Jos, Gaddafi and Nigeria's Federalism

By Okachiukwu Dibia, Daily Independent

I pity those people who are surprised about the recent killings in Jos, the Plateau State capital in Nigeria. Certainly, if they know the cause of the killings, they will not be. The killings are as a result of the refusal of Nigeria to allow the different and diverse ethnic nations that make up the country to gather as equals, discuss and determine WHY and HOW they can live together. The nations of Nigeria must do this discussion in order to correct the mistake and imposition of 1914, strengthen the ethnic nationalities in their quest to develop themselves, recognize themselves as equals, voluntarily agree to become Nigeria and prepare their own constitution. This will reduce the aggressive domination by the big three ethnic groups, reduce suspicion and embrace one another. If this is done, we will discover that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with ethnicity. The nations of Nigeria must gather and do this discussion otherwise the killings may continue.

Today it is Jos, yesteryears it was Aba women’s riot of 1929, Ahmed Bello’s rejection of living together with others in Nigeria, Awolowo’s “tribalism” against Azikiwe in 1952, Tiv riots, the election crisis of Western Nigeria, nine military coups between 1966 and 1993, Kano riots of 1966, Isaac Adaka Boro’s uprising, Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-1970, Maitatsine uprising, Zangon-Kataf killings, Amuleri-Aguleri clashes, Ife-Modakeke killings, Tiv-Jukun-Idoma crisis, Ogoni genocide and the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa 1995, OPC killings, Urhobo-Itsekiri-Ijaw killings, Choba killings and rapes, Odi genocide, Umuechem killings, Rumuekpe killings, Niger Delta crisis, Boko Haram, etc. These are the manifestations of the problem and they shall continue in different shapes and shades, cloaks and appearances until the discussion of Nigeria by Nigerian nations (not the national or state assembly as constituted today) is given a sincere chance.

Because of the way these manifestations appear, people in error blame ethnic intolerance. Some out of deep ignorance will claim that there is nothing like ethnic nationality; yet they forget that in the literature of the science of leadership (Political Science), Nigeria is a state, not a nation. It is those composite ethnic groups that are correctly called nations. How could these different nations trust themselves when they deeply suspect each other and do not respect or give due recognition to each other? These are things that must be discussed, agreed on and let to evolve; they cannot be by fiat or decree. But the big three (Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and Igbo) will insist that Nigeria be run as it is today because they are forcefully dominating and are in-charge. They have labelled the rest of Nigeria as minority ethnic groups who must be led, controlled, exploited, dominated and marginalized. To the ordinary natives in these minorities, these must be resisted, no matter how subtle and small. So, it is in the course of the minority native Berom relating with the mighty Hausa-Fulani in Jos that the conflict is automatically ignited and killings follow. This type of resistance by the commoners at the local level does not bring cash into the pockets of the locals; rather it brings destruction of properties and killing of human beings: characteristics of a true clash of two different ideas or interests.

On the other hand, elites from these marginalized minorities resist it by arguing for resource control, one Nigeria, human and women rights, reduction in HIV/AIDS, reproductive healthcare that favours abortion and sex education for infants, nude and indecent behaviours, fiscal federalism, building of infrastructure, even development, fanning the embers of indigene-settler hatred and other pseudo solution that will always put more unholy cash into their pockets. They have insisted on resource control instead of resource development; creation of states and local governments instead of ethnic states; federal character and zoning systems instead of self determination for the ethnic states; building of infrastructure (their easiest and cheapest means to transient dubious wealth) instead of guaranteeing development rights to the nations of Nigeria; RBDA-OMPADEC-NDDC-Ministry of the Niger Delta instead of resources and talents development via free education; state extra-judicial killings( of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Obi Wali, Claude Ake, Boko Haram followers, etc) instead of engaging them in extensive discussions, enlightenment and dialogue through the Sovereign National Conference (SNC). The Sovereign National Conference will not lead to the break-up of Nigeria; rather, it will consolidate it.

Another dubious solution from some Nigerian elites is that there should be nothing called indigenes in Nigeria because every group migrated here. But who migrated here first? They neglect this question and proceed to argue that single citizenship is the solution to ethnic hatred and suspicions. But Nigerian citizenship must evolve from ethnic Nigeria. This was why Carl Fredrick, one of the key scholars of federalism, said that federalism is a process of disaggregating and aggregating the characters of the societies that make up the federal state. Therefore, it is immoral and unacceptable to dissolve the blood of my ethnicity in me and inject Nigeria into me without my consent. What should be done is to recognize my ethnicity, and allow and guarantee it within one Nigeria. This way the nations of Nigeria will develop themselves based on what they are and have; and they will gather as equals at the centre to celebrate the real beauty of unity in diversity. This is the case in the European Union (EU) today. The EU is an evolution from ethnic Europe. EU cannot be united first before the unity of its component units; rather, the units will unite first and move that unity of the differences to form the unity of the EU. Down the line, the EU may form a true federalism in the future. This unity in diversity is the essence of federalism. We must not force federalism on different peoples and expect less volatile resistance.

The strength and beauty of Nigeria lies in the progress of its different and divers peoples. As long as these different peoples are underdeveloped, Nigeria cannot be developed because all the ingredients of development are located in ethnic Nigeria. For instance, Abuja does not have the needed resources with which to develop the Kanuri in Nigeria. Allocating funds from the federation account breeds laziness and underdevelopment of the ethnic groups. The Kanuri have the resources with which to develop themselves. Such ingredients of development include their environment, resources, talents and occupations. Any development efforts outside these ingredients cannot succeed, despite growth in infrastructure. Nigeria’s strength is and lies in her ethnic nationalities. The health of a system can be seen from the health of its sub-units. For example, if the parts of a human body become dysfunctional, can the body perform effectively?

Uncle Gaddafi should be forgiven because he is ignorant of what the peoples of Nigeria need for their development. For example, my people of Ikwerre do not wish to secede from Nigeria, rather, we want the Nigerian state to be restructured into ethnic states and be allowed self-determination, development rights and recognized not as a minority but as a nation in Nigeria. In that nation, all religions should be allowed to flourish as long as the people need them. Ikwerre do not agree to North-South or any other type of splitting of Nigeria. Those ethnic people that cannot be wholly found in one state should be allowed to live in any state of their choice or be regrouped into states of their own. Living in other states must be on conditions that can guarantee peace and cordial co-existence. For example, in Ikwerre, we have Hausa-Elele who are neither interested in directly ruling Rivers State nor producing the traditional head of Elele. They live in Elele peacefully, happily and enjoying themselves in Rivers State.

The strength of this approach lies in the strong belief that as long as the nations of Nigeria never discussed the why and how they can live together, this should be done. This is needed because we are different peoples with different cultures, resources, attitudes, etc. After that discussion, the nations of Nigeria will voluntarily agree to have Nigeria (the social contract) and quickly, they will organize the constitution of the nations of Nigeria to be called the people’s constitution, according to Chief Gani Fawehinmi. The continued absence of this all important discussion, voluntary agreement to be one Nigeria and the people’s constitution will continue to breed suspicion, hatred and intolerance between indigenes and settlers or minorities and majorities such that Jos will happen again and Gaddafi will continue to advise us wrongly.

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