Regionalism And Challenge Of National Integration


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Regionalism And Challenge Of National Integration


… you shall not go to Mecca ,
oh Nomad, the road
you have followed
leads to Turkistan

(…admonition of the strayed Nomad in an Afghanistan
village where no compass existed and
information on the correct track to
the Holy City was provided
by only agents and guides
employed by local lords)

His Excellency
Chimaroke Nnamani
Governor of Enugu State

2006 First edition of annual lecture series of the
Westerner Newspapers Limited
Banquet Hall, Premier Hotel,
Ibadan, Oyo State

Thursday, August 31, 2006


My sound greetings, again, to this famed city, Ibadan . If I am allowed the literary license of giants like our own Wole Soyinka, please permit me to say iba, to the makers of modern Nigeria who sojourned here and moved on; to the foundation elements of Nigerian intellectual tradition, who started and instituted the Ibadan expressive assertiveness from the University College; and to those heady starters and finishers of the mainstream arguments on Nigeria and her tumultuous trip in nation making.

Iba oo.

Today, I seize the second opportune time to come to appreciate, first hand, the trends of political thought in Ibadan, and as I said in the 2003 edition of the June 12 lecture, which I had the special privilege of giving here, the blossoming of great minds, either associated with the premier University of Ibadan, or the pre-colonial military as well as the strong traditional political families, have continued to be registered as firm textures of our national political and social interests.

As I stated then, and which I maintain, Ibadan cannot escape us; being then formed as the second largest African city, second, only to Cairo , Egypt .

Although so many Nigerian towns and cities are keenly vying for upper reckoning, I can restate my earlier position that Ibadan remains a curious reminder to us all of the promises of the polyglot agenda conceived at the evolution of Nigeria . Born of outpost military depot; fed of deep traditional heritage and nurtured through thick and thin, it rode the crest of the promises of multi-cultural fermentation and blossomed in its current sub-cultural varieties.

Rising as a very important military and administrative headquarters, long before colonialism, Ibadan possessed great qualities of a junction town, pre-positioned as the checkpoint of that highway, if either of the North or seaward south was to be accessed.

Although this is my second lecture trip to this all-important Nigerian town, I still look forward to the hill point where the legendary John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo set the enchanting prose and poetry of
an Ibadan
that was running splash,
of rust and gold;
flung and scattered,
among seven hills;
like broken china,
in the sun.

Ibadan held out the torchlight, perhaps for us all; just as Kaduna and Enugu did, in approximation or aggregation of varied values, and by its openness, Ibadan gainfully suggested ways for the development of multi-cultural societies, until such uniqueness was nearly blown to smithereens by heady actions of temperamental players in our many vitiated national schemes.

As the legendary Gabriel Okara, I crave the opportunity of ascending the hilltops to sup of the ariel view of that:
broken china,
with scattered,
aged, tin roofs;
… of yet a disorderly setting,
in its cohesive stretch.

Besides the national apprehension of yet another truncation of programmes of national stability, of which Ibadan is expected to play its own card well, we stand to reckon and indeed hold the city accountable for the gains or otherwise of the ferocity of the South Western literary stamina, which has ridden the tenacity of a stubborn media culture. Can we forget the fact that modern African Literature was born right here, with writers like Clark, Christopher Okigbo, Chinua Achebe and others, who gave our nation the first intellectual teeth? As I also held in my last trip in this good city, the baffling survival, even at the doorsteps of some wishes for terminal accidents, imposes a strong sense of duty on this culture of mind, if only as an assurance for unstoppable future strides.

I must confess to you that I have yet to alter my earlier view that the greater national debate, or the more marketable poise for national conscientisation – for now and perhaps for the future - resides somewhere between Ibadan and Lagos, where it is only certain that the reading public are more duty bound to leave some valves of survival for emerging institutions of the mass media.

In saying this, as I did last time, I am not pretending that the literary culture, the buoyancy of the media and the boldness of social mobilization, are the exclusive preserves of the sons and daughters of Oduduwa. I am not even saying that the sons and daughters of Oduduwa, alone, drive these; much as I cannot even pretend to ignore the reality of the admissibility of the culture of the native people, of others’, and the very accommodating and healthy cosmopolitan tradition of most host communities in the old West of Nigeria.

At the moment, I still maintain that the very difficulties imposed on the Nigerian political society by the inadequacies of programmes of political transition that are fraught with the dangers of inter-ethnic, inter-institution and inter-belief conflicts, posed some damaging challenges in the attempt at cohesion and eventual integration of a multi-ethnic nation which, as ours, is in hunger for unity of purpose and direction.

But aside these, today, I must admit to you that in the course of the seven years and so months we have practiced democracy, rudimentary as some may argue, that there appears on the sharp edge, a dimension far more threatening to the nation than anything else, as it has so deeply eaten into the system.

But even as we contemplated these vital experiences, going by the urge to speak out on something else, it became imperative to seek, once again, the vital links on which our nation state would be anchored and for which onward national drive would ride.

The final decision, for me to be in Ibadan today, was like a running battle between my staff and Mr. Clement Ige, the anchorman for this programme; whom I have since come to associate with large reserves of organizational abilities. We have together tinkered with matters more experiential to us as a nation and such others, which appeared to hamper cohesive national journey from a wholesome realization. But each time, we had to contend with the viability of some topics at a season when it became fanciful to urge that which defined our dissimilarities. And indeed, arising from the conceptual philosophy of The Westerner newspapers to report other cultures to the Yoruba and Yoruba culture to others - we could not help but grab the suggested topic, but with a single modifier – challenge – which we know really contains the questions yet to be understood, appreciated and harnessed for craved national trip, in fuller designation and re-designation of our nation state.

