Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
DEMOCRACY AND PAN-ARABISM AS CONTENDING FORCES IN NIGERIA.
A Keynote address presented by S.A. Asemota Esq., SAN at the 2004 Annual Convention of Edo Okpamakhin held at the Airport Holiday Inn, Boston, Massachusetts, USA on July 3 - 4, 2004
Permit me to begin this presentation by expressing my sincere gratitude to the distinguished indigenes of Edo State in America for this privilege. I have titled my presentation “Democracy and Pan-Arabism as Contending forces in Nigeria”, because Edo State represents a small part of Nigeria with a 2.5 million population compared to the overall 120 million. The state occupies a total landmass of 19,794 sq km. The decline of Nigeria has affected Edo State and Edo’s progress and this is a result of the clash of the contending cultures of Democracy and Pan-Arabism in the country. Therefore, the way forward can only be achieved when we are able to influence events at National and State levels. In this paper, I intend to dwell more on National rather than state issues and, in so doing, show how World politics and cultural influence of other countries have helped to make us the wiser in some cases and the poorer in others. However, the Nigerian situation is paramount in this presentation.
Political Culture and Colonialism
Imperialism left a profound imprint on our nation’s psyche and served as a ready explanation for underdevelopment. Arbitrary boundaries without reference to homogeneity and/or tribal affinity did not help matters. This glaring anomaly is in addition to the diverse ethnic cultures as there are tribes and this created for us the Anglophone and Arabophone Nigeria based on Religion.
“Everywhere on the continent, the bond between religion and society remains strong”, as Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the late President of the Republic of Ivory Coast, told us (and he, as a Roman Catholic, knew what he was talking about): “From African Archbishops said he “to the most insignificant Catholic, from the great witch doctor to the most insignificant Moslem, from the Pastor to the most insignificant Protestant, we have all had an animist past.” [Emphasis supplied].
Most Nigerians, Christians and Muslims, have been conditioned to believe in destiny and predestination, taking each day as it comes and attributing all events, (positive and negative) to the will of God.
In the traditional African Society [including the Edos], Africans exalt the generous past of their ancestors through tales and fables, and nothing is done to prepare for the future”. The belief is that the future, like the womb, delivers a male or female child and one has to wait until the child is born. Scanning to know in advance the sex of a child was never in the contemplation of the African. In some cases, we are so convinced that the past can only repeat itself and therefore worry superficially about the future. As a result “there is no planning, no foresight, no scenario building. In other words, there is no policy to effect the course of events. There can be no sign of tomorrow as long as our culture does not teach us to question the future, to repeat mentally and to bend it to our will.
It is therefore not surprising that those of you who live in the modern world or first world as some call it, want to be prepared for the future and have decided to brainstorm so as to influence the future of your ethnic nationality and Country. I congratulate Edo Okpamakhin for this initiative. But I must warn from the outset that any attempt to preserve the status quo in Nigeria, where very few Nigerians are very rich and some are called sheikhs at the expense of over 70% who live below the poverty line is a short time policy. The wind of change is blowing across Nigeria and will soon overtake these few Nigerians who through political power have acquired wealth, that have made them arrogant, intolerant, and jealous of these prerogatives.
The Nigerian Tripod
Nigeria developed from a tripod comprising the Hausa/Fulani of the North, the Igbo (East) and the Yoruba (West). The other 302 ethnic nationalities were, in reality, appendages to these three major ethnic groups. This state of affairs was necessary during the colonial era as a result of shortage of British manpower and the colonial policy of indirect rule. The British ruled the North indirectly through the Hausa/Fulani, the East through the Ndigbo and the West, through the Yoruba. Later the Regions were increased to four thereafter to 12 states then, 19, 21 and now 36 plus the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Nigeria is like “The new states created in Africa by colonialism which consist of a collection of people living together in the same geographical area under one government but they have no citizens in the proper sense of the word; that is to say, they have no cohesive social body, i.e. a body of people sharing common cultural values and a common feeling of belonging, (and) imbued with a unifying sense of a common destiny and of civic responsibility as well as fired by the cohesive sentiments of patriotism, nationalism and a shared desire for the promotion of the public good as manifested in ‘individual acts of citizenship’, they are not yet one nation or one people. That is what is implied when we speak of the citizenry of a country”. This, in essence, means that we are not yet one nation or one people.
In Nigeria’s case, although various kingdoms had links with the British Government by conquest etc, they were not consulted, and made no input before being lumped together as one country christened Nigeria by Lord Lugard. This has affected us in Edo state where we are of one stock, yet so divided, which is the cumulative effect of colonialism and indirect rule.
Clash of Democracy and Pan-Arabism
It has been argued that there is likely to be a clash of civilizations in the world of the 21st century. According to The Economist of August 4, 1994,
“There are in fact only three reasonably clear contenders in Mr. Huntington’s advertised clash of civilizations. The first is the West, the Euro-American culture that is the product of the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, and is the begetter of modern capitalism and democracy. The second is the Confuscian culture, the body of ideas that has grown up around the Chinese language and the habits of public life that are said to belong to the Chinese region….The third contender is Islam. This does genuinely stand alone. There is good reason why the culture of the Muslim world is regarded by many people as the West’s only real ideological competitor at the end of the 20th century. Unlike the Confuscians – and even more unlike Latin Americans, Slavs and Japanese – Islam claims to be an idea based upon a transcendental certainty. The certainty is the word of God, revealed syllable by syllable to Muhammad in a dusty corner of Arabia 1,400 years ago and copied down by him into the Koran. As a means of binding a civilization together, there is no substitute for such a certainty”. [Emphasis supplied]
This clash of civilization, modern capitalism and democracy versus Islam through Democracy and Pan-Arabism is at its peak in Nigeria. As in Saudi Arabia, there are now political ruling houses in Nigeria different from traditional ruling houses that are known. In Edo state, we have three political ruling houses through which government favour can be obtained. The slogan of the ruling houses in Edo State is “Uma loyal, Urioya” meaning if one is not loyal to the ruling houses in Edo State then such a person was bound to suffer. The conflict of loyalty sometime brings about disaster. The Rule of law has given way to rule of force. This, no doubt, is a result of the conflict between Human Rights under Western democracies and “Human Rights” under Islam. Pan-Arabism seem to have found a strong alliance with President Obasanjo an Africanist, and as Kofi Annan said:
“Leaders of newly independent states pursue a heavy centralization of political and economic power and suppressed political pluralism. This often leads to corruption, nepotism, complacency and the abuse of power. In many countries, a winner-takes-all form of political power has raised the stakes of political control to dangerous levels. In states that are multi-ethnic (as are most in Africa), such competition can lead to a violent politicization of ethnicity”.
The above observation summarises the situation in Nigeria. The joint venture of Pan-Arabism and the typical African leader turbaned by the caliphate and admitted as Grand Knight of the Sokoto caliphate and defender of faith (Muslim) has led to subversion of all Democratic structures, and principles leading to Insecurity in the country, growing Fascist Dictatorship, and a comatose Economy.
The 1999 Constitution
The 1999 Constitution I submit, is a political invention, developed from the instrument of repression, risking free election. By this, I mean that conducting free and fair elections constitute a risk which the Pan-Arabists had to take, but ensured that the art of selection was perfected to appear as elections. The Constitution is also a false document in a way and, in some cases it is in conflict with Democratic norms.
The 1999 Nigerian Constitution has deliberately whittled down Human Rights provisions and, in some cases, made them totally ineffective.
The preamble to the Constitution which forms an essential part of the document is false. We, the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not make, enact and/or give to ourselves the 1999 Constitution. Rather, Decree No.24, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) Decree 1999, gave the people of Nigeria the 1999 Constitution. Part of the preamble to the said Decree provides as follows:
“The conclusions arrived thereat and also at various seminars, workshops and conferences organized and was convinced that the general consensus of opinion of Nigerians is the desire to retain the provisions of the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with some amendments,… after necessary amendments and approval by the Provisional Ruling Council to be promulgated into a new Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria in order to give the same force of law with effect from 29 May, 1999”.
