The Council of State, made up of the President, Vice President, the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, all living former Heads of State, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria and all state governors rose from an emergency meeting in Abuja last week and resolved to ‘support President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the current spate of terrorism in parts of the country ends before December’. This is an ambitious undertaking when from experience, such target dates set by the commander-in-chief only brought more daring raids from initial soft spots like churches and mosques to military barracks and fortified prisons and airports.
The council also resolved to end all discriminatory practices in states including the registration and “deportation” of non-indigenes as well as different school fees for indigenes and non-indigenes in state-owned institutions among others. The council did not also say how it hopes to achieve this within a federal set-up where some states earn from the federation account in a month what some others with greater responsibilities earn in a year. Finally the council resolved to ensure that the predictions by some foreigners that Nigeria would cease to exist as a united nation beyond 2015 remained a wishful thinking. The council did not disclose its strategies for achieving that noble and patriotic objective. For this reason it is difficult not to see the council as a body that has continued to live in denial.
He who comes to equity, as they say, must come with clean hands. The tainted records of some members of the council while in office have deprived them of the much-needed moral voice to check the current drift. Like the current PDP, Shagari NPN’s desperation to hold on to power through fraudulent ‘landslide and sea slide’ victory in opposition strongholds in 1983 brought in the military. In a failed attempt by Babangida to prolong his regime described by Obasanjo as “deficit in honour”, after the longest transition programme in the nation’s history, he annulled an internationally adjudged free and fair election that produced MKO Abiola as President-elect. Ernest Shonekan, another prominent member was an interloper used to subvert the victory of his kinsman. Obasanjo as president, destroyed opposition, supervised the rigging of 2003 and 2007 elections and ended imposing ailing Yar’Adua and an ill-prepared President Jonathan on Nigeria following his own failure to secure an unconstitutional third term. Jonathan’s five years remains the most divisive period in our nation’s history comparable only to the civil war period by his own assessment. David Mark was an active participant in the 1993 debacle. Apart from Muhammed Uwais whose valiant efforts to sanitise our electoral process was sabotaged by the PDP, governors without character who for political expediency proclaimed 13 to be greater than 16 cannot be regarded as democrats or patriots.
It is therefore not a surprise that their resolutions are a lesson in denial. We are not inventing the wheel. The state had existed for over 400 years where they became agents of modernization and industrialisation in western societies long before our own experiment at state formation. The role of the state in a democracy has been clearly defined. Citizens live and breathe through the state that keeps records of everyone in the society from -your finger print, your blood group, the salary you earn and your mortgage arrangement to ensure your children complete repayment if you die. The state dictates by its economic policies the time to procreate and the number of children you can have. The state keeps a tab on you every minute to ensure you don’t become a danger to others or threaten the system. The state even controls your thoughts through the media and making funds available for academic pursuit in areas that have impact on their society. For the state, information is power to mould society in its own image.
Here, we are not sure whether we want the modern state or a reign of warlords that preceded them. Because of the greed of inheritors of power in our new emergent states, we operate without facts and figures. In the last 14 years, thrice multibillion dollars contracts were awarded for ID card project to end planning without statistics. Thrice the money was misappropriated by PDP buccaneers who constitute the majority of the current council of states. The sabotage was also aided by those who claim to have half of their empire spread across Nigerian borders that can be ferried in during census headcounts and elections. Today, the Nigerian state has no idea whether those herdsmen armed with sophisticated weapons, engaged in mindless killing of our compatriots in the trouble spots in the north are Fulani herdsmen or not. Yet the council of state now says the self defensive measure taken by Niger State in deporting hundreds of herdsmen who descended on their state is unacceptable.
Then we are not told how the council resolutions fit into the quota system of admission policy into the federal universities without which all the available positions in Nigerian universities can be filled up by qualified candidates from Delta and Imo states. Some of the resolutions also ignore the existing federal character policy which guarantees states have equal opportunities of representation at the centre. What the council seem to be advocating by deemphasizing indigene-ship clause in our constitution is a negation of this policy.
We have chosen to run a modern democratic state with federal arrangement for development and to resolve some of our crisis of cultural cleavages yet live in denial that we are a multi-ethnic society with different world views. For instance, the Yoruba wherever you found him on the planet will readily admit “ile ni abo isimi oko” meaning they dream of returning to their roots. Chinua Achebe put the Igbo worldview better when he said something to the effect that “we are strangers in this land, when calamity befalls the owner of the land we go home leaving the owners of the land who know how to appease their own gods”. If the Fulani that spread across West Africa have no primordial attachment to a particular place, it is because it is part of their culture to adapt by marriage and through economic relationship with elite of their host communities or conquered territories. But today we run a modern state with federal system, where Fulani herdsmen cannot justify their lawlessness of invading other’s territories since their 200 years membership of Nigeria multi-ethnic society does not confer any superior advantage over those who have inhabited their land for centuries.
Like the marauding Fulani without borders, the Igbo with over 60% of its people outside their ancestral home want indigene-ship clause expunged from the constitution so that like the Fulani, they can also control the political power of their host communities. Our council of state members that live in denial forgets that it was the greed of Fulani political elite that was at the root of ongoing bloodletting in Plateau and Benue which started with a popular uprising shortly after independence. And behind the mutual suspicion between ordinary Igbos and Yorubas was the greed of Igbo elite’s attempt to take over the rein of political power in Yoruba nation, a move resisted by Yoruba elite in 1952. And contrary to the claim of the national security adviser the civil war was as a result of registration of non indigenes but more by northern elites’ desire to avenge the elimination of their political leaders by Igbo who they accused of taking over political power through unconstitutional means.
Preventing disintegration of a state is not by the council’s wishful thinking but by the state performing its responsibilities to its citizens which is today not the case when we have no idea who Nigerians are, and federating units are prevented from taking responsibility for those who inhabit their territories