Anyone who has been following the political debate in Nigeria these days will notice immediately that two thoughts have continued recurring in the whole discourse. The two recurring thoughts or ideas that have remained constant in Nigeria’s political debate all this while are, namely, a) Restructuring, and b) Igbo-Presidency (“Rotational-Presidency”). These are two ideas that cut across the political discourse and contestations in Nigeria’s political landscape these days. They dominate the political debate from all the spectrum of the Nigerian ruling class – politicians, religious leaders, traditional rulers as well as leaders of socio-cultural groups and civil society organizations, etc.
This makes one to ask, is restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (“Rotational-Presidency”), the real problem with Nigeria today? This is because since its inception as a nation-state after independence from Britain in 1960 till 1967, Nigeria had more or less, and in one way or the other, experimented progressive restructuring that led to the creation of Mid-Western region in 1963. Also, another restructuring of the unitary system of government that co-existed with regionalism occurred after January 15, 1966, military muting. That restructuring saw an Igbo man, in the person of Aguyi Ironsi, become the Nigerian head of state, though for six months only. Thereafter, another restructuring, which entrenched the unitary system of government in the country, took place. That is after the counter-coup of July 1967 staged by the Northern Nigeria senior military officers against Ironsi administration.
The July 1967 military coup laid the foundation for the entrenchment of both unitary systems of government and the Northern military generals cum ruling Oligarchy’s hold unto power in the country, which is still in force till today. General Yakubu Gowon, a Northern Christian from Plateau State became the Head of State. Gowon’s military junta discarded regionalism and started the culture of multiplication of politically ill-conceived States with the creation of 12 States in 1967. This action of Gowon irked Chukwuemeka Odimmegwu Ojukwu (the then military governor of Eastern region), who saw Gowon’s action as a plot to divide and rule the Eastern region and to sabotage the Biafra Republic underway. Gradually, all these eventually snowballed into the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967, by General Ojukwu, and the three-year Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). The rest is now history!
Thus, gradually, since after the war in 1970, the country started downward slide in its governance structure and political system, leading to the present-day pseudo-Sharia ideology-driven presidential system of unitary government of General Abubakar Abdulsalami’s 1999 Constitution. A Constitution, which, in all intent and purpose, has permanently entrenched the Northern Muslims in power, enabling them to take full control of the affairs of the central government of the Nigerian State, creating more problems for the country than it can solve!
This is the present situation of things in the country! Anybody thinking that if restructuring is done today, and “Rotational-Presidency” – shifting of power from North to the South, agreed upon, things will be better in the country, is not being truthful to himself/herself. Because neither restructuring nor “Rotational Presidency” will ever succeed in making politics in Nigeria issue-based. On the contrary, restructuring and “Rotational Presidency” will even exponentially help to entrench more vigorously, the existing passive politics devoid of ideas of true democracy. Above all, restructuring or “Rotational-Presidency” will continue to serve as a ready-made ingredient for the existing primitive ethnic and religious political infightings that have been the bane of the country.
Considering all these, I have chosen to emphasis in this article, that the problem with Nigeria is beyond restructuring and Igbo-Presidency (or “Rotational-Presidency”). That even if any or both of the two principals (restructuring or “Rotational-Presidency”), are conceded today, the result won’t be different from what we are experiencing already in the country under the present dispensation and even under the regimes before it.
Our article is divided into two parts. In Part 1 of the article, our focus is on the issue of restructuring. In Part 2 (which we intend to publish later), we shall discuss in some details, the question of “Igbo-Presidency” under the present dispensation.
The Issue of Restructuring vis-à-vis Security Challenges
Our submission in this article is that the main problem confronting Nigeria today is a security issue – survival of various indigenous ethnic groups in the country in the face of seemingly present Nigerian Government-sponsored Muslim terrorist groups from the North. Most of those calling for restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (Rotational-Presidency) often base their argument on resource-control, growing economy and capturing political posts for their ethnic-groups. None of them, however, addresses the urgent and most important issue of security of lives and property, as the case may be. We have to be alive first, before talking of economic-growth or capturing political post like Igbo-Presidency or “Rotational-Presidency.”
Again, the unfolding scenario in the country today, confirms our proposition that the Nigerian State, especially since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War, has been undergoing restructuring in favour of a particular ethnic group and religion for many years now. The country, since after the war in 1970, has been undergoing, though, subtly and in a hidden way, some form of restructuring that favours one particular ethnic-group and religion. That lopsided restructuring has now entrenched firmly, the Fulani Muslim North as “born-to-rule” masters of the Nigerian State. Today, the same people head all the governance structure, machinery and security architecture of the Nigerian State. This means that anybody attempting to take-away this privileged advantage from them today must be ready for serious combat.
Warriors as they are, the Fulani ruling class can hardly surrender that privileged advantage to another person or group of people. In a situation of this kind, it is no longer a question of restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (or “Rotational-Presidency”), but rather of determination and concrete steps of the indigenous populations that will lead to their second independence from the domineering ethnic-group and religion in Nigeria today, namely, the Fulani Oligarchy and Caliphate. It is a struggle for survival of the indigenous populations and communities living in Nigeria – all those who have been at the receiving end of the domineering power of the Muslim North ruling class and Oligarchy.
This is the major challenge we have today in Nigeria. It is neither restructuring nor “Rotational-Presidency”, but rather a struggle for survival, self-determination and second independence from those killing our indigenous populations, destroying their villages, rampaging on their farmlands, appropriating their ancestral lands, and raping their women while the Nigerian government and security operatives look elsewhere. This problem of general insecurity in the land takes priority over and above the clamour for restructuring and rotational presidency.
Again, as said earlier, the question of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency (or “Rotational-Presidency”), is as old as the Nigerian State itself. But while the rest of the geopolitical zones in the Southern and Middle-Belt States have always favoured the restructuring of the country and “Rotational-Presidency”, only one zone, an ethnic-group and religion have been opposing it. The ruling class from the core-North has remained constant in its opposition to restructuring and Rotational-Presidency. This makes one think that the present security challenges the country is experiencing today under the watch of the present administration, are part of the efforts by Northern elements at the corridors of power (those most favoured by the present political order), to derail any attempt towards restructuring or Rotational-Presidency.
Today, under the present administration, for the first time since the return to democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria’s three-arms of the federal government – executive, legislative and judiciary are controlled by people from one particular ethnic-group and religion, the Northern Fulani Muslims. The same people control all the architectures of Nigeria’s security operatives – army, air force, navy, police, civil defence corps, customs, immigration, paramilitaries, etc. They are also in charge of all the most sensitive principal federal ministries, companies, parastatals, etc. This is in a country where the percentage of the Christian population is 54% and Muslims 44%. In the midst of all these, only someone without a sense of history would think that people who enjoy such a privileged status and position over their neighbours would ever agree to share power or even to relinquish it without serious fight and resistance.
The most painful of it all is the abnormality of General Abubakar Abdulsalami’s 1999 Constitution, which smuggled in Sharia legal system and ideology into the Constitution from the backdoor, and from nowhere enthroned Islam as the main religion of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the Christian politicians and Church leaders were so much in a hurry to return to “democratic rule” after the infamous regime of General Sani Abacha, that they did not bother so much to scrutinize the Constitution the military junta General Abdulsalami was handing over to them in 1999.
Think of it: In the 1999 Constitution, Islam is mentioned 28 times, Sharia 73 times, Grand Qadi (Sharia Court Magistrates or Judges) 54 times, Muslim 10 times. But no single mention of Christ in the same 1999 Constitution? No single mention of the word Christian, no single mention of Christianity or Church in the Constitution. But the Mosque is mentioned many times in the same Constitution? Yet, we pretend and still call Nigeria a secular State! What a deception.
If Nigeria is a secular state, why has this regime of President Buhari, invariably decided to Islamize and Fulanize all the three-arms of the Federal Government – executive, legislative and judiciary? And all the security operatives – army, air force, navy, police, including customs, immigration, paramilitaries, etc., and all the principal federal ministries and what have you? Is Nigeria still a secular State while this regime has abolished the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge as a subject on its own right in government schools? Is Nigeria a secular State when the President just signed into law the controversial CAMA law that empowers the federal government to take control of the Churches and Civil Society Organizations’ finances and appoints Caretaker Director for them as he pleases?
Is Nigeria a secular State while the 12 States in Northern Nigeria had since 2001 adopted and have been practising Sharia legal system and quasi-Islamic system of government, without considering the harm such a thing has done to the minority ethnic-groups from those states? The fact is that only the gullible can say today that Nigeria is a secular state.
