Monday, December 21, 2020 3:45 pm
By Odia Ofeimun
Theere is a peculiar Nigerian paradox to bear in mind in pursuit of the restructuring of the Nigerian Federation. It forewarns us not to forget that, under colonialism, those who argued that they were unready for political independence became determinants of the shape of independence after it arrived. Those who opposed the creation of states became the creators of states. Those who did not believe in free education became the dispensers of universal basic education. Those who opposed unitarism became the master-minds of the most egregious kind of unitarism that a federal system has ever suffered. Today, now that Governor Nasir el Rufai’s Committee on True Federalism has submitted its report to the Chairman of the All-Progressive Congress, we are in danger of being overtaken by opponents of restructuring who wish, with doubtful empathy, to be acknowledged as its champions. The party needs to show how much good it wishes for Nigerians, by redressing the unsightly paradox and proving commitment to the nation’s common cause.
Normally, the long-awaited report of the el Rufai Committee should have beefed-up the Manifesto with which the All-Progressive Congress APC stormed barns and tickets during the 2015 General Election. It should have been part of the rendering of implementation strategies to prove that the party was not rooting for office merely to deceive and lie its way to glory. But, into the third year of a four year term, the party stalwarts were still haggling over and trying to define the concepts in their Manifesto; as if it was written for them by someone from outer space. Not surprising, what was presented to APC Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun on January 25, 2018 has been generally viewed as salutary but anti-climactic. In one sense, the report is an about-turn: adopting the position on restructuring that many of the stalwarts of the party, including President MuhammaduBuhari had considered a virtual distraction. Rather than a pathfinder’s thrust, it is a reversion to beaten paths. The 2014 National Conference had already turned many of the issues into studied folklore in the public arena. Thus, the report, based on the submissions of several parleys, and up to 8009 contributors; cannot be distanced from the suasionsof the Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Niger Delta caucuses, the militants, and sundry MiddleBelt groups, who must be thanked for having kept the demand for restructuring so implacably alive that the APC Committee was able to find a bandwagon to jump upon. My hunch is that, after so many APC party stalwarts had poured so much cold water on the theme of restructuring and found that it would not go away, they simply resolved to take over whatever they could grab from its platforms for the coming electoral heists. Even then, the APC that emerges from the report is a party still poaching, re-naming, changing the emphases, or removing the bite of restructuring. As in most things associated with it since it was cobbled together from truly disparate planks before the 2015 elections, the party has notquite removed the goring lack of wholesome idealism and creativity in its arsenal. It is still needing to bring the divergent positions of its members to a definitive focus. Too evidently, the party is mired in the kind of poor think-through that made General Isola Williams to claim in an interview that the APC lacks strategic thinkers. I prefer to say that the party’s strategic thinkers function at cross-purposes. Hence, the outcome of their deliberations, ever at variance with their declared goals, gets bogged down in the peradventures of zombie intellectuals who, as in the last elections, are still reading President Muhammadu Buhari’sbody language; orchestrating what they know next to nothing about.
ENGAGING THE REPORT
The place to begin to engage the APC’s core position, in my view, is the Nasir el Rufai Committee’s rejection of indigeneity and state of origin in favour of residency as a basis for citizenship. This is a critical point from which to enter discussions of the other contentious positions including its rejection of the creation of more states, and support for state police, independent candidacy, merger of states, resource control, local government reform, and fiscal federalism. For a party that placed devolution of powers as a core issue in its Manifesto but continued to poohpooh the idea of restructuring and then grudgingly embraced it tobecome a party of restructuring, the big question is: what kind of restructuring is it for them? Or do we just give the benefit of the doubt to the party, concede its progressive pedigree, as its name implies, and simply see the opting for residency as a more radical approach to restructuring than the commitment to indigeneity and state of origin? It is tempting to do so, except that we need to examine the context and to see what is so progressive about it.
First, what does residency mean? In the determination of citizenship, it has the implication of discounting where you were born, your state of origin or the language or culture you belong to; it emphasizes where you have been living for a length of time; ten years in a domicile of choice is usually prescribed. To use residency to displace state of origin and indigeneity is therefore tantamount to changing the pattern of social interaction in the country and altering the nation-building process. This is so because residency allows you not only to claim citizenship in one state but in every state in the federation. A very fundamental conditioning of Nigeria as a living space, it assaults federalism and makes nonsense of the nod given to resource control and fiscal federalism. Ostensibly, what it seeks to remove is the stigma that makes citizens of one state in the Nigerian Federation to pay a penalty, such as higher school fees, when they cross the boundary from one state or region to another. It serves as a means of avoiding the drag of ethnicity or tribalism or statism in national affairs, and makes it absurd to expel fellow Nigerians from where they have been living, working, and paying taxes, back to where they have ancestral roots or where their parents were born. In short, residency is supposed to make it easy to achieve the old ambition of idealistic nationalists who wished for people of one ethnic group to be able to enjoy scholarships, strategic appointments, and to stand as candidates for elections, in the domicile of another ethnic group or state. The envisaged country thereafter becomes one in which people can live as full citizens in a domicile of choice rather than only in the domicile of birth. It is like the old liberal, or Lockean ideal, which makes everyone free to go to any part of the world and exercise common rights with the occupants of an area without anyone saying this is mine to ward off outsiders. It is a form of protest recommendation in favour of those Nigerians who have lived for many years in areas outside their ethnic homelands and state of origins but are not allowed to enjoy the full rights of citizenship. In fact, the notion of ethnic homeland is completely erased.
The point however is that Residency, presented from the standpoint of problems needing to be solved, raises questions about its propriety or appropriateness. One may ask if there are alternative ways more efficacious and perhaps less disruptive of the world as we know it. This cautionary note, I believe, is too important to be left unaddressed. I think it should be taken on board through an appreciation of indigeneity and state of origin which the APC wishes to remove from contention by inserting residency as a panacea more worthy of the dream of true federalism. Lets underline this issue of true federalism because it frames the goal of restructuring as an advocacy; it seeks a rearrangement of the structures of government against the existing unitarization that has turned constituent units into mere handmaidens of the Federal Government. It is classically aimed at offering protected culturalgeographies for the self governance of constituent states.
