The Nationality Question: Imperative for National Restructuring – by Prof. Ropo Sekoni

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The Nationality Question: Imperative for National Restructuring

Sixtieth Birthday Anniversary Lecture in Honour of Hon. Wale Oshun on March 26, 2010

                                    by

                                     Ropo Sekoni 

Mr. Chairman of today’s occasion, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the Guest of Honour, Chief Bisi Akande, and today’s birthday boy, Honourable Wale Oshun, whose contribution to Nigeria’s political development, among other qualities, is being recognized today. I wish you many more years of intellectual productivity and political creativity, which are evident in your writings on the political culture of the Yoruba region of Nigeria in particular and in your contributions to Nigeria’s legislative and political culture in general. I heartily welcome you to the decade of senior citizenship. I also thank Afenifere Renewal Group for inviting me to give today’s lecture in honour of a man of significance to the country’s political development in terms of thought and in action.  I am always happy when am given an opportunity to air my views on a topic that has been a preoccupation of mine since the pro-democracy movement of NADECO abroad in the mid 1990s in London and Washington. I feel honoured to have been part of your group that was always engaged in constant examination of the importance of searching for creative solutions to the challenge of building modern and democratic multi-ethnic or multi-national states in Nigeria. In many ways, today’s lecture is a summary of many of the discussions we had in those days of political crisis in Nigeria.

In a lecture with a similar title given by Chief Anthony Enahoro eight years ago at the Yoruba Tennis Club: “The National Question in Nigeria: Towards a New Constitutional Order,” Chief Enahoro provided what is going to function as the main thesis of today’s lecture when he said: The solution to our problem is not to ignore it or to pretend that ethnic diversity does not exist or to expect it to disappear without purposeful attention. We must boldly acknowledge the existence of our diversity and seek equitocratic togetherness from it, by making efforts to manage our ethnic diversity, rather than suppressing it in our search for unity.” In another lecture given by Cornelius Adebayo: “Nigeria’s Nationality Question, Democracy and Options for Survival,” he too raised a question that will be repeated in this discourse: “How does a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria survive in unity to the satisfaction of every group without sacrificing the basic principles of democracy” while Chief Bisi Akande observed in his own writings on federalism that the peculiarities of the Nigerian landscape demand a creative search for answers to Nigeria’s unique challenges through federalism. These writers put emphasis in their lectures on the two key concepts in today’s lecture: nationality and political re-structuring. 

In effect, most of the ideas in this lecture will not be new to the audience. But I am taking refuge in Adebayo’s notion that it is not always all the people that listened that ended up hearing and that there is always room for giving several lectures with the same or similar titles. I therefore crave the indulgence of those who had listened and had heard some of the issues for discussion today, bearing in mind that there are at times some virtue in repetition.

At the beginning of Nigeria’s political history, there was a deliberate effort on the part of colonialists to demonize what we are referring to in contemporary times as nationality or ethnicity. British colonialists and anthropologists deliberately referred to the nationalities they met in Nigeria as tribes, even when the population of the Yoruba at that time was close to the population of the English and certainly much more than the population of the Welsh, the Irish, the Scottish in the United Kingdom, and of the Dutch in Netherlands, the Danish, the Swedish, Finnish of the Nordic countries, and of the Flemish and the Walloons of Belgium, to name a few. British colonialists did not at that time view tribe for what it denotes scientifically but for what it connotes politically for their own goals. They defined tribe not as a human group existing before the development of or outside of states, in contradistinction from the scientific definition of tribe, in the words of Akin Akiwowo, as any people numerically larger than the community to which members of an extended kinship belongs but that possess a common name, language, culture, eponymous origin, and live within a certain geographical territory. Akiwowo’s definition of tribe is similar to the universal definition of ethnicity as a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage that is real or assumed—sharing a heritage that may be based on common ancestry, kinship, religion, language, shared territory. Furthermore, the definition of ethnicity is also not far from that of nationality, which is seen by social scientists as a people having common origins or traditions and often comprising a nation.

