The news of a letter written by the Ijaw nationalist, Chief E.K. Clark, to former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo , and the latter’s reply have dominated online news platforms in this yuletide season.
Clark in his letter condemned in strong terms Obasanjo’s position that the oil in the Niger Delta belonged to Nigeria. So insistent was Obasanjo on this point that he continuously interrupted Chief Clark’s representatives at a recent meeting, frustrating their every attempt to argue to the contrary, including having to bang the table in anger!
It was quite impressive that nature conspired to have the two elder statesmen “quarrel” in public; two elders who traced their management of the affairs of Nigeria to when they first met 46 years ago in Gowon’s government, in 1975. That providence chose a period as this, just before a new year, heralding another round of futile political activities to vote in new sets of homo sapiens to manage and twist our destinies as it suit their whims; show indeed that nature and the gods are wise.
While not interested in joining issues or taking sides with either of the elderly chiefs, I would simply identify four (4) salient age-long misconceptions which have now resurfaced following the eye openers from the open letters.
1. Nigeria is a Shame of a Federation
Nigeria purports to be a federation but in her actions, she is everything but one. The country has continued as a unitary state in line with Aguiyi Ironsi’s Decree 34 of 1966. This same clause has been disguised and sneaked into Section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution while the leaders carry about with the toga of a “Federal Republic”.
I was appalled by the instance cited by Chief Obasanjo in the event of oil being discovered on his Ota Farm in future: “If any mineral is found under the ground on my farm, Federal Government will ask the State Government to revoke my C of O for overriding public interest… The Federal Government would issue licence to any company that had been allocated the right to mine the mineral. It would not matter what I grow on the farm, and what development I have carried out…”
There are roughly 25 countries operating federal constitutions in the world. They include some of the largest and most complex democracies – India, the US, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Belgium, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Australia and others. Chief Obasanjo should have mentioned one such federation which hijacks the resources of its federating units, siphons them to the capital, drops them on the laps of the Commander-in-Chief, and then shares the booties as bonanza to those around the corridors of power, as does Nigeria.
And the fact that he could so defiantly and confidently use his Ota Farm example as a proud instance of how Nigeria carries on, reveals how ignorant our supposed leaders and elders are on the ideal global standards of managing a society of a heterogeneous nature as Nigeria.
2. The Niger Delta Refers to No One but to Flora and Fauna
The term Niger Delta is a language of colonialism and imperialism. Colonialists adopt such anonymous names to undermine the true identities of those they wish to colonise. It is a Machiavellian strategy to format indigenous peoples’ memories and render them rudderless, confused and empty.
The terms “Gold Coast”, “Ivory Coast”, “Nigeria” (Niger-Area), etc. are such imperial nomenclatures. The term “Niger Delta” describes the flora and fauna, and the vegetation of a place within the Nigerian enclave; never the peoples therein. Oil therefore does not belong to the “Niger Delta”.
There are authentic national groups in that region to whom the oil belong, and any attempt to anonymise them through using inconsequential tags such as “Niger Deltans”, “South-southerns” is an injury that reaches to the soul.
The Urhobo, Itsekiri, Isoko, Ijaw, Ogoni, Kalabari, Efik, Ibibio, etc. are the owners of the oil. The term Niger Delta is nebulous and imprecise and has been used as an instrument of deception both by outsiders and their accomplice from within to loot the region dry and do much harm to the peoples. The story of the NDDC and its fainting dramatists is just one of such instances of the ridicule and damage such anonymity can lead to.
Chief E.K. Clark must now also learn to speak for his Ijaw and Urhobo peoples rather than carrying about as a voice of the Niger Delta. The Urhobo and Ijaw are peopled nations with a history, identified territory and boundaries, language and a psychological trait. These four qualities are the indices that qualify any people for independent statehood anywhere in the world. The English, French, Spanish, etc have no more than these.
The term Niger Delta represents no one. Even Nigeria represents no one. Nigeria has no territory, no resources, no people, no culture, no language. It appropriates the peoples, cultures, languages, resources, etc. of the authentic national groups within her enclave and claims these as hers. This realisation alone suffices to show that Nigeria is simply a passing phase to a future bliss.
3. In Praise of ”Tribesmen” over “Statesmen”.
One of Obasanjo’s admonition to his fellow elderly colleague was to strive to be a statesman rather than a tribesman. Hear him: “I fear God and I respect those who respect themselves and I hope it is about time you change from a tribesman to a statesman of character”.
The term “tribesman” is a derogatory colonial concept used to intimidate victims towards submission to a supposed more authentic identity. It is a term chosen to denigrate a stubborn patriot who insist on being true to his identity. The coloniser’s objective is to ridicule the victim to submission into an artificial inauthentic identity, which ultimately alienates and uproots him/her from his/her God given identity. When the mission succeeds, the alienated individual is then “honoured” with the sweet-sounding tag “statesman”.
The statesman connotes for us a sad reminder of yesterday’s colonial hangovers that must be expunged. He is an either-or, neither-nor, confused and alienated individual tormented by a crisis of identity.
A fundamental problem created by the colonisers in Africa was the deliberate attempt at the annihilation of the peoples’ culture through the creation of artificial state superstructures misconceived as nations and superimposed on the true, authentic nations which had developed socio-historically and to which the patriotism of the people naturally belonged.
By convincing the indigenous peoples to accept that it was possible to transfer this patriotism – a task which they knew was practically impossible – from the true natural societies to the artificially created ones, they sowed the seeds which have turned out to become our albatross in Africa.
