Nigeria's False Federalism

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Nigeria's False Federalism

 

By

 

Anthony Enahoro

 

 

culled from VANGUARD of October 10, 2005

 

 

Almost nine years ago, at the commemoration of the assassination of my valued friend and acknowledged brother, Alfred Rewane, I issued a statement hued "Victim of Selective Extermination." I would like to begin my address today by reading that  statement.

I quote:
i) "A year ago this month, a prominent leader of the pro-democracy community in Nigeria and an outstanding son of Itsekiriland, Alfred  Ogbeyiwa Rewane, was laid to rest in his home town of Warri. He had been assassinated in his residence in Lagos by operatives of the Military Regime's blood-thirsty State Security Service.
ii) "It will be recalled that a few days after this political killing, given the information available to his family and friends, information including the gruesome autopsy report, we issued a public statement demanding that the Central Intelligence Agency of America (CIA), the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United Kingdom's famous Scotland Yard, as well as Interpol, be brought for the investigation of the murder, if the Military Regime had nothing to hide.

iii) "The Regime's spokesmen and apologists replied that the Police were competent to solve the crime, and the Police declared themselves  determined  to unmask the killers. But our reaction was that the Police  were confronted not merely by a challenge to their competence regarding which there was considerable doubt, but even more by a test of their will and by a burden of dispassionate and fearless investigation which the involvement of State Security agents in the  crime would render very difficult, if not impossible, for them to discharge. Could the Nigeria CID or FIB be trusted to effectively investigate a killing perpetrated by State Security assassins any more or any better than an armed robber would be expected to investigate an armed robbery by his own gang?

iv) "To prove us wrong, the Police rounded up Alfred Rewane's domestic staff and announced cynically that the killers had been apprehended and would shortly be charged to court. But reports reaching us later were that some members of Rewane's family were made aware that the arrests were partly a public relations exercise and  partly a  ploy to lure the actual assassins into the open. A whole year later, this is how matters still stand, as we had feared from the very beginning would be the case.

v) "It is clear now that the tactics of the State Security Service are based on three calculations: first, that the family and friends of Alfred Rewane would be frightened into silence and inaction; second, that  the people and their leaders, with the fatalism ingrained in them by armed and brutal oppression through the years, would as usual only shake their heads in hopeless grief and commit the matter to the will of an avenging God; third, that the Military Regime would continue to cover the killers, and when the Regime goes eventually, as it assuredly will, that the issue would be too long dead to be resurrected and the Regime's surrogate successors would be too committed to their own survival to concern themselves with crimes and injustices long past. Time alone will tell how valid these calculations and expectations may be.
vi) "By the time Alfred Rewane was killed, he had no more personal ambitions in the political scheme of things, but he still fervently shared our common dream of a new order in Nigeria, based on a respectable existence for its component nationalities, including his own beloved Itsekiriland, and a democratic and more beautiful life for  the people. That is why he became one of the pillars of the pro-democracy struggle, which is why he was assassinated, and that is what is at issue fundamentally between the Military Regime and the pro-democracy community.

vii) "We believe that the nationalities of Nigeria are entitled, as their inalienable right, to enjoy a meaningful individualism within the Nigerian family and that the generality of our people are entitled, as of right, to an abundant life for which nature's generous endowments of human talent and material resources more than qualify them. The Military Regime's empire - building formula, by contrast, is to crush and grind the nationalities into submission and hold the populace  down. Hence the planned dismemberment of the subject nationalities, hence the decimation of Ogoniland, hence the pauperization of the  democratic middle class, hence the planned killing of outstanding resistance by political figures, and hence vast human rights abuses by the regime.
viii) "Alfred Rewane's killing was a landmark in the context of this grand design.

He was quite simply a victim of selective extermination by State terrorism. But if they have killed Alfred Rewane, they have not killed the people's dream of democratic self determination and a better way of life. Someday, the people's will to be free and democratic, to live their own lives within the Nigerian family free from oppression and domestic imperialism, will triumph, and the Alfred Rewanes, the Ken Saro-Wiwas, the Kudirat Abiolas and so many other heroes and heroines will not have died in vain.

2) Sadly, today, as far as investigation and prosecution are concerned, matters still stand as they were ten years ago. May the soul of my friend and brother, Alfred Ogbeyiwa Rewane, continue to rest in peace.
3) Ladies and gentlemen, life goes on and many live issues in Alfred Rewane's time are still live issues today. One of them, one which he was very fond of discussing with me, was the issue of federalism in Nigeria.

4) Having examined this issue quite often, having spoken on it often and considering how devoted Alfred Rewane was to examination and discussion of the issue, I thought it appropriate that on an occasion like today, at an event in commemoration of his life, my speech should be based on that issue.
5) Many years ago, at a conference in Texas in the USA, I spoke to a crowd of Nigerians at some length on this matter, using Yorubaland as a test case.