The purpose of these definitions, as boring as they might be to the audience, is not to get involved in a hair-splitting argument about the superiority of nationality to ethnicity or tribe. My interest is to show that groups of peoples with diverse languages, customs, religions, etc had existed in what became Nigeria in 1914 centuries before the arrival of Frederick Lugard, and to show that the haste of the British colonialists to establish the Nigerian State and make it more attractive to pre-colonial nationalities made it necessary for them to inferiorize pre-colonial Nigerian states by saying that the new Nigerian State created by Lugard in 1914 was the first state in this part of the world. We must also note that state refers scientifically to a set of governing and supportive institutions that have sovereignty over a definite territory and population. To most British colonial policymakers and all Nigerian military rulers, the Nigerian State was the only entity that should matter in the building of the new Nigerian State created by Lugard, and the more the building of the Nigerian State is done at the expense of pre-colonial nationalities, the more chances, Nigerian military dictators and their civilian supporters in the last fifty years believe will Nigeria have to attain unity, even if the unity is at the expense of the country’s ethnic diversity, as Enahoro once observed. Almost at the risk of repetition, it is necessary to summarise the political history of Nigeria, if only to establish the basis for the importance of nationality for the structure and re-structuring of Nigeria.

Nigeria before 1885 was a land mass occupied by several ancient nations and civilizations, each with its own history, language, mythology, political system, and cultural values. The pre-Nigeria or pre-colonial nations in what is known today as Nigeria are believed by social scientists to exceed 300 ethnicities that include the Berom, Edo, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani, Ijaw, Itshekiri, Gwari, Nupe, Tiv, Idoma, Kanuri, Calabari, Efik, Yoruba, etc. Some of them were even acknowledged by the British political geographers to have built kingdoms and empires long before the Berlin Conference of 1865. Those nations include the Kanuri, Sokoto, Hausa, Benin, Oyo, and many others. The irony inherent in British colonial politics is that those nationalities their scholars acknowledged to have built empires before the Berlin Conference became tribes within the new Nigerian State created by Lugard.

It was the amalgamation of Nigeria on January 1, 1914 that brought the multiple nations and nationalities in today’s Nigeria together into one country. The amalgamation was at the instance of Frederick Lugard, a strong believer in the principle of centralism or unitarism. Until 1922, Nigeria did not have any constitution or working document. It was ruled solely as a colony under the management of Lord Lugard. But the Amalgamation of 1914 once described by Sir Ahmadu Bello as the “mistake of 1914” was not made principally because of Nigeria or the people inside it, but for the advancement of the interests of the British colonial office and the legacy it wanted to leave at the end of the colonial experiment. The British colonial masters were not totally unmindful of the history of imperialism and colonialism in the world. More specifically, the colonial administrators had read avidly about the history of their colonial enterprise in the United States and Canada, centuries before the colonization and amalgamation of Nigeria. Britain must have also had the ambition to be associated with the largest African nation, just as it had had the fortune of being associated with the largest former British colony in the Americas.

It was because of the need to make sure that Nigeria survived that the British colonial policymakers and administrators bent over backward to prevent the Northern Protectorate (later the Northern Region) from bringing the experiment with Nigeria to an end. On several occasions, the leaders of the North asked for concessions at every point that the British wanted to create structures and policies to ensure the survival of the experimental nation-state, Nigeria. Even with the first constitution, the Clifford Constitution of 1922, the North refused to participate in the country’s first deliberative council over nation-wide administration. To prevent the North from reverting to the situation before 1914, the Richards Constitution of 1946 tried to create three regions with some measure of recognition of the special needs of the three regions. Governor Arthur Richards once said that the best way to strengthen the unity of the country was to “encourage the regions to develop each along its characteristic lines.”

It could be argued that Richards’ recommendation was primarily to assuage the feelings of the North whose leaders insisted on a lion share of legislative seats or nothing. The consequence of this thought on Richards’ part is an implicit recognition of the failure of the Lugardian principle of centralism and the need to replace this with some measure of de-centralisation or regionalisation. Richards’ romance with regionalism was later built upon by the Macpherson Constitution of 1951. This constitution gave more legislative and executive responsibilities to the three regions, while still giving more concessions to the North that was given 45 seats at the Central Council while Eastern Region and Western Region each got 33 seats, as a compromise on the initial demand by Northern Emirs, especially the Emirs of Zaria and Katsina for 50 seats to complement 25 seats each from the two southern regions.

It was the Macpherson Constitution that grew later into the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 in which the governor tried to assuage the fear of leaders of the North about possible domination by the South, by asking that the Nigerian constitution be redrawn to “provide greater regional autonomy and removal of intervention by the centre in matters which could, without detriment to other regions, be placed entirely within regional competence” (See Kalu Ezera and Olaniwun Ajayi).  The Lyttleton Constitution was the one polished to create what later became the Independence Constitution of 1960.

