By Oyewale Tomori
A book should not be judged by its cover, nor should the holiness of a man of God be judged by the resplendency of his robe. So hear me out and do not judge what I am about to say by the title. I am talking about THIS present Nigeria, not the Nigeria of our dream, not the Nigeria of our passion, not the Nigeria of our hope, not the Nigeria of our desire. Certainly, I am not talking about the Nigeria where in brotherhood and sisterhood we stand, even though tribe and tongue may differ. What I want abolished is not the country where all citizens are proud to serve the sovereign motherland.
Granted Nigeria is the amalgamation of some sorts, but all these years we should have blended the amalgam into a united progressive nation catering for the well-being of her citizens. Instead, we have spent or rather wasted the last 103 years since 1914, or more correctly the last 57 years since 1960, turning the amalgam into a “nail” bomb we now call THIS Nigeria. THIS present Nigeria is a form of slavery for all, except for the few benefiting to the disadvantage of the large population of citizens, and for those who are putting little into the country but reaping the resources of the nation, bountifully and shamelessly. THIS present Nigeria is a bondage, an oppression, a suppression, a servitude and a repression of the impotent majority,by the potent and powerful minority. It is in several ways the exact opposite of the dreams of the majority of the citizens of Nigeria. Yet, it is the impotent and placid majority that gave power to the raucous minority that has transformed the country into the perpetual and perennial life of servitude and serfdom. The united and dangerous minority has upturned the life of the disunited and broken majority from one of liberty and self-determination to the life of the conquered and the enslaved. The sad part of THIS Nigeria, is that the majority has still not yet realized that the thieving minority continues to dismember the majority to achieve their greedy objective of cornering THIS Nigeria for their members. They use religious, tribal, ethnic and social club groupings as the weapons of their subjugation of the majority. The crumbs of the riches and resources of the nation are passed on, not even to the majority of the citizens, but to the dogs and pets of the of the minority oppressors. These dogs will kill for the crumbs they get!
Every genuine effort made to bring orderly development and promote national unity has been hijacked and manipulated by the minority rogues, to bring THIS Nigeria to the brink of a failed State status. Let us start with the federal character principle. Section 14)3) of our Constitution states that “The Composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to effect the federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote National unity, and also command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies’. Section 14 (4) further states that “The composition of the Government of a State, a Local Government council, or any of the agencies of such government or Council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manners as to recognize the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the Federation”.
But what do we have today? Nigeria is in THIS current position because of the misapplication of the federal character principle. The power looters of the nation have manipulated the principle to suit their inordinate and greedy desires. The federal character principle was a tool originally designed to ensure fairness in the participation in the affairs of the nation. However, in the design of the principle, we forgot to emphasize the importance of merit, professionalism, and quality and goal attainment. In our application of the principle, we rated issues such as place of birth, state of origin, religion and linguistic attributes over merit and qualification. Not just in the appointments, but also in the promotion of people, some of whom got in in the first place, not by merit but through federal characterization. Again, federal characterization has come into play unfairly in the selection of political office holders, and we have mis-applied it for unfair gains in areas of sports and education. I was watching the on-going FIFA-U20 competition and was surprised to see the composition of the England football team. You will see names like Dominic Solanke, Sheyi Ojo, Josh Onomah, Ovie Ejaria, Ademola Lookman and Fikayo Tomori. Imagine, if England had applied “Englandization” without thinking and considering merit, none of these players, of possible Nigerian origin, would have made the team, nor would the team have qualified and reached the current stage of the competition. At one point, these 5 players were on the field, accounting for nearly 50% of the entire England team on the pitch! Did I hear that the people of Ikorodu are on their way to Buckingham Palace to accuse the Queen of England of abducting their son Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, the current World Heavyweight Boxing champion and to appeal to the Queen’s maternal instinct for the return of Olaseni to the land of his Nigeria mother? I also hear that Anthony Joshua’s cousin, a fellow unbeaten professional boxer, is named Ben Ileyemi. Watch the sports scene and see the number of true born Nigerians representing countries like Norway, Qatar, Finland, and Italy and so on. If we had not blindly chosen federal characterization to the detriment of quality, merit and professionalism, Nigeria may today be a strong force in sports and other human endeavors. Have you recently listened to the introductory music for the national news at 9.00 pm in NTA? You will notice that music has not escaped the fangs of the federal character vipers! The blind application of the federal character has opened the doors to a few opportunists, who to be counted in on the “winning” side, dress accordingly to the office or official functions. It is interesting to see federal civil servants from a part of the country known for feathered caps decked in the apparel fitting the dress of the ruling party.
Or let us look at the issue of educationally less developed states and the application in admissions into educational institutions. There is nothing wrong in encouraging and helping the less developed to catch up, but we forgot to set a time limit for the catching up. The less developed and disadvantaged must not remain disadvantaged or less developed FOREVER. Therefore we need to address the issue from the roots, so that in a set time, we can use merit as the criterion for school admissions. It is over 25 years since the Federal Government, formulated a policy of granting preference to candidates seeking admission into universities across the country, and from states that are termed educationally less developed. The policy can be likened to a form of affirmative action to redress the educational disadvantage of the affected states. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulated (in Article 2.2) that affirmative action programs may be required in order to rectify systematic discrimination. It also states that such programs “shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights, after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved. This means, it is expected that the action will bring an end to such a disadvantage. If it does not, then it is a failed policy. It is about time we take a look at the policy and see what we need to do to improve it and remove the disadvantage. We need to know why the states are educationally backward in the first place and address the issue by finding a solution within a time limit. An endless policy of helping disadvantaged states that makes them disadvantaged forever does nobody any good, not even the disadvantaged.
The most devilishly and cunningly united group in Nigeria is the political class. They love each other in secret, only to pretend in public that they hate each other. These marauding and destructive locusts in political garbs, who are decimating the country will be found in every corner of the country. Have you noticed when they switch parties, that is, when they decamp from one party to the other? Has anyone decamped from the PDP to the Kowa Party? Or have you seen any APC member moving to the Citizens Popular Party? APC vampires and PDP vultures are birds of the same feathers and they flock together. Tell me. Which of the legislators rejected the vile, revolting and abhorrent personal allowances approved for members of the national assembly? Not one member and they belong to different parties!
We want THIS Nigeria replaced, restructured, refashioned to a country where compatriots will arise to serve the motherland with love and strength and faith. We are looking for a restructured country bound in freedom, peace, equity and unity. As we call on the God of creation to guide our leaders’ right and help our youth to know and act in truth, we must call on each Nigerian to live in love and honesty and be just and fair in our daily dealings with each other. Only then can Nigeria attain lofty heights and become a nation where peace, justice fairness, equity reign. It is time to abolish the current flag of our nation stained with injustice, falsehood, looting, corruption, war, insurrection, insecurity. It is time to get a new flag to pass on to our children, a flag emblazoned with justice, equity, integrity, merit and excellence. Only then can each Nigerian pledge to the nation, faithfulness, loyalty, and honesty. Only then can we all serve with our strength in defending Nigeria’s unity and uphold her honour and glory, It starts from each and every one of us to abolish THIS present Nigeria. The true, progressive and real change Nigeria needs, must be preceded by a change in our readiness to amend to an attitude of fair play, merit and equity. Any attempt to restructure Nigeria, without such a transformation will end up in restructuring inequity and enhancing the practices and policies currently dividing Nigeria. Restructuring Nigeria into six, seven or twelve geopolitical entities, without addressing the issues of integrity, corruption, and merit will only end up in setting up many entities and zones of discord, dissension and division.
I hear calls for the adoption and implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. Why not? The implementation of SOME of the recommendations may move us closer to becoming a more united and equitable nation. However, we must be careful, to separate the chaff of the recommendations from the wheat, and re-examine and re-evaluate some of the wheat that got flushed out by the recommendations because of considerations of federal character, ethnicity, greed and self-interest. Worthy of consideration are the recommendations on census and national database, mineral resources, ranching, rotation of power, state police and science and technology for development.
We must make our country a refuge for the citizens and not allow the privileged few to use, discard and turn Nigeria into their refuse dump.
Professor Oyewale Tomori is a Fellow of the US Academy of Medicine and the immediate past President of the Nigerian Academy of Science.