The Manifesto For Nigeria’s Advance 

By Uchenna Nwankwo

Preamble

Why is Nigeria a tottering underdeveloped country-state even after sixty-two years of supposed independence and notwithstanding its vast production of highly educated manpower in all the facets of learning, know-how and industry? In other words, why is Nigeria degenerating into a failed state that is characterised by mammoth insecurity, corruption and slide into a state of anomie? Indeed, why has Nigeria been run aground virtually and is now sliding back to the normal state of nature? I think that this has to do with the nature of our politics.

Impact of Severe Inter-Ethnic Face-Offs and the Underlying Constitutional Crisis

It is not only in Nigeria that politics has remained a battle between different ethnic groups each of which aspires to seize the instrument of state power and exclude every other group from influence, patronage and status. Throughout the African continent, it is precisely this problem that has made the state so fragile and unstable. In Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Niger, Mauritania, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Central African Republic, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Mali, Chad, Burkina-Faso and Ethiopia, the ethnic struggle for supremacy has ended in civil wars with the attendant massacres and refugee problem, and the disruption of development initiatives and projects.

To put it succinctly, ethnic pluralism is the ogre standing between Africa and development.  Until this problem is solved through dialogue, openness, commensurate power sharing and equity, no other problem can be usefully addressed. Peace is a pre-condition for prosperity, and it is only in freedom that people fully mobilize their creative powers. In Nigeria, as in the other African countries, programmes of economic reconstruction will continue to fail until we get the politics of national reconstruction right. In other words, the most important reform Nigeria needs is political. We first need to affect a thorough restructuring of the captive Nigerian state that will in turn reconcile the different Nigerian peoples and hence liberate the suppressed genius and complementary energies of the people for social and economic advancement.

To cap it up, we can say that historically Nigeria’s post-independence constitutional, political and resultant developmental crisis kicked off very early in the day with the manipulations and revisionism that overthrew its better structured 1960 Independence Constitution and replaced it with the so-called 1963 Republican Constitution, and lately the rogue 1999 Constitution – with dire consequences for the country and its peoples. Those individuals who tell you that economic despoliation and declines in the country are responsible for the social and political disruptions, collapses and instability in Nigeria are telling you a big lie. It is a wrong analysis of the Nigerian condition. The right perception is the other way around; that our bad politics disrupts and destroys our economic and social foundations and inhibits their advance because we are too busy plotting and fighting tribal wars to bother about concentrating our energy and focus on the enhancement of our productivity, socioeconomic wellbeing and growth. And the most consistent and disruptive aspect of these frictions and tensions in Nigeria is located in the incessant waves of jihad foisted from the Far-North, as is witnessed today under the effective Buhari‘caliphate’.

Indeed, Nigeria has since its birthing remained what might be called a modern state that coexists with the ancient Fulani Empire called the Sokoto Caliphate, which has continued to peddle disproportionate influence and power. The coexistence of the Nigerian State with a rival and competing caliphate is like having two captains in one ship! The situation breeds conflict and confusion especially since the two captains usually hold conflicting worldviews or viewpoints in virtually every aspect of statecraft, ideology, developmental strategy or what-have-you. When one wants the ship of state to move in one direction, the other is willing it to move in the opposite direction. It is confusion redefined! The rivalry between the institutions of the Nigerian modern state and the sultanate therefore makes it impossible for Nigeria to move in any given direction for any appreciable length of time. Thus the Nigerian ship of state is permanently adrift, without course or direction, like a flotsam at sea. Two reasons account for the continued survival of the Fulani Empire, namely; (1) the impact of British Indirect Rule system of administration in Colonial Northern Nigeria and British fraternisation with the Fulani emirs/ sultan; & (2) leadership dichotomies and disunities in the Middle-Belt and Southern Nigeria.

It is easy to see that for as long as the aforementioned status quo persists, Nigeria can never find its bearing. It cannot therefore have any meaningful growth, socially, economically and politically. In fact, the cost of this underhanded push-pull relationship between the two Nigerian centres of power – which seem today to have coalesced in Abuja – is most enormous and biting! Therefore, for Nigeria to advance and develop into a nation with a different outlook or to be reckoned with, we must do away with one of these two systems. It is either we dismantle the Federal Government and let Nigerian ethnicities go back to their separate primordial entities, or we have the caliphate fizzle out like the other West African empires before it and hence have Nigeria function as the secular modern (federal or con-federal) state that it is supposed to be.

