By Ochereome Nnanna
MY attitude to any notion of a constitutional conference is that it should be used as an instrument for achieving a peaceful revolution.
By that I mean, total system change through dialogue and negotiations, rather the violent, bloody revolutions that often produce unforeseen outcomes (such as the Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu first military coup in Nigeria on January 15, 1966).
In my series on this matter, I have advocated for the dissolution of the states and local governments and their replacement with two tiers of government: the centre and six regions coterminous with the six geopolitical zones.
The zones will then be empowered to create what local governments or more preferably, divisions and county councils that may accord with the wishes of the peoples of the regions. Thereafter, federal allocation will be shared on the basis of equality of the geopolitical regions. I have also advocated that ethnic nationalities should not be used as the basis for selecting the delegates to the conference.
They are not only unviable due to the number and complexity of tribes, ethnicity has also been conclusively proved to be a factor that divides rather than unites us. I therefore called for election of delegates based on character, proven track records and commitment to the people’s welfare. Now I want to address the issue of population.
It is another factor that has done more harm than good. I call it “population terrorism” because it has been used to advance group interest to the detriment of national interest. The politics of population in Nigeria was a critical factor that led to the fall of the FirstRepublic and the nation’s slide into a civil war.
No census has ever been accepted by Nigerians. Most Southerners believe that the notion of Northern majority is bogus and unfounded. They see it as part of the old “conspiracy” between the former British colonialists and the Sokoto Caliphate to subjugate and plunder the South.
In the same vein, the three major ethnic groups – Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba – have been at daggers-drawn, each refusing to accept the tag of second or third. Even the concept of “Hausa/Fulani” is heavily political, because it ignores the fact that there are also Fulani/Yoruba in Ilorin; Igbo/Ijaw in RiversState, Yoruba/Bini in EdoState, and other such pairings all over the country.
But Hausa/Fulani has been used to assert a questionable majority status based on which more states, local governments and federal constituencies (and therefore greater share of political power and federal revenue) have been piled in the favour of the North.
When the civil war ended, the Yoruba were rewarded with more population, number of states, local councils and federal constituencies (and therefore more federal allocation and greater political stake at the centre) than the Igbo, who dared to challenge the power equation the British bestowed on Nigeria at independence.
Today, every group freely ascribes fanciful population size to itself. For instance, the Ijaws seem to have successfully gotten away with the unsubstantiated claim that they are the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, even when the Ibibios/Efiks and the Edo groups are much easier to come by anywhere in the country and the world at large.
At a television programme, an official of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Yinka Odumakin, claimed the Yorubas were 50 million in population. He spoke too soon, because if he had heard an Aka Ikenga official ascribing 70 million to the Igbos, he would probably have upped his own figure at least 80 million to keep his group ahead in the population rat-race.
The Nigerian state which still runs on a template defined by the Northern political establishment, has obstinately refused to allow population censuses to deploy detailed enumeration of Nigerians to ascertain their ethnic groups, states of origin and religions. Perhaps it is just as well, because it could set the nation on fire, due to the instrument of terror against Nigeria which population has become. Yet, Igbos and Christians believe they are at the receiving end of this omission.
Nigeria is probably the only modern nation on earth where population matters are configured to freeload and parasite on the nation, rather than reinforce the columns of her political and economic virility. All this push by everyone to be seen to be bigger than their nearest rival is meant to grab more money and political power from the National Cake by the elite.
And yet, when the money and power come, they are not used to service the supposed population. Rather, they are cornered by the local elite, leaving the masses in the lurch. This trend is more so in the North than elsewhere in the entire country.
Some groups in the North have even served notice that they will go to the conference to canvass for “one man, four wives”, quite obviously with a view to furthering population terrorism, after fathering children and letting them loose on the streets as al majiris.
The question, therefore is: How do we begin to handle population matters so that they can no longer be used to terrorise the nation? The answer is simple. Abolish the states; convert the six geopolitical zones into regional political centres. Let each region retain all revenues from their home zones up to 60 per cent, paying 40 per cent to the centre. It is then redistributed based on equality of the regions. Centralisation of economic and political power fuels population terrorism or the struggle by each group to out-claim its rivals as having a higher population.
With this policy, it will no longer matter to the man from the South West if the North West claims to have 100 million people because it will not be used to gyp him of his economic and political rights. When there are no more rewards attached to claims of superior population, each region or zone will be forced to apply modern techniques of population control and management to emphasise quality of population rather than quantity.
A high quality population is well educated and skilled. It can support a rapidly developing economy. But a poor quality population is riddled with a large number of illiterate and destitute individuals with a tiny super-privileged upper class. It will be up to the various regions to choose which model best suits the aspirations of their people, subject to national minimum standards.
Wada’s murderous convoys
CAptain Idris Wada, Governor of Kogi State, has set an unenviable new record. In December 2012, his convoy killed his security aide, injured another and broke His Excellency’s leg.
His officials later noisily celebrated his decision not to treat himself abroad, though he did so in Abuja, not Kogi.
With the killing of eminent academic and unionist, Professor Festus Iyayi, Wada has achieved a “feat” no other governor’s convoy has yet done: killing more than once. This man is a danger to road users and a terrible example. But what can we do? He has immunity!