WHY RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA WILL NOT WORK
After awareness of Nigeria’s major challenges the next logical question revolves around restructuring. In an ideal world these challenges can be overcome. In practice however, this has proven impossible because of Fulani unwillingness to negotiate with the other sections of the country as equals.
The concept of Restructuring is not novel. The first major attempt restructuring of Nigeria occurred a mere seven years after independence. In January 1967, before the war between Nigeria and Biafra, there were diplomatic negotiations in Aburi, Ghana where each region of the country was represented by a military governor. There, in what became known as the Aburi Accords, a new structure for Nigeria was brokered. It was discussed and agreed that:
The Army is to be governed by the Supreme Military Council the Chairman of which will be known as Commander-in-Chief and Head of the Federal Military Government.
There will be a Military Headquarters on which the Regions will be equally represented and which will be headed by a Chief of Staff.
In each Region there shall be an Area Command under the charge of an Area Commander (Military governor) and corresponding with the existing Regions.
All matters of policy including appointments and promotions of persons in executive posts in the Armed Forces and Police shall be
dealt with by the Supreme Military Council.
During the period of the Military Government, Military Governors will have control over their Area Commands in matters of internal security.
The following appointments must be approved by the Supreme Military Council
Diplomatic and Consular posts
Senior posts in the Armed Forces and the Police
Super-scale Federal Civil Service and Federal Corporation posts
Any decision affecting the whole country must be determined by the
Supreme Military Council. Where a meeting is not possible such a
matter must be referred to Military Governors for comment and
“We the members of the Supreme Military Council of Nigeria meeting at Accra on 4th day of January, 1967, hereby solemnly and unequivocally:
DECLARE that we renounce the use of force as a means of settling the
present crisis in Nigeria, and hold ourselves in honor bound by this
REAFFIRM our faith in discussions and negotiation as the only
peaceful way of resolving the Nigerian crisis.
AGREE to exchange information on the quantity of arms and ammunition
in each unit of the Army in each Region, and also on the quantity of
new arms and ammunition in stock.”
All seemed to have been resolved, and spirits were so high that Gowon and Ojukwu rode together in the same vehicle to the airport with Joe Ankrah of Ghana. But when they returned to Nigeria something strange happened. Ojukwu discusses this in an exclusive interview. Gowon, on the 5th of May 1967, reneged on the Aburi Accords and declared the division of Nigeria into 12 states. This was an egregious violation of the Aburi Accords as all decisions affecting the whole country must be determined by Supreme Military Council as a whole. It was as though Gowon had been advised against upholding the agreement that he himself brokered. On 6th of July 1967, days after Biafra’s Declaration of Independence, Nigeria attacked Biafra. Pertinent questions to ask in this instance are: Why did Gowon not follow the Aburi Accords agreement? On what grounds was it acceptable for Gowon to unilaterally declare the creation of 12 states?
Gowon violated the agreement in the interest of Northern Nigeria maintaining its advantage over the rest of the country.
In a more recent example of restructuring, under the Jonathan administration, a national conference was convened to find a more constructive way forward (the latest of its kind). A major issue with these conferences is that participation in them requires, as a precondition, acceptance of Nigeria’s unity as unquestionable. This is an obvious problem, given the history of Nigeria, that limits ability of any real outcomes to take place from the conference. That aside, some of the key recommendations of the conference attendees were:
Creation of 18 new states (with added provision for merging of states in appropriate conditions)
Reversion to 3 geopolitical zone structure
Changes to revenue sharing formula for Federal revenue
Rotation of presidential power between North and South
Removal of immunity clause for political office holders
Changes to the Land Tenure Act allowing land owners to determine price of their land based on market value
What has become of these recommendations? The administration that initiated this extensive national conversation was replaced in 2015, and it is clear that the Buhari administration does not view the implementation of these recommendations as a priority even though the committee agreed on it as a path forward.
Currently Atiku is presenting himself as the front-runner against Buhari by saying that he will restructure Nigeria with a fresh vision, but a necessary question to ask is, has Nigeria implemented the restructuring that it envisioned and planned 4 years ago? Why not? Before that attempt there were other such conferences such as National Political Reform Conference of 2005 which was initiated under the Obasanjo/Atiku administration. What became of those? Were they effective at addressing the fundamental problems?
Perhaps the problem is not merely the structure of Nigeria but also allowing the total involvement of the people in the country. There is no band of slaves that will ever out-perform free people that love their country, are building it from the ground-up, and have a stake in it because it reflects their innovation and imagination. A major Nigerian challenge is that the country is a coalition of slaves rather than a coalition of free-willing people. There is no alternative to seeking the consent of the people to join Nigeria and for Biafrans the answer is an unequivocal “NO”.
Prior to the British conquest of independent nation states and autonomous communities, the country called Nigeria was not in existence. Nigeria was fraudulently created in 1914 through a forced amalgamation of very rich southern and not so rich northern protectorates by a British soldier called Lord Lugard. She gained her so called independence in 1960. “So called” because till date, she never truly became free from the chains of her colonial master, Britain. In 1963, she first became a republic, but 3 years later, through a bloody coup d’état, she succumbed to a military rule. This shows that Nigeria’s trouble started from inception.
Since that first military rule, Nigeria has been struggling to change from a military system to a proper federal system and true democracy. A true federal system of government would involve the devolution of authority from the center to the component regions. This means that all governments would have horizontal relationship with each other. Each region shall be able to stand and function on its own, develop at its own pace, as well as live according to its own value system. However, after the Biafran genocidal war of 1967-70, a group of army generals, confiscated Nigeria, and made it their personal estate, so much so that after ruling as military officers, they retired, dropped their uniforms and picked up caftans and transformed into civilian political leaders. As a result, Nigerians can no longer differentiate democracy from military rule. Rule of law became rule of force, especially when poor Nigerian masses are involved. In doing so, Nigerians have been transformed into slaves. With time, corruption, nepotism and partisanship became the way of life for the Nigeria ruling class. And as these took root, tribal, ethnic, religious and political bigotry and deep rooted hatred became the order of the day. People became more patriotic to their political parties, tribes and religious affiliations rather than to the nation.
Despite all these problems, the people from old eastern region of Nigeria remained committed to building the nation called Nigeria. Being very versatile, adaptable and entrepreneurial, for over 70 years, they traveled to all parts of Nigeria, building houses and businesses, but rather than being appreciated, they were often mercilessly and gruesomely killed and massacred right from 1945 till date. Also, unknown to them, there was actually a well-orchestrated and thought-out plan to Islamize the entire nation. Part of that plan was to dislodge the easterners from their rich territory and take over their lands and natural resources.So in what one would perfectly describe as a dramatic turn of events, there became a scramble for the land and resources of the eastern region. All the oil wells in the eastern region became the sole property of wealthy Northern politicians, their grasses and crops on farm, became the only food and special delicacy for northern Fulani herdsmen and their cattle, raping women and girls in this region became the only hobby, and our land pillaged and ruthlessly plundered. As one reads this article, giant mosques are already springing up here and there at an alarming rate, in a region where we do not have enough schools and universities (colleges) for our children; or hospitals for our sick ones. No good roads, no pipe borne water; and erosion is already sweeping away our scarce farm lands and the non-existing roads. Upon that, they are insisting we give them our lands free for them to build ranches for their cattle.
There is a saying in the old eastern region of Nigeria, that it is only a tree that stands when it hears that it shall be cut down.In the words of Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu (First Biafran Head of State), self-preservation is the first human instinct. Therefore, the case of Biafra restoration has become a moral issue, and not political, it is not meant to spite anyone or groups of people. Because Biafra restoration is not a political matter Biafrans are not interested in a restructured Nigeria. It has become an urgent task for any Biafran that knows the meaning of extermination and extinction. The recent prediction by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO (an organ of the UN), that the Igbo language (one of the Biafran dialects), will be extinct by 2050 is major cause for concern. With an independent state of Biafra, Biafrans seek to begin to restore ancient ruins, reinvigorate places long devastated, so that their sons and daughters scattered all over the world, may return home and live as Biafrans.
For there to be successful nation-building, there must be a common value system, and an overarching principles of good governance. The existence of 12 Northern states of Nigeria for instance that are already practicing Sharia legal system, and actively believe in and practice Mohammedan feudalism, makes it practically impossible for them to coexist peacefully with the Biafrans who not only believe in freedom, liberty, equity and fairness (being mainly republican and Judeo-Christians), but also that every man and woman must better themselves. In Biafraland, it is no person’s duty to be poor so that another can be wealthy. Our divergent views on problem solving will always be a source of misunderstanding, and therefore difficult to maintain public safety and order. No amount of restructuring will fix these fundamental problems. Moreover, several failed attempts to restructure Nigeria have been made in the past, for example, the Aburi accord of 1967 and CONFAB of 2014. Each time, the North would renege and unilaterally dictate something different because of the fear that they would lose their “father’s estate, called Nigeria.”
Dr. (Mrs.) Ekwy Simon-Okube
(IPOB Member &State Coordinator: Kentucky)
(IPOB Member North Carolina)