There is no middle ground! I repeat, it is either the entire Nigeria ethnicities revert completely to their original primordial enclaves and existence or the caliphate is reduced to the status of the other erstwhile Nigerian empires, kingdoms, etc., namely; the empires of Benin, Oyo, Kanem-Bornu, Jukun and the coastal principalities or kingdoms, so that the attempt at building Nigeria into a modern state or democracy can proceed meaningfully, because for as long as the two aforementioned trends and power tussle persist, forget it, Nigeria will not get anywhere! Incidentally,President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have come up with an entirely different idea. And this seems geared towards the booting out of every pretension of Nigeria being a secular modern state and to transform it into a Fulani caliphate or empire – an enclave to be run through brute force and perpetual repression of Nigeria’s absolute majority groupings!

 

Background to Buhari’s Political Aspirations & the Ruination of National Cohesion

In his book, Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947), Chief Obafemi Awolowo informed us that at a conference of Northern emirs in 1942, a letter written to them by the West African Students Union (WASU) in London came up for discussion. The letter, Chief Awolowo tells us, touched on many problems affecting Nigeria as a whole; and the WASU appealed to the Northern emirs and their peoples for cooperation with leaders and peoples of Southern Nigeria in tackling them in order to ensure peaceful coexistence between the two sections of the country.

According to Chief Awolowo, the emirs’ comment on this appeal for cooperation, as contained in the official report of the conference, can be summarized as follows:

Holding this country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the Prophet [Mohammed]. … If they [the South] want political unity let them follow our religion. {Awolowo, Obafemi, Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947), p. 51}

In other words, the condition given by the emirs for peace and unity in Nigeria is that Southerners must become Moslems and must all come under the Sokoto Caliphate.

Sir Ahmadu Bello was the first person that tried to colonize the rest of the country in post-independence Nigeria and turn it into a part or vassals of the Fulani Caliphate, in order to fulfill the wishes of the Northern emirs, of which Chief Awolowo had earlier informed us about. Ahmadu Bello, the Fulani leader of the NPC, had become the political leader of Northern Nigeria following the conspiracy of the British colonialists with the Northern emirs that effectively rigged out Aminu Kano, (the prudent federalist, egalitarian, anti-jihadist, anti-feudalist Fulani leader of the NEPU), who was poised to win the staggered 1951 Northern Regional elections, and, hence, help unify Nigeria. Ahmadu Bello used the Nigerian Army to attack the Tivs in the Middle Belt, who had from pre-colonial times frustrated Fulani jihadist expansion into Tiv land and had stood in opposition to Ahmadu Bello’s autocratic rule in Northern Nigeria.

Later, Ahmadu Bello and his NPC exploited the 1962 split in the Action Group (AG) with a view to gaining political control of the Western Region. He was on the verge of using the Army in Western Nigeria in the same way he used them in Tiv land when he was stopped by Nzeogwu& Co. In effect, it was the attempt by Ahmadu Bello to incorporate the rest of Nigeria into the Sokoto Caliphate that brought about the military coup d’état of January 15, 1966, which eventually degenerated into the Nigeria-Biafra war (1967-1970).

Unfortunately, Buhari seems to have bought this caliphate idea many decades later and has since his re-emergence as Nigeria’s head of state in 2015 appear determined to foist same on 21st century Nigeria. Indeed,President Muhammadu Buhari has risen to the occasion and has more than Sir Ahmadu Bello trampled on Nigeria as a modern federal state, reducing it to a virtual Fulani empire or caliphate in the last seven or so years. He has handed the commanding heights of Nigeria’s security, military, police, administrative and economic institutions, etc., primarily to the Fulani and their collaborator-Kanuri elite, and has ipso facto caged Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt into effective vassals of that empire. Our notions of democracy and rule of law seem technically suspended or put in abeyance. That of course amounts to turning the clock of Nigeria 200-300 years back; to the formative years of the old Fulani caliphate. And that is what has brought Nigeria back to the austere barbaric life of the said bygone centuries. This in a nutshell is what has polarized Nigerian politics today, created so much inter-ethnic and religious distrust, tensions, enmity and insecurity in the country as well as disrupted social and economic progress and development in Nigeria.