“Now therefore, the Federal Military Government hereby decrees as follows:
1(i) There shall be for Nigeria a Constitution which shall be set out in the schedule to this Decree
(ii) The Constitution set out in the Schedule to this Decree shall come into force on 29th May, 1999”…
The above explains how the 1999 Constitution came into being and this should have been the preamble to the Constitution.
In addition to the fact that the people of Nigeria did not give themselves the Constitution, the Provisional Ruling Council that promulgated Decree No.24 was made up of about 50 unelected Armed Forces personnel. It is pertinent to state that no member of the so-called elected members of the National, States and Local government representatives, saw the 1999 Constitution prior to the Elections in 1998 and 1999. Not even Mr. President, yet they all swore to preserve, protect and defend a Constitution that neither they nor the citizens of the country were privy and party to.
Under the above circumstances in which Nigeria was alleged to have returned to Democracy, the country has not known peace and the quality of life of the average Nigerian has gone down in a country “too rich to be poor”. This then leads to the inevitable conclusions that either
(a) The Provisional Ruling Council provided for Nigeria a Constitution that structured the country to fail or,
(b) That the Provisional Ruling Council deliberately provided for Nigeria a false, unjust and unworkable Constitution that will make democracy unworkable so as to justify military rule of the past and/or in the future.
The sum total of (a) and (b) is that the 1999 Constitution is a false document imposed on the Nigerian people. In the circumstances, there is need to examine some sections of the 1999 Constitution to show that it is not a fair document, but one to promote the special interest of the “ruling elite” in Nigeria - Pan-Arabism.
Sections 33 – 46, of the 1999 Constitution contain these rights which consist of:
Right to Life Section (33) Right to dignity of the human person (34) Right to Personal Liberty (35) Right to fair hearing (36) Right to Private and Family life (37) Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion (38) Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press (39) Right to peaceful Assembly and Association (40) Right to Freedom of movement (41) Right to Freedom from discrimination (42) Right to acquire and own numerable property in Nigeria (43) Compulsory Acquisition of Property (44) Restriction from the derogation of fundamental rights (45) Special jurisdiction of High Court and Legal Aid. These rights are fundamental and necessary for human existence. Unfortunately some of these rights have been so whittled down to produce the direct opposite effect.
Sharia Law such as stoning to death etc is incompatible with the right of dignity to the human person under the Constitution, yet it is included in our laws to satisfy the Pan-Arabists.
Freedom of Assembly and Association
Section 40 provides as follows:-
“Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and, in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interest:
Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition”. [Emphasis supplied]
The proviso to this section, has enhanced the stature of INEC over and above the Constitution, thus conferring on INEC powers superior to the Constitution. The Proviso, also restricts the corresponding right that flows from the right of Peaceful Assembly and Association - the right to vote, with a corresponding right to be voted for. Thus the 1999 Constitution gives the Nigerian the right to vote, but not the right to be voted for. This no doubt, was responsible for the situation that arose in Anambra State where the ruling party substituted those that were presented to INEC and the people prior to the election. This Proviso is also responsible for the statement of the PDP that names of “elected” councillors that were not approved by the party have been annulled. Thus the “election” is done for the party not for the people. This proviso is also responsible for Godfatherism and rigging of election, in that it is only the registered political parties that can present candidates for any election and there is no room or provision for Independent candidature which was available in previous Nigerian Constitutions. Thus the parties that have been given rights belonging to humans, have become beneficiaries of fundamental Right.
Selection by ruling elite
The proviso I further submit, is intended to ensure that the ruling elite, select those that should represent the people with a view to protecting elites interests, while reducing others to second class citizens, incapable of electing their leaders. Another unfortunate aspect of these selection processes is that the ruling elite ensures that they select for themselves, the best and the brightest that they have such as Princes and those with good education from the best Universities in Europe and America. For others, the ruling elite selects dropouts and those with shady characters who would have no compunction diverting their states’ monthly revenue allocation to family investments here in Nigeria, South Africa and Russia, to ensure that their people remain poor and backward, while in perpetual hope of salvation from them. This proviso is not only unfair but constitutes a danger to the Nigerian society. To make matters worse, INEC expended N44 billion to conduct the 2003 General Elections and the March 27, 2004 Local Government elections in six Area Councils in FCT, Abuja which were, in reality “General Selections”. This huge sum should have been used to alleviate poverty instead of using it to conduct a hoax that was classified as elections.
Public Order Act
It is also clear that the Public Order Act CAP 382 Law of the Federation 1990 that requires permit from the Governor or Commissioner of Police before staging a peaceful assembly and procession is unconstitutional. The excuse the Police gave for refusing permit for peaceful demonstration of May 3, 2004, in Lagos and Abuja that hoodlums and Area boys might infiltrate the demonstration, shows that the Police have sided with the hoodlums and Area boys by refusing to issue permit.
Adoption of State Religion and Section 10 of the Constitution
The question whether Nigeria is a secular, Islamic or multi religious state would have not arisen if section 10 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution which provides that “The Government of the Federation or of a state, shall not adopt any religion as state Religion” is interpreted correctly.
Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution does not provide that the State cannot be influenced by the religious convictions of its Constituents. This obviously cannot be the idea upon which the 1979, 1999 Constitutions were framed. The exercise of one’s civic duties can and indeed should include attempting to influence civic law according to the moral code which one holds as a result of his/her religious beliefs. This is the heart of our right to suffrage. These moral codes however, must be discussed and agreed upon. The idea that a group can encapsulate their religious beliefs and isolate the rest of the country from them is ridiculous for anyone to honestly contemplate. A person’s beliefs inevitably influence his/her philosophy, how he/she chooses to live and how he/she votes. Attempts to remove references to God from our civic lives would not constitute the separation of Church and State; rather, it would be the indoctrination of atheism, a religion unto itself. However when (a) we pass laws that institutionalizes a particular religion so as to prefer a particular creed in the civic arena, (b) prohibit the free exercise of religion in certain areas and (c) claim religious authority, section 10 then becomes violated.
One is not against Islam or any religion, but opposed to Arab culture that has crept into our Constitution, laws, flag and government and, above all, because Arab culture is opposed to democracy. The OIC with the pre-eminence of Arab League of 22 states remain the most uniformly oligarchic states in the world in that not a single Arab leader has ever been peacefully ousted by the ballot box. Arab states have, in the past, devoted their energies to nation-building, an exercise that was seen by them to require political centralization, the forced mobilization of resources and the fabrication of new national identities to replace older affiliations. This means, in practice, the creation of bureaucracies that become giant patronage network. There is a sizeable Nigerians of Arab stock in very important and very high places in the country, and I dare to say that Nigeria is drifting away from Democracy to Pan-Arabism, and fabricating new national identities (New breed Politicians) to replace older affiliations including some traditional institutions and bureaucracies that are giant patronage network.
Pan-Arabism is a movement for unification among the Arab peoples and nations of the Middle East. It is closely connected to Arab nationalism.
Though its origin can be traced to the anti-imperialist nationalist movement among Arab peoples preceding World War I, a more formalized Pan-Arab ideology was first espoused in the 1940s by Michael Aflag, a Christian and founder of the Ba’ath (Renaissance) party combining elements of both socialism and Italian fascism. A Pan-Arab ideology lay in the basis of various attempts over the past fifty years to unite various Arab nation states.
Nigeria’s Membership of OIC
Nigeria as a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference, since 1986 to has adopted the OIC Charter that has the following provisions for Muslim and Islamic countries. The Organization resolves to preserve Islamic spiritual, ethical, social and economic values, which will remain one of the important factors of achieving progress for mankind. It is determined to consolidate the bonds of the prevailing brotherly and spiritual friendship among their people, and to protect their freedom, and the common legacy of their civilization particularly on the principles of justice, tolerance and non-discrimination; (preamble).