By definition, indigeneity is about immemorial ties, ancestral and primordial relationship to a cultural geography, a domicile, which may or may not be a state. It is the very fount of cultural citizenship in the sense that it is linked to language, birth, the soil, the myths and rituals of historical memory and the standards of spiritual or civic commitment to a sense of nationality. Indigeneity is what makes culturalsiblings to feel almost instant solidarity for and with each other. It is a nuanced relationship, because you can be the citizen of a state but not an indigene: another way of saying that indigeneity is not based wholly on law but on shared ancestry, culture, mutual accommodation and communal acceptance.
In effect, to seek to displace indigeneity by embossing residency is to take the fundamentally irrevocable step of discountenancing the fact of immemorial domicile and to accede to a temporal status of say ten years in a place. Normally that is how long it takes to become a citizen. But the APC Committee wishes that you become not just a citizen, as usually supposed, but an indigene. It is not merely a linguistic but a political maneuver. Meaning that: the Mahmood Mamdani question, when does a settler become a native, is answered in terms of a decade of residency. Except that the temporal qualification for a resident to become a citizen is not thereby problematized enough. The proper question is: when does a citizen or a resident become an indigene?
The ultimate answer to this question is that indigeneity being basically about language, not a language that is floating, but a language that is specific to a territory where it may have been spoken for hundreds of years, is linked to the myths and rituals of culture, not mere temporality. It is about cultural resources accumulated across the centuries that have become a means of identity – its formation, perpetuation and promotion – for the natives or indigenes. No matter from how diverse the sources of the migrations that may have brought the people to the same locale – common language, shared governing principles, rituals and religious observances, collective memories in myths and folktales – all these give the indigene a special sense of self. Across many communities, the possession of that special sense is what is meant when a man is called a son of the soil. Even when people were conquered and roped into vassalage, as happened with domestic or western colonialism, no people wished to lose their sense of indigeneity; because it spells the tie to a homeland. The average Maguzawa conquered by the Fulani who has not lost his language and the formalities of traditional culture, could shrug it off. Many a people would rather pay tribute to overlords than lose the tie to a homeland which in their belief belongs to them immemorially. And not all nationalities would cede their governing institutions even if they have to pay tribute. Thus, a strong sense of homeland, notionally, empowers the native and indigene, and has made it possible for people of the same language on different sides of colonially inflicted borders to sustain a sense of siblinghood.
In Nigerian history, what came closest to upholding indigeneitywas the practice of the indirect rule system which tried to govern the people through their traditional chiefs. It was largely a failure in many parts of the country because chiefs that were truly sanctioned by tradition, not mere conquest or imposition, were being denatured by being made to serve their people through an alien imprimatur. As they lost their powers, first, to colonial gerrymandering and then to the reforms of the modern civilian and military governments, they became mere servers of the province or region or state of origin. This did not quite fit the bill of indigeneitybecause the creators of Nigerian regions and states hardly followed a cultural, or ethnic principle in setting the boundaries of a state. Many ethnic homelands were put together in a region or state in a jumble with others such that there were indigenes of different languages or ethnic groups as citizens of one state of origin.
Following the views of leading African lights like AmilcarCabral and Obafemi Awolowo, it is arguable that by sheer presence, while being roped into doing business with the colonial and successive modern governments, the traditional rulers remained the embodiment of the people’s indigeneity. They lacked the statutory will to move society; but by reigning, though not governing, the chiefs represented the people’s symbolic power. A place was affirmed for them in the system of governance which allowed indigeneity to matter as a fount of citizenship. In essence, any outright removal of indigeneity from the determination of citizenship, as the APC Commiittee recommends, has to be seen also as a revision of traditional rule. Not that many Nigerians would mind this, so long as it is based on a coverall principle which insists that a Republic should be democratic without room for feudal-seeming institutions.
The snag in this is that those who support and are committed to traditional ruler-ship in their native cultural geographies or ethnic homelands often do not appear to mind the extinction of the language and traditional powers in their host communities or areas of residence. This is why a plague on all their houses is the cry of altruism that has simply been un-implementable. The reason is that, from the era of the indirect rulers, indigeneity, and the stability of tradition, even where unrecognized by the state, remained quite a means of authenticating citizenship. Traditional rulers have managed ever since to be seen as ‘owners of the land who know what gods to appease’, as Chinua Achebe’s character vouchsafes in No Longer At Ease. The question has been how to democratize the cultural geographies of language groups, to implant self governance that covers issues of development, education, modern bureaucracy, political parties, elections, and a domineering technological civilization. Even if it was a case of arithmetically adding up all the traditional ruler-ships in the country, it would still not suffice to bring the different homelands together under common governing principles: in local governments, states, regions, and the nation state.
The truth of the matter is that the informality of tradition and indigeneity, in the face of the law, has always been an issue, because it has statutory and legal coverage only in relation to state of origin which has meaning only in the practice of federalism in Nigeria. State of origin cuts into the psychology of the indigene or native, at least in the Nigerian situation, only instrumentally without the capacity to rouse great emotional commitment. As regions and states were not necessarily created to be coincident with boundaries of language groups or what is here called cultural geographies, the commitment to them has been tame. So it is perfectly to be understood that to talk of being an indigene remains emotionally stronger than having a region or a State of Origin certificate in the contemporary sense. Clearly, indigeneity is more informal than statutory. State of origin on the other hand is about law, a constitutionally defined relationship between state and federal. It can cover people of different language groups; so that strangers and indigenes could be common citizens of the same state or region in a nation state. State of origin is a legal cover for indigeneity or indigeneities, but, I repeat, it does not cut into the psychology of the native or indigene outside that statutory coverage. As some kind of collective security, it is for all citizens of a state. To remove it as the APC Committee plans to do is to remove not only ancestry/indigenous status, orthe other formalities known to citizenship quest through schooling, marriage, public works, legal affirmation or documentation.
In this regard, quite relevant to the discussion of state of origin is that whatever the cultural distinctions between peoples, they are united only by a common relationship to Federal authority. This means that differences of language and ethnicity as forces of indigeneity that have been the source of the pluralism that instigates federal arrangements, is removed. If you have no state of origin as a statutory cover, what would be the basis for the new plurality after they have annulled indigeneity?
So assumedly, there would be two principles of pluralism; one more artificial or instrumental than the other: the first results from bringing several communities together under a common governing principle in a state and the second, is from the adoption of specifically federal principles of governance between different states. Since the federal quest is to escape the strictures of a unitary system over people of diverse backgrounds, we may ask how do you determine diversity? Is it when regions or states have self-governance, a coordinate but not subordinate status within the larger whole of a Federal State? Would there still be states of regions in the evident free-wheeling atmosphere that would result from banning states of origin and indigeneity? Since there would be no difference between citizenship of a constitutent unit and citizenship of the Federal state, as we have always known it in Nigeria, by what rule of thumb are constitutuent units to be determined?