During the negotiation for the 1960 Constitution, each of the three regions opted for sharing of responsibilities between the federal and regional governments. Let us hear the positions of the three regions on the structure of government they preferred:

Northern Region:

Recommended that there should be a federal system of government in Nigeria and that in addition to a central legislature, there should be regional legislatures with powers to legislate on a number of specified subjects and also on such other matters as may, by legislation, enacted by the central legislature, be vested in the regional legislatures.

Eastern Region:

Recommended that there should be a federal system, with a central legislature and regional legislatures. It also recommended that the regional legislatures should exercise only such powers in any matter as the central legislature may delegate to them.

Western Region:

Recommended that there should be a federal government consisting of states formed on an ethnic and/or linguistic basis but that for the time being, there should be only three states, namely, Western, Eastern and Northern. It further recommended that there should be a federal parliament and state parliaments, and that the state parliaments should be competent to legislate on all residual matters not specifically included within the legislative powers of the Federal Parliament.

One of the Minority reports by Mbonu Ojike and Eyo Ita affirmed that “Grouping of Nigeria along ethnic and linguistic units would serve to remove the problems of Boundaries, Minority and Pakistanic dangers now threatening Nigeria.” (Olaniwun Ajayi and Tell, Nov 16, 2009)

With respect to all the above recommendations, the Ibadan Conference was not able to adopt a linguistic basis for re-structuring the regions, such as adding the Yoruba in the North to Western Region and the Igbos of Western Region to Eastern Region. The Conference was also unable, largely because of the recalcitrance of Northern Emirs to accept the re-drawing of the political map of Nigeria along ethnic and linguistic lines, as suggested by the Western Region and the Ojike/Ita Minority report. But in all, the British colonial office was able to respond to the insistent demands of Southern nationalists for the commencement of a process of self-rule and at the same time to the demands of Northern Region for a federation that favoured their hegemonic interests. At independence in 1960, the British colonial office had achieved its aim of having Africa’s largest former colony.

In addition, the 1963 Republican Constitution was given legislative support through acts of federal and regional assemblies. So between 1946 and 1963, Nigeria had moved considerably away from the centralist or unitary governance that the amalgamation of 1914 symbolised. It must be stated that the Republican Constitution of 1963 had entrenched in it the principle of 50% derivation for oil-producing regions.

In 1966 after the first coup d’etat, General Aguiyi-Ironsi, the head of the first military dictatorship, restored the principle of amalgamation or centralism by transforming the regions into provinces. This did not last long. It pushed the North into seeking for separation from the rest of Nigeria. The coming to power of Yakubu Gowon, a northerner, after the killing of Ironsi brought the country back to federalism. Even after the creation of 12 states by Gowon, some measure of regional powers was still evident in each of the twelve states. It was the government of Obasanjo/Yar’Adua (elder brother of Umaru) that resumed the process of de-federalisation that Ironsi introduced in 1966 and for which he was removed from office by Northern troops. Under this regime, symbols of federalism were removed: regional flags, coat of arms. The Federal Military Government took over regional universities, stadium, and broadcasting houses. It also commissioned the writing of a new national anthem to replace the Independence version.

Towards the end of the Obasanjo regime, a decision was taken by the military government to write a new constitution, instead of removing the suspension placed on the constitutions by the first military dictatorship and asking clusters of states from each of the four regions to customize the constitution of their region of origin. It was the constitution that was midwife by the Obasanjo regime that radically changed the ratio between items on the Exclusive and Concurrent Lists.

For example, the 1960 Constitution had 44 items on the Exclusive List and 28 on the Concurrent.

The Republican Constitution of 1963 had 45 items on the Exclusive List and 29 on the Concurrent.

The 1979 Constitution that transferred power from the military to civilians had 66 items on the Exclusive List and 30 on the Concurrent. The 1999 Constitution has 68 items on the Exclusive List and 30 on the Concurrent. Since the 1999 Constitution was also midwifed by military dictators: Sani Abacha and Abdusalaam Abubakar, like the 1979 version moderated by another military dictator, Olusegun Obasanjo, one does not need a soothsayer to confirm that the movement of Nigeria from regionalization back to centralization or unitarization came from military dictatorships between 1979 and 1999. With the 1979 and 1999 constitutions, Nigeria had been moved from federalism back to the Lugardian model of centralism or amalgamation.

