By Okey Samuel Mbonu*
Everyone that cares to know, knows that Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is wounded, and on bended knees right now. The multiple security failures, and various regional agitations, threaten this republic, which geographically sits literally on the heartbeat of Africa. The threats are serious and significant, in ways that Nigeria has never been threatened before.
Because there is no country to take Nigeria’s place in negroid Africa, a take-down of Nigeria, by internal forces beyond its control, rather than by external forces, is far more ominous. This takedown of the giant will reverberate and create a great negative impact in Africa as whole; leaving massive numbers of refugees across West and Central Africa. Thus, impacting the region in a far-reaching manner. The takedown of modern Nigeria could mimic the fall of the Ancient Malian or Songhai Empires; each of which encompassed parts of present day Nigeria.
However, could Nigeria go down without a fight? Possibly so, if care is not taken; because the fight will be a fratricide; full of internal violence, blood-letting, and a no holds-barred bazaar of warlords, scattered across the entire West Africa. But will the world watch and see this happen? Again, going by the Rwanda example, as horrific as it is, it is all possible. The reason being because most developed and developing countries have their own troubles, and interests to protect, whether economically, or as a security concern.
If Nigeria could go down due to internal strife, and not external aggression, then how can Nigeria come back from the brink of “apocalypse now”? The answers are surprisingly not too complicated, if right-thinking Nigerians put their minds to it.
Formula One-Taking-Down Insecurity, Negative Ethnicity, Cronyism, and Lack of Equity
In my various sojourns around the world, I have noted that a people do not need to reinvent the wheel to move their societies forward. They just need to pay attention to a little history, both ancient and contemporary. History tells us that empires rise and fall; and they fall mostly because of internal strife.
Internal strife typically begins to strip away the integral and vital cohesion of the body-politic, until the body-politic becomes toxic, riddled with untreatable diseases. This could be likened to how one kills a tree, by stripping away the bark (outer-layer) of the tree. Once the bark of a tree is peeled away, the dermis will no longer protect the tree against elements, insects, and other ravaging animals, and with time, the tree withers and dies.
One of Nigeria’s biggest problems is negative ethnicity. The negative ethnicity enables a Commander-in-Chief, or other policy-maker, to turn a blind-eye to massive corruption been perpetrated by their kinsman, or even political allies. In these cases, rather than bring these people to book. The authority may often ignore the damage been done by these people, because the authority may have their hand in the treasury as well, or is simply being loyal to erstwhile friends.
The way to contain negative ethnicity and cronyism is to show there are no sacred-cows, by making examples of even one’s own allies, who are proven to have robbed the public treasury. For example, many members of the ruling Party in Nigeria, have been dragged to court for massive corruption, mostly perpetrated when they served as Governors. Some of the charged former Governors have skirted the system, and used their access to the president’s circle, to stay out of jail. However, the anti-corruption agency EFCC, may still bring charges on these people in the near future.
Also, violent herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers, seem to be having a field day, across northern and middle-belt Nigeria, carrying AK47’s, intimidating land owners in the middle-belt, or waylaying travelers in northern highways. Some say, that the lack of aggressive action by law-enforcement agencies, is because of a lack of political will, to confront the problem head-on. Some analysts have also said that northern Nigeria’s problem stems from the elites having abandoned the down-trodden for years, while feeding off of the public treasury; and that the chicken has now come home to roost; by way of violence directed to the elites and their extended families, by those the elites failed to educate or empower.
Formula Two-Taking-Down Corruption
What is particularly perplexing in the case of the current government in Abuja, is that the head of that government is not personally reputed to be a corrupt leader, or at least was not alleged to be corrupt up until he got into power. However, what seems to be his undoing, is his tolerance for corruption, by his allies, or close circle. Thereby taking negative ethnicity and tolerance of corruption to dizzying heights.
Taking on corruption means there should be no sacred-cows. Perhaps, a more equitable-minded leader would ensure that law-enforcement, which is under his command as C-in-C, take a more proactive and aggressive role, in the prosecution of many politically-exposed persons, to prevent the vast corrupt practices ravaging the country now.
Formula Three-Practice True Federalism
The world has a living example of a practical and practicing democracy today, of which the Republic of Nigeria, has in all wisdom, chosen to adopt their presidential system of government-the United States of America! Common-sense tells us that if you have to practice something that has been done before, you practice it according to the formula in the manual.
In the US, the Federal Government has a highly limited role in the lives of Americans, and in the affairs of the various 50 states. For example, almost every endeavor that the federal government of Nigeria dabbles into today, is a state affair in the United States, from security, to education, to health, to corporate registrations; and even to military operations (every state has a “National Guard”-its own military, which it can activate when the US federal government needs help in foreign wars).
Thus, the US federal government cannot send police to Maryland, or Texas; because everyone of the 50 states, and even their municipalities, have their own police. In-fact, the US federal government has no “police”, pursuant to the US Constitution. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations), is not a police force, nor do they show up in any of the 50 US states without an invitation by a state authority. Except in very narrow cases, where federal law is implicated, like a matter infringing upon inter-state commerce, per the US Constitution
Formula 4- Rewrite The Constitution or Restructure by Default
It has been acknowledged that the current Nigerian Constitution, was drafted in the final days of the Abacha military government, and thus the Constitution did not undergo a consultative process, where the people’s representatives, came together to discuss and agree on the various clauses and terms in the document. Most pundits and legal analyst from across the country, have agreed that the current Constitution is a flawed document.
If the constitution is rewritten, with the acquiesce of the component parts of the country from every region, then it gives room for a restructure of the country be default. However, the restructure of Nigeria, may not proceed the way most of the proponents are pursuing it. Rather, it will come by various quiet actions by the various states, in security, and economic activities. Per security, almost every state in Nigeria now has vigilante services, all the way to the local communities. My recent experience showed that the vigilantes are armed too. All the communities need to do now (which some have started doing), is to report criminal matters to the community vigilante, and not to the police. And, as they continue this practice, they will render the federal police redundant.
The next aspect of restructuring will be economic. There is a major legal case between two of Nigeria’s states (Rivers and Lagos), and the federal government of Nigeria; whereby the states are seeking to take control of the value-added tax revenues from their various states, which is currently surrendered to the federal government of Nigeria. Because Nigeria purports to practice federalism, it will be extremely difficult for the supreme court of Nigeria to rule on the merits and the states not prevail on this matter.
When the states prevail on this tax matter, then a major milestone of federalism would have been accomplished, and the federal government will get weaker by default, as it is supposed to be.
Once security, and economic activities fall squarely in the hands of the states, then each state will prosper according to the efforts and the resources coming from each state.
Final Notes on Restructuring
Contrary to fears that may be harbored by Northern Nigerian leaders, restructuring is in reality not bad for Northern Nigeria. Some northern Nigerian states have humongous deposits of minerals, like gold and other precious metals; which are currently being mined under the table, by private parties, including foreign traders who swoop down in private jets, on bush runways, for pickup runs. Some say some of the governors of these states are in on these lucrative and not too clandestine trade. These minerals are unaccounted for as state revenues. Some of these states will prosper and become meccas for investors after restructuring and divesting toward state’s rights.