Preserving Unity And Sustaining Democracy In A Multi Ethnic Nigeria. Date 19th June 2010.
This speech is dedicated to the Nigerian masses, whose pains, sorrows and hardships were occasioned by government neglect. Your plight has necessitated my continued campaign and struggle for good governance. To you I pledge my loyalty.
Great Sons and Daughters of Edo,
Other Distinguished Guests.
I am humbled to be invited, to come and speak in your Edo Global Organizational Annual Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Please permit me to express my gratitude to the organizers of this event, for considering me worthy, to be made a speaker in this special gathering. When I realized that I will be speaking at the same event with John (Prof) Ebohon, I immediately sent him a text message, asking for his permission to accept the offer to speak. The reason for my action is simple. John (Prof) Ebohon is a man I consider as my father, and he also consider me as his son. I consider myself too young to speak at the same forum with him, hence my request for his permission. As a father he obliged my request. Unfortunately for John (Prof) Ebohon, his mother passed away on 28th May 2010. May her soul and other departed souls rest in peace.
Let me start my speech by referring us to the few words written on the Nigeria’s coat of arms; Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. From these few words, our founding fathers realized the importance of preserving unity, in our multi ethnic society. Ironically, our “rulers” have intentionally or unintentionally used various policy instruments, to sow seeds of disunity in Nigeria, hence the numerous threats to our unity and our democracy. They (our rulers) simply uses the divide and rule methods. On our part, Nigerians also have their own share of the blames. Regrettably, time and space will not permit me here, to list all the government actions and inactions which have disunited us. But I will mention few and discuss them briefly.
Post Civil War Policy of Awarding 20 Pounds To All Igbo People/Abandoned Properties Saga.
While the Gowon’s government declared no victor, no vanquish policy and launched his 3Rs (Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Reconciliation), his administration also implemented the policy of awarding every Igbo person, 20 pounds, in exchange for any amount of money the Igbo person(s) had in the bank. What this policy did was to seize all the money that Igbo people had, and in return pay them only 20 pounds. This was implemented immediately after the war ended. One can only imagine the pains and hardships this would have caused the Igbo people, after suffering economic and food blockades during the war. Nigerians should ask Gowon, what this policy was meant to achieve, unity or disunity? Integration or disintegration? Lets remember the issue of abandoned properties in Port Harcourt where the government failed to act. Please note; the above is not intended to reopen the wounds of the war.
Federal Character/Quota System.
Personally, I think this is the worst constitutional provision any country can have in their statute books. Federal Character principle was adopted during the 1977 constitutional Drafting Committee and it became part of the 1979 constitution. The federal character principle was established to solve the problems of (a) “inequality and marginalization” as expressed by certain part of Nigeria, (b) because of differences in the socio-economic development of different parts of Nigeria, (c) because of disparities in the levels of educational developments in different parts of the country. But since its adoption, the question of merit and competitiveness among Nigerians, have been replaced with quota system. The system (federal character/quota system), chooses mediocre in place of merit.
This policy does not support equal opportunities. I am yet to see a multi ethnic country that has similar policy. America is a multi ethnic country, established on the foundation of liberty, freedom, equality, human rights, and democracy. Quoting the former President of United States, late John F. Kennedy, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty”. Because America is a free a society, the emergence of Barack Obama as the United States President became possible.
The European Union is multi ethnic, with freedom, equal opportunities, human rights and democracy as its basic principles. Quota system gave rise to zoning formula being used by the ruling party (PDP) in Nigeria. Zoning formula gave rise to the emergence of Obasanjo and late Yar’adua. (I will leave you to judge how far this zoning formula has united or disunited us, and whether it’s sustaining or threatening our democracy).
Many of us do not agree with the resource control formula being used by the federal government. All the regions producing mineral resources should retain 50% and remit 50% to the federal government. The present formula used by the federal government is retrogressive and a serious source of conflicts, particularly in the Niger Delta. Let’s remember that our government hanged Ken Saro Wiwa in 1995 for issues relating to resource control and environmental pollution by oil companies. Any further crises in the Niger Delta will not only be a threat to our unity, but also to the international oil prices. Japan has no mineral resources but only human resources. Today Japan is a united country, with strong economic and political foundations.
In 2009, the Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Afakriya Gadazama, revealed publicly that information about numerous religious crises (Boko Haram, Jos crises etc) and other crimes such as kidnappings in Niger Delta, armed robberies in South East was passed to the appropriate quarters. However, actions were never taken to prevent these crises. In conformity with the above statement was the fact that, the father-in-law to Boko Haram’s sect leader (Mohammed Yusuf), had before the crisis alerted the Borno State governor of Mr. Yusuf’s activities, but actions were never taken.