Christianity in Nigeria today is under serious siege under the present administration. The fact is that indigenous ethnic-groups, from which most of the Nigerian Christians come, have been the major targets of all the Muslim terrorist groups, killer-hands and bandits’ attacks in the country. At least this is enough to convince us of the sinister agenda of the present federal government, their agenda of Islamization and Fulanization of Nigeria, and the use of non-State actors – all those Muslim terrorist groups operating from the North and who is behind the terrorist attacks and destruction of Christian and indigenous ethnic communities across the land.
Why do we have to go this far in evaluating the political impasse in Nigeria today? In the first place, it is not to demonize our Nigerian Fulani neighbours. Since it is obvious that not all Nigerian Fulanis are in support of what is happening. But only the minority ruling class, those lost in their feudalistic medieval mind-set and lust for power (a phenomenon not peculiar to one particular ethnic-group alone), are the ones holding everybody in Nigeria today at ransom. It is this minority group and ruling-class holding the entire Nigerian peoples in bondage that we speak about in this article.
Unfortunately, as history has shown, there is no way this group of people who have been controlling the affairs of Nigerian State since independence in 1960, will ever succumb to any pressure from those clamouring for restructuring or Rotational-Presidency. Because for them, the question of governance structure and presidency of Nigeria is long settled and therefore, non-negotiable. They see Nigerian State as their property and so feel they have the birth-right to rule and control the country in perpetuity. This is the crux of the matter!
In other words, if truth be told, any restructuring or Igbo-Presidency today is another invitation to pogroms of Southerners, especially, the Igbos living in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the country. God forbid! But should that happen, however, it will be the greatest battle of the century. Because it will make the Nigeria-Biafra War of the 1960s look like a child’s play.
To avoid such catastrophe and scenario, we have proposed in this article a change of direction and focus in Nigeria’s political discourse. That is, from the political discourse of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency (Rotational-Presidency) to the issues of ‘referendum’ for self-determination and possible independence of any of the federating ethnic-nationalities that want to form a separate state of their own from Nigeria. And of those other ethnic-nationalities that may want to join together with others with which they share cultural affinity and worldview with, to do so.
This is the price of democracy the Nigerian state must accept. Forcing unity among mutual-hostile groups or peoples, in an unbalanced Nigerian union will continue to prove an effort in futility. There is no way you can force oil and water to be one. It is impossible and tempting God! Thus, the historical reality of the country impinges on the ruling class of today to do the needful – to toe the honourable road and line of action in resolving the reoccurring political impasse and bloodbaths that have become like second nature to the Nigerian State.
Once more, this is important because the problem with Nigeria has gone beyond issues of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency. It is also no longer the problem of governance structure or even of leadership deficiency (apologies to Prof Chinua Achebe’s “The Trouble with Nigeria”). Neither is it about resource-control or growing economy. The problem with Nigeria has gone beyond all these. But once the problem of security, freedom and self-determination of oppressed indigenous ethnic-nationalities is fixed, and the people themselves begin to live in freedom and justice and to relate well with their neighbours in their own chosen-state, all these other problems will naturally be resolved.
Again, Nigeria’s problem is not a matter that could be resolved through restructuring or Igbo-Presidency, but rather through a referendum for self-determination and second independence from the domineering ethnic-group. The problem with Nigeria is the unwillingness of the ruling Oligarchy and their collaborators to appreciate the reasons for the ongoing struggle for second independence and self-determination of the aggrieved indigenous ethnic-nationalities in the country. Only a referendum for self-determination could resolve this problem once, and for all. Referendum supervised by the international community that is neutral will help each federating ethnic-nationality to decide whether to continue staying in the Nigerian union or opt-out freely, for an independent state of their own to relate well with their neighbours.
This is very important and cogent today than ever, because it is now 60 years since independence, that people have been crying and clamouring for just and equitable Nigerian State, but which, unfortunately, had each time, fallen on deaf ears. There is a limit to human endurance. When it is clear that the person you are dealing with is not prepared in any way at all to give peace a chance and allow common sense to prevail, you have no other alternative than to go for your freedom and take it, no matter what it takes.