Instinctively, one must feel that, by making indigeneity and state of origin anathema in their notion of true federalism, the APC is staking anti-federalist steps: in fact, two anti-federalist steps: one downgrades or removes the notion of immemorial relationships that underlie the cultures that make for the pluralism which instigates moves to federalism; and the other retrenches the dual citizenship across most federal systems which requires that you have to be a citizen of a state or region, or to have a region, province or state of origin, in order to be a citizen of the Federal state. It does not really matter whether the states or regions created the federal authority or the federal authority created the states; the critical arrangement is that you are a citizen of the Federation by being a citizen of one of its constitutent units.
In the United states, the first federal state, which is mostly a country of immigrants, the norm is that you have to be a citizen of a particular state to be a citizen of the country. As a citizen of the United States, your movement from one state to another requires you to fit into your new environment by re-affirming your citizenship in that state. Unlike India which began from a base of unitarism and so grants no dual citizenship between Federal and states, the United States, and Switzerland, took off from con-federal pads more accommodating of differences in local colour. India, however, while de-emphasizing the dual citizenship of state and Federal, and in spite of her unitarist precedents, ensured that linguistic differences were given due acknowledgement within two years of independence. Cultural geographies were so delineated as to allow for language and political geography to be matched, and made coincident, such that a language group could have its local government or provincial government. The result is that citizenship of a language was secured in the same way that in South Africa, every language was deemed a national language, after Apartheid. Well, after the language riots in India and South Africa, they had to learn to be civil in matters of the mother tongue.
In the Nigerian situation, there has always been some complication to the picture in the sense that the differencesin language across Nigeria were ignored for the purpose of creating regions and states. From colonial times, regions were created without regard to the languages and ethnic groups. The multiplicity of ethnic groups and fractions, ranging from 250 to 529, depending on how you count, although reducible to less than thirty cultural blocs, has allowed for complex administrative calculus. Thanks to colonial anthropologists who were diligent in uncovering the ethnic differences across the country – and so successful that scholars accused them of turning Nigeria into a country of ethnic compartments – we can see how the governing process failed to register the lie of the ground. The creators of the regions simply threw ethnic groups into the rag-bag of the regions and left them grating against one another to be sorted out by politics. Rather than have regions or states in accordance with cultural or ethnic realities, the creation of protectorates, regions and states, since 1900, has been done, according to the convenience of the colonizer or the sass of military dictators. Pure prejudice and sheer criminalization of issues regarding the supposed proliferation of tribalism ensured, after independence, that no proper mapping of the cultural geographies for the purpose of state creation was done. It was largely in deference to ethnic groups like the Fulani who lacked contiguity of land holdings as you could not talk of Fulani land in the sense in which you could talk about Yorubaland, or Hausaland or Igboland.
Now, the APC Committee appears to have visualized it along different lines: as if, in the face of so much tribalism, they are determined to wipe out the tribes, a complete impossibility, rather than design social, cultural and economic policies that can meet any differences. They are thinking of the easiest way to mix up Nigerians from different parts of the country. Without a meaningful educational programme, or a coherent language policy, they would mix up different ethnic groups so that no particular homeland can exist that belongs to any particular ethnic group. On realizing that civic loyalties under Nigerian federalism are too weighted in favour of regions and states, they are going for removing the citizenship of a state in order thereby, so romantically, to shift all loyalties to the federal government in a monolithic, unitary sense. It is all very bad sociology, shabby thinking, most jejune and romantic and decidedly myopic. Otherwise, the truth of federalism is that there isn’t only one way to be a national, or member of a community. If you all must obey a federal constitution, it must provide for your pluralism, your differences, your diversity, while seeking to create commonalities, not by draconian, but by benign means.
I concede that some Nigerians seem to prefer the roforofomixing-up of people with residency certificates, foiling the idea of ethnic homelands or states of origin, because of their internal colonialist agendas. Instead of developing a proper, open, transparent, geo-cultural strategy to fix the ethnic problems, with the participation of all Nigerians from their different corners, they prefer taking dead-end cues from Frederick Lugard’s mistakes – actually sheer imperialist logic – of 1914. By the way, what did Lugard do? He preferred to ram together people of different nationalities, under duress.
He built up his Northern loot for the Royal Niger Company into a lopsidedly larger fraction of the country, with a veto, for the purpose of ensuring, first, his own dominance and hegemony over British interests in the South; and, second, to make sure that the North and South would never ever be in a position to unite against British over-lordship. The sheer whimsicality of the size of the Northern Region gavecitizenship a rather artificial twist and colouring in the Nigerian firmament.
As readers of Margery Perham, Lugard’s biographer and former Secretary, can attest, proposals made by Charles Temple, Governor of the North, for an eight-region structure for the country and the one by E.D Morel, editor of the Daily Mail for a four region Federation, were thrown out by Frederick Lugard out of pure imperial mischief. The Resident of Katsina, Richmond Palmer, who was supposed to be Lugard’s actualizer for indirect rule in the South, happened to be the one who built up the Conference of Northern Residents, with a culture of One North versus the South, cemented with a universalized indirect rule system, a more or less generalized Hausa language and a slowed-down educational system for the North, which ensured that all the emirates were given the combined status of a trade union against other Nigerians. His prime achievement, especially after he took over the North in1924, was to build up Northern exclusivism against the rest of the country. As it turned out, Lugard’s attempt, followed by his successors, to have Nigeria being run as two different countries did not work. The smaller southern protectorate was split in 1939 while the bigger northern protectorate was left in fixity, intact. It never really worked. And the agitation for more states or regions could not be stopped by the chicanery of the British or the monafiki of the natives who took over.
After independence in 1960, so many more states were created until we got to the current thirty six states. They have not been working well. This is because of the sheer fraudulence of assuming that the natural plurality of cultures in Nigeria which, as already noted, British anthropologists were rather adept at uncovering, can be ignored while federal character is determined by allowing a colonizer or military dictator to draw a pencil round any area on a map and call or make it a state. Such boundaries which respect neither culture, language nor the decorum of Federal structures, have generally created assaults on good sense and have boxed up and turned harmless ethnic differences into antagonistic competitions. The post-civil war practice of splitting the same ethnic group into different states, different federal characters, for the purpose of loot-sharing, has further worsened the format. It has turned Nigerian Federalism into a compounded mayhem. At its core is the permanent conflict between those who wish to have a unitarist cast over the country, so that they will, like the colonialists, commandeer their neighbours to perform tasks that only the colonized may bow or genuflect to; and those who wish to protect their own cultural geographies from undue savaging by near and distant neighbours. One set is seeking either to have or defend their states of origin while the other is seeking to remove all encumberance that would prevent them from riding roughshod over the country. Quite obviously, those wishing to outlaw indigenous status in order to emboss residency are bidding to eliminate the check and balance that the idea of state of origin and indigeneity constitute.