The strategy was to refer to those successfully deceived as “statesmen”, and those who stubbornly refused to cave in as “tribesmen”.
This is the reason in erstwhile colonised societies like Nigeria which have failed to overcome their colonial structures and disadvantages, nation destruction is taken for nation building, and culture annihilation for culture development. Or how else do you describe a situation where we are admonished, even compelled to embrace the abstract at the expense of the concrete? Who can point to anything as a Nigerian culture outside the sum total of the cultures of the peoples on whose aboriginal territories the artificial superstructure is imposed?
We engage in a callous murder of culture whenever we play down on our Urhoboness, Isokoness, Ijawness, Igboness, Yorubaness, etc. in favour of a Nigerianess that hangs in the air. And we are encouraged to do so because a titillating award of “statesman” is promised us, as opposed to the belittling one of “tribesman”.
It is laughable to hear people make such statements as being “detribalized Nigerians” thinking themselves to be true “national patriots”. Far from being the case, any one who claims to be detribalized has in essence only succeeded in placing himself at a level below that of the human and one closer to that of the lower animals.
For in going with the Darwinian theory of evolution or the Marxist materialist conception of historical evolution, what essentially distinguished man from the rest of the animal kingdom was the gradual, strenuous but successful development of the second sound signal system (language). One who has lost this invaluable product of the labours of his ancient forebears or who claims to have done so just for some mundane pedestrian pursuits only succeeds in placing himself in a position where he deserves to be pitied.
It does not detract from the argument if it is posited that what is meant is that such professed “detribalized Nigerians” only claim to put tribal considerations aside while on “national assignments”. Every right thinking person observes the law of self-preservation as the first law of nature. Even Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be sent to the nation of Israel and considered it not right for the bread meant for the children to be given to dogs.
International organisations such as the European Union struggle because the average European is not willing or ready to assume a secondary supra identity alongside his primary identity and attachment to his immediate nation his tribe. And whenever there are clashes of interest, they simply walk away from the imposed secondary identity as did the English with the European Union this year.
A man who has no preference for self, for his people and for his linguistic group; or who claims not to, has simply lost the sense of his history and humanity and is not fit to live. The Germans, French, English, Italians, etc, all love their nations and are very proud of their language and autochthonous identity and could never claim to be detribalized. The First and Second World Wars was fought strictly on the basis of linguistic affiliation. Despite the destruction and losses that accompanied it, it led to the emancipation of oppressed peoples locked within empires such as in the Balkans.
4. Beyond Reform: The Time to Unbundle the Nigerian Empire is Now
Chief Obasanjo’s final admonition to his colleague in his letter states: “I believe that we should be reformists rather than being pedantic with leave it or take-it attitude. Together, I also believe Nigeria can be fixed and mended for the benefit of today and tomorrow on the basis of give and take… Reform is a continuous exercise but relatively slow in achieving results. Revolution for sea-change may rarely happen and then we may continue to languish in frustration and regret with dire judgment for posterity…”
It is heartwarming that Chief Obasanjo alludes to the two equal measures of social engineering and transformation viz reform and revolution. It is also understandable that he appears to approve of reforms, and loathes revolutions apparently because of the latter’s uncertain outcomes and the inconveniences that may follow with them.
What the Chief failed to note is that pulling down colonial frameworks and structures is a non-negotiable prerequisite for the emancipation of peoples and the emergence of nation-states; and it is only within these nation-states, having homogeneity of culture and psychological trait, is progress and development guaranteed. More significantly, history has revealed conclusively that only through revolutions do nation-states emerge out of suppressive and reprehensive empires.
Revolutions preceed reforms. Empire builders and managers are inclined to maintain the status quo because it suits their whims and caprice. Oppressed peoples within empires would be inclined to seek for freedom through a restructure, or at least a reconsideration of the terms of the association. The calamitous clash that results from these diametrically opposed positions is what is referred to as “revolutions” or “wars” or “deadly quarrels”.
Nigeria is an empire that must have to be unbundled. The Roman Empire was pulled down and thereafter the European Nation States were birthed. Following this achievement through revolution, reforms were initiated beginning with the withdrawal of the Latin language of Roman colonisation, and thus begun a translation of literary works to German, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese etc. The Roman Church was rejected giving way to the Church of England, The Lutheran Church of Germany, etc.
The Ottoman Empire lasted 600 years and collapsed. Out of it emerged what is now Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Macedonia.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and out of it emerged Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
Czechoslovakia further collapsed and out of it emerged the Czech Republic and Slovekia.
Yugoslavia collapsed and out of it emerged Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Kosovo.
The USSR also collapsed and out of it emerged 15 Republics – Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan etc.
Africa has remained underdeveloped, backward, chained, because she has refused to toe the path of others – to unbundle all the Lugard-like experiments all over the continent and reorganize her political entities according to culture, language, psychological trait and history. The excuse has been that revolutions are too risky to undertake, so we settle for ‘reforms’. But revolutions preceed reforms. You do not administer a reformatory antidote to a disease that require a revolutionary measure, and expect a perfect remedy.
The Yoruba nation, Urhobo nation, Igbo nation, Ijaw nation, must all emerge and exist independently for there to be any experience of progress as we see elsewhere in the world. Haven attained this, reforms will then be introduced. They will have all literary works translated to their autochthonous languages, and adopt same as medium of instruction in schools. Their cultures and beliefs would then serve as the “grundnorm” on the basis of which their individual nation’s constitutions would be written.
29 December, 2021