FREEPRESS – What is happening in the Southeast presently is a matter of legitimate public concern as we are witnessing the festering of an avoidable bloodbath in the region and the country. Any life lost cannot be re-created and care must be taken not to inflame an already tensed situation in Southeastern Nigeria. Those urging on both Kanu’s IPOB and the Nigerian Army are not helping the government, the Ibo people nor the Nigerian project. The history of Nigeria shows a paradoxically countercyclical pattern of violence in different geopolitical zones since independence from electoral violence to religious bigotry.
Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999 intensified the power struggle among the various regions of the country to recast alliances, develop rules of power-sharing without attempting to strengthen people-to-people relationships and the building of inter-ethnic cohesion needed for the socioeconomic and political rejuvenation of our country. The departing military despots positioned their cronies to take over the commanding heights of the national economy to the detriment of the common man.
With increasing hunger and despondency and the failure to meet the expectations of the masses, the cries of marginalization and demands for the equitable distribution of the nation’s resources by ethno-religious groups became very loud. It is distressing to note that with each successive election and the coming to power by a new administration, opportunities for consolidating national integration and cohesion have been misspent and mismanaged by Nigeria’s political class.
Our political leaders and parties have not been successful in constructing a party system or even promoting democratic values. Each winning political party at the national to the local government levels has always adopted a post-election policy of establishing dominance and winners-take-all mentality and the zero-sum approach to power sharing rather than creating the positive-sum model and the political space necessary for the building of an inclusive and egalitarian society. This has led to the failure in creating pluralist norms and values necessary for national cohesion and democratic consolidation.
It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria is witnessing both an escalation of violence and the ‘Talibanization’ of our national life. From OPC in the Southwest to Ombatse group in the North Central, to Egbesu boys in the South South and the menace of herdsmen, Nigeria has been a nation in perpetual crisis.
Undoubtedly, the current democracy is facing multifaceted challenges on economic, religious, social, and political fronts. It needs a sagacious approach to ensure that we pull through and ensure the sustenance of democratic growth and survival.
Economic disempowerment and inadequate access to the governance process are barriers to government performance causing public discontent. Consequently the common man remain indifferent to national politics and integration which induces undemocratic forces to intervene. This is part of the reason we have an Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous People of Biafra organization (IPOB) in our hands. He leads a disenchanted group of young men who are angry about the marginalization of their region. They feel left out of the country. They feel marginalized. They see the proverbial national cake being devoured while opportunities for self actualization is diminishing. Where the majority of the population is illiterate and stands unaware to democratic concepts, the utterances of a character like Nnamdi Kanu becomes very alluring.
Truth be told, majority of the people have lost confidence in our type of federalism. The centre is too strong. The people feel denied of their genuine legal, cultural, political and constitutional rights. The crisis over our constitutional development, whether to go back to parliamentary form of government or maintain this wasteful presidential system is still unresolved. There is no consensus on the type of police structure that befits us as the cacophony of voices calling for state police appears drowned by a conspiracy of silence from the authorities. The fate of the Niger-Delta people when their oil dries up is unknown. The imbalance in the political structure of the country where a state like Lagos still has 20 local government areas compared to Kano state with 44 LGA’s is glaringly unacceptable.
Though the present democratic government promised restructuring of the country, no substantial efforts has been evinced yet to redress the woes and the anti-centre feelings of most Nigerians. These issues if not addressed aptly will get aggravated in years to come with or without a Nnamdi Kanu. The resources of the country must be better spent on public uplift, social welfare, education and health. If this happens it would bring prosperity that will strengthen the national cohesion and foundation of Nigeria.
Finally, an immediate restructuring of the country along the lines of fiscal and political federalism is now an imperative. Python or Tiger dances will not solve the problem. Militarization will not achieve the desired results. Even if you kill 95% of southeastern people, you will still come to the round table to discuss with the 5% that will be left. We need the participation of all Nigerians to ensure structural improvements in our national paradigm. The time to talk is now and a NIGERIA RESTRUCTURING TABLE is the best place to begin the conversation. God bless Nigeria.
Dr Philip Ugbodaga CFRN
Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria