This is the
conclusion of Mrs. Oyibo
E. Odinamadu’s “To tell the Truth: Something is Wrong with Nigeria.” For part 1 of this piece, please click here.
for a Sovereign National Conference
In the VanguardNigeriaOnline News of Sunday, 29th August,
2004, Jide Ajani writes:
Nigeria may not be a failed State. However, it is performing the ablution of moving into the stage. Between
those populating the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration
(it’s quite a crowd in there), who see on the firmament a glorious dawn, a land where milk and honey will soon
flow, on the one hand, and those calling for a thorough restructuring of the Nigerian nation, who also form a crowd
on their own, on the other hand, they see different things. Where the former sees milk and honey at the end of
the tunnel, the latter sees chaos, disaster and all the ingredients of melancholy…..The irony in all of these is
that whereas Nigeria’s President Obasanjo is the one graciously hosting the negotiation talks on Daffur, the wretched and endangered western part of Sudan, because of its humanitarian catastrophe, Nigeria
is herself with such metaphoric expressions of Daffur….There is a sudden
resurgence in the call for a Sovereign National Conference…..
The call for a Sovereign National Conference for Nigeria has gone on for quite sometime
now. Everyday, more groups and individuals raise their voices and join in the call or request or demand, which
has, so far, not received approval from the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Government. For a true perspective
on the call for a Sovereign National Conference, and the need to look thoroughly at the nationality issue, it is
imperative that all the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria must meet to deliberate. The Conference would be a golden opportunity to take a good look at all
the other issues that are pressurizing the people, in order to assuage their desires and the agitation.
As we understand it, the purpose of the Meeting will be, first to re-examine
the way the country called Nigeria has been put together. It would also be to determine the best way for the different ethnic nationalities
of Nigeria, which seem
not to have been compatible, should come together, so as to avoid upsetting the apple-cart that was set up by the
colonialists. The Conference will be for the purpose of forming a true federation in which the center could hold
In order to see some good examples of existing situations, which make
such a Conference imperative and imminent, we have to take a good look around the whole world. We need a global
view. To focus on Nigeria alone, is like watching a television show and focusing on one square centimeter in one
corner of the screen, instead of viewing the full screen. We must see the whole screen to understand the picture.
Nationalities all over the world have been agitating and are now insisting
on their freedom and full self-government. It is as if they have woken up from a long and deep sleep to realize
what their true situation is. Even if the dialogue of all the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria might not mean full independence
for them, it will be worth the while to review how the provisions of the Constitution that unite them are being
followed. It will also go to find the ways and means for better sharing of the natural resources to sustain the
people. Without a shadow of doubt, the sorting out of these issues will engender good neighborliness, happier and
more peaceful co-existence. A few examples will illustrate what has steadily developed into a relentless, unstoppable
trend throughout the world.
FRANCE. Brittany, Provence, Corsica, Basque and other regions, which are parts of France, are now striving for their freedom and self-government from France. Each one of the nationalities
has its own language (and it is not French), culture, and national expectations. They consider France an oppressive foreign power.
UNITED KINGDOM. Scotland, Wales, Cornwall want to break away from England and become independent nations. Northern
Ireland wants to break away and rejoin the Republic of Ireland. Each one of the four nationalities has its own language (and it is not English), culture, and
national expectations. In announcing plans for the new parliaments of these various nationalities, Prime Minister
Tony Blair of the United Kingdom said, “The hand of history is upon our shoulder”. In other words, the irresistible force of change
is compelling the British government to do the right thing.
SPAIN. The nationalities of Catalonia and Basque are now insisting on breaking away from Spain to become independent nations.
These two nationalities have their own language (and it is not Spanish), culture, and national expectations. The
Basque region in Northern Spain
is using violent means to break away from Spain and join with the Basque region in southern France to become one Basque nation.