Of course, we are all witnesses to the order of advent of European colonialism and the subsequent pattern of colonial administration, which imposed on some Nigerian peoples, a tough challenge of appreciating multi-national configuration, against the erstwhile experiences of mono-cultural settings, which prevailed prior to the age of Salisbury’s European conquest of Africa .

And in the case of Nigeria, the challenges imposed on us by the simple setting of a national signpost that was devoid of a conscious effort of the reigning order at stimulating a proper national feeling, left in its wake some kind of nostalgia for the overrun empires and kingdoms, princedoms and principalities, which many of us were not told, had, indeed, faced their own problems of scenic implosion as colonialism banged on the doors.

Large, imposing and furious as the Sokoto Empire was, and challenged on its own turf by the intransigent Bornu Kings who insisted that if the purpose of the 19th Jihad was to impose Islam, their areas should be exempted on account of a full realization of the tenets of the practice. In the same vein, those other territories, south of the sub-Sahara and in the Benue Basin , could not understand why it had to be any person’s business how they conducted their relationship with their gods.

In any case, in so many accounts, they had shown that they were prepared to stand their ground and call the bluff of the invading Jihad’s army, which was not prepared to seek their opinion on how their societies would be set and run.

But even as these last stands were being taken, the fabulously rich, powerful and imperial Sokoto, was not contemplating any dialogue with people they knew harboured enough resources to augment the aridity of the region it took off from. As Elizabeth Isichei argues, the die was cast, and one thing had to give. It was either the peoples of the Benue Basin or present day Middle Belt accepted the authority of Sokoto or they be crushed by the famed advancing military machine of the Sokoto empire.

As these raised storms; as thick dusts of previous wars were still hanging in the air; the north-to-south western version of the Sokoto annexation programme had been underway and the Yoruba could not help but contend with a mugbamugba war, at which the splintering native generals reversed themselves and ironically confirmed the strength and suzerainty of Emir Abdulsalami in Ilorin, an appointed princely envoy and outpost king in service of the powerful Sokoto regime.

We remember very well that prior to these explosions, empires rose and fell in the Yoruba world. At a time, it was the turn of the massive Oyo whose imperial might had had to battle the spiritual clout of Ife, even as its might was strongly questioned and virtually overturned by the famed Benin Empire. Indeed, while we leave core historians, as the students of our Festus Ade Ajayi, here; to settle which of these two powers was supreme at some time, the impact of Benin came so strongly in European expeditionary documents that it was not known whether it was a case of an Empire over an Empire or one among other empires in one huge, striding, polyglot territories. That is, wherein our latter-day Lagos , although identified as Eko in Benin Empire, in various European explorers’ epistles, appeared to sit on the soils of Yoruba land, erstwhile territorial claims, of Oyo Empire.

One conclusion we can reach today is that perhaps, the deciding point that stood stronger and reigned over the others, would not have taken long in coming, if not the interruption of the European conquerors of the age of Salisbury, who arrived, albeit victoriously, on a different military clout and clime.

But even as contentious as the claims, in that region is, the peculiarity of the pattern of incursion into the eastern axis of Benin, towards the occidental banks of the Niger, was such that it was not certain whether this had been by emissarial liaisons or military conquests. But what rules out military conquest was that whereas the clusters of settlement between the Empire and the immediate western bank of the Niger exhibited some elements of Benin political practices, they remained segmented village settings with unmistakable Igbo traditions. Neither strictly annexed to nor accordingly acceding to a centralized, large suzerainty. Rather, they remained patches of minor kingdoms, contending with the republican equivalences of the moderated Igbo consensus settings, east of the Niger .

Of course, in reviewing the poise of the Sokoto military machine, set in the yet undecided battles raging in the Middle Belt region, no clear hint of the Jihadist sweep would have been expected in taking long, in coming, through the thick vegetation of Igbo land, among the other rain forest and mangrove regions of present day South East and Niger Delta.

Nevertheless, it had its own kind of marauding suzerainty headed for eclipsing the entire territories in the early 19th century.

Rising from its nucleus in Aro Chukwu, the Ibinu Ukpabi Deity had armed the Aros with some awesome oracular might, such that nearly, every part of Igbo land was being forced to accept this suzerainty or face extinction – usually by a trip to Igwenga - the city of disastrous memory, known then as point of no return, for the beleaguered peoples of that region. Thus, the battle had been set and the peoples torn among themselves in the summons and menacing beckoning of one of Igwekala of Umunnoha, Agballa of Awka and Nkwe or Owhe of Isuama, among other emerging deities, which had been devised to contend with the unrelenting menace of the Aro and his Ibinu Ukpabi.

Largely, as Nigerians, we easily identify these major pre-colonial theatres of military, cultural and political actions and contests, as our basic entities, nay regions. We also, usually, argue our cases of distinctiveness on the grounds of such tumultuous eras, if only to amplify our desires for centripetal or diffuse values in the administration of our emerging nation state.

Of course, we have ready justifications in the regionalization exercises of the then amalgamated Nigeria , in the births of Northern, Western, Eastern and later Mid-Western regions.

