By Ochereome Nnanna
SENATE President, David Bonaventure Mark, seems to be rapidly shedding his military political establishment’s ideological feathers. A former influential “IBB Boy” between 1985 and 1993, Mark, in latter years, seems to be repenting of some of the odious legacies of the internal colonialist policies the establishment forced down the throat of the nation in the 1999 Constitution before they vacated power.
The other day, following the Mubi slaughter of 42 students and other similar grisly slayings by the increasing army of malcontents around the country, Mark told his colleague senators and a listening nation that he was now in favour of introduction state police, as the current policing system has proved grossly incapable of apprehending the scale of violent criminality that lives with us today. It is common knowledge that most political figures from the military era, particularly those from the North, always kick against any notion of decentralising police functions because of their fear that they could form the embryos of new threats to disintegrate Nigeria.
In far away Quebec, Canada, last Monday, October 22, 2012 in his address at the 127th Inter Parliamentary Union, IPU, Assembly, Mark addressed the theme: “Citizenship, Identity, Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in a Globalised World”, with the progressive view that he would push for the replacement of “State of Origin” with “State of Residency” in the impending Constitution amendment exercise.
Said he, to journalists: “Let’s forget the business of state of origin and go to state of residence. Once you are resident in a place and you perform your civic responsibilities for the period, there is no reason why you should not benefit, provided, of course, you don’t claim dual residency”.
I call this a Zikist agenda, because Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, right from its days under the leadership of Dr Herbert Macaulay, had dreamed of an independent Nigeria where the citizens would “forget their differences” and build a nation where everyone would be proud to belong; a model of patriotic dynamism out of Africa and a toast of the Black world. He had as associates outside the NCNC another political party in the North named the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, led by Malam Aminu Kano and his followers.
The NCNC was a truly national party, where Igbos produced elected officers in Lagos and parts of the old Western Region, and people from the Mid West and Yorubas won election in Port Harcourt. A Fulani man, Alhaji Umaru Altine, a staunch member of the Zikist Movement who went to jail in defence of zero tolerance to British colonialism, was elected the first Mayor Enugu.
Zik’s fellow travelers
But Zik’s fellow travellers in the fight against British rule did not share his dreams. When Obafemi Awolowo returned from England, his vision was to become part of a national political movement, but only if he would be allowed to control the Western Region cell of it. He eventually founded the Action Group, which had the primary mission of taking over the West and launching out to other parts. In the North, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and his group were deeply concerned of what Zik would do with Islam and the North if he assumed leadership at independence. They hijacked the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, an unabashed regional party. With the West and the North now in the hands of regionalists, the NCNC and its nationalist vision were thwarted and reduced to the regional fringes. Awolowo popularised the agitation for creation of states for the Minorities.
It was from these stimuli that the struggle by local elites to take control of the political space within their areas became popular. As soon as the nationalists were pushed out of political relevance, the regionalists in the Nigerian Army started as from 1967 to split Nigeria into states and local governments to give local elites the platforms for the freeloading on Nigeria’s oil wealth (the National Cake).
Born of the demon
Thus was born the demon of “state of origin”, which created the indigene/settler dichotomy among Nigerian citizens. This is the singular detractor to our national integration because a Nigerian can live all his life in a part of the country other than his place of ethnic roots and yet live like a foreigner in his own country. He will pay taxes, yet his children will not benefit from state government free education and bursary awards, which are reserved for “indigenes”. He can register and vote, but cannot be voted for. He and his family will be counted as part of the local population of his state of residency, and yet when the federal allocation that comes as a result of the population density arrives he and his family are discriminated against.
In spite of his contributions to the development of the state, he and his family are frequently harassed, displaced and often killed by mobs incited by local politicians against enterprising “settlers”.
Mark’s intentions are noble. Without giving Nigerians a sense of belonging wherever they live the country will never become a nation. It will never be united. Nigerians have been raised on a diet of ethnic and sectional dichotomies for more than 70 years. States and local governments have been established to institutionalise national disunity. We all are now tribalists and sectionalists at heart. It is in our blood. Even if Mark gets the support of his colleagues to push through the reform, it might merely exacerbate the hostility of “indigenes” against “settlers”, and local politicians might respond with more incitement to violence.
However, we commend the Senate President for standing by this nationalist agenda and hope he will not be discouraged by the odds.
Off to New York City
AS you read this piece, I will be in New York City, USA, my self-chosen primary staging post for coverage of the American presidential and other elections tied thereto.
I will move around quite a bit, touching base in Washington for sure.
I will endeavour to look out for story angles that are relevant to us in Nigeria in our practice of the presidential system. STAY WITH THE BEST!