The popping issue here is that Nigeria was taken over, bit by bit, kingdom by kingdom, or if you like, protectorate after protectorate, by British guns; and no one, ever since, has managed to pursue policies to turn the consequent geographical expression, as Obafemi Awolowo learnt from Metternich to call it, into a nation or cultural expression. What is not often acknowledged is that, over the decades, the speed track educational and economic development that was available for the necessary transformation was ruined by elites, misled by colonial traps, who lacked common goal orientation. Ethnic unionization had to become more and more rampant because the system in existence never offered the more vulnerable of the ethnic groups, the indigenous minorities and marginalized majorities, fair protection within the rag-bag of regions and states. The vulnerable minorities were fighting for autonomy, their own freedom, within the struggle of the rest of Nigeria for freedom from Britain. Without protected cultural geographies within which to develop and advance their cultures and self-governance, they began and continued to unionize, in organizations such as Ibibio Union, Otu Edo, Ibo State Union and Egbe OmoOduduwa, before they were banned in 1966. Since then, organizations like Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Miyetti Allah Kaital Hore, Ijaw Youth Congress, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People have arisen. More inclusive regional bodies of recent years like Arewa Elders Forum, Southern Nigerian Governors Forum, and Arewa Governors Forum have registered themselves. As a means of offence and defence, these organizations have thrived on the fear, sometimes genuine and palpable, of near and distant neighbours. The rationale for their existence is the indifference and/or complicity of successive federal governments, often hijacked by powerful or more wilyneighbours, in sundry miscarriages of justice across the political space.
The acute failure of the nation-building process keeps yawning in the face of the inherent absence of a central government able to act centripetally and to galvanize diverse homelands across the country. As most collective engagements are turned to hash by cabals that love Nigeria only because they are able to play her like football, it encourages irresponsibility across the board. It has emboldened militancy so much that inter-communal and inter-governmental relationships have become a virtual war of all against all. Is it any surprise that in the face of the general failure of state institutions, there have been quite a recourse to the seemingly ever present, more stable and more reliable traditional systems based either on the more stable appeal to indigeneity or regress to banditry as a means of afor-dosecurity?
In the case of the traditional ruler-ships, their symbolic power has tended to be transposed into material interventionism as they are not only now paid a statutorily determined fraction from public coffers as an earnest of their recognition, they have pooled a platform that is only just short of acquiring constitutional status enough to risk the distraction of two sovereignties in Nigeria’s public space. What is more, some states, clearly watering down the dignity of tradition, are bidding to create traditional ruler-ships where there were none in the past. Some are demanding, rather distractedly, that traditional rulers should be granted All-Nigeria status in a National Council of Chiefs with a tri-cameral legislature – truly unmwiedly, if you ask me – while some are wishing, unnecessarily, to reduce costs by having a uni-cameral National Assembly. Rational analysis should suggest a parallel that is genuinely based on indigeneity. But the question is: how do you recognize traditional rulers, accept the reality of different linguistic groups and ethnic homelands through the recognition of their chiefs, and then make the presumption that state of origin and indigeneityand hence, language, culture and ancestry should no longer count in the determination of citizenship? The APC should know that it is simply disingenuous.
It is even more so when it is realized that although in a democratic Republic all citizens are supposed to be equal before the law, the existence of ethnic royalties irremediably sutured in their ethnic tongues have always shaken if not altered the paradigm. They have always made the factor of birth, religion, even sex, important factors in the determination of citizenship. It is not that the APC will be out of the jam by even banning traditional ruler-ships and their different tongues. It wont remove the differences between language groups.
It shows that the removal of a people’s identity or an important aspect of it, is what is at stake when indigeneity and state of origin are outlawed. So to say, if indigeneity is removed, it is supposed to take away the power that a state ought to have to give a Certificate of Indigeneity to those who have been a committed part of their culture for a given number of years. It should mean that, in the face of a country reeling under the pressure of kalashnikov-wielding herdsmen from Mali, Niger and who-knows-where-else, the APC Committee is actually requiring that the distinction between the Federal and state, a distinction that is the very root of the mobilization of bias in favour of the second tier of government in any Federation, be removed. It is a serious enough matter to deserve elaboration. I will elaborate.
A MIS-PRIMED RESIDENCY
The APC Committee’s stand on residency provides a virtual sea-change on the question of citizenship, as proved by what it displaces. By removing indigeneity, dismantling or dispelling the notion of indigenes, it takes culture and language off consideration. It heightens the existential threat to Nigerians who had assumed that their own cultural geography, their own for more than a thousand years, which they had a right to live in, luxuriate in, and call their own homeland, is no longer theirs for good. Equally, by banning state of origin, it erazes the distinction between federal and state and makes citizenship a direct relationship to the federal government in a manner that insinuates a unitary culture across the country. Culture and language as sources of pluralism, the diversity, that makes federalism necessary, being thus under erazure by the APC Committee, the division of powers between federal and state which is the basis upon which federalism works, is trashed. By removing what makes federalism necessary and the factor that makes it work, the APC Committee is laying the basis for a unitary conception of citizenship that is quite a valiant attempt to blot out ethnicity (and ethnic tongues) and ethnic homelands and put in their place whatever the residents, whoever they may be, choose to bring. Thank Goodness, the Lagos State House of Assembly, with its new language policy, thinks otherwise.
In this regard, the use of residency as a means of determining citizenship, by removing the safeguard of indigeneity and state of origins, is virtually tailor-made to grate at the levels of culture and the design of administrative units. Even for sheer adventurers who imagine that ethnicity can be wiped out by imposing only one out of Nigeria’s many ethnic groups upon all others, the factor of cultural geographies still cannot be avoided. This is because wherever differences exist, in culture, geography and history, enough to make federalism necessary, a responsible government would need to design a means of managing relationships for the period of transition from the many to the chosen one. However, if none, as in Nigeria, has been chosen, and there is really no necessity to choose one, it would amount to begging for civil strife, hopping from one pacification strategy to another, after causing mayhem, by seeking to wipe out state of originand indigeneship as a marker of citizenship.