Nigeria agreed; “to co-ordinate efforts for the safeguarding of the Holy Places and support of the struggle of the people of Palestine, and help them regain their rights and liberate their land; (Article ii); to back the struggle of all Muslim people with a view to preserving their dignity, independence and national rights; (Article ii); Our President (Christian or Muslim) must attend meetings of the OIC “whenever the interest of Muslim Nations warrants it, to consider matters of vital importance to the Muslims and to coordinate the policy of the Organization accordingly. (Article iv); Nigeria also agree to pay “all expenses on the administration and activities of the Secretariat (which) shall be borne by Member States according to their national incomes. (Article vii). This agreement makes Nigeria a Muslim, if not an Islamic state without discussion and consensus of the various interests in the country.
The Jurisdiction of the Sharia Court of Appeal of a State “to exercise such Appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of Islamic personal law” has been extended, in breach of section 10 of the Constitution to include Criminal and other matters. In some cases, we are told that Sharia law is superior to the Constitution. Already, twelve out of the 36 states of the Federation with land almost equivalent to half the country’s landmass have adopted full-blown Sharia.
Membership of OIC also means promoting Pan-Arab culture which includes the appropriation of oil revenues by the central government, the suppression of minorities, and the promotion of a culture of obedience through force of the Military and Police, controlled Press and Educational system, all of which encourage flight from the rural areas to the cities a factor which has disoriented our societies and placed yet another dependency on the ruling elite. It is the Pan-Arab cultural influence inherited by the Caliphate that has made democracy unworkable in Nigeria, notwithstanding that Africa generally has made a more appreciable progress towards democracy where some African Leaders have been ousted by the ballot box, e.g. Ghana. Why must we prefer Pan-Arab culture to Democracy one may ask? The answer to the question rotates between reality and fiction depending on which side of the divide the ‘affected’ is. However, one cannot but agree with Lord Carey the immediate past Archbishop of Canterbury who said:
“throughout the Middle East and North Africa, we find authoritarian regimes with deeply entrenched leadership some of which rose to power at the point of a gun and are retained in power by massive investment in security forces…whether they are military dictatorship or traditional sovereignties, each ruler seems committed to retaining power and privilege”.
It will accord with commonsense to include Nigeria in this list.
Entrenched Leadership applies very much to the practice and spirit of Obasanjo’s administration that seems to continue with the policy of General Abacha. It is incontrovertible however to say that the handlers of Abacha are the same persons or groups that surround Obasanjo and both are producing identical results, ethnic hegemony, rapid intolerance of opposition and criticism, new breed politicians, absence of ideological framework for the sustenance of vision and missions, the enthronement of mediocrity, devaluation of merit and arrogance of ignorance. The Nigerian intellectuals home and abroad must promote “rejection of the arbitrary power of the state, the refusal to subordinate the rights of the individual to the superstate and the realization that collectivism stifles all the best human impulses”.
The 1999 Constitution has provisions that are deliberately oppressive to minorities and in particular, (a) Revenue Allocation (Section 162) and (b) Representation in the National Assembly
Section 162 – 168
Section 162 (2) states that
“The President, upon the receipt of advice from the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, shall table before the National Assembly proposals for Revenue Allocation from the Federation Account, and in determining the formula, the National Assembly shall take into account, the allocation principles especially those of population, equality of States, internal revenue generation, land mass, terrain as well as population density:
Provided that the principles of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than thirteen per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federal Account directly from any natural resources,” [Emphasis supplied].
In the first place, there is no need for a Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, when the Constitution has provided the basis for sharing the Country’s wealth, other than that it is another patronage outlet.
There is also no basis for this Allocation principle in that (i) Population and population density are assets. (ii) Land, Landmass, terrain are also assets. These assets should generate wealth for those who have them in abundance and should not be the basis for sharing the wealth of the country. It is an exploitative provision to benefit the majority ethnic nationalities at the expense of oil producing states.
There are better ways, one submits, of sharing the wealth of the nation for infrastructure, Education, Health, Transport etc that will benefit everybody, not one that has produced so many idle rich.
Representation at the National Assembly
Local Governments were created arbitrarily. In 1976, we had about 300 Local Governments throughout the country. During the Second Republic state governments created among themselves, a total of 603 Local Governments. The basis for this increase and the principle underlying their creation were also not stated as in truth, they were not based on principles. Shortly after the military returned in 1983, they were reduced to 304 under Muhamadu Buhari. Babagida after the palace coup that overthrew Buhari, reverted to 600 and Abacha finally took the number to 774.
The partiality for the creation of Local Governments became obvious when they were constituted into Federal Constituencies. States were also created and, today, each state has three senators. A careful analysis of Senators in the National Assembly show that the Caliphate Hausa/Fulani has more Senators followed by the Yoruba then the Ndigbo. In effect, these three ethnic groups have over 50% of members of the Senate, while the other 302 ethnic nationalities have less than 50%. Thus over 200 ethnic nationalities are not represented in the Senate. The same applies, to a lesser extent, to the House of Representatives. This fact would have been irrelevant if there were free and fair elections that would have made Senators and members of the House of Representative to be responsible to their Constituencies. Today, all elected representatives, throughout the country owe their success to the ruling parties controlled by the Caliphate.
Section 147(3) of the 1999 Constitution and the proviso to the section.
Section 147 (3) provides:
“Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14 (3) of this Constitution (Federal Character)
Provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid, the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State who shall be an indigene of such State.”
One wonders how long it will take for all of the 305 ethnic nationalities (indigenes) to be appointed Ministers. The constitutional provisions did not get into the Constitution by accident, they were included I submit, to achieve the purpose of centralization and, above all, the control of resources of the country by the ruling elite who are by design spread over many states of the Federation.
Sovereignty of the People
Perhaps the most important challenge confronting the people of Nigeria today is where the country’s sovereignty lies vis-à-vis the President and the people. Mr. President has asserted on several occasions, that the people of Nigeria have surrendered Sovereignty to him and only recently, we are told that the people of Nigeria cannot call for a Sovereign National Conference because sovereignty is presently with the elected representatives of the people. One finds it difficult to accept this contention even though proffered by Mr. President and others including no less a personality than Prince Bola Ajibola former Judge of the World Court at the Hague.
The Constitution under section 14(1) and (2) provides as follows
“(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that –
(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
(b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and
(c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provision of this Constitution”. [Emphasis supplied]
This section does not say that once the government derives its power and authority from the Constitution, then the sovereignty that belongs to the people is transferred. The correct interpretation is that sovereignty belongs to the people that have donated power to the government. A donee’s power cannot be greater than that of the donor.
This unenvious interpretation of Sovereignty by the President and his supporters who believe that they are the masters and the Nigerian people their servants, is as a result of the nature of the Nigerian society where elections are brazenly rigged leading to corruption in high places and where prices of essential commodities are increased without violent demonstration from the people.
It is only when the Nigerian people say No to bad government that the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary will know that Sovereignty belongs to and resides permanently with the people. For this purpose, the civil society needs to be organized and empowered. Thankfully, this has already begun with the demonstration by various political parties and NGO groups that took place on May 23, 2004 and the NLC strike of June 9 – 12, 2004. Sooner than later, the Government will know where sovereignty resides. This will happen when the people become vigilant - this being the price they pay for liberty. The liberty of Nigerians has been compromised because of the people’s lack of vigilance which has encouraged President Obasanjo to regards his fate to be more important than the future of the people of Nigeria.