Talking about caging the South and the Middle-Belt, we like to observe that General Burutai, our retired ex-chief of Army Staff has been posted to the Republic of Benin, ostensibly as an envoy. But actually to assist Colonel Ali, the soldier-turned-Custom’s chief, in policing Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic and to ensure especially that nothing ‘untoward’ goes in or out of Southern Nigeria and the Middle-Belt through Nigeria’s southwest border with Benin Republic. In the East, another retired service chief is in the Cameroun to keep an eye on what comes in or out of Southern Nigeria through our southern border with Cameroun. Even the possession of licensed bolt-action cartridge gun has been more or less banned in the South and Middle-Belt by Government. All these seem part and parcel of the caging process and the creation of a totalitarian state where human beings will be herded like cattle under the grip of an absolute ruler as well as to perfect the monopoly of means of coercion and foist a forceful reign of terror on the disarmed. However,these actions and efforts will ultimately prove to be exercises in futility, for acts of colonization, apartheid and totalitarianism is no longer in consonance with the times!

This is the age of freedom, of reason, democracy and knowledge-based systems and modernity. Repressive systems like empires, totalitarianism, etc., are on the way out and will always crumble like a pack of cards! Where are the great Soviet Union, Yugoslavia that was once under Marshal Tito’s iron grip, Czechoslovakia and Apartheid South Africa? What about the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese empires? All these totalitarian states, colonizing empires and apartheid regimes have all crumbled, gone.Will the Fulani Empire be the only tree standing? How vain and short-sighted!The tendency to rely on naked force and all manner of manipulations in the management of human beings and communities may work for a while but they do ultimately disappoint, creating frictions and tensions that usually bring regrets. So, turning the hands of Nigeria’s clock a couple of centuries back will not wash. It does not help the average man on the street. Indeed, it has already plunged many into sorrow, hunger and lamentations even in the North and amongst the Hausa and the Fulani, for their peasantry is the most affected and oppressed by Northern feudalism. So, like the other bygone command economies and polities, Nigeria’s Apartheid and state capture will not endure!

Buhari’s sly and fuzzy rule presents us with a window into what a full-blown retreat into the outmoded world of the old Fulani Empire offers Nigeria. The Igbo say that the foul-smell of fart gives us an idea of what the taste of faecal matter would be like. Nigerian peoples are now well aware of what the Buhari presidency has fetched despite all the goodwill and hope heaped on it; on a man we took for a beloved brother and well-meaning patriot! And those at the receiving end across the country are already weeping in terrible anguish and terror when Buhari’s ‘new caliphate’ is yet to reach its nadir.What then shall we see when it attains its denouement, with its characteristic landmark full-fledged feudalism, brigandage, pillage,disdain for democracy and egalitarianism and high-handedness put in place? It will prove to be a tragedy of monumental proportions, a return to the normal state of nature where might is right and life is brutish, nasty and short, and of course such that progress will become completely impossible. The alternative is of course for us to take back our country from the hegemons and return it to a modern state with federal or con-federal structure, as earlier agreed to by our forebears.

A Peep into Nigeria’s Future & the Proposed 2023 General Elections!

We are not sure that Buhari has given up on his ‘caliphate’ agenda. But his term of office as president of Nigeria is gradually coming to an end. And so he has to leave that exalted office. Would he meekly accept that his successor in office should be elected by Nigerians without let or hindrance? Or would he want to manipulate the process in order to install a surrogate (Fulani) president to continue from where he stops? In other words, are we going to have a credible, free and transparent election in 2023? These might seem the imponderables! But if his present attitude is anything to go by then there is cause for worry.Take into consideration the fact that Buhari has not done anything towards dismantling the caliphate structures he has put in place, and is still insisting that governors, especially in the South and Middle-Belt can only equip their vigilante squads with bolt action rifles and not with automatic rifles, etc., and then you might begin to see more clearly!For that means that Buhari probably wants these state-grown vigilante squads to be annihilated by the terrorists and herdsmen who attack with AK47/49 rifles, grenade launchers, bazookas and other more sophisticated weapons! Secondly, it also means that Buhari wants to maintain his monopoly of the real means of coercion in the country so that he and people of his feather or his putative Far-North successors in office can thereby continue to terrorize blackmail and destabilize Southern and Middle-Belt states.