The proper thing to have done, still needing to be done, although resisted by colonizing external and internal forces, is for legal and cultural citizenship to be conjoined, so that each ethnic group is constituted into a region or state within a Federal Nigeria. Where some ethnic groups are of sizes that may be unviable as states or regions, the standing proposal, made famous by Obafemi Awolowo, is for such ethnic groups to have an arrangement with neighbours, that enables them to be self-governing in their own right without being under the thumb of any over-lording minority or over-bearing majority ethnic group. Assuredly, if we want Nigeria to be free, Nigerian nationalities and ethnic groups must be set free. Set free not to act as marauders across other people’s domain, but to make of self-governance a means of realizing the goals of communal integrity and progress.
Besides, removing state of origin reduces the necessary protection against ambitious nationalities wishing to swamp some others and take them over. Recently, Iyorchia Ayu, a former Minister of Internal Affairs, told the story of how a ranch or grazing reserve in the old Northern Nigeria was expanded until it swallowed up other communities and naturally bagged its own emirate. In recent years, trailer loads of the jobless have been off-loaded upon some states of the Federation whose Governors felt compelled to expel the strangers as forced-draft settlers. What has made it quite an issue is the surplus population of street urchins from neighbouring countries claiming to be from neighbouring Nigerian states. They have become specially protected denizens deployable for the illegality of under-age voting. The use of National Identity Cards to resolve their swarm has generally been sabotaged between states and federal bureaucracies. But then, there are the cases of settlers who create and turban and crown their own traditional rulers andexpel the original owners of the land into refugee camps or turn them into migrants. It has turned Nigeria into a virtual jungle. Imagine the heinously audacious proposals for areas where Boko Haram has been cleared to be given to herdsmen without anyone telling fellow Nigerians what happens to the original populations in the place. Or has it become a matter of letting Boko Haram clear the areas for the herdsmen to occupy? Or simply declaring a state of emergency in some states in order to take them over for a preferred nationality? The more horrid danger is that non-Nigerians from Mali and Niger are then imposed on Nigeria and described as indigenes. Surely, if the purpose is to let Nigeriens and Malians become Nigerians, in order to benefit from the more bountiful circumstances around us, it ought to amount to the territories of the neighbours being added to that of Nigeria. And, there are formal protocols for doing it right, not through substerfuge and armed propaganda of herdsmen and bandits.
Wherever there has been a danger of this occurring, or being repeated, the concept of indigeneity and state of origin, simply has to be insisted upon and applied in the absence of a national policy for dealing with the rampage of the settlers. It happens to be a concerted rampage, in the name of residency, equivalent to armed propaganda for a civil war yet to be declared. The purpose, it seems, is actually to override appeals to indigeneity in order to assert settler culture, occupations, and religious preferences over hosts who are deemed to have no choice. For what it is worth, indigeneityhelps to draw a line against the rampage of those using Kalashnikovs and armed propaganda to displace indigenous populations in order to have grazing reserves in their ethnic homelands. Now that the Defense Minister and the security chiefs, in sheer unconscionable identification with the herdsmen, have chosen to take such armed propaganda as mere communal clashes, pleading for communities to be hospitable to strangers or neighbours with guns, the conflict between indigeneity and residency has indeed become a seriously strategy matter. To be asking communities to accept, with grace, the rampage of strangers who bring cows to take over farms or who insist on becoming indigenes overnight, establishing their own traditional rulerships over lands on which they are not even proper residents, is to have a penchant for disharmony and chaos-making that could dissolve a country. It cuts very hard when the herdsmen from as far as they may are described as Nigerians as if thereby to emphasize their license to do and undo as they please.
To think of it: If the Kanuri from the North of Cameroun, the Efik from South of Cameroun, and the Yoruba from the Republic of Benin, were to follow the Fulani from Mali to insist on joining their kith and kin on the same terms of becoming automatic Nigerians, the mayhem it would unleash could dissolve this great and wonderful country.This is why the distinction between indigenes and settlers is worth emphasizing if only to ensure some minimal restraint, one means of self-protection against those who may have bought up all the stray guns in the world’s black market to overrun and seize Nigeria as grazing land for their cattle. Fail to stem their tide, and the emergent chaos could lead the rest of the world back to 1884 Berlin where it was decided how to impose a colonizing order upon Africa, deploying civilizing missions and physical occupation, after the abolition of slavery. To avoid another such pernicious order, or second colonialism, the distinction between indigenes and settlers is needed to stop people jumping too far ahead of current realities.
Evidently, it is not only the concept of indigeneity but private or communal property that is at stake here. It must be taken as very serious after a bill for the creation of grazing reserves in every local government was pursued and then dropped on a second reading at the National Assembly because of its obvious dishing of impunity. The matter of interest is that the bill was slated for potential occupants of the grazing reserves to graduate into indigenes after ten years. What the APC Committee Report vouchsafes is exactly a replica of that bill in a sneaking kind of way. It shows that the APC has not considered the coverall solutions that are within reach and can remove the sheer theology of dissolution aimed against other communities by those who need education in empathy. Nor is it as if there is an all-time virtue in having Nigerian states appearing as impregnable forts of indigeneityagainst other Nigerians.
A solution, which does not require the outlawing of the concept of state of origin or indigeneity is actually there in the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy proposed in Awolowo’s Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution, and pressed into service in the 1979 Constitution. The objectives and directive principles were designed to meet social welfare needs – especially, in health, education and employment – so as to cover all citizens including those who may cross from one state or region to another. In spite of a recent landmark court ruling to shore up education, no properly justiciable practice exists in the country at the Federal level to make it work. This point needs to be stressed because, in the case of education, oldgrudges by less educationally developed states against other states with more children already at school, have frustrated implementation. The educationally developed are resented for potentially deriving more benefits from federal funding. It seems to be easily forgotten that the more populous states, if they send all their children to school, as they should be made to, would get higher funding as time progresses. The bottomline is that any constitutional position against state of origin which fails to emphasize such social welfare coverage, backed by federal coupons across the states, is bidding for stratagems and spoils.
What it calls for, I must say, is more rigorous planning than is the vogue across the Federation at the moment. With particular reference to education, the sector has to be re-planned with better funding in the face of the reported over-crowding of schools, as in Kaduna state, where up to 150 to 300 pupils per classroom has been reported. The increase, sadly, should have been informed by prior registration. It happened after the federal government took over the School Feeding Programme of the State of Osun which has taken so many out-of-school children off the streets across the country.