This is the stage we are today in Nigeria if we want to tell ourselves the naked truth. If we want really to put a stop to the ongoing bloodbaths and carnage in the land, the only viable and peaceful option left is referendum! But if those in the corridors of power are not ready to play the ball, that means they are the ones to be blamed for the consequences of whatever may befall the country thereafter.
Since there is no other alternative left for the oppressed than to go for his freedom and take it by all means, possible. That is because no oppressor would never surrender your freedom to you without a fight or force. Nobody will give you your freedom without some serious sacrifices and the price paid by you to take your freedom yourself. You either pay the price and take your freedom or remain in your bondage forever. This is the challenge of freedom fighting and struggles for justice, equity and social change in the society in which one is born or lives. That means you are responsible for your freedom, not the oppressor. Period!
That Response of Garba Shehu to Pastor Adeboye on Restructuring
The foregoing helps us to understand the language employed by Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Media Special Assistance and Spokesman to President Muhammed Buhari, in his reaction to Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s recent call for restructuring of the country. While the majority of Nigerians, especially from the Southern and Middle Belt States, have been clamouring for restructuring as a way forward for Nigeria, the Presidential Spokesman Garba Shehu sees it as a “threat to President Buhari and the North.” With this type of mindset, one need not be told that it is a waste of time arguing with these people about restructuring, Igbo-Presidency or “Rotational-Presidency.” Because they will never yield to either of the two.
In fact, to understand the full implication of Garba Shehu’s unsavoury response to Pastor Adeboye’s modest suggestion for restructuring, it suffices to recall the famous interview declaration of late Sir Ahmed Bello, premier of defunct Northern region in 1964. When asked about the possibility of allowing a non-Northern like the Igbo to work in Northern Nigeria as a co-citizen, this is what he answered, “It is only ‘on contract basis’ they (North) can employ the assistance of other Nigerians.” This means that the question of employing even an Igbo Nigerian to work in Northern Nigeria is completely out of question. What does this tell you about the future of the Nigerian State? How can one continue to share the same nation-state with people who think this way? When you are continuously discriminated against in your own country, on basis of your ethnicity and religion, to live or participate in the socio-political life of that part of your country where you reside and contribute to its economic growth, how can such a country develop and progress into a real modern democratic nation-state?
Nigeria is where it is today because those who came later have refused to overgrow the ethnic and religious biases and hate expressed in the above statement of the former premier of Northern Nigeria. Because of it, the minority Northern ruling class and people have shown time without number that they are not prepared to discuss issues of restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (“Rotational-Presidency”) with anybody or group of people at all. However, such premeditated deafness of a particular section of the country to be open to dialogue and adjust to modern democratic principles, shows that the problem with Nigeria is no longer restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (“Rotational-Presidency”). Nigerian problem has gone beyond issues of restructuring and Rotational-Presidency.
Still on the issue of restructuring: ‘Will restructuring put a stop to Muslim terrorism and bloodbaths in Nigeria today?’ Certainly not! The continued fear of radical Muslim North onslaught and terrorism, as is said nowadays, ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ for ordinary Nigerian citizens. The other day, when the news of alleged burning of the Quran in Denmark filtered out, information was immediately circulated on social media, instructing Christians in Northern Nigeria, to be security conscious. Because as experience has shown, whenever this type of thing happens in other parts of the world, they will begin killing Christians in Northern Nigeria. This is how bad the situation has become in Nigeria because of the ill-advised uncompromising stance of people from a particular section of the country, who have refused to give peace a chance.
This is why I see Pastor Adeboye’s call for restructuring as belated. Because as said earlier, the most important thing now is security and not restructuring. Neither is it so much about economy or governance structure. Restructuring or Igbo-Presidency won’t solve the security issues, no matter the much talked community-policing or of devolving to states the power of having their own state police. All these will prove counter-productive. Because in the ultimate analysis, all the security operatives in the country will continue to be under one command and control of the government at the centre. So, state police or community-policing won’t solve the problem of security in the country today, rather it will aggravate it instead.
Furthermore, every Constitution of any modern nation-state says that “The reason for the existence of any nation-states is for the security of lives and property and welfare of the people.” This primary role of the state is no longer available to the people of the Nigerian State. That means that Nigeria as a nation-state is no longer in a position to perform its basic functions of security of lives and property and welfare of the people to its citizens. Nigerian State, in nutshell, has, so to say, abdicated its primary functions of security of lives and property and welfare of its citizens. It has either by omission or commission, surrendered its citizens to the mercy of Northern Muslims’ terrorist groups, killer-herdsmen and bandits.