The truth is that at the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from Lugard’s Great Britain, the country’s constitution is nearly as unitary as the ruling arrangement under Lord Lugard. The gains made for federalism under governors Richards, Machpherson, and Robertson between 1946 and 1960 had been wiped out between 1979 and 1999. What are the implications of the gradual erosion of the federal character of the Nigerian State?

  1. The principle of collective identity in the governing of Nigerian peoples has been wiped out and replaced only by what is now known as rotation of presidential powers. It is true that democracy is fueled by the principle of one man, on vote, which, ironically does not exist in today in Nigeria, as citizens are not allowed by trustees of the central government to choose those to govern them at the center, which is the Nigerian State. Citizens from various nationalities in the states also do not have the freedom to choose those who govern them at the level of their ethnic communities under the current unitary constitution. Despite the show of force by the Governors Forum in the recent crisis over President Yar’Adua’s whereabouts, many governors in Nigeria today know that they were not chosen by their people in 2007.
  2. The productive relationship between nationalities as people of common heritage and values and the state as a political association with internal and external sovereignty over a geographical area and population, not subject to other power or state, has been destroyed. Even though 36 states had been created from the original three regions that became Nigeria in 1960, the creation of many of the states gave no consideration to the welding together of kindred cultures. The most illustrative example for this is the creation of Kwara and Kogi. Yoruba people were snatched from Kwara and added to Kogi while non-Yoruba ethnic communities were snatched from Niger and added to Kwara. Non-Berom people, who would have over time been assimilated to Berom culture in Plateau were given a distinct local government that made them feel different from and superior to the ancestral members of the Berom community, that is made to saddle Nigeria with the artificial problems of settler and indigene dichotomy, as if the Berom ethnic group is the only one in Nigeria that has residents from other ethnic communities.
  3. Even in states that happen to consist of members of the same ethnicity, the snatching of powers from states in the last forty years for concentration at the centre has robbed such states the opportunity to apply the dominant values of such cultural groups to their governance. For example, Nigeria’s language and cultural policies militate more against advancement of indigenous cultures than helping to advance them. The four-language policy: English, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba is unfair. It robs millions of other nationalities the support they need to develop their languages and cultures. Even those Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba that are in the constitution as national languages have no government support for their popularization and development. Those who have children in school would know the story of such schools having difficulties in getting people to teach Igbo and Hausa in the Southwest and of teaching Yoruba in the Southeast and the North. On the poverty of the country’s cultural policy, one needs to quote from the 1999 Constitution’s Directives on Nigerian cultures: The State shall 1) protect, preserve and promote the Nigerian cultures which enhance human dignity and are consistent with fundamental objectives as provided in this chapter; 2) encourage development of technological and scientific studies which enhance cultural values. Only this week, an example of promoting cultures that enhance Nigeria’s unity is captured in the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO)’s conference theme: Promoting Nigerian Dress Culture for National Identity which has as its objectives the following: To rekindle interest and pride in our indigenous dress pattern; to encourage unity among the different ethnic groups through integrated dress culture; to promote patriotism in Nigerians through culture. As insignificant as the position of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation might seem, it captures the spirit of the unitary constitution that sees unity as a culture and a goal, what Chief Enahoro once described as running after unity at the expense of the country’s ethnic diversity. Even in something as innocuous as dressing, the central government is not pleased in dressing to showcase Nigeria’s diversity. It would rather create a new sartorial culture that erases the country’s diversity and replaces it with a bastardised product, in the Nigerian State’s obsessive attachment to the principle of replacing diversity with unity, contrary to the country’s motto of unity in diversity.