Anyhow, while such welfare coverage of Nigerians is going on apace, it calls for accepting that Nigeria is not a country of immigrants or hunter-gatherers who have no fixity of homelands. No matter when or where they originally entered our spaces, all Nigerians have to be helped to appreciate that this is a country with ethnic nationalities and ethnic homelands with distinct languages and cultures which cannot be wished away by a mere appeal to residency. By the same token, this is a country in which a settler or resident in any ethnic homeland is expected to participate in and respect the culture of the host community. To seek to impose a culture including a traditional ruler-ship from outside the homeland, must be deemed an act of nation-wrecking. True, conceivably, out of genuine altruism, some radicals may refuse to accept the traditional ruler in a host community on the grounds that there should be no such thing as traditional ruler-ship in a Republic of equal citizens. But, if such people accept traditional rulers in their state of origin while refusing to acknowledge the validity of the traditional rulers in their state of residence, it spoils the recipe. Such people are no-brainers who should only live in communities with which they have cultural empathy. They have no business travelling outside their states of origin until they have learnt to see that principles should not be applied selectively.
One of course should wish for a future in which the choice is not between one feudal order and another. It calls for a newerworld to displace the one we know, and with a higher level of educational advancement of the whole society such that citizenship according to law, and citizenship according to culture, are brought together and made the basis for the creation of states, while each constituent unit will be defined by knowledge that equalizes the different languages in use. Citizenship should be made of such stern stuff. It implies having defensible cultural geographies for the development of Nigerian languages and culture! Also, it would mean that those who live outside their states of origin and are true participants in and committed to the life of the people amongst whom they live, will not need additionallaws for them to be treated as the citizens which they already are. For citizens to become indigenes is not something that happens according to law. It does not have to happen in one day as any stranger who becomes a chief in Ibadan or Lagos can attest.
Indeed, with the English language still in place as lingua franca, the fitter logic is to educate Nigerians to accept diversity and ethnic differences as the natural state of every federal society. Those who wish that Nigeria be reduced to a unitary order, with one language, one religion and one government, (quite a boring proposition), by removing the notion of indigenes or state of origin, or by deploying armed propaganda or sheer constitutional fiat to remove people from their homeland, are pleading a very unnatural course. Even if there was an alchemy that could turn all Nigerians into ethnic neuters who have no cultural traits relating to any particular ethnic group, there would still be need for administrative distinctions and, as in the United States, and in Germany, a reason to give citizenship of a state a place within the concept of nationality. The bridging of legal and cultural citizenship is therefore an elementary recipe. Although there are parts of the country where it would create glitches, the point is that if every part of the country is covered by the fundamental objectives and directive principles, the freedom of speech, association, movement and domicile of citizens will be guaranteed. As the case of Lagos state has proved, it does not stop non-indigenes who identify with their hosts from becoming citizens who can vote and be voted for. This cries to be left on the Residual List.
In essence, what is being proposed here is an answer that aligns indigeneity with meritocracy and freedom of domicile, an answer that removes ethnicity from the anathema that it attracts in some Nigerian circles. By ensuring genuine welfare coverage of Nigerians along lines which guarantee rights to health education and employment etc across the board, the grump in state of origin, is virtually trounced. Justiciable, and defended by the establishment of a rigorous national planning system, it has the advantage of respecting indigeneity without implying a disability for the non-indigenes whose rights as a citizen are acknowledged and protected. Since a citizen is not necessarily an indigene, it ought to follow that those who want to be indigenes must become part of the culture of the people amongst whom they live. Those who want to be indigenes as overlords to their hosts, imposing their own culture, deserve to be treated as petty imperialists who should be humanized by being made to go through a process of indigenization. They need to accept and be accepted by the host culture in order to be indigenes. It is a matter that some federal constitutions reduce to law. But it is beyond law. It implicates culture, if not primordiality. To equate residency with being an indigene or seek to eliminate indigeneity completely, as the APC Committee wishes to do, tantamounts to over-defining citizenship .
CREATION AND MERGER OF STATES
IT IS the inability to acknowledge and accommodate indigeneitythat has made the Nasir el Rufai Committee to take a merely contingent rather than a principled stand on the matter of creation of states. No matter how disguised in semantics, the Committee’s opposition to the creation of states is exposed by its claim that only 36 percent of Nigerians are demanding it. This is actually a high enough percentile to make a genuine believer in restructuring to feel concerned. Objectively, it suggests that 70 percent of Nigerians are happy with the states already created. In spite of the repressive armed propaganda that has so far been used to hound oppressed minorities into silence and to destabilize marginalized majorities, it is significant that a third of the APC sample went for it. So why be nasty to the 30 percent unaccounted for?
Quite intriguing, in this regard, is that the opposition to the creation of new states is usually rested on the thoroughly unsound ground that it will lead to too many unviable states. This is like an attempt to forget that most states appear unviable only because the Federal Government, through the exclusive Legislative list in the Nigerian Constitution, has taken humungous tax powers away from them. Since the Nasir el Rufai committee is willing to see the Federal Government shedding many of the 68 items on the Exclusive Legislative list in favour of the Concurrent List, (and the Residual List?), then it ought not to make a red herring of the un-viability of the states.
To be fair, the Committee deserves kudos for rising to the mental magnitude that has allowed it to support the inclusion of foods, drugs, and poisons, fingerprints and identification of criminal records, Labour, minimum wage, Public Holidays, Registration of business names, Stamp Duties, Control and Establishment of Prisons, in the Concurrent Legislative list. It is a great boost to the Resource Control and fiscal federalism ambit that the Committee also recommends the transfer of Mines and Minerals including oil fields, Natural Gas, Geological Surveys, Police, and Railways to the Concurrent List. A party that can accede to such sea-change recommendations ought to have had the gumption not to heat up the political space unnecessarily by distancing itself in the name of partisan politics from the Report of the 2014 National Conference. The recommendations need to be made the property of all Nigerians by conceding their cross-party pedigree.
Now, if the APC is prepared to run with these recommendations, it ought not to oppose the creation of new states. Under a proper fare of fiscal federalism, all the states wouldarguably be more viable as they would no longer be short-changed by Federal Might nor would they need to follow unhealthy patterns of expenditure that the federal government imposes on all. If the federal government must retain some of the old tax powers, it should be for ensuring that no state falls below a certain basic minima of standards in education, health and employment. Such that: every child no matter where born or domiciled will have access to welfare.
Besides, it should be properly acknowledged that the creation of new states is not only for economic but cultural, moral and political reasons. It is about granting genuine self-governance to all Nigerians no matter how small their nationality. To repeat: the point is for no ethnic group to be under duress, under a predatory minority or an overbearing majority. No ethnic group should be used merely to grab allocations at the centre for a porous stream of mal-distribution. This is a strong point worth making in the face of a Committee headed by a Governor of Kaduna state, a state where cultural geographies, very ripe for the creation of states, have been long in contention.
Among the many states crying to be created, the ripest, in my view, is for the Gbagyi of central Nigeria and the Southern Kaduna peoples. Nigerians should not be allowed to forget that Frederick Lugard took Kaduna from the Gbagyi homeland and seventy years later Abuja was also taken from the other part of their ethnic homeland! What crimes have they committed that they are not being allowed to have a state of their own but are scattered between different states that make them appear unavailable for self-governance? Think of it, as I have pointed out in my book This Conference Must be diffferent, “the Gbagyiof Central Nigeria….. have always been fractionized between four different states: Kaduna State, Niger State, NassarawaState, and the Federal Capital Territory. An ideal Gbagyi State should cover the following local governments in Niger State: Suleja, Tafa, Gurara, Paiko, Chanchaga, Bosso, Rafi, Shiroro, and Monday local governments. From Kaduna State, the local governments involved are Chikun, Kaduna South, and Kagarkolocal government areas. From Nassarawa State, the relevant local government areas are Kari, Toto, and Nassarawa LGAs. The Gbagyi conurbations in the Federal Capital Territory should remind us that when Lugard wanted a capital for his beloved North, he swiped a portion off Gbagyi territory. And, later, when Nigerians went a-searching for a central territory to turn into a capital, the choice fell on Abuja, another Gbagyi conurbation. The question is: apart from the British whose armies were defeated by the Gbagyi people and who therefore meted out the punishment of not having even a primary school built for the people in the first three decades of colonial rule, who else wants to keep the Gbagyi people divided so as to feel comfortable with the situation that has had their towns and villages renamed in languages that are not indigenous to the areas; such that when, as happened during the visit of President Bill Clinton to Nigeria, the special indigenous title given to the visitor, was announced, not as Gbagyi, but Hausa. The truth is that it distorts our appreciation of Hausa itself to have Gbagyi interpreted as such and it disrupts our understanding of our society and history in general“.
To deny them a state while pretending to turn Abuja into a near state, is a typical internal colonialist ploy, a way of doing fraudulence as charity. If only for this reason, the stand of the APC committee on the creation of states deserves to be jettisoned. Surely, what is good for the Gbagyi and Southern Kaduna peoples must be extended to many ethnic groups – the Idoma, the Tiv, Nupe, Kanuri, Anioma etc. The idea of a Kanuri state relating to autonomous neighbours should be glossed within the notion of a Nupe State on its own. Similarly, to continue to have the divide between Northern and Southern Nigeria by splitting the Ekiti people between North and South ought to be viewed as a case of paying obeisance to the devilry of British colonialism. This calls for boundary adjustments that will make Ekitiland, no longer just a Northern or Southern but a Nigerian state. Those who are opposed to the creation of states on such terms disqualify themselves from being party to the reconstruction that lies unfailingly ahead.
THE MERGER OF STATES
It is very significant that, after opposing the creation of new states, the el Rufai committee resorted to answering a question that no one asked: which is to have the merger of states. It is a sneaky vote for predatory regionalism, the kind that led to the struggle for the creation of states from the beginning. Indeed, the struggle for restructuring began with many minority groups resenting the incongruous sizes of their next door majority groups. They were fighting for their own autonomy within the struggle by the whole country to be free of British colonialists. A double-bind. Sadly, the good of that first struggle for independence is yet to percolate down to all Nigerian nationalities and ethnic groups after so many decades. The hard landing that it has been for many Nigerian regions and ethnic groups since Lugard’s creation of a lop-sidedly over-large Northern Nigeria, ought to make all Nigerians wary of any merger merchants. The artificiality that it has induced in the discussion of Nigerian federalism is too well known to be allowed to delay serious discussion.
Suffice it to note that the thought of the merger of states is not, as some argue, from the need for economies of scale; because federalism is already a provider of scale as it relates to markets and productivity. The bid for mergers is more about the pursuit of special entitlements and affirmative action to outsmart neighbours. It comes mainly from the envy and greed syndrome of wanting to take more than the due of a particular cultural geography. Call it “pooling weight for material consequences”: It is a derangement of federalist principles, giving undue weight in the scheming for revenue allocation, quota and rotation of offices. Once mergers become fashion or pattern in this sense, they set off other bad habits such as states banding to hijack federal powers or largesse. Think, for instance, of states that have no sea coast bargaining for assets that cannot belong to a hinterland, such as the failed attempt to move the naval headquarters to the Sahelian parts of Nigeria. To prove what? A lack of faith in national unity?
Simply consider that mergers are for staking fighting positions. Such positions, creating so much ill-will, have been at the centre of Nigerian politics since independence. The heyday dawned with the share-out of Nigerian patrimony by the ruling NPC/NCNC Coalition in 1960. That share-out enabled the junior partner and its Eastern base to take most of the strategic offices across the bureaucracy and public service while the NPC and the North took over all the railway extensions, Kainji Dam, military installations and the iron and steel industry. Let’s never forget that the lopsided sharing and the quarrels between the coalition partners was the real cause of the Nigerian civil war.
Today, the premium that some advocates of restructuring are putting on the 1963 constitution and upon regionalism takes inspiration from the same corner of the past. We are supposed to forget that the so-called democratic, inexpensive and very collegiate parliamentary system allowed that travesty of a lopsided share-out of national patrimony to take place. I think we should look back to it only as an advisory on how to concentrate on serious and truly urgent matters; even beyond the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy which, for it to work seamlessly, must have a first line draw on the Federation accounts.
