Essentially, “To the Rescue” of Nigeria, there should be the right to self determination enshrined in a true federation of people without shared values.
‘To The Rescue’ shows that the author is interested in salvaging Nigeria from the brink or precipice of self destruction by her internal contradictions. For the right to self determination to be enshrined in the constitution is an idealistic postulation to guarantee that disaffected units of a true federation can opt out through a referendum as in the Quebec Province of Canada or Scotland in the United Kingdom. The corollary is that such referendum can be defeated if the majority do not feel so disaffected, thus guaranteeing justice, equity and fair play for all sections of the federation.
True federation or confederation is attainable when the essential principles of federalism form the basis of a peoples’ constitution as in the 1960/63 Independence/Republican Constitutions in contradistinction with the military dictated 1979/1999 unitary masquerading as federal constitutions both of which starts with the fraudulent preamble “We the people of Nigeria…”.
That Nigeria is made up of people without shared values go without saying because there are at least three disparate value systems in the Eastern, Western and Northern parts of the country as exemplified by Ahmadu Bello who preferred ‘managing’ to Nnamdi Azikiwe’s idea of ‘forgetting’ the differences between Fulani and Igbo (p.94); Awolowo’s idea of Nigeria being a mere geographical expression and other fundamental differences are as highlighted on pages 94 to 114.
The over 600 page book comprising of 9 chapters and 6 appendices is a minefield of information with plethora of references and delivered in hardly assailable logical arguments.
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
1. Failure of the Nigerian State chronicles dwindling performance in human development indices, contradictions between the constitution and sharia law, institutional weaknesses in law enforcement and the failure of the state to guarantee security of lives and properties of her citizens in ‘the social contract’ basis of state existence. The only difference is that insurgency, militancy and violent criminality have not snowballed into the Somalia situation although the indices of failed statehood are all too apparent.
2. As we are currently talking about modern day slave trade on blacks in Arab Libya, the author insists that slavery is also taking place in Nigeria which is placed 23rd out of 167 countries in Global Slavery Index. But the more innocuous and deleterious form of slavery is institutional, either as ‘democratic empires’ or ‘constitutional monarchies’ or ‘unitary republics’. If slavery is seen as curtailment of civil liberties, the unitary republic of Nigeria can only but be euphemism for a ‘slave camp’ administered by neo colonial agents together with their witting and unwitting acolytes. The idea of ‘internal colonialism’ has historical roots in the different dispositions of Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe before and after independence on the one hand and the intellectual disputations between Prof. Chidi Osuagwu and Mallam Lamido Sanusi Lamido in as late as the year 2000 on the other. Currently, there is siege mentality among citizens of sections of the country where the Army, Police, Customs and other agencies behave more like forces of occupation, intimidation and extortion than for protection of lives and property.
3. Originating from the writings of John Lock, Thomas Jefferson and the American Declaration of Independence through world wars 1 and 2, the principle of self determination as per the various United Nations Charters and Conventions have come to mean free determination of political status and pursuit of economic, social and cultural development. Specifically, the UN International Convention on Civil and Political(sic) Rights which was ratified by Nigeria in 1993 proclaims that ‘All peoples have the right to self determination’ and binds states parties to ‘adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in this covenant’. Though contained in the African Charter on Human and Political (Peoples’) Rights as Article 20 and ratified by Nigeria, it was excluded from chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, obviously not to contradict its section 2(1) ‘indivisibility and indissolubility’ provision but which was breached with the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun.
4.Canada and Scotland are examples to show that the right to self determination and even secession does not necessarily lead to disintegration of the federating units. On the contrary, people will prefer to remain in a bigger entity where justice, equity and mutual respect engender peace and progress for the citizens.
5. While repudiating violent agitation for self determination by separatist movements, author compares changing attitudes to self determination movements in Australia, Northern Mali, Spain, etc and Nigeria. Ironically, while Nigeria lends moral support to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Western Sahara separatists, she responds to non violent Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) with violent killings, maiming and imprisonment of activists contrary to the intendments of the conventions ratified by the state. In all, the 2016 exit of Britain from the European Union (Brexit) is the civilized way to conduct politics and economics in a democracy, not dictatorship and impunity.