Lack of vigilance
It is the lack of vigilance that enables the Executive to regard state funds as personal funds they are entitled to spend. It is this situation:
(a) that enabled our military dictators to set aside as much as 40% of our oil wealth as personal to them which they used to empower miscreants to upset the society and the wealth of the nation shared to relations, friends and cronies;
(b) that leads to the fact that Nigerian elections are not determined at the polling booths but by a privileged elite exercising veto power over the future of the country;
(c) that gets criminals elected into public offices and thieves awarded national honours;
(d) that made public servants to convert their official positions into private money making endeavours; and
(e) that renders us helpless as we watch our policemen on the highway extort N20 from motorists, and, in some cases, shoot and kill those who refuse to part with their money.
All these are possible because Nigerians have failed to appreciate that Democracy and Pan-Arabism are the two contending forces in Nigeria, in which the Pan-Arabists are in the drivers’ seat and any action by public servants are measured in terms of whether such actions are beneficial to Pan-Arabism or not. There is the need for Democracy to contend with Pan-Arabism and retrieve our liberty, security and sovereignty.
Subversion of all democratic structures by those in positions of authority
Since 1999, a number of events have tended to portray the National Assembly in very bad light. The National Assembly has repeatedly been in turmoil as a result of the disagreement with President Obasanjo, vide the President of the Senate and/or the Speaker of the House of Representatives. As a result, the House of Representatives has produced two Speakers and the Senate three Presidents, resulting severally from disagreement, corruption and down right mischief. During the tenure of late Dr. Williams Chuba Okadigbo, there was a big scandal over street light contract which led to the setting up of a Senate panel. The Report of the Committee led to the removal of Okadigbo. It is common knowledge that the Senators were bribed by the Executive to effect Okadigbo’s removal. Those indicted by the investigating panel were later pardoned by the Senate for matters bordering on crime. Since the current session took off in May 2003, there have been speculations of moves to have the Senate President and Speaker of the House removed for one reason or the other.
When the two Houses embarked on an impeachment move against President Obasanjo in 2002, we were told that the members of the National Assembly were carrying out their democratic duties. However, reports had it that the move was discarded when large sums of money were rushed in to buy the legislators off the scheme. Later in the year, Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe confessed that he received 300 million Naira to bribe the Senators for the abortive impeachment of the second President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim.
Immediately, after the elections of 2003, when members of the National Assembly had taken their oath of office, the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El Rufai alleged that some Senators notably Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu and Senator Jonathan Zwingina had demanded the sum of N52 million bribe to share among the Senators before he could be cleared as minister. Rather than refer the allegation of crime to the appropriate agency, the Senate became Judge in its own cause and found the two Senators not guilty. To complete the drama, the ruling political party said it was ‘a domestic affair of the party’.
The Nigerian state is suffering from a number of unconstitutional acts especially from the Executive that has performed poorly in the conduct of government business. The Legislature is looked upon to rise to the challenges. Unfortunately, when members of the Assembly appear to take the gauntlet, such as their initial attitude towards the Budget, the effort vanishes as soon as money is brought to play. This observation is further strengthened by the declaration of the Senate President, Adolphus Wabara that most of them (Senators) need to recoup since they sold their properties to contest elections into the National Assembly. One wonders whether money was not involved in the hurried passage (though unconstitutional and illegal) of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Emergency powers in Plateau State.
The Executive is the main problem in our nascent democracy. It will be recalled that during the military era, the Executive combined Executive with Legislative functions, which made the Executive to be all powerful, and, in some cases, power drunk – thus justifying the adage that power intoxicates, and absolute power intoxicates absolutely. Regrettably, despite the separation of powers in the Constitution, President Obasanjo a former military dictator, has not been able to separate Legislative power from Executive powers especially when the Constitution under section 130(5) makes the President, President, Head of State, Commander of the Armed Forces of the Federation and Chief Executive. It would appear that these near absolute powers are now being stretched outside their Constitutional limits to include the removal of a state Governor, sacking the state Assembly and damning the consequence. It is very clear, in the circumstance, that the power enumerated above, are too much for an average contemporary black African to handle as President. Most African leaders who are Presidents believe that the only person who can solve any problem whatsoever, be it the most common place is the President himself. Ministers, Special Advisers etc are only for show. The birth of another political czar must be prevented at all costs. President Obasanjo believes “that the country would benefit greatly if PDP was allowed to rule for such a period of time (20 years), pointing out that this would guarantee political stability and continuity in Government. His words “I will work for it, I believe in it, I will die for PDP because I believe the party will guarantee unity, peace, justice and progress of Nigeria. While the President of the Senate Adolplius Wabara wants PDP in power for the next 20 years.12a Thus entrenching leadership, that rose to power through election rigging.
This ambition, notwithstanding the poor leadership of the Executive at all levels and of the state of insecurity in the nation caused the political parties to mobilise and procure illegal arms for private armies of thugs in their efforts to win power at all costs, thus engendering the culture of the killing within the party hierarchy, where a state governor accused another highly placed party functionary of planning to assassinate him. Imposition of party functionaries, Ethno religious conflicts and official encouragement of criminality are no hallmarks for unity, peace, justice and progress in a nation, after over three decades of military rule.
It is regrettable to note that the only free and fair election conducted in Nigeria was the June 12, 1993 election that was annulled by retrogressive forces. All elections conducted by this administration have been associated with massive rigging to keep this government in power. The April 2003 is the worst in the Nation’s history, surpassed only in its criminality by the Local Government elections conducted by the same administration on March 27, 2004. Proceedings at the various election Tribunals under this administration, I submit, are designed to legitimize political offices which had been fraudulently secured through rigging. This also explains the confidence of the ruling party when it scornfully refers all aggrieved parties rigged out in the elections to go to court and done in such a manner to create the impression that these courts are under the control of the Executive.
The responsibility for executing the law is that of the Executive but because of the antecedents of those wielding political power, rather than execute the law, the Executive seem to protect law offenders while perceived political opponents are hounded. Over 50 high profile murders in the country since 1999 are yet to be resolved. They include the assassinations of Chief James Bola Ige Attorney General of the Federation on December 23, 2001, Barrister and Mrs. Igwe, the Anambra State Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association on September 1, 2002, Chief Harry Marshall a foremost leader of the South-South ANPP in 2002, Chief Aminasori Dikibo, the National Vice Chairman South-South of the PDP in February 2004, and the armed attack on the official convoy of the Benue State Governor, George Akume on March 3, 2004 in which a foremost politician and member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Engineer Andrew Agom and the governors’ police aide were killed. Nigerians are wondering whether these are not state sponsored murders.
In addition to these killings, ordinary Nigerians and foreigners are murdered daily across the country. At police roadblocks Nigerians are killed over refusal to pay ransom fees or N20, bribe. Sometimes one wonders whether unseen enemies are at war with Nigeria, and are using criminal activities including 419, Drug trafficking, Human trafficking, International fraud and other related criminal activities as weapons against her in the struggle between Democracy and Pan-Arabism.
Ethno Religious Conflict.
Closely related to insecurity is the frequent ethnic, religious and other communal conflicts that often lead to destruction of lives and property. For these conflicts, large amounts of arms are usually procured by the feuding sides leading to the proliferation of such weapons in wrong hands. The government’s approach to this problem has been heavy handed as was done in Odi in 1999 and similar massacre by the Armed Forces in Zaki-Biam in Benue State in the same year when the two towns were razed to the ground and hundreds of Nigerians (male, female, adults and infants), were killed. This barbaric action evoked local and international condemnation. It is very well known that the various ethno-religious crises, whether Ijaw and Itsekiri, the Fulani and Tiv, the Tiv and Jukun, the Hausa/Fulani and other tribes of Northern Nigeria, or Christians and Muslims in Kaduna or Plateau etc are traceable to fear, resentment and perceived domination (indigenes and settlers) or marginalisation. Various Commissions of Enquiry had been set up whose reports were never published. Rather, the Obasanjo administration believes in force, intimidation and total dehumanization of the people to boost his ego as “papa” wielding the big stick.
