would attribute the causes of these quagmires to anything other than to political, economic, religions and social injustices and evil machinations.

   So, as we debate to reform the basis of our co-existence, we must also craft ways of reforming our basic human and institutional ideals. It is true that peace is rare where basic needs such as food, education, freedom and hope are rare but true peace is totally absent where justice is broadly denied. Peace not built on justice is mansion built on sand and except there be justice, peace will remain a willful illusion. The Boko Haram, disease,  Almajiri, illiteracy imbroglios that have remained pervasive among northerners are condemnably distressing but equally unacceptable are the criminalities of the most blatant types that the south can lately be characterised with – drug trafficking, kidnapping, internet fraud, prostitution, occultism, etc. All these to the same degree smear our national image and the innocent citizens just as much as they compromise the very ideals at Nigeria’s founding which our many heroes past fought to establish.

   Every nation starts out with its own mix of evil and good, the task is to develop out of the ills and to consolidate on the good. Our hearts as our laws should be mended too. Nigerians themselves assume the worst of this country and it is no wonder but no surprise that while most Nigerians know every wrong about Nigeria, very few can mention not one good. No nation can have everything wrong and have not one good, certainly not this country Nigeria. There is, I solemnly believe, nothing that is wrong with Nigeria that cannot be righted with what is right about it. We should not make this dialogue a discussion of only what does not work but also of what works and what can work better.

   We may well be deceived that the Nigerian situation is just a trivial case of reciprocated dislike or distrust among the geo-political zones or the major tribes, for while this is not in dispute we also well know this not to be wholesale truth as reflected by the no love lost between same LGA towns of Aguleri and Umuleri or the bad blood between Yelwa and Shendam or perhaps the deep-seated suspicion between intra-township Ife and Modakeke. Splitting up problems is no logical means to solving them; they only become rather hydra-headed and more compounded.

  Depending on which conception of the human nature is dominant at this confab however, the Nigerian nation may emerge with a worsened federal system, or bettered, but in the end, if it ever survives this dialogue, this system is guaranteed to be heavily battered. This is to be welcomed, in my view. The federal system as we practise it at present was established on the assumption that man is primarily depraved and hence a big national government is favoured over small state governments. This is premised on the notion that in any democratic system of stronger small republics, selfish factions could attain majority status and oppress minorities (minority people, minority opinion, tribe or faith), or breakaway at worst.

   It is thought that if not in this system of government people would suffer the worst form of human tendencies when absurd passions of origin may be made to trample on reasoned deliberations or even supplant public good with injustice. This system is designed to accommodate diversity by its representative nature and thereby making it impossible for a majority to form except on the basis of common good. The idea is also to create a large federation of small units that are too small to harm each other. Are these being achieved, we must ask ourselves? And if we answer not in the affirmative, perhaps because we think tyranny of the majority is no justification for rejecting a broader and participatory kind of democracy, what system must we then device just so we get moving forward as a people? This is one of the ideas we yet argue about, what the configuration of our federation should be in order to deliver to us democracy, freedom and equality. There are many more of these passionately debated ideas and I hope they would be brought to the fore in the months ahead.

• oluabiajanaku@yahoo.com

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