So, let those shouting for restructuring tell us how restructuring will solve the security challenges and security issues in Nigeria today. Because all those calling for restructuring point at two main things, namely, resource-control and economic growth. The security of the people, which is the primary reason for the existence of any nation-states, is either forgotten or pushed to the margin! However, as noted earlier, experience teaches us that security takes precedence over economic growth and governance restructuring.
Again, think about it: Will restructuring solve the problem of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria? Certainly not! Will restructuring solve the problem of Fulani Killer-herdsmen and bandits terrorism in Nigeria? Certainly not! Will restructuring stop Miyetti-Alla and the Caliphate from pursuing their Islamization and Fulanization agenda of Nigeria? Certainly not!
Furthermore, will restructuring stop the feudalistic mindset politicians from seeking to hijack the control of the federal government at any least provocation, appointing their own into the nation’s security service-chiefs posts – the army, air force, navy, Police IG, etc., and determining who occupies other sensitive posts at the federal level? Certainly not!
Will restructuring stop the repeat of the Akintola saga during the 1964 regional election at the defunct Western region, when the North using their federal might fraudulently rig the election and installed their stooge as governor of the Western region. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the indisputable winner of the election and leader of Yoruba nation, who protested against the fraudulent rigging and imposition of a candidate on his people was imprisoned by the same central government of Abubakar Tafawa Belawa.
This situation prepared the ground for the military muting of January 15, 1966, which led to the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). The young military officers, who staged the January 15, 1966 coup, were drawn from every part of the country. Their aim, however, was to release Chief Awolowo from prison and proclaim him the rightful winner of 1964 elections and therefore the new Prime Minister of Nigeria at the time.
Unfortunately, people came later to interpret the January 15, 1966 Coup as an Igbo coup, simply because Chukwuma Nzeogwu the leader of the coup plotters was from Mid-Western Igbo. But in reality, the coup had neither Igbo colouration nor an Igbo agenda. However, an estimated 3.5 million Igbos came to be killed in organized pogroms against Ndigbo living in Northern Nigeria. This later snowballed into the three-year Nigeria-Biafra War that ensued as a result of all these.
The question is: Can anybody tell me how a repeat of this scenario and such likes in Nigeria’s chattered history, can be stopped by restructuring or Igbo-Presidency?
Therefore, the problem of Nigeria is security challenges, not restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (“Rotational-Presidency”). No amount of restructuring or Igbo-Presidency will ever solve the present security challenges or security issues in Nigeria. Instead, it may even aggravate it. Because the North, as experience has shown, has never agreed and will never agree to live or be under a President that is not from the Northern Muslim ruling class and the Caliphate.
Therefore, the only solution for all these is a referendum for self-determination and independence of those indigenous ethnic-nationalities who have been the main targets of Northern Muslim terrorist groups’ attacks and marginalization by the Nigerian State. Whatever the result of such a referendum would be, one thing, however, is certain: every independent nation that will emerge thereafter, the people there will begin to take charge of their own affairs, including security. They will begin to be responsible for the security of lives and property and welfare of their own people. This is as against the present practise whereby your security in your own home state and town, is at the hands of those who neither understand your mother-tongue and culture nor share the same worldview and proximity with your people.
Moreover, the emergence of newly independent nation-states from the present Nigerian State through the referendum, means you have dislodged the terrorists from the Northern Sharia states who, with reckless abandon, are today killing the people in Southern and Middle Belt states of Nigeria. It means dislodging also the evil aim of the terrorists to instil fear on the local people for the Caliphate pursuit of Fulani Muslim conquest of the entire country.
Thus, a referendum for self-determination means the security of lives and property of various indigenous ethnic-communities, Christians, Muslims and other groups in the country. Above all, it means political independence of the oppressed indigenous ethnic-nationalities and communities from the terrorist-controlled Nigerian State.
All these imply that those advocating for restructuring on basis of economic gains, capturing of political positions, and resource-control, without however addressing the security issues of the country, are missing the point!
To be continued!
By Fr. Francis Anekwe Oborji, a Roman Catholic Priest, Professor Ordinarius of contextual theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome.
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