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August 18, 2018

NIGERIA: Between National Conference and Good Governance

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nigeria-centenaryOn October 1, 2010, Nigeria celebrated the Golden Jubilee of her Independence Anniversary.  Three years afterwards, on October 1, 2013, it was another Golden Jubilee anniversary of her status as a Republic.

On January 1, 2014, Nigeria was 100 years as a corporate entity.

These are celebrations of monumental maturity coming in such an unblinking series, it is splendid, it is terrific.  In this maturity however, how the Nigerian nation has fared in her socio-political, economic and religious affairs has often presented a paradoxical impression which has continued to generate topical issues across the globe.

It is very clear that Nigerian peoples of both north and south were not introduced to one another by Lord Lugard.

Even long before the Europeans sailed down the interior, a lot of commercial interaction existed among the ethnic nationalities of northern and southern peoples of Nigeria.

In addition to the caravans and countless pedestrian traders moving in groups, the two great rivers of Niger and Benue had been there as famous routes of trade between the north and south.

There was commerce, there was social intermingling and there was cultural diffusion.  The Niger flowing down the North West and Benue down the North East appear to have naturally guided the ethnic nationalities of their plateau and banks into geographical union with the other nationalities that seemed readily positioned at their delta.

The confluence of the two rivers at Lokoja welded their diverse courses together into one current.  This provides them with the torrential vigour with which they make marks on the routes through which they gain channels into the bigger water mass of the Atlantic Ocean at the West African coast.

As the Nigerian nation came into being in 1914, the imprint of these two rivers on the national map appears more like a seal with which the national chater was made perfect.

The diversity in geographical distribution is that which rather provides potential completeness in our agro-economic needs.  From the Sahel vegetation area down the rain forest, we raise, assorted food items and find varied mineral resources.

It is true, that ab initio, the consensus for independence as one nation among the ethnic groups did not come in a single chorus.  Some segments hesitated while others hastened.

It was clear therefore that some sort of mutual suspicion over the emerging situation was rife.  Come to talk about the differences, it was Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian scholar, pacific activist and politician who said “it is not our differences that really matter; it is the meanness behind that is ugly”.

There is hardly any great nation in the world that is homogenous in peopling, religion and culture.  A few instances can be typical.  The United States of America, the colossus of our time has a very broad model of diversity which they rather harness into a formidable strength in unity.

India has many ethnic nationalities with many religious faiths prominent among which are Hinduism, Bhudaism, Islam and Christianity.  These present their challenges though, India has been able to contain such challenges and has risen to be counted among the Asian tigers.

Down home on the West African Coast, Ghana falls into the examples.  She has ethnic groups such as Ashante, Fante, Ga, Hausa etc practicing Christianity, Islam and traditional religion, yet Ghana is fast emerging.

It must therefore be highlighted that the diversity in our circumstance is rather manipulated into negativity as a cover for the unfair and unjust conscience of governments at all levels which has continually left the populace majority with frustration.

It is further imperative to remark that these differences that are moulded into a clog at the national level have their versions hanging stubbornly at the geo-political zones, states, local governments and even down the electoral wards.

Broad forms of such divides abound across the geo-political zones.  Zones like the South-South are so heterogeneous that in some cases you locate more than four ethnic groups and languages in one local government area.

The skirmishes are there like the Itsekiri and Urhobo. In the North-East you have the Christian and the Muslim, the Jukun and the Fulani etc.

In the North Central the divide cuts across religion and ethnicity, examples are the Zango/Kataf, the Fulani cattle rearer menace and Egun Militia etc.

The South-East is the only one of the six zones that is purely homogenous.  The Igbo is the only ethnic group speaking Igbo language with some dialectal variations.  The major religion is Christianity.

In this homogeneity yet clannish tendencies seem to surround the quest for political positions.

Imo State presents a typical example, where you have the Owerri Peoples Forum, Orlu Zuru Mee, Olu Okigwe etc.  Each of these groups is persistently raising a voice of dissent in pursuit of political power.  Down the senatorial zones, there is another divide, for instance, there are the Mbaise, Mbaike and Owerri groups in Owerri Senatorial zones.  At Orlu zone, there are the Orsu, Oru, Orlu etc., while Okigwe has Obowo, Mbano and Okigwe each group trying to out-smart the other.

The South-West is not as homogenous as the South-East because it has the ethnic Ijaw along the Lagos, Ogun and Ondo Creek.  Also the people spread between Islam and Christianity with some traditional religious adherents.

The people of this zone are more concerned about leadership and good governance than in their diversity.  Lagos State is a good example.  Since 1999, governor after governor of this state has been a Muslim but this does not constitute an electoral issue.  What they demand is good governance and they get it at least relatively.

I do not in any case object to a national conference, dialogue or discussion which ever it is branded.  I only want to observe that good governance would have saved us this agony of seeking to redefine our mutual acceptability and reassess our corporate togetherness after a whole century.

It is misleading that while we sit very docile and celebrate impunity from governance at all levels, we are hoodwinked through ethnic sentiments to exaggerate any sight mistake relating to our diversity.

Is it not crystal clear that the cost of governance in this country is rather too heavy in proportion to our economic realties?  In fact it is positively wasteful.  The cost of servicing the 36 state government machineries with presiding 36 Excellencies or are they emperors is very terrifying.  The 774 Executive Chairmen of the local governments in our model are lords with the attendant princely maintenance.

The 109 distinguished Senators and 360 Honourable members of the lower House are accordingly kings.

It is noteworthy to say that in between the hierarchy you have very huge funds as security votes and constituency project funds.  These swallow a chunk of budget provisions but are controlled by a few individuals as they wish.

The constituents are not informed of the amounts of their constituency projects neither do they make input into the design and application.  Indeed the fund is merely front pocket money for these representatives who handle it as such.

If we are serious about nation building, we will know that between the security votes and constituency project funds, the nation can reasonably provide industries that can absorb most of our idle youths.

No single state of the 36 states can boast of potable water even in the state capitals.  How do we want to be assessed as we enter the second century of our existence as a nation with cholera?

Everyday we hear of hundreds of illegal refineries uncovered and destroyed it cannot be understood how there could be such number of refineries functioning legally when we cannot have even one functioning illegally.  Consequently, we have to depend solely on imports for our domestic petroleum product needs.  The whole world is deeply concerned about the phenomenon of global warming and climate change yet our government would not care a bean seed as kerosene which should be sold at N50 per litre is selling at N150.  The populace resorts to felling every available tree and shrub as a source of firewood hence deforesting instead of afforesting.

Does it require a national conference to know that an individual should not for goodness sake waste a whooping sum of N255m on two official cars?  This is in a situation where the police has no kits, no weapons and no barracks.

Further to the national frustration is the signal of hopelessness being officially issued by government.

We have vast agricultural potentials, which we have refused to harness. We only focus on crude oil, yet at that, the government in recent times has continually alarmed the nation that oil theft is eroding the fragile strength of our economy.

It is hard to appreciate the reason behind such information or is it an alarm.? This is perhaps for the market women to come and fight the oil thieves.

It does not raise any hope either to learn that we cannot precisely say how much crude the nation produces; we cannot quantify the stolen, neither can we boast of the accurate statistics of the quantity sold.

We have lost the determination to build the nation to the fanaticism of next election.  ‘Next election’ is the only visible programme our governments at all levels prepare for.

If we invest just 26 percent of the energy, efforts and resources we lavish on ‘next election’ into the cotton fields of the North-West or the cocoa plantations of South-West or the rubber estates of the South-South or the palm fields of the South-East etc., we shall advance to the affordable application of these raw materials to industrial outfit, which will provide vast job opportunities and make us producers of fabrics we can wear, tyres for our vehicles and beverages for our health.

Finally, I want to advise that we must be prepared to confess, our ethnic groups one to another that we have moved into our union without the required sense of patriotism and faithfulness.  This should be a preamble to the all healing conference we clamour for, so that as we leave the conference hall we will be determined to start building our battered nation with mutual trust.


Onukwugha Chidi


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