In effect, Nigeria is pregnant and we know not what will be birthed come the 2023 presidential election. Let us consider:If Buhari cannot tolerate a non-Far-Northerner as head of the Nigerian Army, for instance, how can anybody in his right senses expect that Buhari would allow or tolerate a non-Far-Northerner to become the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and President of Nigeria? Secondly, if Buhari still does not have the goodwill to allow Southerners and Middle-Belters the right and ability to defend themselves from terrorists, Fulani herdsmen militia and jihadists; i.e. have a right to life, which is fundamental, how then can he concern himself with free and transparent election where anybody can emerge president of Nigeria? One thing seems certain though. If Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election fails to meet the expected standards, there will be anger on the streets! On the other hand, it is possible that Nigeria’s supremacist elements would want to do everything to forestall a credible election; to cease power in whatever way they can. In effect, the outcome of this coming 2023 presidential election will produce a monumental showdown – a showdown that could ignite the presently charged Nigerian atmosphere into a huge conflagration; an upheaval that could consume Nigeria.

In any case, how do we call for or conduct a so-called free, credible and transparent election in the middle of a civil war, or, okay, civil wars, since the fighting is in pockets of territories? In the Northwest hinterlands, the Hausa farmers are at war with the nomadic Fulani. Ditto for the Northeast where the Boko Haram is headquartered and the nomadic Fulani are slugging it out with the indigenous communities in the hinterlands. In the North-Central, there are widespread jihadi wars and skirmishes all over the place. In the Southeast, the trigger-happy Nigerian Military is busy hunting down Igbo youths for merely mouthing Biafra, thereby causing unnecessary friction and tensions in the region, even as dangerous terrorists and herdsmen’s militia are allowed to roam free and unmolested, kidnapping, killing and maiming. Elsewhere in the South, the activities of the said criminals persist! So, where and how will this election hold? Will the actual voting take place in the air or on the restive grounds, especially in the North?

Or are we just trying to replicate the 2019 scenario where the restive Bornu and Yobe states that were buffeted by the Boko Haram menace magically produced a more-than-average votes in the 2019 elections even when the most of the rural dwellers of the two states were displaced, and are still, languishing in IDP camps outside the two states? In effect, we all seem prepared to play into the hands of those who want the electoral fraud of 2019 in Bornu and Yobe states extended all over the Far-North hinterlands in the 2023 national elections!For what is bound to transpire especially in the presidential election in the Far-North is: With the inhabitants of the area hiding away from irascible gunmen and cowering from the fighting in the area, small bands of electoral manipulators(compromised INEC representatives at voting booth level included) operating from safe havens would forge electoral results and post them directly to INEC severs! And that would be that! A fait accompli!

Proposal for Interim Government for Nigeria Post-Buhari Regime

Our contention here is that after two terms of Buhari’s rule that has brought extreme division, disunity and a super-charged atmosphere of mutual distrust and rancor between the Far-North and the rest of the country, we need a cooling off period, for healing and reconciliation, openness, dialogue and equity as well as commensurate power-sharing before we can reasonably dabble into another national elections. This is a period during which we must deal with the acute problem of insecurity in the society, in which even our country’s national capital city has become totally unsafe. We also have to settle some other serious problems that threaten the civil society, including the issue of producing a people-based National Constitution that will bind all. Law is made for man and not man for the Law!What has happened to our Doctrine of Necessity? Is the situation in the country not critical enough for us to dust it up once again?We therefore caution that in the likely rejection of this suggestion and a headlong plunge into national elections in 2023, there will be consequences. The outcome of such elections, especially the presidential election, could produce a great upheaval of the sort never ever witnessed in Nigeria before!