Let us remember that, the primary responsibility of every government is security and welfare of its people. To show his insensitivity to the security and safety of Nigerians, late President Yar’Adua embarked on a two day state visit to Brazil, the day Boko Haram crisis started. In July 2009, the Chinese President (Hu Jintao) left the G8 Summit in Rome Italy back to China, the moment riots broke out in Northwest part of China.
Perhaps, this is among the greatest source of disunity and instability in Nigeria. Our chief electoral fraud officers are usually the government and her agencies, example Independent (Dependent) National Electoral Commission (INEC). Obasanjo’s government conducted the worst election in the history of Nigeria. In Edo State, it took the present governor (Adams Oshiomhole) 18 months or so to reclaim his mandate to govern. We saw the mess in Anambra State. A sitting governor (Dr Ngige, ex governor of Anambra State) was even abducted. Joy Emordi from Anambra North Senatorial District, remained at the Nigerian Senate (upper legislative chamber) till May 2010 with a stolen mandate. June 12th 1993 presidential election was annulled by the then head of state (Babangida). June 12 saga almost destroyed the unity of Nigeria. Many people were killed during the June 12th 1993 protest in Nigeria. In Algeria, the cancellation of election in 1992 led to war that claimed over 150,000 lives.
Genocide (Odi and Zaki Biam Massacre).
No amount of provocation can justify government’s (Nigerian Armed Forces) massacre in Zaki Biam, Odi, Ogoni communities etc. Am doubtful how relatives of innocent people killed in Odi, Zaki Biam, Ogoni, etc will embrace the issue of Nigeria’s unity.
“The World Bank estimates the country’s generals and gangster politicians stole $300 billion in the three decades to 2006”(Time Magazine, May 3rd 2010 Edition, Page 42). Over 80% of corrupt cases emanate(s) from top government offices/officials. Corruption has simply set the quest for the scramble and partition of the national cake. No one is interested to bake the national cake. The level of corruption in Nigeria will continue to pose a serious threat to our unity and democracy.
The lists of our government’s atrocities are endless. These confirm my main argument, which is that, our government has been the greatest source(s) of disunity in Nigeria. Unfortunately Nigerians have offered little or no resistance to our government actions and inactions. However, to reverse the trend (preserve unity and sustain democracy) will be a very difficult task.
Preserving Unity and Sustaining Democracy.
There are prices to pay in order to preserve our unity. But we will have higher prices to pay for disunity. Remember, the reason federal government did every thing to stop Biafra from seceding was to maintain the “unity” of Nigeria. In the Biafran war, over 1 million people died. Sudan, Congo DRC, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, former Yugoslavia etc are examples of countries where there were, or are still serious issues of disunity. United we stand, divide we fall. A house divided among itself cannot stand. Democracy itself cannot flourish in a disunited country. I have the following suggestions.
As a matter of necessity, the federal government must apologize to Nigerians for her past evil deeds, and also pay adequate compensation for all the wrongs done to Nigerians. The Australian government under Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) apologized to the Aborigines for, laws and policies of previous administrations that inflicted pains, grief, and sufferings on them. The British government under Gordon Brown also apologized for child migrants sent abroad by previous governments before him. A government of true national unity should be constituted. Genuine and transparent reconciliation processes should be commenced.
Shadow Sovereign National Conference.
Various ethnic groups, NGO’s, CSO,s and pro Nigerian groups in Nigeria need not wait for government, but rather should convoke a shadow sovereign national conference. The Nigerian people should decide how to be governed. The people must also produce the constitution of how they should live in unity. True federalism or confederal system is preferable. Unity should not be at the detriment of any tribe, region or state. In addition, I suggest a coalition of all the groups mentioned above to strengthen the opposition parties in order to safeguard and sustain our democracy. Every democracy needs a strong opposition to function properly. Shadow government/cabinet will be a fantastic idea and it has my highest recommendations.
Leadership means a lot to a society like us, and we have seen how our past rulers have sowed the seeds of disunity amongst us. Therefore it makes sense for us all to participate in the process of election to avoid electing the wrong people. To that extent, I suggest we vote the right candidates, guide our votes, monitor elections and make sure our vote counts. Let us ask questions/do proper investigation before voting any candidate. Let us ask political aspirants/parties to make public a list of requirements, set by the Save Nigeria Group (UK) Branch.
The Holy Bible said in Hosea 4 verse 6 that, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge”. Therefore, various cultural, community, states, regional, ethnic and pro Nigerian groups should commence awareness programmes/political evangelism to educate our less educated folks. We need to propagate voter education, opposition/civil resistance to bad governance/policy. We also need to educate our people to realize the dangers of disunity. Knowledge is power, let share knowledge and empower each other. As we do the above, may God continue to bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta.
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK