Last week we drew attention to two countries’ (Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia) dilemma in the choice of the best instrument between “negotiating and non-negotiating”, they deployed when the challenge of continuity of statehood confronted them.While Czechoslovakia was wise enough to negotiate for unity, Yugoslavia adamantly refused to negotiate. The former concluded the negotiation without going to war and with no loss of lives, the latter went to war leading to the loss of millions of lives and the disintegration of the nation into five and half countries.
Let us look at what the victorious world powers did to Germany immediately after the end of the Second World War. The country was split into two and a wall was erected to separate the East from the West. With time however, the Germans got together and decided, after series of negotiations, to achieve that great Unification announced on October 3, 1990. Thus, East and West Germany ceased to exist and in their place five new territorial federal states came together to form the now formidable Federal Republic of Germany. This was a major restructuring that was negotiated. Nigeria can learn from this.
South Sudan independence that came just in 2011 is another example Nigeria can learn from. It used to be one Sudan, with North and South dichotomy that fostered serious ethnic imbalance, religious challenges, imbalance in deposit of natural resources, imbalance in population matter and numerous challenges, just like what we have in Nigeria today. For years, the slogan from Khartoum, then capital of the country at the time, was that the unity of Sudan was not negotiable. That was until blood started flowing in that country. What the Sudan case signified, like many other countries of similar character, is that any issue men refuse to negotiate will “negotiate itself” with unpredictable consequences.
The most recent was the Brexit vote that saw the British people voting their country out of the European Union. It does not matter that the vote was 51% in favour of “exit” and 49% of “remaining” in the European Union; the people spoke and every other thing is now history. The first casualty of that negotiation is David Cameron who had to quit paving the way for the emergence of a new Prime Minister in the person of Theresa May. There is greater implication for Nigeria in the latest development – that is if we are ready to listen and learn. With the exit from the European Union confirmed by the British people, the unity of the United Kingdom is now in jeopardy as Scotland is seriously threatening leaving the United Kingdom having voted to remain in the European Union. Who says such and even worse cannot happen in Nigeria?
The purpose of this write-up is to tell the Nigerian leadership and some political eggheads in the country, that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable and the right time for that exercise is now. Nigerians, from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds across the 250 diversified nationalities [from the South to the North] are agreeing on one common ground, to wit: there are differences, anomalies, contracting and contending issues, working against the continued unity of the country that need to be addressed. Everyone believes that we need each other. Everyone pray that we remain together in one big country. Every Nigerian wants to see this great expectation translating into eternity.
Yet every one of us has a point of concern over one thing or the other militating against the realisation of this noble expectation of continued unity. Hence, every Nigerian speaks of restructuring the country. When Nigerians talk of restructuring, they are directly saying: “Let us come together to point out further our differences, put them [the differences] on the table and negotiate with them in focus; how we can live together in harmony under one country”. This is the meaning of the practical call to restructuring and negotiating the unity of the Nigerian nation.
If there is any time in Nigeria’s history when the need to negotiate the restructuring of our continuity is more apt, the time is now. There are occurrences of facts that our differences are becoming more glaring on daily basis. And the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari is not helping matters. The dichotomy between the South and the North is becoming more pronounced as appointments are weighing over 70% in favour of the North against the South since the inception of this administration. The proper meaning and practice of fiscal federalism has been jettisoned since the military incursion into the Nigerian polity. Thomas AguiyiIronsi, the military Head of State who emerged after the first military coup, was assassinated, ostensibly because he introduced the Unification Decree No 34 of 1966, an action which highlighted the Northern ruling class fear of “the South dominating over the North”. Are we not now practising even a more deadly unitary system of government under this so-called democratic government? This unitary system of government is underlined by the fact that all states of the Federation go to Abuja on monthly basis to beg “for daily bread” – call it bail-out fund or whatever name.
Every day in our lives, as citizen of this great country, there are serious issues begging for drastic remedies. And whoever makes a peaceful resolution of issues impossible, makes a violent revolution of those issues inevitable.
*Mr Etakibuebu, a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos.