Negotiating a new Nigeria


Maybe you’ve seen video footages of separatist Yoruba Nation agitators insisting that Bola Tinubu’s quest to be President of Nigeria via the 2023 presidential election ignores the interest of the Yoruba Nation.

Like their other southern Nigerian compatriots, the Yoruba Nation agitators think the country that was commanded into existence by British colonial agent, Lord Frederick Lugard, in 1914, no longer serves the interest of the Yoruba, and expired on 1st January 2014 anyway.

After German Chancellor Otto von Bismark failed to appropriate Nigeria, Britain revoked the charter of the Royal Niger Company, and paid £865,000 to its promoters, led by Sir Tubman Goldie, to gain possession of the territory around River Niger, the former River Joliba.

Records say the 1914 amalgamation was made to harmonise the economies and harness the primary resources of the hinterland of both the northern and southern protectorates for the advantage of the colonial masters.

That is why the railway lines constructed by the British in Nigeria ran only from the coast to the hinterland, to convey cash crops from the hinterland to the ports at the coast for onward transportation to the manufacturing plants in the home country.

Historians also add that an additional purpose of the amalgamation was the need to use taxation revenue received from the munificent Southern Nigeria to augment the paltry internally generated income of the Northern Protectorate.

Though some Nigerians, Alaafin Ladigbolu of Oyo, Sultan Maitature of Sokoto, Obong Henshaw of Calabar, Shehu Abubakar of Borno, Sir Kitoye Ajasa, and Usuman Dan Maye, who later became Emir of Kano, reportedly signed the amalgamation document,an action that some scholars now deny. The amalgamation was to Britain’s advantage.

Nigerian generals, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida, who describe themselves as statesmen because they fought the Civil War to keep Nigeria one, and insist that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable, must be reminded of the need to review the Nigerian project. Even Lugard recognised that there might be the need to alter the structure by “providing for the introduction later of such further changes as were either foreseen, but not immediately necessary.” Right now, Nigeria is calibrated to arrest the economic, political and social development of a substantial number of citizens and regions in the country. So the terms of association of the various nations within Nigeria should be reviewed.

A system that denies its citizens the right to function as political and economic beings is at best toxic. It must therefore be reviewed to serve the purpose of all or at least. The former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, Theophilus Danjuma(retd.), seems to have (finally) seen the light and come to the realisation that Nigeria is not working for most Nigerians. He accuses the military, but stops short of including Commander-in-Chief Buhari of selective protection of oppressors, while further exposing the defenceless to exploitation, discrimination, violence and impunity.

The Northern Nigerian political establishment is doing a good job of negotiating the future of Northern Nigeria in the next political dispensation ahead of May 29, 2023, even though the leaders seem to be keeping the details of their negotiations to their chest. Because they are not going to leave anything to chance they have made a point of inviting presidential candidates to tell them what they intend to do if the reins of government are given to them.

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Who knows what the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, promised before the caucus of the APC Northern Governors who insisted that the presidential candidate of their party must come from Southern Nigeria. Even if it is to ensure that power returns to the North after a southerner, it is worth it.

Presidential candidates must not only write glossy political manifestoes, they also need to make concrete and measurable promises. You probably remember Buhari denying he promised Nigerians restructuring, though his party did. Whatever assurances or agreements are extracted from these engagements may be the equivalents of a social contract that Nigerians can use as a checklist to judge the performance of whoever becomes President.  Because the State is the ultimate dispenser of patronage in a political realm, it is not wrong for pressure groups to negotiate for the advantage of their groups before casting their lot with presidential candidates. The Ijebu Traditional Council of Ogun State appears to have mastered the brinkmanship game also. A statement read by the Obiri of Aiyepe-Ijebu, Oba Rosiji Ogunbanjo, indicates that the members have endorsed the second term of Governor Dapo Abiodun.

One justification, among others, is that “the governor pledged on the development of (a) deep seaport in Ogun (or better still, Ijebu) Waterside Local Government, and make the state the preferred investment destination.” The Ijebu Traditional Council should also extract promises from the presidential candidates for the Calabar-Lagos Railway to run through Ijebu Kingdom and revive the Iwopin Paper Mill Project, which several administrations have failed to revisit despite calls by the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba S.K. Adetona.

Leaders of Southern Nigerian nations show a serious lack of strategy as they endorse presidential candidates without knowing exactly what those candidates think of them and their interests. The Acting Leader of Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, endorsed Peter Obi of the Labour Party for President only for the leader with the higher rank of the Yoruba, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, to turn around and “pray” for Tinubu. Pa Fasoranti’s action was taken after “(Tinubu) presented his programme to Afenifere… and we all agreed that if he could successfully implement those plans it would save Nigeria” according to the Afenifere Organising Secretary, Kola Omololu.

The Guardian Newspaper Columnist, Dare Babarinsa, who doubts that Pa Adebanjo “made enough consultations before casting his lot with Peter Obi,” also observes that “Pa Adebanjo has also not revealed what agreement he reached with Obi for the benefit of the Yoruba.”

That is a serious oversight if true. The omission has led two nonagenarian leaders of Afenifere to look for ways to avoid addressing each other in language that is less than parliamentary while their followers are looking bewildered, not knowing where to pitch their political tents.

Like its counterpart Yoruba Afenifere, the Ohaneze Ndigbo pressure group of the Igbo nation doesn’t also appear to know what it should be doing to articulate and protect the interest of the Igbo nation. After the APC gave its presidential ticket to Tinubu, Ohaneze Ndigbo, which said it was waiting for the outcome of the APC primary before making its position public, suddenly and inexplicably went on audio silence.

Aldo, the plan of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum to interview the erstwhile Igbo presidential aspirants, then select, adopt and endorse one of them as the preferred candidate, backfired woefully. But while the Ohaneze Ndigbo is still prevaricating, the Igbo Elders Consultative Forum, led the former Anambra State Governor, Chukwemeka Ezeife, recently seized the initiative and endorsed Obi for President.

Some argue that the Monday sit-ins, initially enforced by Indigenous People of Biafra, and now enforced by faceless “unknown gunmen,” fall the hands of the Igbo nation, and prevent them from effectively negotiating the Igbo quest for the presidency of Nigeria.

But anyway, Nigerians must seize the moment of the ongoing electioneering to renegotiate the terms of the unity of Nigeria. No war veterans should bully Nigerians into accepting Nigeria in its current skewed form.

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