Strikes and Demonstration
It is part of democratic practices for people to go on strike and demonstrate against some government policies to express their support or disapproval. This is part of freedom of association entrenched in our Constitution. Unfortunately, while the government promotes and sponsor demonstration in favour of its policies, it often refuses permit for peaceful demonstration against bad policies, and when eminent Nigerian exercise their rights to demonstrate peacefully, tear gas is thrown at them before further arrests are made by the Police. The government either does not understand what democracy is all about or pretends to protect democracy, while in fact it is preventing democratic practice by denying the people one of their fundamental rights.
One may ask again, is there a war against Nigeria that has changed her dramatically within 30 years? The writer is convinced that there was a silent policy if not war, for a change of ideology from Democracy to Pan-Arabism. Executing laws have been personalized, dynasties are springing up, new power structure are empowered and government policies are in some cases against Democracy notwithstanding sloganizing Democracy. An example is the statement that the vice President Atiku Abubakar made that the NLC was anti-democracy for calling workers on general strike. This gives the impression that there is a deliberate policy of government to work against the growth of democracy and democratic culture in the country.
In the case of the Judiciary, this arm of Government has made spirited efforts to resist Executive interference. In some cases, attempts have been made to blackmail the Judiciary by the Executive such as the alleged investigation by the Interpol concerning an alleged corruption. This fact notwithstanding, several of its members especially in the High Courts and various Tribunals have succumbed to pressure from the over bearing Executive. One is convinced that the Judiciary will be strengthened when civil society is alert to its responsibility and the bad eggs in the Judiciary are removed as has happened to two judges recently. It must be said however that it is only in the judicial arm of the Government that attempts are being made to punish corruption. The same cannot be said for the other two arms. The introduction of Sharia Courts of Appeal under the Constitution has introduced two judicial systems that, to a large extent, are incompatible thus promoting both Democratic norms and Pan Arabism. Meagre funds are now being shared between the two system and in the process, democratic institutions like the Nigerian Law school are being starved of funds. One suspects that this is intended to reduce the influence of Common law in our legal system, while at the same time promoting Sharia which is Pan-Arabism. The introduction of a National Judicial Council with powers to recommend for appointment and removal of Judicial Officers, of the higher bench throughout the country in a Federation is collectivism, and very much Pan-Arabism.
State of Emergency in Plateau State
As had been indicated earlier our President has combined Legislative and Executive powers as a military Head of State, and this time as civilian President to declare a state of Emergency in Plateau State, suspending the Governor and the state House of Assembly and appointing an ex-Army Chief of Staff as Administrator. The removal of a Governor is a Legislative duty not an Executive one. However, the circumstances for the declaration of a State of Emergency show clearly that it was as a result of ethnic and religious conflicts in Plateau State. It would appear that Dariye was installed as Governor by the Hausa.Fulani ruling elite in Nigeria. The appointment of a Hausa/Fulani as the Chairman of Jos local Government (the most lucrative in relation to income) in the state a few years ago triggered a riot and it was alleged that Dariye was excommunicated by his church. However, after his re-election in 2003, he decided to be on the side of his people. This offended the ruling elite, especially the statement credited to Dariye which states in part:
“From the on-set, let me say it again, as I have before that Jos, capital of Plateau State is owned by the natives. Simple. Every Hausa man in Jos is a settler whether he likes it or not. In the past, we might not have told them the home truth, but now we have. Some of these people come from Kazaure, some from Hadejia, some from Kano. They are here with us, we are in one state but that does not change landlord/settler equation, no matter how much we cherish peace”.
The Hausa/Fulani on their own, alleged that they founded Jos. The Yelwa Shendam religious riots of 2004 was an extension of this bedlam, as a result of which President Obasanjo visited Jos and was asked by the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria [CAN]Plateau Branch Rev. Yakubu Pam why Mr. President did not visit the state when about 70 Christians who took shelter in a church were murdered there. The President took exception to this question and called Rev. Pam, the Chairman of CAN a “complete idiot” and went on to say ‘CAN my foot’ etc, for which he is yet to apologize. When he returned to Abuja, he declared a State of Emergency.
It is clear to many Nigerians that Mr. President has no powers to declare a state of emergency in the circumstance that existed in Plateau state, and further acted unconstitutionally when he removed the Governor not only because it is the function of the Legislative, but also because the legislature has no power to do so by virtue of section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution. Rather than rescind his unconstitutional decision, and say I am sorry, like a true African, the President as, “father of the nation” who gave us the 1979 Constitution and by extension, the 1999 Constitution is entitled to ‘trample on the same Constitution’. All instruments of force-coercion and protection are centralized, the Armed forces, the Nigeria Police Force, the Customs, Immigration, Traffic wardens and even Civil Defence Corps, are all in the hands of the Federal Government.
Yet Governors are styled Chief Security officers of their states with no security outfit whatsoever, but when there is problem like the one in Plateau State, the Governor is made a scapegoat. This is collectivism of the worst type in a Federal Republic.
This episode illustrates vividly, the contending forces of Democracy and Pan-Arabism in Nigeria. Where democratically “elected” Governor is suspended and replaced by an Administrator – power at the point of a gun, as in other Pan-Arabic governments of the Middle East and North Africa.
The achievements of Edo State Government as announced by the state Radio and Television include
(a) Renovation and Renaming of Ogbe stadium to Ogbemudia stadium.
(b) Building an Administrative block and renaming Edo State University, Ekpoma as Ambrose Alli University.
(c) Promoting sports, including coming first at 2002 Sports Festival and second at Abuja 2004 Sports Festival where Edo State was represented by 800 athletes the highest compared to Ekiti state the lowest with 59.
(d) Returning three Mission schools to their owners.
(e) Establishing factories that are yet to go into production after five years in office but have now been advertised for sale/privatization;
(i) Fruit Juice Processing Factory, Ehor
(ii) Cassava Processing Factory, Uromi
(iii) Solid Minerals Processing Factory, Ikpeshi
(iv) Fertilizer Bulk Blending Plant, Auchi
(v) Bendel Insurance Company, Benin City.
(f) State library now under construction, and;
(g) Renovation of some educational institutions among others.
No doubt, these are some achievements which however must be weighed against the total amount allocated to the State from the Federation Account and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
Between May 29, 1999 to November, 2003, Federal Allocation to states (including Edo) were as follows:
Delta State - 169 billion naira
Akwa Ibom - 114.2 billion naira
Bayelsa - 92.7 billion naira
Imo - 78.7 billion naira
Edo - 73.9 billion naira
Lagos - 71.9 billion naira
Katsina - 69.3 billion naira
During the period under review, Edo State drew =N=73.9 billion from the Federation Account. This does not include other sundry accruals from other sources such as internally generated revenue e.g. taxes. Benin City, the state capital, is rustic and dirty and dotted by gully-infested roads. Ongoing projects progress at snail speed, while most infrastructures are either dilapidated or totally dysfunctional. Some people alleged that Lucky Igbinedion is another flying governor, who often goes abroad to tend his business empire. On the allegation that he siphons the state’s resources abroad, when asked in a March 29 TELL interview he said: “Even before I became governor, was I not going abroad? And don’t forget that I am from a wealthy family. So, I don’t need to steal money to stash in overseas banks.” He also denied hiding under official duties to transact personal business. “… That is not true,” he said. “As a governor, you are not supposed to be engaged in private business. I am very conscious of that and I tell you in all honesty I am not engaged in private business.”
Allegation of theft against some State Governors
The Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Esther Nenadi Usman made allegations against some state Governors and this was confirmed by President Olusegun Obasanjo during the May, 2004 Media Chat and the Chairman of PDP, Audu Ogbe.
Dr. Nenadi Usman had alleged that:
“There is need for greater scrutiny of the activities of governors, particularly those who receive huge allocation from oil derivation, every month. Nigerians should question their governors on how they spend the funds they receive every month.”