Accordingly and to safeguard the country, we propose an interim government at the end of the Buhari presidency in May 2023. The interim government is to be run by a six-man Presidential Council in which each of our six geopolitical zones shall pick, select or elect and contribute one individual to represent the zone or region in the said Council. The Council is to elect a chairman from among themselves. The chairman shall bear the designation Interim-President of Nigeria. He shall work with the other members of the Council in much the same way Prime-Ministers function within the governing cabinet. The Council should be given a period of 12-18 months within which to work to solve the problem of insecurity in the country, encourage reconciliation, openness, dialogue, etc., and revamp our electoral commission with a view to conducting clean national elections to install a new central government for Nigeria. Need I restate the fact that for that crucial national election to be free, fair and transparent, we need all eyes on the ball?

Further attributes of the Minimal Conditions for the realization of the New Nigeria

I have always said that the most important reform Nigeria needs is political. This explains the time given to political aspect of Nigeria’s degeneration and the need for a change of direction.

In concrete terms, I dare say, and this is my considered opinion, that we need to effect the following as part of the overall build up towards the launching of the New Nigeria of our dream:

Mandate Socio-political Highlights

Apart from the return to federalism / con-federalism advanced above with its implied further devolution of powers and roles to the lower tiers of government, we need to specifically do the following as part of the minimal agenda for the emergence of a New Nigeria:

  1. Return Nigeria to the Parliamentary System of Government.

The Presidential System of Government, currently in vogue in Nigeria, is basically productive of presidencies that in actuality are like ‘democratised monarchies’, which are gravely prone to degenerating into autocracy and dictatorships. The system is not attuned to Nigeria’s multiple diversity in ethnicities, cultures and religions. Under the system, too many groups are alienated from governance. These therefore breed unnecessary dichotomies and enmity in our young un-rooted democracy.

  1. Create State police now, to be followed by LGA police later.
  2. Of course to achieve the above two clauses, the Interim Government will have to set up a Constituent Assembly to produce a new people-based Constitution for Nigeria.
  3. Recover and resettle indigenous natives displaced from their lands by jihadists and terrorists and who now languish in Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps outside their homelands.
  4. Enforce the law that prohibits Open Grazing of cattle in the country and encourage the establishment of Cattle Ranches in the sector and across the country.

This should secure farms from destruction by cattle, safeguard farmers from incessant attacks and killings by wanton trespassers, herders and their militia as well as compel the rich owners of these cattle to resettle their oppressed and alienated cattle herders who live very disturbing and permanently dehumanising existence as bushmen, by providing them adequate housing and other amenities of modern life within functional communities.

It is now also recognised that open grazing of cattle is largely responsible for the rapid desert encroachment in Nigeria’s Far-North.

  1. Return Merit to its pride of place in work and industry, and the Nigerian scheme of things
  2. Education: Reopen Kitchens/Cafeterias to serve meals to students in our various federal or state-owned tertiary educational institutions. That should help stop students from eating in ‘bukaterias’ and other obscure unhygienic joints or cooking their meals in their college rooms and dormitories. This should help them concentrate on their studies!

Mandate Socio-economic Highlights

  1. Deconstruct the national grid and allow states and regions to manage or supervise private sector-led Electricity generation, transmission and distribution within their respective domains.
  2. Ditto for ‘on-shore’ mining and petroleum products prospecting, extraction, refinery and sales.
  3. Restore normal activity in the Eastern and Midwestern Seaports of Calabar, PH, Onne, Warri, etc., as well as build functional river ports along the River Niger and River Benue.
  4. The Naira must be made to have only one exchange rate for all other national currencies.

Finally, I think that Nigeria will benefit immensely from the application of the following novel fiscal policies which are culled from my new book, The Centrist Manifesto:

  1. Government must ensure that Labour-share of national income is optimised (at all times) by stipulating that labour-share of company income or added-value shall not fall below a given minimum level or percentage for all business enterprises operating in the country.
  2. It should also be stipulated that within a company, the total emolument, including allowances, of the highest paid worker, the managing director or CEO,must not be more than twenty to forty times that of the lowest paid worker.
  3. Enhance Openness in the management of group affairs as a means of checking corruption. Government must immediately institute a process of direct taxation of company income or added-value as against the present system of taxing company profit.
  4. Enhance Openness in the management of group affairs as a means of checking corruption.Specifically, grant Organised Labour in every company the right to audit the company Accounts. This is a prerequisite in centrist relations of production where the factor-shares are proportions of the value-added at any point in time.

 

uchennwankwo@yahoo.com; +234 0811 819 5950

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