6. The ideal of providing for the right to self determination and secession in national constitutions is canvassed as the bulwark against any tendency of the majority to denigrate or derogate minority interests. Specifically, Ethiopia’s example to the effect that ‘Every Nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self determination, including the right to secession’ was referred to. Notwithstanding this provision, the inclusive and negotiated character of the Peoples’ constitution has rendered the invocation of that right by any group redundant. This position is unlike in Nigeria where rampaging herdsmen, armed with sophisticated weapons keep vandalizing farmlands and communities, killing and destroying at will, while security agencies and governments look the other way and many a time assists the marauders.
7. Notwithstanding its celebration as a huge success and calls for its implementation, the 2014 National Conference is flawed in many respects regarding how to forge a new Nigeria. For one, the core issues like the question of unity and the form it should take were either not discussed because of foreclosure or not in depth under sessions that were time constrained. These compromised the quality of discussions already suffering from downward bias owing to the structure of and membership of the delegates even as the modalities for the resolution of contested issues made meaningful deliberations difficult. Second, the fundamental principle of federalism as a ‘voluntary union of partially self governing states or regions under a central federal government … with division of powers and responsibilities constitutionally entrenched that cannot be unilaterally altered by any single party’ was obviously lost on the conferees. Third, the federal exclusive list which grew from 45 in the 1963 to 68 in the 1999 constitutions was rather elongated whereas 29 items were in the concurrent list in 1963 document with the rest under the residual schedule. Fourth, inconsistencies in conference recommendations include local governments to be issue for the states and withholding of statutory allocation by the federal government or direct funding of local government primary health care without recourse to state governments; no powers were returned to the federating units over states INEC; liberalisation of state policing to the states while arms, ammunition and explosives are under the exclusive powers of the federal government. Fifth, if the 36 states structure weakened federalism one wonders why 54 states structure which will further strengthen the centre and weaken the federating units was recommended. Sixth, also absurd is the recommendation for the continuation with the very costly presidential system instead of the economical parliamentary system needed to release funding for real overall capacity building. The author regards this and the jettisoning of the six-zonal arrangement as the worst failures of the conference.
8. Consequent upon the failures of the 2014 conference to address the core issues as already highlighted, author insists that a sovereign national conference is an imperative for the ethnic nationalities to renegotiate Nigeria using the 1963 Constitution as the working paper. Cognisant of their stiff resistance to change by beneficiaries of the status quo who control the instruments of coercion, he prefers liberation battle of the intellect and perseverance in order to, with superior logic, win over the docile, the uninformed, the skeptic, the selfish, the conservative and even the diehard reactionaries that it is in their enlightened self interest to renegotiate Nigeria into a functional system for sustainable peace and progress.
9. After cataloguing the indignities, injustices, inequities and lack of fair play in Nigeria’s political economy, the author re echoes Mallam Lamido Sanusi Lamido’s 1999 thesis that the marginalization, exclusion and contemptuous treatment of the Igbos since 1970 cannot be endured forever by the younger generations and that ‘if this issue is not addressed immediately, no conference will solve Nigeria’s problems’. In the author’s words, ‘Nigeria is therefore permanently at risk of conflict for keeping the Igbos and wishing to subdue their inherent freedom- seeking spirit, without giving them right to equity, justice and fair play’. He insists that it is only fundamental restructuring, not cosmetic 2014 conference resolutions, along the lines of confederation as proposed in the Aburi Accord of 1967 that can douse the conflict inherent in unitarism to the rescue of Nigeria.
STILL ON THE 2014 NATIONAL CONFERENCE RESOLUTIONS.