“The states have been a source of worry to us lately not just at the ministerial level but also at the Federal Government level as a whole. If you look at the way money is shared by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meeting, the Federal Government gets about 48 per cent.”
“If you compare that with 52 per cent, which the states and local government get, then you will agree with me that whatever policies and measures we put in place at the Federal Government level to make our way straight, pursue transparency and accountability, if the states and local governments do not care for such measures, then we have failed.”
“Make telephone calls to any of the states and ask after the governor and you will be told that he has gone abroad. Not only the governor, even the State Commissioner of Finance.”
“Nigerians must begin to hold their leaders accountable. At the federal level, we have been doing a lot to ensure openness. The Federal Ministry of Finance now publishes what each state receives on a monthly basis and even down to the local government level,” the minister stated.
She further revealed that the distortion in the foreign exchange market immediately after allocation of revenue to states was not un-connected with the trips embarked upon by the governors outside the country.
“We have noticed that exchange rates jump up three or four days after FAAC meeting. If you look at the states, the states that get so much, you can hardly see anything to show for it,” she added.
On the anti-corruption posture of the Federal Government, Usman said that this could only be achieved if Nigerians rose to the challenge of ensuring that both the state and local governments were transparent in their expenditure and that they exhibit fiscal discipline.”
She urged the DMO to also scrutinize and verify the requests of some state governors to raise money from the capital market for development projects in their states.14
The PUNCH edition of Wednesday, June 9, 2004, had this screaming headline on its front page:
Resist illegal deductions, Ogbeh tells PDP LG bosses. Ogbeh as Chairman PDP then stated:
“we are not unaware of certain constraints in your way. The greatest of these is the question of your allocations from the Federation Account and a certain process of deductions, which makes it near impossible for most of you to make any meaning of what is left. In the last one month, we have received chairmen here at our party headquarters who came to us, tears in their eyes, complaining about deductions and attendant difficulties. In one case, the chairman, according to the publication by the Accountant-General of the Federation was allocated N41 million. What reached him was N10 million. In another case, a chairman was allocated N57m. He received N11m. In a third case, out of N39m published, the chairman actually received N6m. There has even been a case of a cheque of N3m out of N27m”.
This allegation was confirmed by Mr. President himself.
“Obasanjo warns governors, others, of arrest over misuse of council funds”:
“It was very illegal and a betrayal of the people’s mandate for persons elected as governors or local council chairmen to divert public funds to private pockets…He was optimistic that with strong discipline within the party, it would rule the country for 20 consecutive years in the first instance”…The President believe that the country would benefit greatly if PDP was allowed to rule for such a period of time, pointing out that this would guarantee political stability and continuity in government. His words: “I will work for it , I believe in it, I will die for PDP because I believe the party will guarantee unity, peace, justice and progress of Nigeria”.
An attempt was made by some Governors to stop the publication of the details of Federal Allocation to the 774 Local Government Councils. However, it has become public knowledge how the governors milk their Local Government Councils.
The Sun, June 5, 2004 at page 2 states as follows:
“What many of the governors did then”, the source continued, “was to ask the respective caretaker chairmen – who were their stooges, anyway – how much they needed to pay salaries, give them the exact amount and then a little extra to run their offices in the council headquarters and spread a little patronage here and there. The governors then pocketed the remaining, with strict instruction that the caretaker chairmen must never embark on any capital projects…Several insinuations from the Presidency, and even some members of the national assembly have held the governors responsible for the low level of development in the councils, insisting that contrary to the impression being created by the governors that they were not getting enough allocations to service the local governments, the federal government had never defaulted in its allocations to the councils…The contention of the Presidency and the Finance ministry is that a fraction (less than a third in some instances) got to the local governments, with the governors keeping the rest”.
I have reproduced profusely statements by a Minister, the leader of the ruling party and Mr. President to show that there appears to be a conspiracy against the people of Nigeria because those charged with the responsibility to enforce the law, appear helpless. Thus crime and criminal activities are condoned as domestic matters for the party and individuals.
When crime pays, as it does in Nigeria, more people are enlisted. It is the possibility of being apprehended that deter criminals and when criminal syndicates know that they have a good chance of evading arrest, recruitment becomes easy as those, especially the unemployed, make themselves available thus institutionalizing crime in Nigeria.
We need to scrutinize the activities of our governors. However, the most shameful export from Edo State in general and Benin City in particular, is what The Economist has described as Nigeria’s other export – “people trafficking”.
“A trade that cannot be curbed because so few Nigerians think it is wrong…The girls are recruited by local “sponsors”, who pay up front for transport. The girls therefore start out thousands of dollars in debt. Before they leave Nigeria, they are taken to a witchdoctor and sworn to repay their debt and keep quiet. The shaman typically keeps a lock of their hair or some toenail clippings, and warns them that they will die if they break their oath. Some are tricked; they believe they will work as hairdressers, or further their studies. Others know they will have to sell themselves, but are seduced by the prospect of more money than they could ever earn swabbing floors or tending yams back home. They leave Nigeria along well established trading routes, often by road across the Sahara. Some end up in other West African countries. Others make it to Europe or Saudi Arabia. A striking aspect of this dirty business is that it provokes so little moral outrage in Nigeria. On the contrary. Rita, an articulate young woman, was 16 when her mother sent her away to “work in Canada”. She found herself in Gabon (one of Africa’s richest states) instead, where her sponsor, who said she owed her $45,000, ordered her to prostitute herself. She escaped and fled home. Her mother was furious. “She said I didn’t want to make money for her. She said other girls go for three months and buy cars for their parents.” It is a common refrain. Girls who repay their sponsors often do return home with cash to spare, which wins them the admiration of the community. “Everyone respects them,” says one 15-year-old girl in Benin City. “They have the best houses and the best cars; they are on top.” Nigeria’s international trade in people can be seen as an extension of domestic trafficking, which is rife. Poor families have traditionally sent boys and girls they have trouble feeding to work in wealthier homes. Sometimes, this is benign: a form of fostering that gives the child a better start in life. But sometimes it is thinly-veiled slavery. “They treated me like an animal,” says Iyagu, who became a domestic servant when he was eight. “If I didn’t get enough fodder for the goats, they beat me.” Young girl-servants are particularly vulnerable to being raped by their employers”.
This is what poverty has done to our pride as a people. Did this come to us by accident or design? I submit that it is by design in that the poor, the hungry are more vulnerable and pliable, necessary for a change of culture. I must however add that the State Government and a number of NGOs are trying to stop this trade.
In the search for Democracy and Democratic culture for Nigeria, it is not being suggested that Democracy or Democratic culture is perfect, (not with gay wedding etc) but it must be pointed out that having accepted democracy, we must develop all its structures, attitudes and principles. This is not done by talking democracy and practising the direct opposite. The dividend of democracy is freedom, vigilance and liberty, not infrastructure, deceit or dictatorship.
Opposition to National Conference
We have identified how politics influence culture, and, in the Nigerian situation, military politics was steered mainly by muslim Heads of State who encouraged the cultures of Pan-Arabism. What we require now is a new culture that will replace Pan-Arabism. Therefore the present political structure has to be dismantled or isolated and another put in its place. This leads one to the issue of the National Conference. Those who want the status quo to remain are trying to sell their arguments to the Nigerian public. Mr. President is perhaps the only Nigerian who does not appreciate the need for change. During a recent interview with media man reported as
“Obasanjo restates stance against National Confab:
The President said: “If you can convince me that the Sovereign National Conference has something that it can achieve, which the National Assembly, which members are elected in their own rights cannot achieve, which the governors cannot also achieve, who are elected in their own right, which the traditional rulers cannot achieve, which the leaders of thought we meet in every walk of life cannot achieve, who we trust in their own rights, different associations such as the National Council of Women Societies, even you, the youths; I had a conference with you; if all these cannot achieve what we want, then I wonder what the Sovereign National Conference will achieve.”
The President continued: “We had asked in one of the national chats for what the people wanted to achieve from the national conference. Somebody from the South-East stood up and said that he wanted the next President to be an Igbo.”
Obasanjo said that he had asked: “How will you do that? How will you bring that about? Will you put it in the Constitution?”
He explained that the young man said no, but that he wanted a meeting to agree on that.
The President then emphasized that if such an agreement was not in the Constitution, it would be null and void. He said that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), by convention, stands for power shift and power rotation.
“What that means is that after I would have left office, no Yoruba with his right senses will think that the next President will be a Yoruba man. We didn’t have that before, now I believe that we need to have that.”
This, with the greatest respect to Mr. President, is over simplication and trivialization of a very serious issue.
Ethnic Nationalities Conference
There are over 300 ethnic Nationalities (305 to be precise). Not all these nationalities are represented in the National Assembly and it would appear that the 1979 Constitution was modeled to promote Pan-Arabism from the analysis above. We all know that all the Constitutions 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 were tilted to favour the Hausa/Fulani, and, to a lesser extent the other two large ethnic groups - Yoruba and Ndigbo that constitute the tripod. It is as a result of the partial approach that the question of citizenship was not given the prominence it deserved and provisions were made for Religion (Sharia), and indigenes, thus making non indigenes or settlers second class citizens in his country. The rationale for a Presidential system in the 1979 Constitution was explained by Professor Omo-Omoruyi when he wrote,
“It should be noted that Nigeria changed from a Parliamentary system to a Presidential system of government in 1979. What Nigerians did not know was that the Presidential system was a necessary concomitant to the “unity in the executive” implicit in the military government that Nigerians knew about between 1966 and 1979. There is something unique in this innovation. It was common knowledge within the leadership of the Northern Officer Corps in 1976 that the military encouraged this innovation when it was thought that General Murtala Muhammed, a Northern officer from Kano unlike any Northerner before him, civilian or military, would continue to command the kind of nation-wide support he received after the overthrow of the Government of General Yakubu Gowon in 1975. Unfortunately, by the time General Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, the message had already gone out to the drafters of Constitution that what the military wanted was a Presidential system of government”.
General Yakubu Gowon is a Christian while late General Murtala Muhammed was a muslim.
Perhaps the most important obstacle in the way of a new Constitution through the Present National Assembly is the fact that it is a National Assembly or Parliament not a Constituent Assembly. Members of the National Assembly cannot, in all honesty, do anything to overthrow the Constitution they have sworn to preserve, protect and apply. In the light of the foregoing, the Ethnic Nationalities Forum has resolved to mobilize all Nigerians to exercise their sovereignty, take their future in their own hands and convene, for the first time, a National Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria.
Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria
It is necessary, in the circumstances, to list the Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria in their alphabetical order. They are:
“Abanyom; Adim; Adun; Affade; Agbo; Akaju-Ndem (Akajuk); Akweya-Yachi; Anang; Andoni; Angas; Anyima; Attakar (Ataka); Auyoka (Auyokawa); Awori; Ayu; Babur; Bachama; Bacheve; Bade; Bahumono; Bakulung; Bali; Bambara (Bambarawa); Bambuka; Banda; Bankal (Bankalawa); Banso (Panso); Bara (Barawa Badara); Barke; Barubas (Barba); Bassa; Bassa; Batta; Baushi; Baya; Bekwarra; Bele (Buli, Belewa); Betso Ibete); Bette; Bilei; Bille; Bina; Bini; Bobua; Boki (Nki); Boko (Bussawa) (Borgawa); Bole (Bolewa); Bollere; Boma (Burmano Bomawa); Bomboro; Buduma; Buli; Bunu; Bura; Burak; Buru; Buta (Butawa); Bwatiye; Bwazza; Cham (Chamawa Fitilai); Chamba; Chamo; Chibok (Chibbak); Chinine; Chukkol; Daba; Dadiya; Daka; Dakarkari; Dangsa; Daza (Dere, Derewa); Deno (Denawa); Dghwede; Diba; Duguri; Duma (Dumawa); Ebirra (Igbirra); Ebu;; Efik; Egede (Igedde); Egun (Gu); Ejagham; Ekajuk; Eket; Ekoi; Esan; Etolu (Etilo); Etsako; Etung; Etuno; Filli; Fulani (Fulbe); Ga’anda; Gade; Galambi; Gamergu-Mulgwa; Gavoko; Gbedde; Geji; Gengle; Gera (Gerawa Gere); Geruma (Gerumawa); Gira; Giziga; Gombi; Gomun (Gumun); Gongla; Gude; Gudu; Gure; Gurmana; Gurumtum; Gwa (Gurawa); Gwamba; Gwari (Gbari); Gwom; Gwoza (Waha); Gyem; Hausa; Higgi; Higi (Higgi); Holma; Hona; Ibibio; Ichen; Idoma; Igala; Igbo; Ijumu; Ikom; Isoko; Itsekiri; Iyala (Iyalla); Izon; Jaar (Jarawa, Jarawa-Dutse); Jaba; Jahuna (Jhunawa); Jaku; Jara; Jere (Jare, Jera); Jero; Jibu; Jimbin (Jimbinawa); Jirai; Jonjo (Jenjo); Jukun; Kaba (Kabawa); Kadara; Kafanchan; Kagoro; Kaje (Kache); Kajuru (Kajurawa); Kaka; Kamaku (Kamukawa); Kambari; Kambu; Kamo; Kanakuru; Kanakuru (Dera); Kanembu; Kanikon; Kanuri; Karekare (Karaikarai); Karimjo; Kariya; Katab (Kataf); Kenton; Kiballo (Kiwollo); Kilba; Kirfi (Kirfawa); Koma; Kona; Koro (Kwaro); Kubi (Kubawa); Kudachano (Kudawa); Kugama; Kunini; Kurama; Kurdul; Kushi; Kuteb; Kutin; Kwami (Kwom); Kwanchi; Kwanka (Kwankwa); Laaru (Larawa); Lakka; Lala; Lama; Lamja; Lau; Libbo; Limoro (Limaro); Longuda (Lunguda); Longunda; Lopa (Lupa; Lopawa); Mada; Mambilla; Manchok; Mandara (Wandala); Manga (Mangawa); Margi; Margi (Marghi); Matakam; Mbembe; Mbol; Mbube; Mbula; Mbum; Miya (Miyawa); Mobber; Moruwa (Moro’a; Morwa); Muchalla; Mumuye; Mundang; Munga; Ndoro; Ngamo; Ngizim; Ngweshe (Ndhang Ngoshe-Ndhang); Ngweshe (Ngeshe-Ndhang); Ningi (Ningawa); Ninzam (Ninzo); Njayi; Nkim; Nunku; Nupe; Ododop; Ogori; Okobo (Okkobor); Okpamheri; Olulumo; Oron; Owan; Owe; Oworo; Pa’a(Pa’awa; Afawa); Panyam; Pire; Pero; Pkanzom; Polchi Habe; Poli; Pongo (Pongu); Potopo; Qua; Rebina (Ribinawa); Reshe; Rishuwa; Rubu; Rumaya; Sakbe; Sanga; Sate; Saya (Sayawa; Za’ar); egidi (Sigidawa); Shira (Shirawa); Shomo; Shuwa; Siri (Sirawa); Srubu (Surubu); Sukur; Tangale; Tarok; Teme; Tera (Terawa); Teshena (Teshenawa); Tigon; Tikar; Tiv; Tula; Tur; Ufia; Ukelle; Ukwani; Uncinda; Uneme; Ura (Ula; Urhobo; Utonkong; Uyanga; Vemgo; Verre; Vomni; Wagga; Waka; Warja (Warjawa); Warji (Warjawa); Wula; Wula-Matakam; Wurbo; Wurkun; Yache; Yagba; Yakurr (Yako); Yalla; Yandang; Yoruba; Yotti; Yumu Yungur; Zabarma; Zaranda; Zayam (Zeem); Zul (Zulawa).
