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Reply: The Federal Republic of Nigeria: Towards a More Perfect  Union




Ibraheem A. Waziri,

 Iya Abubakar Computer Centre,

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria



April 13, 2005


Culled from March/April Edition of the journal, African Renaissance, London.



Many a times, historians, analysts and system thinkers tend to forget the need to locate the history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the history of the world when it comes to analysing the nature of the socio-political crisis   bedevilling the nation. They overlook the fact that it is always what happens to other nations of the world that is eventually going to happen to Nigeria at any given time of its existence.


 The essay, The Federal Republic of Nigeria: Towards a More Perfect Union, can be commended for being able to transcend this pedantry. Also the methodology it adopted in reading the political history of the Soviet Union and the United States of America alongside the problem analysis of the present situation of Nigeria is correct and meaningful. The essay argued that:



Soviet Union disintegrated because it, in the main, stuck to its paradigm of centralised political economy and dysfunctional totalitarianism.


 United States of America continued to survive in prosperity because it continued to respond pragmatically to the exigencies of time, changing its paradigm and amending its constitution.


Nigeria should decentralise its political economy since “there is”, in the present centralised system, “ a wide broad consensus with the political, social, linguistic and cultural groups of Nigeria that the current system is grossly deficient and inadequate to the needs of the society.”


Yet it can equally be argued that to achieve a better positioning of the situation and effective problem definition, the essay should have read the events and circumstances from bottom to top after reading them from top to bottom.


Doing this we remember that: In the period of 44 years of its existence as an independent political unit, the Federal Republic of Nigeria has experimented with decentralised political economy for ten years, that is, 1960 - 70 where it had the South west, South east and the North as regions or federating units. That “generated” problems, ranging from the 1962 attempted coup by the dissatisfied elements of the Southwest to series of riots and threats of secession. In 1966 there was a bloody coup from another group of dissatisfied army officers of the Southeast, leading to the events that galvanised another practical threat of secession from that region and eventually the civil war that lasted for three solid years engulfing millions of souls. After the civil war, keeping the unity of the country more than any other thing in mind, the leaders of new Nigeria adopted the system of a centralised political economy making the federal government to be the agent of Nigerian people, regardless of their regional or geographical affiliations. But yet it is evidenced by what we see daily that the new system has not been able to bring Nigeria out of its crossroads as observed by the essay under review.


This will compel us to ask more questions. Is the problem of Nigeria the problem of political economy? Is really the inability of the Soviet Union to decentralise its political economy that led to its disintegration? Is America surviving and prospering for the simple reason that it frequently revisited its constitution according to the demands of time?


While it is not easy to say the answers are in the negative. It nevertheless will make us go beyond the issue of political economy and expand our paradigm in order to achieve a better problem definition when we take the reading from top to bottom again.


In doing this there is the need to go beyond political structure to those seemingly forgotten trappings that form the basis of unity among the subjects of Soviet Union and USA, their cultural identities, spiritual tendencies and defining philosophies. It is then we can adequately understand why the Soviet Union crumbled and USA survived and prospered vis-à-vis the present Nigerian situation.


It is an old truth that no any nation can ever thrive without an underlining strong and sentimental unity base on which its leadership will always appeal to the solidarity of the majority of its adherents. In it the subject will find purposeful definition, source of values and morals, cultural identity and abounding destiny. In the olden times multiethnic political units found this base in the reason and emotion of religion alongside the promise of material progress as an appendage. The leadership of such states were even regarded as the symbol of divine representation on earth. The prosperous multiethnic units of Austro-Hungary, Tsar, and Ottoman were of this character. After the Bolshevik revolution, which modern history has come to confirm its unpopular nature at that time, the new Soviet Union coupling culturally strange nations sought to find this underlining strong unity base by detaching people from belief in any religion, appealing to the vague sentiment of economic prosperity, neglecting all spiritual tendencies, replacing all deities with the farcical image of an all powerful state. This method is too mechanical a means that forgotten the rudimentary questions asked in human psychology classes. A state built on it can only survive by force of ‘dysfunctional totalitarianism’, which at the end will see to the failing and eventual disintegration of such state. The Soviet Union met with that in the year 1990.


On the other hand the United States of America though underplayed the role of religion as a political unity base, it never failed to substitute it with ethno-racial sentiment while allowing religion and other spiritual tendencies to maintain that role in social matters. Till this day the leaders of the USA do not forget its Anglo-Saxon-Western origin and values when it comes to formulating its national as well as foreign policies. While the nation accommodates changes according to the exigencies of time it never compromises its Anglo-Saxon values. In fact it was as late as 1954, considering the history of the nation that it was able to agree that “racial segregation is not reconcilable with the ideals of constitutional democracy”, as rightly observed in the essay under review. That was after being able to develop a strong pathway that requires any person residing in its territory to melt into its all-encompassing cultural pot. Even then, its system thinkers always warn that it is when America begins to see itself as multicultural society that it will face the trauma of disintegration. Not when it centralises, decentralises its political economy or amends its constitution. That one is secondary.


In Nigeria, the series of crisis that have been bedevilling the Federation since independence are rooted in the lack of dominating cultural identity, underlining unity base, and philosophical attribution. From 1957 to date Nigeria has had the cause to convene a constitutional conference amending its constitution seven times with the coming of this National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) to be the eight, making it to be ones at the average interval of six years and more than any other nation of the world ever had in modern history. But yet political instability and dwindling economic fortune continues to pursue it.  As the recent conference commences, voices are high that its outcome will not be accepted to some quarters. The main rival political party is accusing the president of planning to perpetuate himself in power. Other groups from the old Southeast and Northern regions are accusing the President of doling out the agenda of his ethnic group. Muslim organisations are complaining of gross under representation where they say the 400 delegates are divided into 150 Muslims and 250 Christians in a nation they believe to be forming 65% percent of its subject.  


All these happening in a nation incapable of providing very essential services like drinking water and electricity supply; where some 70% of the population live on $1 a day. In Nigeria it is easy to say the whole daily activities of political office holders rally round efforts in solving and burying issues relating to ethno-religious problems and unity of the nation at the expense of implementing any developmental plan they have for the nation or even maintenance of some basic laid down developmental infra-structures. They continue to deteriorate by tick of a clock.


It is my humble submission that the antics of history and the bold lesson drawn from Soviet Union’s experience are telling enough to make the wise ones among us see the truth that it is not only reason of having same experience under colonial rule and promise of economic prosperity that are required to build up a prosperous state.  Nigeria should have had a National Identity Construction Conference (NICC) instead, where the issue of single underlining unity base, cultural identity and philosophical attribution that will surpass all spiritual tendencies and elemental sentiments, will be discussed, formed and projected. It is only then we will be able to know whether the Grand Nigerian National Question (GNNQ) is still that of way forward: attaining the best. Or that of way out: avoiding the worst.




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