The Ides of March
Guardian, January 24, 2005
"BEWARE the ides of March" was the warning
given by the soothsayer when the plot to kill Julius Caesar was yet being
hatched. Perhaps if Julius Caesar had listened to that soothsaying in
Shakespeare's play and acted upon it, the play Julius Caesar
could not have been dubbed a tragedy.
The time in Nigeria now is politically similar to that time in Rome during
the lifetime of Julius Caesar in the country's public life. But instead of
warning against the Ides of March, as in the Roman
times of Julius Caesar, we can now probably say "Nigeria, Beware of the Ides of
May 2007". This is more so as a lot of darkness seems to be shrouding the 2007
general elections with uncertainty, confusion and 'crucifixion'.
Some prophets are already sounding notes of warning which appear in the press
" television, radio and newsprint. Even some private discussions among the
people had been tapering towards the danger which is looming ahead in under
three years from now. But unlike the Roman times of Julius Caesar, the Nigeria's
looming danger does not need a soothsayer to predict. Ordinary Nigerians who
have seen through the political and social developmental turmoil of the country,
since independence in 1960, all through the decades from then to year 2000,
would not fail to see the danger.
The mathematical 'twelve-two-thirds' solution to the first Presidential
election in Nigeria in 1979 was probably not original to that publicly
acknowledged exponent of the 'philosophy'. But it was that individual who first
raised it in the public and the press. I am very much aware of some other people
(the writer being one) who at their private dinner tables postulated that
solution to the ding-dong result of that election especially at the time it had
become clear that a political party had already won 12 of the 19 states of the
Federation which was less in real term than the requirement of two thirds of the
states as provided for in the constitution.
Some of us at one dinner table a few days before the joker was announced, had
toyed with the idea of finding out if that party with 12 states in its pocket
could muster just two thirds of the remaining 13 states which result was yet
hanging in the balance, should be able to clinch the Presidency. Of course when
the mathematical hypothesis was announced, the teeming thinkers of the subject
matter remained silent even though they had thought about it much earlier.
In relationship with the 2007 presidential election no soothsayers or even
prophets need predict the future of that exercise in transiting to the next
Republic. In the first instance any student of contemporary history, which every
literate Nigerian who has lived through the past 50-53 years of political
experiments in Nigeria, can be described as, should be capable of predicting the
year 2007 and its election problems with some exactitude.
Nigeria is not a single country or even a nationality. It is a conglomerate
of cultural nationalities with few common features spanning through their
boundaries. These nationalities are so different in culture and tradition that
fusion under a single dispensation of centralisation can backfire. The
experience of the last 50 years has borne this out. That is why even in our half
a century of wedding or perhaps 'welding' together, we are still experimenting
on living together as a nation.
It is not that the leaders at various times in the travails did/do not
understand our problems or know the solutions, but that they all, invariably,
wished to deceive the people into believing that we are a single nationality.
All of them are selfish to the extent that they would rather be leader of a most
corrupt incompetent and inefficient federalised nation than restrict to a
restructuring of the country into smaller homogenous nationalities capable of
being harmonised for maximum productivity as autonomous regions/zones in a loose
federal structure, similar to what we had up to 1965 December.
Some attempt was made to assist in dividing the country into six geopolitical
zones of: (a) North-West, North Central and North East, made up of the 19 states
of the North, (b) South-West, South-South and South East made up of the 17
states of the South. It should be noted however that the old North and old South
had 12 states between them in 1967, shared equally.
The above zonal structure was a reflection of the various attempts made over
the years by political pundits, partly academic, social critics and the other
well-meaning nationalists, who believe that Nigeria deserves peace and good
government so as to take her leadership position in the comity of nations,
especially in the continent of Africa. One would have thought that by the Divine
guidance of God this zoning arrangements have provided a solution to the claim
of governance of a truly federated state. The zoning formula acceptable to all
political parties started being experimented upon as from the Second Republic
when the zonal axis was drawn up for the Presidency as follows:
If we can make the above proposition happen, in 2007 then there is hope that
Nigeria may yet continue to live together in a federation. But even when that
may assist peace, the present high level poverty, corruption and warped
leadership in the country may make that hope a mirage.
As indicated in the book, Oyo State at Maturity Vol. 1 No. 1 "
published by " Pen power Associates, in 2000 " the idea of a truly federal
structure was postulated for the country, and I quote from page 14 of the book:
"The end of the civil war was significant in several ways. It emphasised and
consolidated the federal structure of Nigeria.
Second, it showed the need for interdependence of the various ethnic
groups in Nigeria. Third, in the eventual political joggling and haggling that
followed the end of the war, Nigerians have learnt that dialogue could solve
problems rather than war. It was, therefore, against the background of all these
lessons, learnt the hard way, that successive Nigerian leaders have always made
strenuous efforts to keep Nigeria as one nation".
Yet can Nigeria be run as a single unit under a strong federal structure
presided over by a national who is alien to most of the other Nigerian
nationalities but his own? We need to re-examine ourselves more critically. If
this country continues to be governed the same way as she has of late been
ruled, there may come a time when only the rich and not the best will be at the
helms of affairs with the political baton being exchanged among the children of
the rich. These days, political leaders are perpetuating themselves in
governance with their families. We have heard of people who were not rich by
inheritance or even though personal business efforts but by the government
patronage now pushing their children into leadership saddles to the detriment of
the other people in the society because the former have the money to do so. This
is a very dangerous trend for the future, when the down-trodden masses may awake
one day to challenge the rich few in absolute control and power.
If by 2007 this development is not halted or, at least reconsidered through
some constitutional conference, sovereign or not, I am afraid the future may be
bleak. We should not underrate the possibilities of the other side, the underdog
of today, but part owners of yesterdays, being pushed to the wall and fighting
back with their blood. God forbid. "Beware the Ides of 2007".
Dr. Oyelami retired as Registrar, University of Ife, now
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.