In other words, at once, we had been children of our history as we had been undecided members of newer settings whose eventual structure and configurations we still argue had yet to be decided on our affirmative actions.

And each time we reach for the nostalgia of the old kingdoms and empires, we refuse to acknowledge the reality of those historical junctures when on cession and final annexation in 1859, 1860 and 1861, Lagos colony and the adjoining Yoruba countries, came under the forcible suzerainty of the British. It took just another 14 years, as pronounced in the Colonial London Gazette of June 5, 1885, for the declaration of the Niger Districts, unapologetically – that is whether you like it or not – as having come under the gracious protection of Her Britannic Majesty.

The setting of the series of annexation, pacification, conquest and intimidation of the other territories came in no less violent but firm resolve of the British authorities to insist that its arriving political and military order, would neither tolerate nor invite the opinion of the local people, as typified by the admonition of gladiators like Sir Ralph Moor, who never minced words about the might of the imperial order in his threat never to brook any opinion. By way of sounding out his uncompromising posture, he had roared, November 14, 1901, that the natives must be made to understand that the government is their master and is determined to establish in and control their country.

Of course, expectedly, this kind of challenge posed by a supposed visitor who saw no gains in inviting the opinions of bickering natives tended to undermine the initial impression of selves as held by the indigenous peoples and naturally, tests of might had to be conducted.

Now, you can understand the mindsets of those who resisted the Sir Moors of this world. Control our land? Standing tall, huge and sufficiently imposing in physique, the Ezza man in present Ebonyi State , yelled, in 1909. O bu elu, o bu ala, (military supremacy comes only in the order of the sky above and the earth beneath – which are undefeatable) followed by we, the Ezzas, in the order of might in battles. So, we shall not bow to your authority. Of course, they were ruthlessly conquered and many of their able bodied men carted off to the tin mining pits in Jos to permanently replace the natives who had, in their turn, been carried off to serve in various far away sectors of the raging First World War.

In the far North, the kicking, yelling and repeated refrain of kasarmu ce – this land is ours - was not enough to dissuade the likes of Moor.

And, if not just amused, having been confident of the toughness of his weapons of conquest, he was neither perturbed nor impressed by such sneers and cries as iro, ili mi ni, no, in my own land; for the individuals in Abeokuta or Eewo, ile wa ni yi!, no, this is our land. His conquering forces took territory after another in the old Yoruba world, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Somehow, if this rugged usurpation, manifested in the arrogant disposition and proclamation of the likes of Moor, were taken into account in our often-recited histories, it then becomes a wonder why the question of attaining a credible pacification and political homogeneity is argued to have failed or been unfinished. Even in application of international law of conquest and cession, the success in forcibly knitting of these scattered territories into one administrative setting, sustained in exercises of integrative regimes, can be enough claims in having fully annexed, possessed and knitted the areas in question.

But in repeated urges for return to the past, albeit in their splintered, undecided boundaries, we, somehow, reduce it all to the national foolery, which Count Haeder Jodl had strongly contemplated. According the famed scholar cosmopolitan cultures, if a people should ignore the reality of their history, hitching for the pretension of a would-have-been compact state, which has yet to shed its pristine bickering and divisiveness, such people would have displayed an unpardonable political laziness of which the new foundation for the evolving state should pass them by.

Of course, as Jodl holds this view, he accepted that whereas most of native African and Asiatic settings had effectively established nationhood, with ever expanding, if not perpetually contentious frontiers, the idea of effective states were more than mirages before the brand introduced by colonialism. And in the attempt to flee from euro-centricism of which western scholars had been endlessly accused, he accepted that …in Africa…in particular, the relationship between nation and state, where the later existed; between government and society, and between culture and politics, were entirely different from what they had been in England, France, Germany, etc. He has, therefore, the concluded that whereas the first generation of colonial administrators missed the deeper elements in building unified states, with multiple nations, therein; they had played for the safety of dividing the people to secure safe harbors, where their interests would be least threatened.

Indeed, what Jodl’s analysis realizes is like the setting running on the conclusion of William Crocker, the British anthropologist, who saw no hope of homogeneity for the emerging Nigeria nation, which had been declared by his predecessors who conducted the conquests, and pacification of the decade before he arrived. He said in 1929, it would be a long time before there can be any hope of effective nationalism in Africa crown colonies because there is little to build any homogeneity of feeling…upon what Europe or the great Asiatic groups have had, experiences such as the influence extending over centuries of common corpus of beliefs and loyalties.

To bring his worries to a head, Crocker lamented that if you walk along a straight line merely a hundred miles or so in the then emerging colonies …you traverse peoples and cultures which for all their similarities, scarcely touch on a single point down at bottom. This had obviously run against his experience of Europe where, according to him, you…find, amidst all the diversities, the common stamp of Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity.

Elsewhere, when I had to take up some of these issues of national cohesion and simple direction, I contended that Crocker and the pessimistic others, including our national and regional pundits, had missed the hint that while Bornu was yet to settle with Sokoto; peoples of the Middle Belt set in heady battles to stave off the Sultan’s army; Abdulsalami of Ilorin was also still contending with Onikoyi.

About at the same time, the entire Kings and generals in Yoruba land were reaching for the jugular of one another, betraying and subverting one another; just as the Ibinu Ukpabi, Igwekala, Agballa and the other deities, in the South East and Niger Delta, could not settle the supremacy question. Again, it was the same time the Princes in Benin Court contented themselves with celebrated liaisons with the damsels of the Igala Kingdom and West Niger Igbo, some resulting in intense military conflict.

Against this background, I dare ask, are we not indebted to our analytical mind to the effect of realising that there was a massive gap of a Julius, Augustus and Justin, Ceaser; a Peter the Great, a Napoleon, a William the Conqueror, etc; before the Europeans came, and so could not have had any such great Asiatic civilization or common stamp of Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity.

Quite all right, we should accept that preceding questions of pre-colonial territories and peoples were raised, hotly contested; battles peaked in their ferocity, but were yet not decided as European conquerors swept through.

We must also take into account the fact that as we missed out in the romanisation of that era, we did not have the chances of any russification. This, we all know, manifested in the sweeping of Eastern Europe into the Communist regime and values of the recent past. In this, the forebears of the milito-westernising influences of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the counterpoise of the eastern bloc in the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO), created their own brands of continental and quasi-global consciousness, values, state networks, a sort of homogeneity, that prevails till date.

Elsewhere again, I did state that indeed, much as it would appear attractive to claim that the absence of these icons or impelling forces in Africa, nay Nigeria, was the tragedy, which brought about the current flight of a feeling of oneness among us, the eventual conquest of the vast territories, running in one British Colonial administration, for decades now, had erected sufficient anchors for the ship of nation state to berth.

Granting that the results still appear debatable, we know that there have been very strong attempts to erect a common feeling, particularly in the areas of Christianity and Islam. Yes, we readily argue that these had failed woefully because of their faulty execution. We readily state that the chances of these religious tendencies got bogged down in ethnic group identifications as each assumed that religions or denominations introduced in their areas had peculiar relevance and appeal to its distinct people and culture. Against that background, the peoples saw the other religions or denominations, in some cases, as incompatible with their values. That is not minding the fact that these religions were all completely alien but had adequate urge to be imbibed as representing the ascribed aspirations of the peoples.

As it was with early Christian evangelisation, in advent of colonialism, Islam, which ought to have taken deep roots in the entirety of the current North West - that is the old Sokoto Empire – as well as North East –the old Kanem- Bornu Empire – arrived no uniformity. The Kanuri, who believed that they were intensely pious in application of Islamic values, could not readily succumb to the claims of greater piety or purifying intentions of the Sokoto Hausa/Fulani, who advanced on a military might fanned by the embers a Jihad.

Even in the Middle Belt, embracing Christianity, which appeared as the refuge of the heavily harassed peoples, was fitful as it took roots alongside colonialism. It could not attain any form of universalism for the region, as it was itself mired in skirmishes of various denominations. The Catholics could not see any oneness with the Anglican, just as the Methodists viewed other denominations with disdain, although they all profess Christianity. But haven’t we now confirmed that in most cases, these denominational battles represented the tussles for supremacy among the European powers – France , Germany , Canada , Italy , etc, with the Catholic version; England with the Anglican version; America with many other splinter interpretations.

Thus, religion, which elsewhere was a cultural binding force - what with the accompanying factors of commerce, claimed civilization and education – with its integrating values, actually fell short of what was required to give the internalisation of national consciousness and dominant ethos. Of course, this is sufficient reason to contend that an unconsciously designed social regime shot down an exercise that would have resulted in national integration, such that would challenge our repeated return to interests in far gone kingdoms and empires.

I take it for granted that my views on harnessing ethnic values are well known, having been previously well stated. I take it for granted too that it is appreciated that I belong to the school of thought which accepts that much as so many mistakes had been made in attempts at erecting a nation state, it is more appropriate to consider that we may have passed the stage of coming from the inside to the outside – unbridled divergence, against the other view, coming from the outside to build the inside – conscious convergence.

In holding this view, I am not unaware that some scholars and politicians firmly hold that this may amount to putting the cart before the horse. But, then, mine rides on factors deriving from the foregoing historical analysis.

Perhaps, in the course of this discourse, I would make myself clearer. It is at this point that I will consider the term regionalism in the terms of word-meaning and political application.

According to the New Webster’s Dictionary of English Language, a region is…a large part of space, land, sea or air which has certain distinctive characteristics, e.g. boundary, temperature…space surrounding a specified area (…surrounding an organ of the body). In its political application, we can strongly argue that if we rely on the colonial creations, such areas carved into definitive administration areas, and which possess a history of wholesome inclusion since modern administration, can lay claim to the status of a region.

We can as well push so close to it the argument that our native regions transcended these modern regions as what we have today amounted to balkanizations of erstwhile indigenous regions in favour of modern colonial types. But such position must wait for us to settle the unresolved conflicts predating our own colonialism. Take for instance the unsettled theatres in Ibadan and Oyo; the Benue Basin challenge; contending oracular influences in Igbo land; among others. The Ibadan , Oyo, Eko (Yoruba) theatres ate so much of Benin as the Ilorin front was being lost completely to Sokoto’s outpost King, Abdulsalami. The Deities and the other forces gained so much in the deep forest zones, while they lost massively, first, to the Oyo/Ibadan axis, and later, to Benin .

Further North, it is not certain whether it was Sokoto or Bornu , which lost out, or gained much, in the erection of the vast Northern region of Nigeria . What was clear was that the grandstanding of the peoples in today’s Middle Belt had to be swept into the waiting embrace of Sokoto, as the large modern region was created without their opinion heard out on the matter.

In sustaining the eventual pacifications which mounted the glue for soldering the subsequent colonial creations, Nigeria ’s political development has yet to depart so much from the principles arising from earlier exercises, and as such more factors underlining federalism naturally had to follow, to assuage such areas of Nigeria claiming emasculation.

But even as this has been the case, what we initially thought represented erstwhile regional distinctiveness has been assailed by further authentication of claims that these formations neglected erstwhile native settings. Minorities arose from within these regions, leading to the birth of states and clans, and sub-clans have further agitated for distinctive identities, if only to impress pre-colonial dissimilarities with neighbours or sister groupings.

There are these groups of cases for our illustration: The Eastern region, which was carved in provinces, ran an expanse of territories from the coast to Igbo heartland in the East and North. There was, at Nigeria inception, a Central province which rode from the Northern and Western-most tips of the Niger Delta areas to as far as such Igbo heartland areas as Udi, Awka and Nsukka.

By the then colonial arrangements, these were initially carved into districts before they became divisions within the provinces. The incorporation of Onitsha and Asaba divisions into the Benin Province, for some scholars, looked like some deliberate attempt at ensuring that in the then emerging Niger Protectorate, the Igbo areas merely constituted peripheral sections (divisions and districts) serving the long standing traditional Benin aristocracies, as well as the emerging cosmopolitan tendencies, of the era.

That way, people from the then Nsukka and Udi divisions, (that is the whole of the present day Enugu State ); Aboh (one third of the present Delta State ); and Awka (over one half of the present Anambra State ), had to appeal to a Warri - based administrative suzerainty.

In the southern Igbo areas, it was argued that colonial chicanery caused Owerri division, (the whole of present Imo State); Umuahia and Aba (the whole of the present Abia State; Abakaliki (the whole of the present Ebonyi) and Diobu (present Rivers State), to be glued to traditional and modern values dictated from Calabar.

It was equally argued that these only went to prove that the people were consciously designed to banish their heritages, even as the colonial masters pretended to apply local institutions in governance. But these areas were reported not alone in their claims of travestied national and regional structuring, of which the emerging Nigeria State could not have heeded, but raised in the consciously to seek autonomy, if not view the entire exercises as suffocating contraption.

In the North, the struggles of the United Middle Belt Congress, UMC, were driven by the perception that this region, which effectively kept the invading Fulani Jihadists at bay, had now been forcibly included in an arrangement where the peoples claimed they were the clear minority and inferior participant.

Even in the West, the political actions of the Osadebey political clan were clearly to effect changes reflecting the West Niger Igbo people’s reunification with their kit across the eastern banks.

But in reality, if the opinion of the old sections were not invited in the creation of colonial regions, the staying skirmishes induced by sub-regions, quasi-ethnic groups and clans/sub-clans state, have so far forced exercises in repeated reordering, thus, becoming impossible to argue for a return to old configurations.

This was eventually to reveal, as we shall see shortly, that such strong factors of occupation, interactions, influences, learning and eventual adaptation, truly produced a classical case of cultural grafting, political knitting and leadership hybridism which, if gainfully explored, assures steady rise in national cohesion; but viewed from the reverse point, appears almost distinctive, short on originality, quasi-cosmopolitan in use and basically clarion-like in the hands of ethnic/regional swift dealers. Surprising as this is treated with levity, it has become our nemesis in reaching cohesive national integrative process, and tended, more to, refreshing pristine political genres in compelling latter-day political compromises, concessions, exchanges and interchanges, other dealings.

However, in holding both positions, we are, indeed, affirming the reality of Nigerian history, replete with efforts at enthroning some sense of national feeling or consummation of effective pacification and unification. What appears an issue is which comes first.

At least, the political experience, though harrowing, of Nnamdi Azikiwe, in his bid to institute a national political struggle under the aegis of the National Council of Nigeria (and Cameroon) Citizens, NCNC, which sought to take control of Western Regional government business; which, tried to erect an egalitarian political following, against well tested aristocratic oligarchy, in the North; and which suffered such fatal blows of divisive colonial confrontation; but good progresses, even though it had to, eventually, be soaked in well-crafted ethnocentric responses, a well-tested style that was the ready tool of the then threatened British colonialists.

Indeed, the erstwhile attempt by Nnamdi Azikiwe, which never operated those ethno-powered obnoxious principles, had yielded an extension of national patriotic instinct on whose platform an Umoru Altine, from deep North Sokoto , was elected the first Mayor of Enugu and a Dr. Balogun as the Mayor of Port Harcourt – two Igbo dominated modern metropolis.

In the same vein, we must admit that such nationalistic flame was not only spotted in Sa’ad Zungur, Abdul Razaq, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Aminu Kano, Solomon Lar, McEwen and many others, but also fully exploited in a latter-day development where the patriotic zeal of Ogunsanya had to come into decisive play in the effort at reintegration of Ndigbo in the immediate post- Nigeria-Biafra war Lagos.

But the success-result in tragically undermining the birth of a truly national political contiguity, as the colonialists did, was only a chance lost which, as we know, brought the good in Nigerians in bringing about and achieving the competitive regional governments that we had just before the disintegration of our entire national system, between 1964 -1966. In fact, riding the crest of distinctive inclusion, in an emerging national order, the regions embarked on programmes, which easily propelled Nigeria into the fast developing club.

As reported, the cocoa plantations of the West, the groundnut pyramids of the North, the palm oil and kernel in the East, emerged as stimulus, for erstwhile docile economies and the stage which was set had promised good results in bountiful political harvests, if only the emerging post-colonial elites had the right idea of how a competitive federal state should run. It was of course the failure to fully build on the competitive gains of this kind of regional structure that deliberate actions in negation emerged on the hints of earlier values of divisive ethnicism.

Remember, as I said earlier, this was consciously induced by the threatened colonial order, just the same way it caused a split among old Indians into India and Pakistan, and later, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. What were at issue then were not the integrative possibilities of Nigeria but matters and actions steamed by frightened colonial agents, who successfully, though unfortunately, hinged their planned transition on games and tantrums of individual, which, in turn, got celebrated by the elite as regional or ethnic differences.

But if the practices of colonial administrators did so much disservice as this to colonial of their Queen the Majesty, the chicanery of postcolonial expatriate employees was worse. Right before the unsuspecting eyes of our pioneer indigenous leadership, elements in competitive regional development were to be exploited by these desperate expatriates who sought jobs in the various regions.

If you remember, the regions ran separate services, as the states of these days, but in the cases of the departing days of colonialism, exercises in Nigerianisation were confronted by the reality of retaining Europeans and Asians in posts that could not be immediately filled by local hands. There was this practice in which regions maintained recruitment outposts in London and these, unfortunately, offered the Europeans the field to fully manipulate Nigerians. A European seeking employment in the Northern Regional service, but got repudiated could get the same employment offered to him in the Western Regional London Recruitment office. On arrival in Nigeria , this European had his mind made up against the North. It could be in a case with the East, or West, or even against the Federal Central Service. So, there was a beehive of European manipulative activities, such that were also manipulative of the era of first military government, and added to the precipitation of the civil war.

Of course, as it were, these foreigners were not competing on matters that could be of benefit to the various areas of Nigeria but merely to pay back to some regions or play to their individual fancies, to suit the personal interests of the white staff.

Ordinarily, the emerging indigenous elite should have filled these gaps posed by this missing link, but as shockingly revealed in our history, the hypocrisy and opportunism, I dare say, exhibited by the elite of that era, simply firmed up the birth and foundation of the obnoxious perception which set to torpedo the gains of competitive regionalism.

The challenge, afterwards, then had to be, the revival, or in the absence of one, the enthronement, of national ethos, on which an integrative foundation would stand for a nation state in the making. This, you may not believe, proved recoverable and affirmable in the various adventures of the military in our national body politic. That is, strictly speaking, in terms of building the sticking glues for a modern nation state, from little, if not from nothing.

I am certain that many of us here would wonder what I thought could be appreciable in dictatorial military regimes, regimes that were clearly violent and uncompromising, in styles. One first hint, with the benefit of hindsight, was that, whereas the opportunity of sowing the seeds of conscionable national feeling was aborted in the artificially created political condition of ruthless ethnic competition, some institutions, whose composition was structured as non-negotiable, happened to be in place to manage, even if not-so-impressively, the craved, though repeatedly aborted, national consciousness.

Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that the higher level of indoctrination, especially in getting Nigerians to turn against selves, was more among the political class. We are aware that the feeling of ethnic pre-eminence, or ethnocentrism, became far more diffused among the civil society, such that the emerging elite – steering media leverages - saw no more than ethnic interpretation in matters, which should have been resolved on objective conditions.

It was not, therefore, surprising that whereas the highly sophisticated civil society demanded what were considered elements in equity, they unfortunately wore the garb of ethnic persuasion. Where the elite identified such points that were strong enough to wrest concession from the various federal administrations, especially under the military, what appeared on the horizon was unbridled ethnicism, especially such portrayed in languages typecasting regimes and individuals as representing individual sections of the country.

It is, of course, the response to these that is of much interest to us here. Predictably, the military had dug in on the mantra of federalism, which then had to become the refrain of those who should not be seen to be opposed to the birth of a glued, integrative, Nigeria .

Remember that we come from a background of unsettled national questions before the arrival of colonialism. Remember also that as the colonial order set in motion its perceived regional delineations, it, at the same time, appeared to have injured some sections of the country. And as we set to correct the anomalies perceived in British colonial creations, we are faced by further shouts of blue murder from the sidelines – the ever-emerging clans of minorities. As one of my staff who has this diction of the typical expressive Lagosian saw it, go, no go; tanda, whoside?

The question I shall pose in response to this is, should the nation wait, or bicker, or implode? Your answer, onward march, is the same with mine. And this appeared to be what the military pursued in earnest.

We are aware that the much realized, in the Greco-Roman civilization, which appealed so much to Crocker, et al, and the very gains of Russification, NATOnisation, WTOnisation and even the exploits of currently ranging multi-national corporations, which are building nations without frontiers - are hardly based on well rehearsed and fine-tuned agreements in the whole universe.

Certainly, it was on account of these that the military, which assumed uncompromising stance, though done with much of human frailties, easily signposted the icon of federalism as the result of a well integrated polity. Federalism is defined as the principles…of foundation supporting the characteristics of the agreement between states, to unite, foregoing some sovereignty but remaining independent in internal affairs.

No doubt, it is easy for us to latch on to the supportive phrases of …principles…of agreement and independent…internal affairs. Personally, I have no quarrels with these, either way. Indeed, I stand by the provision that such principles of agreement and independent…internal affairs help in bringing about the knowledge of gainful variety in our polity. More so, I have remained a steadfast fan of Petrarch who sounds it loud and clear that sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure.

But in fully examining the values of Nigerian federalism, especially rising from the experiences in harnessing the values of independent…internal affairs, I personally get confused with the possessive and particularistic pattern that the national (or is it regional) elite had considered to be the evolution of the system they operated. As I said, earlier, I have no quarrels with holding strong regional or ethnic views. It is understandable that such protests, which attended the unification constitution (Arthur Richard’s) in 1943, were like responded to in the Oliver Littleton Regionalisation Constitution of 1953.

I have no quarrels, either, with pursuing well-studied regional programmes, especially such that would arm the individual within the group to be better equipped to compete in the global Nigerian arena. Such firmed the foundation on which the healthy competition of the regions in the 1950s and 60s were enacted.

I do not even hold a view against such positions, which insist that if Nigeria had to commence on proper political development, it must begin by acceding to programmes, so far not exclusive interests, of the region. That is good. But that has to sail on the wings of a cultivated federally powered national attitude of which the first strong appeal would be the reposing of confidence in an individual or group in places outside the ethnic origin.

This was where Azikiwe stood as a celebrated pioneer. Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kanu and others also made their initial forays, with individual successes for their different regions. But this is where the person and stature of a national personage, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, first as a military ruler and later as a committed democrat, stand in this analysis.

Initially coming on the scene as a well-instructed divisional commander under some superior officers, he emerged on the broader national scene on an image that was not initially appealing to people of his own region of origin. That image, which in a narrower ethnic setting, appeared to have held him constrained for the assignments he set to tackle, were easily swallowed by a national stature which needed no further definition than in the widespread national confidence reposed and sustained in him.

As a military head of state, his programmes in the expansion of the Nigerian airport system, the universities, the highways (express roads), the polytechnics, the petrochemical industries, the iron/steel industries, the sense of equity, equality and fairness and the perpetual strive to be seen to be working for the advantage of the length and breadth of Nigeria all put together, gave birth to a leadership figure capable of inspiring the right kind, as well as level of hope, for the emergence of a federal nation state.

More importantly, these were done in the same decade he played the pivotal role in ending the Nigeria-Biafra war, earning the opprobrium or envy of erstwhile colleagues, who nearly succeeded in causing a perception of his person as a hater of one regional group, especially the leading ethnic group that stood on the other side in the unfortunate war.

In the second coming, Obasanjo has, as usual, exhibited the same high sense of general well being to the entire Federal Nigeria, leaving no one in doubt that the idea of a nation state was not far fetched but would indeed be hinged on having led Nigerians, exhibiting, in the main, an adequate behaviour of trust and interest in equal treatment of the peoples.

Once again, the institutions of higher learning are beginning to wake from slumber of indirection and neglect of decades; just as the airports, which had been previously blacklisted across the world, had resumed their steady handling of major air traffic. Again, the roads he built, which had to wait for 20 years, 1979 – 1999, for his return, to get repaired, are receiving a facelift. Same is the case with other institutions such as the military, police, prisons and even such erstwhile contentious practices as revenue sharing.

Of course, while not contesting that such attributes which propelled an Obasanjo as our beacon for erecting Nigeria as a federally fitted nation state, were borne of his familial pedigree, but what is clear is that his personal development as a professional soldier, grilled to act decisively, trained to keep a straight face and equipped to rein in on others to achieve cohesion and following, must have formed the major foundation for erecting a leadership quality suited for the Nigeria of the on-going era.

This is not saying, by any means, that Nigerian federalism was brought about by the military; and not, of course, by Chief Obasanjo alone. But, here, I stand to be counted as one supporting a position that even as the institution could not master the nuances of managing varieties of moods, especially with the presence of vocal elites, it was traditionally fashioned out to rein in on the system, with the hope of inducing such following on which national cohesion, as in the stamp of common corpus…or national ethos, would stand.

In holding this view, I understand that I strongly risk an interpretation of my position as standing democratic logic on its head. I want to quickly say that I am not. Rather, I hold the view that indeed, for the Nigerian federalism to achieve the results expected of it, the efforts at the centre will have to stand far superior to those at the regions since we know that the regions in themselves are equally conglomerates where distinctive, of course, narrower interests, equally compete. Just as it obtains elsewhere, federalism reigns and reins in on the rest which may be regions or states where minorities, where cultures and where quasi-cultures and clans/sub-clans will continue to rise, especially on the feelings of overtaken, though rigorous and outspoken, elites.

Remember, when we started this discourse, I did state that there are great values in the argument of proceeding from exclusive regional attitude to an all-inclusive federally integrating polity. Such plank is one on which foundation, the conceptual philosophy of The Westerner Newspaper, is built. I did accept that such principles on which the agreement for inclusion in the federal polity were strictly stated, that is in the event of seeking the best from each region, for the benefit of the broad national polity, appeals to me.

Yet, I have every reason to contend that the evolution of national political culture, the possibilities of an integrative society capable of holding out for all, providing effective institutions for protection for all, and in growth and development beyond local nuances, as well as in ensuring equity, fair play and balancing of ensuing competing interests, cannot be realized where there is no force of intervention and reining in on possible predatory tendencies of some sections.

Having been in government these seven- years- and- so months, I have come to appreciate the gains of variety induced even in states where supportive programmes of the Federal Government, though not in any way superior in conception and execution than such developed in the state, conferred on the environment the pleasure of seeking alternatives as may be induced by simple perceptions. Take for instance the subtle competition between Federal and State universities in any particular State. Whereas it may be easy for State governments to alter the running of programmes of the State university, the presence of a seeming more independent university of the posture of the Federal university may force better attentions, as such would result in faculties, independent of that State government, embarking on actions that compel conformity with the “standards”.

Consider also the result of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme, in which regional/State governments now live the pleasant experience of hosting young graduates from states/regions other than theirs. These have brought about such integrative cultural behaviour as inter-ethnic/state/regional marriages, contacts and networks, which, in turn have furthered national evolution.

Sometimes, these may be quite difficult to appreciate or accept, especially coming from our insistent position that we had yet to contribute to the fine points of agreement in our nation making. For me, there is no going back on the position that the pattern of commencement of this nation was well executed. I also argue, for reasons already articulated, that everybody needed not to be there when the agreement was drawn. And that is, while I insist that there are yet rooms for improvement, only dependent on the will of the individual or group, to support a forward thrust, anchored on inclusive principles as against exclusive regional or sectional interests.

Indeed, if you would pardon me, I wish to use this opportunity to sympathise with the individual who is still exclusive in the wake of globalization, which rides on the clear principles of stakeholder driven democracy, free enterprise and information technology. My sympathy is that, whereas such individual may waste precious time in digging in for exclusive attention, the fangs of international competition will disenfranchise him/her, if not fully prepared and attuned to a more fluidly competitive globe on rampage.

Initially, and as I stated elsewhere, scholars on the trail of the invisible billionaire – Daniel Ludwig and pal, the unassailable oil king – John D. Rockefeller, had wrongly assumed that these were the kingpins of modern day economic imperialism surging into the world from the United States of America. They had anchored their conclusion on the entry and seizure of the Latin American businesses by these powerful magnates, who neither brooked any form of resistance nor tolerated debates.

The world had then envisaged that as in the futile dream of Alexander the Great who reached the riverbank and was disappointed that there were no more territories to conquer ahead of the Mediterranean; and as the derided Napoleon pleaded to be shown more territories to subdue, these pioneers of big business-across-borders would fail in due course. In that regard, they had seen no possibility in the Wendell Willkie prognosis of one world, which Jacques G. Maisonrouge declared, we are inexorably pushed to.

Well, in the last two decades, it has been confirmed that where Napoleon failed to create a world originating from France; where the Czarists failed to build the perpetual eastern empire, and the British rule over the wave crumbled as Communist International and Middle East insurgence fully challenged the principles of pax Americana; vision, dreams and actions of a few individuals have created a globe of entrepreneurial unification. At the last count, these, such as Royal Dutch Shell, Amoco, Texaco, Exxon, Chevron, and General Motors, and the telecommunication giants, among others, which were the personal initiatives of creative and strong individuals, have far outstripped states and nations and have gone ahead to create their own statuses as international (non-state) actors, with ‘citizens’ drawn from all over the regions, states and the entire globe, and for which weighty decisions on water, food, housing, education, roads, electricity, security and such other necessities, are made daily.

Such motivation, which is offered by these giant businesses and their worldview, and which is subsequently extended to partakers, has had to influence the proliferation of global citizens whose fatherland is gradually turning into the conglomerates. These may all go to show that the ethnic or regional man, who has not hastily constructed a profitable nation state, risks the failure of such an infirm nation state, which cannot motivate and reassure. It will be such, which the emerging conglomerates far out-weigh in reach, impact and striking power and which will not evoke some sentiment, let alone any patriotic zeal, anyhow, in the enterprising man.

I am not in any way stating that our emerging nation state should halt its integrative development. Neither am I canvassing the immediate imposition of such high voltage job competitions that go with globalization. What is clear to me, as I maintained in one of my previous lectures, is that in more ways than imagined, the traditional loyalty of a people, especially such anchored on shifty territorial grounds, would soon become as flimsy as such preachments which ignored the development of man for actions to have the basic things of life readily on his table.

But then, it is our hope that our great nation state, made of the various groupings, but ready to be fully wielded into the most striking economic force, via the running democracy of our time, would be on the steady rise, and for which we shall say, as in Enugu State:

To God be the Glory.

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2. Awolowo, Obafemi: Path to Nigerian Freedom; Faber and Faber, London ; 1947.
3. Nnoli, Okwudiba: Ethnic Politics in Nigeria; Fourth Dimension Publishers; Enugu , 1978.
4. Usman, Yusuf Bala: For the Liberation of Nigeria (Essays and Lectures, 1969 – 1978); New Beacon Books Ltd, London ; 1980.
5. Bagudu, Nankin (ed.): Linguistic Minorities and Inequality in Nigeria; League for Human Rights, Jos; 2003.
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8. Ochoche, Sunday (anchorman): Enhancing Peaceful Coexistence in Nigeria (Communiqué of Middle Belt Zonal Conference, Jos); Centre for Peace Research & Conflict Resolution, National War College ; 1998.
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10. Anifowose, Remi: Violence and Politics in Nigeria …the Tiv and Yoruba Experience; Nok International Publishers, Enugu ; 1982.
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12. Jodl Haeder Count, New Empires (Asiatic & African), 2001 ed.




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