/Nigeria is better united, but…

Nigeria is better united, but…

By Lekan Sote

The Presidential candidate of People’s Trust in the 2019 general election, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, insists that “Despite the increasingly frustrating realities in Nigeria, a united Nigeria still remains our best bet.”

He continues: “Separatist advocacies are always ever so seductive during the moment of crisis, but they never deliver good results afterwards. Ask the people of Southern Sudan. After… they seceded from Sudan, they are still embroiled in factional wars among their leaders.

“Despite their oil wealth, their people are still savouring (sic), (he probably meant to say, wallowing) in poverty and the GDP in their economy is lower than that of Ogun State (of Nigeria).” It is curious that he did not suggest how the crisis could be ended, or at least mitigated.

His submission probably encouraged Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and Borno State Governor, Baba Gana Zulum, to conclude that neither secession nor restructuring would do any good to Nigerians.

But then, their All Progressives Congress political co-traveller and Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is of the opinion that devolution of powers to the federating units is way to go. He deftly avoided adding, “Or else, the nation could break up.”

At great cost of lives, limbs and properties, the government of former military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, whose surname was turned into the slogan, “Go On With One Nigeria,” prosecuted a civil war, with an compelling theme, “To Keep Nigeria One Is A Task That Must Be Done.”

If you read The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays, written by Publius, pseudonym of three of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury; James Madison, fourth President of America; and John Jay, second Governor of New York State and first Chief Justice of America’s Supreme Court, you would agree with Olawepo-Hashim it is better for Nigeria to remain one.

The most existentialist thrust of the Federalist Papers is economical: “Unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will advance the trade of each by an interchange of their respective productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home, but for exportation to foreign markets.”

It adds: “The veins of commerce in every part will be replenished, and will acquire additional motion and vigor from a free circulation of the commodities of every part. Commercial enterprise will have much greater scope, from the diversity in the productions of different States.

“When the staple of one fails from a bad harvest or unproductive crop, it can call to its aid the staple of another. The variety, not less than the value, of products for exportation contributes to the activity of foreign commerce.

“It can be conducted upon much better terms with a large number of materials of a given value than with a small number of materials of the same value; arising from the competitions of trade and from the fluctuations of markets.”

The Federalist Papers tried to convince citizens of the original 13 colonies, of America’s Northeast corridor, to take advantage of the economic benefits of forming a consolidated union to be styled The United States of America.

The document was however written, originally, to urge the people of New York State, and by extension, the rest of Americans, to ratify the Constitution of the United States of America that was drafted in 1782. The Constitution had three main purposes.

To take advantage of the economies of scale and diversity of resources, it was agreed that it would be better to merge the 13 colonies into one country, set up a federal system of government and list the powers to be vested in the central government and those reserved for the federating units.

It was agreed that it would be wise to separate the powers of all the strata of government into the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, so that they would serve as checks and balances to each other.

Article II set the foundational and fundamental tone of The Article of Confederation that was ratified in 1781, five years after the unilateral Declaration of Independence of Americans from the tyranny of the United Kingdom’s sovereign and his government.

The Article categorically states, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

That is why the President of America is elected by an Electoral College of state delegates and not quite the popular votes, erroneously deduced from President Abraham Lincoln’s suggestion that democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The intention of “the People of the United States (was) to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, to ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As long as these agreements were respected and honoured by state actors and the citizens, there would be no problem. To their credit, Americans have stayed faithful to their Constitution and its objectives, though they sometimes stretch the rhema of its logos.

Nigeria too has made efforts to give unto its people wholesome political values: The London Constitutional Conference, held between July 30 and August 22, 1953, among Nigerian nationalists, agreed that the regional governments should be independent of the central government in the content of the Reserve List left to them.

The intention of “the People of the United States (was) to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, to ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As long as these agreements were respected and honoured by state actors and the citizens, there would be no problem. To their credit, Americans have stayed faithful to their Constitution and its objectives, though they sometimes stretch the rhema of its logos.

Nigeria too has made efforts to give unto its people wholesome political values: The London Constitutional Conference, held between July 30 and August 22, 1953, among Nigerian nationalists, agreed that the regional governments should be independent of the central government in the content of the Reserve List left to them.

These resolutions led to the following features of the Nigerian federation: a written federal constitution, supremacy of the Federal Government (understandably), bicameral legislature, repudiation of secession and division of Nigeria into regions.

The rationale for these were: Nigeria’s large population and wide geographical landmass, need to protect minorities, promotion of rapid and even development, and bringing government closer to the people.

Other equally important rationales were expansion of the domestic market, diversity of culture, religion, language, customs and traditions, and the need to guarantee autonomy of each of the ethnic nationalities.

But reneging on the agreed federal system of government and replacing it with a unitary, or pseudo federal, system, have had exceeding traumatic effect on Nigerians of every ilk, religion and ethnic stock.

The 1999 Constitution, clone of the 1979 Constitution, which is essentially unitary in nature, is a brazen disregard of the aspirations of Nigeria’s founding fathers. Even then, this military document has been observed mostly in the breach by elected state actors exemplified by the current regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

All the grand thoughts of Nigeria’s founding fathers have been derailed, resulting in a centralised, unjust and insensitive revenue allocation formula and utter disregard of the rights of others. Both have understandably led to calls for secession.

Nigerians must intentionally choose between restructuring and (recently alluring) ethnic self-determination, to arrive at the goal of justice for all.

Source: PunchNG