BELGIUM. The nationalities of Flanders
and Walloonia make up the country
of Belgium, a country with a total population of just 10 million. Only the king, who does not belong to any
of the two nationalities, considers himself Belgian. Everybody else is either Flemish or Walloon and would gladly
become a national of a separate nation.
THE BALKANS. Marxist Concepts of Nationality: The Comintern and the Balkans. Traditional Marxism holds that the
capitalist system is the source of conflict between and among nationalities. Consequently, once a communist system
was established, national animosities and hatreds would disappear. Peace and harmony would reign. Over the past
several decades, however, this philosophical formulation has been the source of trouble and bitter controversy,
especially among Balkan communists and their mentor, Josef Stalin.
In the Balkans,
discussion of nationality problems from the Marxist point of view took place even before Stalin was born. With
respect to the nationality question in the Balkans, Markovich believed that he had found the "master key" in the formation of a Balkan federation of
South Slavs, where the peoples could
live together on the basis of equality and self-government. He was interested in the liberation of South Slavs living under foreign rule. To that end he wanted
to see the destruction of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. He believed that his native Serbia could help in the liberation
of brother Slavs, but he wanted to be sure that Serbia retained the image of "liberator" and not become an "oppressor."
Tutsovich was critical of Serbia's desire to get an outlet to the Adriatic across Albanian territory, although if done by mutual agreement, he said, there could be benefits
both to Serbia and Albania. He and his fellow Social Democrats believed, however, that Albania should be an "autonomous
member of a democratic Balkan federation. "
communists went through some bitter controversies over the nationality question. Their mentor, Stalin, as commissar
of nationalities under Lenin, produced a brief book entitled Marxism and the National Question. The book's essential
message is that national hostilities are the result of the conflicts of capitalist classes. If applied to Yugoslav-Albanian
relations, for example, the Serbs and Albanians were at each other's throats because their respective "bourgeoisie"
were in conflict. Unless totally blind, they should have known that Serbo-Albanian disputes were not based on class struggle. (It was based on genuine desire to be free,
united, and independent of their oppressors).
It is estimated
that in today’s Europe, there are
50 nationalities that are striving to re-establish their freedom and self-government as independent nations.
RUSSIA. The nationality of Chechnya in Russia has been engaged in an armed struggle for the last one thousand years, to gain its independence
from Russia. No matter how much violence Russia uses against them, the Chechnyans are not now about to give up after fighting for one thousand years. See what happened in Russia in September 2004, when some
thousands of Russian school children and some of their parents and teachers were held hostage by a group of Chechnyans, who demanded the release of
their people held prisoners by Russia. At the end of about fifty-eight hours, without food and water, Russian soldiers made an effort to force their way into the
Gymnasium, where the hostages were held. The bombs, which the captors had hung and wired all over the ceiling,
detonated and caused the roof and ceiling to cave in. Thereby,
killing more than 700 people including the Chechnyans, some of the parents and teachers and children.
IRAQ. Many people think that Iraq consists of only the Kurdish nationality, the Sunni Muslims, and the Shiite Muslims. Nothing is
farther from the truth. There are no less than 20 nationalities in Iraq, within the Sunni, Shiite, Christian,
and other religious groups. The nationalities are entirely different from their religious affiliations. Experts
on Iraq have stated that one of the main possibilities after the war is that Iraq will break up into nationalities.
The nationalities in Iraq are now so awake that none of them is willing to be ruled by another.
INDIA. There are about one thousand nationalities in India. If you read international newspapers carefully,
you will see items about what the press and the government of India call ‘separatist groups’ that are engaged in
violent fighting against the government. The separatist groups are various nationalities using violent means to
win their freedom and self-government from India. The numbers of the separatist groups are increasing. There is
a Report On the International
Seminar on the Indian Nationality Question, which states as follows:
The nationalities in India developed in the medieval period based on the development of the vernacular languages. The diverse
conditions of the agrarian economy and trade meant that there was great diversity amongst the different regions
of India. The British conquest stifled the emergence of nationalities and
set off a chain of tribal and peasant rebellions. The rise of the anti-colonial movement stimulated the various
national languages. (So is the case in Nigeria).
The National Congress was compelled to take this into account and at its Nagpur
Congress in 1920 it accepted the need to restructure its organization on the basis of linguistic provinces. After
1947, the Congress did not fulfill its promise to establish linguistic provinces. Only after the agitation for
the formation of the Andhra Province
was the Government compelled - despite the opposition of big capital based in Bombay - to establish the reorganization of the states on the basis of linguistic affinity, which led
to a partial resolution of the national question.
CHINA. Most people are not aware of it, but there are about seven hundred nationalities in China. Each
of these nationalities has its own language, culture, and national expectations. Many of the nationalities, such
as the Uygurs in western China,
are struggling with the government of China for their freedom and self-government.
10. INDONESIA. With its population of 220
million scattered on more than one thousand islands, Indonesia consists of hundreds of nationalities. Many of the
nationalities are struggling for their freedom and self-government from the government of Indonesia. Some of the
nationalities are using violent means to make their case, and the government of Indonesia has resorted to violent
repression to keep them down. The nationalities are determined to succeed.
11. NIGERIA. With its population of 130
million, Nigeria is made up of some 522 nationalities. Some are less than half a million in population, others are tens of millions. Each nationality
has its own language (which are not the dialects), it’s own culture, and its own national expectations. There are now frequently and more eruptions of
violence between one ethnic group and the other. These the Government tries to quell and control by force. The wars may have been contained once they are
open, but have they been controlled and stopped?
12. THE CONGO, ETHIOPIA, SUDAN, SOMALIA, RWANDA, BURUNDI, LIBERIA, SIERRA LEONE. Nationality issues have torn, or are tearing, these African countries apart. Bloodshed
and poverty have become the hallmark of their unresolved nationality question.
As these examples
show, the nationality issue is not limited to Nigeria. It is a dramatic worldwide development. If we keep running
away from it, there is great danger that the gathering storm will outrun and overtake us ever before we are ready.
It would be wiser to be proactive and, thereby, ensure lasting success for ourselves and for our future generations.
Let us do the right thing. Does any Nigerian want to be forced into a tragic situation of bloody violence and repressive
coercion? We are not Prophets of Doom. Nigeria has had one Civil War. Let us hope that she will not be drawn into
another one. A
Sovereign National Conference
its own A National Congress. They first met in 1920 and again after their Independence in 1947. What matters is
actually the agreement amicably reached at the Meeting to realign the groups that make up Nigeria, and set out
how they could co-exist peacefully. Our suggestions are that: the Congress should be a completely new body
of representatives, comprising men and women, selected and mandated by every ethnic nationality in each State.
It should not be any of the elected National Legislative Houses or a combination of them. The President of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria should take full responsibility for summoning the conference, funding it and presiding
over it. The Conference should assemble with immediate effect.
To Square One
When I forget something, I usually go back to where I was when the thought
came to me. Invariably, the matter comes back to me at that spot. I must say that I am not alone in the application
of this method as some of my friends have expressed the same idea. Therefore, I strongly suggest that Nigeria should
borrow a leaf from this system of recollecting and go back to square one to refresh her memories. I support
the rest of Nigerians who are saying: Let us go back to the drawing board to fashion out the best system of federation
for Nigeria. Let us go back to square one. Let us go back to where the colonialists started, retrace their steps,
and see whether we could find the error and the missing link by doing those things they omitted doing, and leaving
off those things they did, which they should not have done. I should think that by so doing, we should succeed!
Fear Factor for the Sovereign National Conference
One can understand the fear of President Obasanjo not to be the one that
will convene or preside over what would appear to be the dismantling or disintegration of Nigeria. We do not blame
him one bit. However, we suggest that he should dismiss any such fears that he might have, as they could be very
counter-productive. He is a Nigerian and he should know, fully well, what the situation is and what has been happening.
A look at what has been happening around the world might not really be pointing at an outcome of disintegration
or dismantling of Nigeria. The Conference could result just in measures that would make Nigeria stand on firmer
grounds and to prosper as a united, ethnic-friendly, solid and patriotic nation. Take a look at the countries of
Europe and see how small and self-contained they are. Also see how restive some of them are with their neighbours
for the reasons of not being self-contained, geographically contiguous and compatible. It would be very interesting
to observe the reasons why some of them have refused to join the European Economic Union or to have full membership
and participation, and how others are being rejected from joining. The same reasons of incompatibility, which apply
to some Middle-Eastern countries
are making them very restiveness. Probably, it is about time to try other systems of Government different from
what has been on since the ages.
Wind of Change is Blowing all over the World
If the Sovereign National Conference has to be held, as it should be,
it had better be now than later. A matter could go on deteriorating until it gets to a point where it can no longer
be repaired or salvaged. Sustaining an error for a protracted period can never make it right. Therefore, a better
piece of advice would be to Go Back To
Square One Now. That would be by retracing the steps to where the colonial imperialists started now, rather than
leave it to our children and grandchildren for later. The Government should not continue to cling to power and
refusal by adhering to Harold Lasky’s
dictum of “Absolute power that corrupts absolutely”; or to Winston Churchill’s policy of “What we have we hold”.
The Government should listen to Tony Blair’s utterance that “The hand of history is on our shoulder”, and then
reflect for a while and, inevitably, heed Harold Macmillan’s prophetic observation of “The wind of change that
is blowing over Africa”. It was since that Harold Wilson’s speech in Zimbabwe that the wind of change, desirable
changes of the independence of the nations, has swept through Africa.
This time around, the wind of change is blowing all over the world. It
shows that the very foundation on which most of the old countries of the world were founded was faulty and is finding
it very, very difficult to hold. Colonialism, imperialism, and domination have never been a credible basis for
ruling over peoples. Only a free association of willing states, on the basis of equality, justice and equity is
justifiable and could withstand the test of time.
Let the Government not resist the agitation and demands any further. In this
case, the Government should see and feel the wind of change that is blowing over Nigeria, and acquiesce. Let the
situation not get to the position of the fly that did not accept better advice and got buried with the corpse (Ijiji n’enwero ndumodu ka an’eni nya
na ozu). Nigeria should get on with the Sovereign National Conference
because the prognosis is very good - very promising! Empowerment Of Women By A Sovereign National Conference
A Sovereign National Conference for Nigeria will be very good for women.
It will empower women the more as women will have the chance of being elected as part of the representation of
their ethnic groups. They will also participate fully in its deliberations, decision-making to fashion out a new
Nigeria. Women will also be fully involved in the execution of its decisions. Women will, nevertheless, bask in
the sunshine of the glorious dawn of the new Nigeria.
Change Of Direction: It Pays To Be The Pioneer! It is very disconcerting to know that most Nigerians feel
that not much is being done by the present Administration to ameliorate the country’s social, political and economic
problems. It is very discouraging to know that they feel that rather than get better, the situation is fast deteriorating.
It is also pertinent to note that the worst scenario is that the people at the helm of the affairs of Government
continue to claim and to tell the people and the world that things are going well. It is a great pity that after
all these years of performance,
they have not learned that claiming that things are going well does not make them really go well. Also that continuing
in the path of wrong decisions and performance only makes things continue to go wrong. To effect a change in the
right direction, there must be a change of mind, attitude, policy and direction. It would be much to the credit
of Nigeria to make haste and be the first - the pioneer - in Africa to hold a Sovereign National Conference. After all, she has been claiming to be in the position
of leadership in Africa for being
the biggest and the most populous country in Africa.
from “To tell the Truth: Something is Wrong with Nigeria, Part I.”