The world works according to natural principles and any system that substantially deviates will always be battling with tension until it aligns with the underlying principles. And so it is with ‘military federalism’ in Nigeria and the cosmetic recommendations of the 2014 conference. Classical Political Economist J.S Mills and other federalist scholars like Dicey, Bryce and Wheare (Appadorai, A. 2004. The Substance of Politics. New Delhi, OUP, pp 498-500) have distilled five conditions for the establishment and continuance of federalism as (1) The desire for Union on felt need basis, (2) The desire for local independence, (3) Geographical contiguity (4) The absence of marked inequalities among the component units and (5) Political education and legalism or balanced double allegiance to centre and periphery plus general willingness to yield to the authority of the courts. This can also be termed the presence of a ‘civic culture’ hardly found in non democratic federal systems. Juxtaposing foreclosed issues, enlargement of federal exclusive legislative list, atomistic 54 states as federating units, amorphous nature of the geography of the atomistic units, manifest inequality between the federal and the units and absence of civic culture imbued in the conference resolutions with these requirements, it becomes clear that the necessary conditions for democratic federalism were not fulfilled thereby making the resolutions merely cosmetic. In the 1998 book compilation- Federalism and Political Restructuring in Nigeria and published by Spectrum Books Ltd, Ibadan, p.5, Kunle Amuwon and Georges Herault opine that ‘when a neopatrimonial federal logic makes happy only state officials and their acolytes, even if the later cut across ethnic, religious, regional, class and gender cleavages, pockets of dissent, dissidence and contestations will naturally emerge’. They agree with the contention of Olukoshi and Agbu that “it is … necessary to recognize that the crisis of Nigerian federalism is not just about bickering ‘tribes’ but also about injustices that are rooted in cross national class and gender conflicts. In other words of Kunle and Herault, ‘while federalism has brought several nations within the Nigerian polity together, actual federal practice has hardly been able to keep them together happily’. Twenty years after, Nigeria is not getting any better. My worry as an Economist is that the unitary federalism which encourages the culture of cake sharing has refused to give way to true federalism and the superior culture of cake baking and contribution to the centre even as the world is fast moving away from fossil fuel into clean energy, artificial intelligence and the knowledge economy.
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS IN THE BOOK
Contained in this book are strong views delivered in strong language by an unapologetic Igbo elder desirous of waking up the consciousness of our docile political elite who prefer not to see the bigger picture in their bid for political correctness of individual relevance and collective irrelevance. It is equally a warning for those who appear to be benefiting from the present unjust and inequitable system that injustice can never last forever and as long as it lasts, so long will the oppressed continue to revolt either violently or through pacifist resistance to injustice, marginalization and exclusion. It is a clarion call for an intellectual crusade to generate sufficient momentum in the public opinion molding process to craft a genuine peoples’ constitution for the sustenance of democracy, justice, equity, enduring peace (not peace of the graveyard or that of Jonah in the belly of the fish) and sustainable progress. It is a call for fundamental, not cosmetic, restructuring from the present suffocating unitarism to the true political and fiscal federalism of our dreams with the 1963 constitution as the template.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Man is not perfect and perfection should not be expected from anything he makes. But the drive for perfection motivates man to keep improving. The book contains quite a few errors. . Subsequent impressions should take care of these errors. . . . . These . . . . notwithstanding, the validity of the contents of the book is hardly assailable, not with the plenitude of references backing up his arguments.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
The author, Prince Chukwuemeka I. Onyesoh (Oba Agbalanze Nri) is these and more: an erudite scholar and copious publisher; an intellectual who discovers phenomena according to the rules of evidence and so an insightful citizen; a socio-political cum economic activist; a man of culture and tradition; is possessed of multi tasking, interdisciplinary and cross functional competencies; by pedigree and cosmology he is a pacifist, never believing in the use of violence to settle disputes and regarding this book and publications, his views are strong, always strongly canvassed in direct language but are never seditious. He simply has the courage of his convictions.
I am privileged for the honour of reviewing this book publicly today and do not hesitate to recommend it strongly and favourably to every literate Nigerian, organizations both local and foreign and members of the international community who are or should be interested in the political economy or geopolitics of Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
Thank you for listening.
WRITTEN BY PRINCE CHUKWUEMEKA I. ONYESOH, AT THE PUBLIC PRESENTATION IN THE CINEMA HALL, ENUGU SPORTS CLUB ON DECEMBER 14, 2017 by EZE A. EZE; Esq, Ph D