We must see Nigeria in the light of these 305 ethnic nationalities, not through a tripod with appendages. These ethnic nationalities at this conference will gather to fashion a Constitution; to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties etc which allows a people to choose their own way to develop, their own cultures and to reconcile differences through peaceful means, thus genuine self determination and protection for diversities. All decisions shall be by consensus and a referendum shall be constituted to approve the Constitution. The important unanswered question is how these ethnic groups are to be represented at the National Conference – This, I submit, should be done by proportional representation of not more than say 20, 50 or 100, for the very large Ethnic Nationalities but not less than two for the very small Ethnic Nationalities. The method of selection or election should be left to each ethnic group, but they must be told that their Intellectual, Finance and political resources must be made to bear on the Conference, in which case, the Ethnic nationalities will bear the burden of their representation.
The way forward
This presentation, no doubt, has dwelt with various subjects to be discussed by the array of intellectuals as contained in your programme. However, I want to comment very briefly about Land. The Land Use Act is a fraud, in that it took Land from our traditional institutions and handed same to bureaucrats who have now turned themselves into new rulers who distribute choice land to themselves, their party men and women or families and ethnic members. This created new land owners who lord it over traditional institutions in other words new power blocks, faithful to Pan-Arabism, to replace older affiliations. Land should revert to local communities, and method of land distribution legislated upon in accordance with local traditions and gazetted as legal instruments to ensure certainty and supervision. Land system in Nigeria today is in total chaos. Even in Abuja where government was said to have acquired the land from local communities, Hausa/Fulani traditional rulers have been installed, who now distribute land in conjunction with Area councils, thus adding to the confusion.
Democracy not Pan-Arabism
For Nigeria to be one nation, one people, we have to jettison Pan-Arabism as a culture for Nigeria. It has failed the Arabs themselves.
“Chronic unrest in Algeria’s Kabylie region, recent rioting by Syria’s 1m-plus Kurds, and the simmering loathing of many Lebanese for both their own entrenched political dynasties and for the mix of confessional partisanship and Syrian malingering that props them in place. And then there is Iraq, brutalized by Baathist rule and now in danger of being torn apart by rivalries of every stripe.
In any event, nearly all Arab countries are failing to meet the expectations of their now highly urbanized, better educated and politically aware people. A study by the Arab League says that in ten years the region could have 50m jobless youths, up from 15m today. Economic growth and productivity are low, scientific innovation almost zero. Centralised bureaucracies have had roads and schools built but have failed to spread wealth, channel investment efficiently or foster critical thought. They are good at policing but bad at providing even-handed justice. The outside world has come to see these failures as dangerous to its own well-being. The fact, for example, that 51% of Arab youths say they want to emigrate, according to the UN’s 2002 Arab Human Development Report, alarms Europeans. Islamist terrorism to many minds is a product of Arabs’ frustration with their sense of disempowerment. Arabs themselves now admit that something has gone very wrong and needs fixing. Even their governments admit it”.
Why should Nigeria, in the circumstances choose entrenched political dynasties, brutalized minorities, centralized bureaucracies, low economic growth and productivity, when there are other options?
Arab treatment of Blacks in Sudan further illustrates the failure of Pan-Arabism.
Sudan, Africa’s largest country was the scene of two separate but related civil wars. One between North and South, pits the Arab Islamist government against rebels who are mostly black Africans and non-Muslims. This war has been raging intermittently for 21 years and, only recently, a settlement was reached partly because both sides are exhausted, and wish to share Sudan’s new-found oil wealth.
The other war, between the government and two rebel groups in Darfur, pits Muslim against Muslim. The divide in Darfur is ethnic between Arabs and Black Africans”. The Darfur war has been described as a great humanitarian catastrophe in the making and ethnic cleansing.
Pan-Arabism has very little to offer to Nigeria, unfortunately, Pan-Arabism has allies in State Governors, all the s(elected) politicians, some Traditional rulers, some Church denominations, and some individual Clergy of all Christian denominations out of ignorance in some cases, but in others, mainly out of greed.
On a personal note
I have exhibited my preference, if you like bias, for Democracy and I offer no apologies about this choice. My only hope is that Democracy in Africa will tilt more towards Humanism which is African. Fortunately, I see people in government, past and present, and other interests represented on your programme. I have no doubt that at the end of this Conference, the superiority of Democracy over Pan-Arabism would have become obvious.
I have myself promoted Pan-Arabism as a nominated member of the Constitution Review Committee and Constituent Assembly in 1988 – 1989, although the 1989 Constitution was never in force because the Babangida Administration was removed. However, with age and experience, it became clear to me that I was helping an anti-democratic cause in my country. When I began this crusade some nine years ago and proffered some of these arguments, some non Pan-Arabist Nigerians often asked me if I was not afraid since these people are very dangerous, and my answer has been that it is better to die for something (in this case, freedom and liberty) rather than for nothing. When I argue with Pan-Arabist Hausa/Fulani, they resort to anger and name calling, an attitude one normally finds when the average Nigerian has no answer to an argument. There is need for each and everyone of us to look back and figure out how we, and/or the institutions we represent, worked for or aided Pan-Arabism over the past decades of military rule, and resolve to help repair the damage by joining hands with democratic forces to isolate Pan-Arabism and promote Democracy by building democratic structures starting with a new Constitution.
I invite you all to join in the struggle.
In October 2003, it was widely reported on international Radio and Television stations and the Internet that Nigerians are the happiest people in the World. Some Nigerians disputed this assertion, but most agree with the survey conducted by the BBC that Nigeria is the most religious country in the World because over 85% of Nigerians believe in God. If Nigerians can be suffering and happy, then there must be something special about Nigerians. The sky will be the limit when the burden of poverty and hunger is removed from our people. I totally agree with Harrison’s assertions, that Life is better than Death; Health is better than Sickness; Liberty is better than Slavery; Prosperity is better than Poverty; Education is better than Ignorance; and Justice is better than Injustice. I implore you, and indeed all Nigerians to work assiduously towards the realization of these objectives, which I sum up as Humanism. I hold the view that we Africans are more likely to practice Humanism than any other Race in this planet. Humanism can only come about through resolute and concerted efforts by all at building a true democracy for Nigeria.
God bless Nigeria.
 Lawrence C. Harrison: Culture Matters P.67.
 Ditto P.69
 Omo Omoruyi: Beyond the Tripod in Nigerian Politics. Lessons from the Pat Experiment with NPP (1977-79)
 Ben Nwabueze Unity and Diversity as necessity for Nation building. Paper presented at National Peace Seminar, Abuja, March 3, 2004. Ref. Hillary Clinton, Living History P.359.
 The Economist August 4, The survey of Islam and the west – the next war they say
 The Punch – Roots of conflict, June 3, 2004 culled from Africa Recovery Magazine.
 htm; ii edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/regan/stories/speech archieve/empire.html – 6/8/2004
 www. OIC. Com file A/oic charter.htm 08/03/2004
 BBC Radio: March 4, 2004 (Internet)
 Same as 7 May 15 – 21, 2004 page 4
 Senators are investors, Wabara Saturday Punch June 5, 2004 Front page
 The Guardian Wednesday June 9, 2004 page 4.
12(a) The Punch Saturday June 5, 2004 page 10.
 Weekly Trust
 The Punch Monday, May 10, 2004 Front page
 The Guardian, June 9, 2004. Page 4.
 The Economist April 22, 2004
 The Guardian Tuesday May 11, 2004 Front page
 Omo-Omoruyi The Tale of June 12, The Betrayal of the Democratic Rights of Nigeria 1993. Page 4
 Onigu Otite Ethnic Pluralism and Ethnicity in Nigeria
 Economist.com, Monday April 5, 2004 page 4
 Lawrence E. Harrison, Culture Matters page xxvi
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