So to say, restructuring should be distanced somewhat from the dig for a parliamentary system in order not to lose focus. It would be quite a distraction. Because: it lacks the capacity of the Presidential system to build national solidarity and decisiveness in a multi-ethnic state. From what we know of the dog-fights with speakers in several houses of Assembly today, and especially the shabby resolutions that follow, we should be wary of the easy fiefdoms and easier oligarchies buried in parliamentary beef. They are usually worse than Presidential monarchies until in-fighting erupts. Particularly, in societies without strong ideologies, without reliable bureaucracies, it would become an unwitting aping of the Yugoslav model. The latter, not to forget, deteriorated into rotation of offices between six regions – Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia – leading to dissolution and the emergence of a seventh country, Croatia, from her ashes. The recourse to the merger of states, for any reason, would tend to yield such a Yugoslav-type federalism:quite in line with proposals for changing Nigeria’s political geography along the new fangled six geo-political zones being proposed to escape the supposed unwieldiness of the current 36 states or presumed 54 states of the 2014 National Conference. Even for those so enamoured of the six geo-political zones, they must know that until they have created the states that protect the stranded cultural geographies, they are just playing with fire. Even for uni-ethnic Igbo and Yoruba, a proper delineation of sub-groups is a necessity for harmony.
What needs to be borne in mind is that states can inter-relate in their economic activities without the statutory dross of a regionalism-by-merger; for sure, the merger of states will tend to destroy one precondition for true federalism; which is that no constituent units should be so big as to make the tail wag the dog. This is what has been happening in our history in the name of wanting to keep the North big, with a veto, inducing poverty and illiteracy all around, seeking to reduce the advantages that some states possess instead of helping the disadvantaged states to catch up. The reality is that mergers promote such unsound imperfect competitions; as successive federal governments, unitarized under Northern auspices, have generally done; making northern states complacent by using the contrived veto, to fudge employments, make ex cathedra grants and planting federal projects lopsidedly, outside genuine fiscal federalism. The habit of declaring other people’s hometowns as oil blocks and dashing them to cronies of hegemons in power is part of this. So has been the pattern of cheating the Niger Deltansout of their due resources by imposing quangos like OMPADEC and NDDC. The use of local governments created by the federal governments as a means of cornering revenue allocation for preferred states is also at the heart of it. Such undemocratic and internal colonialist ploys continue to appear as ways of numbering the days of our Republic. This is why it must be admitted as a great advance that the APC Committee has not only accepted resource control and fiscal federalism as core issues in restructuring but accepts that local governments are now to be denied the status of a tier of government.
The challenge is how to turn local governments into centres of production rather than mere distribution units. This ties in with the struggle for their autonomy from federal interference and semi-autonomy from state governments. As the APC Committee concedes, states are now to be statutorily empowered to create local governments rather than having the federal government create local governments for states to run. It is a movement forward if the party would not deflate its own balloon
Beyond the format of the APC Committee, I would argue that additives to the integrity and autonomy of local governments should include a determination that: One: no unelected local governments should have powers to raise taxes or receive allocations; Two; elected or not, they must forfeit a determinate percentile, say 40 percent, without permutation, as taxes, to the state government; and, Three: the state government, on the basis of a weighted internally generated revenue principle, must cede to the local governments forty percent of revenue derived from the federation account. To further protect the autonomy of the local government system, a Governor who interferes with the running of local government finances should be denied immunity for the purpose of judicial interventions. This is actually a fair way of turning every part of the federation into a proper production system reconciled to the reduction of the cost of governance.
Not to forget: the APC Committee has opted for states to be in a position to grant licenses for economic activities, including oil and minerals, in their domain. This is classically within the ambit of Resource Control. But Resource Control should be a coverall concept that makes no distinctions between onshore and offshore resources. A federation that wont let the wealth of the sea go to coastal states tends to be a robber baron republic in which the advantages that one part of the federation may have are considered good for demolition merely to make other units of the Federation comfortable. Otherwise, the federal government, ought not to feel short-changed simply because some constituent parts are well endowed. Unless poor economic strategizing and the hijack of the federal government for a section of the country is allowed to become a principle, the role of tax collector and ensuring that no state falls below a basic minima of development, should be creatively embossed by the Constitution. Since a graduated tax system already exists in the country, the unwarranted invocation of the old struggle over onshore and offshore oil ought never to arise. Let’s face it: ending the envy and greed syndrome that non-coastal states have always brought to the onshore and offshore issue is why resource control and fiscal federalism are supposed to be re-designed. It is also part of the rationale for the creation of a state police – even if it is to be pegged on the availability of funding. In the case of the police, the states that are not yet ready for it ought not to stand in the way of those that are able and ready. Which brings up the matter of building winning coalitions for restructuring and national regeneration.
Indeed, coalition-building has been an important part of the demand for restructuring; and ought to be taken seriously not only before but after restructuring. This involves unavoidable scenarios that call for taking hard lessons from the past. One big lesson that should be culled, I dare say, comes from the negotiations around the 1959 Federal election. The party that had, potentially, the highest number of seats in that election, the NCNC, was not called by the British colonialists to form a government. Even as a divided party, with its Western arm breaking off to join the NPC, the NCNC was the biggest at the core of a putative national government. In addition to the offer made to it by a divided Action Group, the NCNC had an alliance with the NEPU, and could add the UMBC, the Bornu Youth Movement, and the COR State Movement which were allies of the AG. However, under British auspices, the leader of the NCNC had already bargained for the role of ceremonial Governor General and accepted a ramp of jobs for his followers. If you ask me, in 2018, the ground for restructuring remains potted with similar scenarios. Parliamentary systems give room for non-transparent negotiations. So let those who believe in restructuring not be too eager to bargain, or they may be bargaining away their upfront advantages either by under-defining their quest or making quid pro quo concessions that devalue outcomes.
Reassuringly, once and if the APC hierarchs accept the Report of the Governor el Rufai Committee, what is left on the road to restructuring, is to send already prepared bills to the National Assembly and the state assemblies. It is no longer a matter for manifestoes. Already-drafted bills need to be re-drafted and, I hope, cleaned up, with the emendations proposed here. For those who have struggled so hard for restructuring, all of them deservedly to be thanked for their consistency, the point is to continue to stick with due process; as there is no issue on the table that cannot be settled before the next elections. Any attempt to postpone the next elections on the promise of making restructuring possible should not be entertained. After watching the road that has been travelled since the report of the 2014 National Conference was submitted, shelved, re-tabled in absentia, and re-engaged by indirection, all Nigerians must ask with one voice – WHAT IS THERE TO STOP THE APC from a parliamentary resolution of restructuring within six months? The answer is: Nothing. Except for the mischief syndrome that has always derailed great advances in our history.
-Odia Ofeimun, journalist, poet, public intellectual, writes from Lagos