6) If there is anybody in the audience here today who was present on that occasion. I apologise for inflicting on him or her what I said on the occasion. Again I quote:
i) "I will not bore you with a recapitulation of the history of our part of the African continent before the advent of European colonialism. You know it as well as I do our different nations with their separate identities, histories, languages, religions, cultures and stages of civilization, and some with their own established empires. You know the countries - the combinations and amalgamations - later created, contrived or arranged in Africa by European nations to serve their own interests, and the subsequent emergence of new nation-states and civilizations on the basis of these new countries and amalgamations. You know the endorsement of these creations by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in the nineteen sixties, and the consequent absurdity, as we can now see it, of seeking to construct and develop new nation-states and civilizations on the basis of the destruction of the indigenous languages, political cultures and national identities which in some cases had existed and
 flourished for a thousand years and more.

ii) "The grave implications of this history and process for the sub-Saharan African are of continental dimensions and even world-wide dimensions, given the existence of a diaspora of millions of black Africans on the American, European and Asian continents. I see your presence here today therefore as part of Africa's common continental search for answers and for a way forward which can protect our identities and advance our peoples with the same indigenous motivations and generations as have served the nations of Europe and now Asia with such resounding success.

iii)  "The new nationalities to have referred, embraced whole nations within new and some quite irrational state boundaries. In the case of Nigeria, the most irrational were those which split the Yoruba nation in Western Nigeria and the Hausa nation in Northern Nigeria. The new Nigerian nationalism accepted this entity as the framework of a new existence seeking to catch up with the Western world, a framework within which to advance three struggles: the struggle for the recovery of the sovereignty and self-determination of which our fathers had been robbed, the struggle for democracy, and the struggle for modernisation.

iv) "The struggle for independence in Nigeria lasted in the main twenty-five years 1935 to 1960. 1 was myself involved in the struggle for seventeen years. Independence was achieved comparatively easily, given the experiences and precedents in Asia and other parts of Africa. The companion struggles for democracy and modernization have already lasted much longer - thirty seven years from 1960 to date - and have already proved far more costly in terms of human lives and suffering and the dissipation of natural resources.

v) "In the course of these struggles, there have been crisis points -notably, the 1953 independence motion crisis and the resulting threat of secession by leaders in some parts of the country; the 1959 federal elections and the wasted opportunity to install a radical government led by veterans of the nationalist struggle, which would have been comparable with the nationalist successes in India and Ghana; the 1966 military coup and assassinations and the massacres of civilians leading to the 1967-1970 Civil War, and the effort at secession in some areas striving to take unwilling neighbouring nationalities with them; and the 1993-1997 presidential election annulment crisis, which had particular impact on Yoruba psyche and its implications for democracy and internationality relations generally in the country.

vi) "One manifest strain runs through these crises and that is the requirement to moderate international political relationships in the country. Partly in recognition of this critical requirement, the British government had at one time proposed to postpone the granting of independence to Nigeria until they could deal with the issue, but the nationalists suspected this as a ploy to postpone independence.

vii) "There were also some broad economic  particularities, exigencies and pressures in some areas which coincided with ethnic boundaries - insufficiencies in some areas, which to this day breed fears of economic insecurity there; land hunger in some areas, which still dictates a crowding demand for lebensraum, resulting in massive emigration; relative self-sufficiency in some areas, which engenders within them emotions of inner strength; and consciousness in the minority areas of wealth-generating resources but inability to control, develop and apply this potential, which evokes among them self-pitying apprehension of economic, political, and if it came to the point perhaps even military, exposure bordering on defencelessness.

viii) "There have also been socio-cultural peculiarities at work in the Nigerian situation. Take religion. Islam is predominant in some parts of the country broadly bordering on the Sahara. Christianity is paramount broadly in the Atlantic coastal areas. There is a wide intervening swathe between them where the two religious intermingle with animist religions. Or take language. Nigeria exists, or subsists, on the suppression of indigenous languages, in consequence of which public life and commerce are controlled and conducted through elitist communication in English. Take politics. Some of our nations and nationalities are monarchical, with a demi-democratic selection process among ruling families, like the Yorubas. Some have monarchies based on primogeniture, like my people the Edos. Some were broadly republican, as in parts of the Igbo and Middle Belt areas, and some were unabashedly republican gerontocracies.

ix) "Given these national, historical, economic, religious, political and socio-economic complexities, there are no grounds to believe that the country now called Nigeria would have come into existence peacefully, if the British had not intervened in our affairs towards the end of the 19th  century. Whether this would in itself have been a loss and deprivation to humanity is open to question. Realistically, the only conceivable process by which the State now called Nigeria might have emerged from our wars of the 18th  and 19th  centuries would have been if the Dan Fodio armed adventure had succeeded in overcoming all of Yorubaland, all of Edoland, all of Igboland, all of the Tiv-Ogoja-Efik-Ibibio corridor, and then swept the Ijaws into the Atlantic. This would have been a tall order. But let us leave such improbable conjectures to military minds and historical speculators.

x) "Having now found ourselves as one country named Nigeria by the inventiveness of the spouse of a British military adventurer, Col. Lugard, and interacting in a foreign language and an alien political culture, our founding fathers nevertheless proceeded to make the best they could of the situation. They agreed on a Federation of Nigeria composed of geographical regions structured on compatibility rather than on the false protestations of uniformity which we now have, and based furthermore on recognition and validation of the essentiality of equity among our various nationalities. They further agreed on provisions for the future creation of new regions by democratic process to avoid domination of minority nationalities by majority nationalities. Sadly and foolishly, successive military regimes have swept all this away.

 

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