  4. The current constitutional arrangement denies nationalities the benefits of cultural democracy in a more subtle way than it has denied citizens the benefits of electoral democracy. What do I mean by cultural democracy? I mean the right of each nationality to live its culture, refine it, and use the dominant values of its culture to govern itself, in short the right to self-determination. Despite the United Nations’ declaration that ethnic minorities, wherever they are, must be protected and encouraged to propagate their culture in the manner of self-determination and Nigeria’s endorsement of these principles, the political structure gives most responsibilities to the central government and also reserves for the federal government the power to appropriate the resources that come from indigenous communities and also to deny those communities of their right to such resources to use to promote their cultures. The raging debate about revenue by derivation and the glamorization of the politics of amnesty for the nationalities in the Niger Delta is a case in point. There is no doubt that the United Nations needs to know that it is not only minority cultures that are threatened or endangered in Nigeria, many of the so-called majority cultures stand as much risk. Nationalities are denied by the current constitution the right to use their values to shape their development and protect their civilization in multiethnic Nigerian State. For the sake of time, let us examine just a few examples.
    1. Nationalities that have cultures that induce constant and mass movement of people between cities and between states cannot use this value to influence the development of transportation in their states. Railway is one of the 68 responsibilities on the iexclusive list of the central government. For example, it is not possible for Yoruba states, despite the noticeable social industry in the Yoruba region, to develop a rail system that can facilitate the movement of goods and services among their people. You will all recall what happened to Odua Investment a few years ago when its desire to establish a fast rail link between Lagos and Ibadan was aborted by the central government, on the excuse that rail transportation is on the exclusive list.
    1. Law enforcement is alienated from the values of ethnic nationalities in the country. With a central police force, that is the sole responsibility of the federal government, the threat to life and limb in Nigeria is worse today than what happens in countries at war. For example, Cote d’Ivoire has been at one form of war or the other for almost ten years, but the security of life and property is better guaranteed in that country than in Nigeria. Members of ethnic communities are protected by police men and women that do not speak the languages of the people they are protecting, not to talk of understanding their cultures. The Nigerian police, like the Nigerian dress that National Institute for Cultural Orientation wants to create, is a synthetic entity that is not capable of having organic relationships with the citizens they are paid to protect. Why should anybody be surprised about the existence of large-scale insecurity in the country? The current constitutional emphasis is not about creating a rational and efficient intervention in the security of life and property, it is about nurturing a police system that is capable of giving the impression of a united country. Many of us will recall that the police reform exercise of President Yar’Adua called for additional funding to be sourced from money from the federation account (funds belonging to both the federal government and the states). Is it not less cumbersome and more cost-effective to open the field of law enforcement to the states as is done in other federations across the globe?
    2. The indomitable crisis in the energy sector is also a manifestation of a political system that is crying for re-structuring. 150 million people have been living in darkness for decades in a country where the wage level precludes 75% of the population from having the legitimate resources to buy and operate generators. The transmission of electricity is on the exclusive list. Even when states are able to generate electricity, as it happened in Lagos ten years ago, the federal government has the power to appropriate such megawatts because the national grid is a federal property. The consequence is that cultural communities that place value on achievement orientation are not able to give their young ones proper training nor nor are they able to manufacture goods and services that can ameliorate living in such communities. You will recall that after the histrionic privatization of the energy sector towards the end of Obasanjo’s regime, that sector is now still at the mercy of PHCN, because the full privatization of the sector was suspended by the federal government under the leadership of President Yar’Adua. The result has been continued darkness for citizens and ethnic communities whose lifestyles are put in abeyance or watered down by the reign of darkness in a country that privileges unity over diversity. Even the best of schools including Federal Government’s Unity Schools live on generators that are operated on limited basis. Any wonder that students do not do well in WAEC or NECO, if they do not have the required illumination to read after school hours? The same federal government had asked states to release funds belonging to them to the central government to produce more megawatts of electricity at a time that this sector should have been fully privatized. Even state governors are scared to contest this principle by demanding immediate total de-regulation of generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity.

 

CONCLUSION

There is a conviction that I believe must have come from an illusion even among many of our politicians and political thinkers. The conviction is that the 1999 Constitution is well-meaning and is capable of leading Nigeria from underdevelopment to development, if it is given to good leaders. Those with such convictions subscribe to the philosophy undergirding the existing unitary constitution that it is possible to create a Nigerian persona that is devoid of ethnic consciousness and special needs engendered by their cultural values. This conviction is not surprising in a country that has adopted the philosophy of miracles in secular matters. If a Nigerian persona happens miraculously, Nigeria will be the first country of its kind in the world. People in the United Kingdom still identify themselves as Welsh, Scottish, Irish, and English men and women in the 21st century to the extent that even the United Kingdom had to embark on the policy of devolution of powers and responsibilities to Scotland, Wales, etc at the time that makers of Nigeria’s current constitution were taking more powers from the nationalities in the states to the federal government. The postmodern age has engendered globalism and at the same time it has strengthened the politics of identity. It is not fortuitous that the United States after centuries of the policy of assimilation and the metaphor of the melting pot has accepted the metaphor of the salad bowl, the principle of unity in diversity. Switzerland, Belgium, and Canada are three countries with populations far smaller than that of Nigeria and a political history much older than Nigeria’s. Yet these countries are doing much better economically, socially, and technologically than Nigeria and they are more united than Nigeria, despite their adoption of a system of a federal system of government. Just as Chief Enahoro once observed, Nigeria is not going to lose anything by encouraging its citizens to add the privileges of Nigerian citizenship to that of the various ethnic nationalities to which they belong. Obafemi Awolowo’s theory that if a country is unilingual and uni-national, the constitution must be unitary and if a country is bilingual or multilingual, the constitution must be federal, and the constituent states must be organized on linguistic basis is still as valid today in Nigeria and in most countries of the world as it was when he popularized it over half a century ago. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Our political leaders and political parties must not shy away from including the principle of restructuring in their ideologies. The journey towards restructuring will be facilitated by a credible electoral system that can only come from far-reaching electoral reforms, because such reforms will allow citizens to choose better leaders than those imposed on the country and the states by trustees of unitarism. With serious-minded people in state and federal legislatures, the chances of putting the demand for restructuring and restoration of federalism on the front burner will be much easier, because the country will be more likely than now to experience moments of political rationality. But the demand for political restructuring cannot be and should not be presented as a footnote or an appendix to the manifesto of any of the political parties seeking votes from those who have their own ideas about how to move Nigeria forward into the comity of modern democratic nations. The electorate, if given the chance to use their vote, can tell the difference between parties and party leaders that use the excuse of political mainstreaming to avoid confronting the issue of a unitary system that is parading itself as a federal system and in the process suffocating the development of the nationalities.
  2. Those of us in the business of modernizing and democratizing Nigeria must not be wittingly or unwittingly a part to the conspiracy to silence or ignore organizations that are pushing for cultural democracy through true federalism. Such groups as MASSOB, OPC, MEND, that are pressuring for the return of federalism and right to self-determination must not be ignored by politicians and civil society leaders that truly believe in re-structuring. Demonizing or joining in demonizing such groups as militant organizations whose activities should be denounced or punished or pardoned through amnesty can only slow down the journey to the sovereign national conference that can lead to restructuring of the polity in favour of more rights for the nationalities. Ethiopia has deconstructed the philosophy that it is only an overbearing central government that eclipses the interests of ethnic-nationalities that can produce a united country. Even with a constitution that  provides for secession, Ethiopia does not face as much threat to its unity as Nigeria does. In Nigeria today, the sickness of a president a normal occurrence in all the countries of the world threatens the unity of the Nigerian State. The European Union has given the world a new experiment in postmodern organization of diverse nationalities with a new large state structure that nurtures multiple nationalities and cultures. Here at home PRONACO has provided the nucleus for a constitution that is capable of creating a functional and sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
  3. Builders of civil society consciousness must include the formation of organisations for the Enhancement of federalism in their menu and such organizations must be endowed with resources to publish regular newsletters to review practices of democracy and federalism in Nigeria. Re-structuring can come only via two options: 1) efforts to convince or persuade those among us that believe the present dysfunctional system is good enough and 2) a determination to struggle or fight for restoration of federalism.  For example, Senator Jubril Aminu said at a lecture at the Law School on April 30, 2001 the question: “Who wants a True Federation” and argued that Nigerians prefer the existing unitary system: “The fertile debating ground of true federalism is a convenient diversion in place of daunting and demanding task of development.” There is certainly a need to use rational discourse to persuade millions of people who think like Senator Aminu. It is no use to pretend that such people are not in the millions, and it is the responsibility of those who want change to tell such people that their diagnosis of the problem of Nigeria is wrong.

Mr. Chairman, permit me to invoke in my closing remark two clichés; one Yoruba, the other American. The Yoruba one says Ejo la nko, a kii ko ija, meaning in English that it is better to train people to know how to make their case than training them how to fight. It is believed by the Yoruba that verbal gymnastics can pre-empt, in the context of civilized people, the need to fight and that if and when the need to fight comes, those who need to fight will know what they need to do to win the fight. It is more disgraceful to lose a debate than to lose a fight among cultures that believe in the centrality of voice and choice in the governance of self-respecting people. The American saying goes thus: There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. This applies to those who believe in any of the two options raised earlier.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this lecture has been about the need to put more energy into building the case in political and media debates for the imperative of political restructuring. I am optimistic that with consistency in our political manifesto and media campaigns, Nigeria can avoid the experience of Yugoslavia.

I thank you for listening.

      

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