By Josef Omorotionmwan
FROM the 1914 amalgamation, Nigeria has sought to remain a united country. At first, it was fondly called unity in diversity.
Admittedly, Nigeria has been a nation of constitutional instability. Our colonial masters gave us six Constitutions within a short space of 46 years – Lugard Constitution (1914); Clifford Constitution (1922); Richards Constitution (1946); McPherson Constitution (1951); Lyttleton Constitution (1954); and the Independence Constitution (1960). Most of the earlier Constitutions were not political instruments per se as they were put together merely to regulate commerce, which was the main interest of the colonialists.
A pluralist society like ours needed to have knotty questions like Federal Character properly entrenched in its governing instrument. Yet, this serious issue was not given any consideration until the 1979 Constitution, and subsequent ones, where it found its classic expression in Section 14(3): “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 reflect 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 sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies”.
However, we now know that religion is stronger than politics. Before the 2015 general elections, Edo State had been properly entrenched as an APC State. Based on the goodwill we had already garnered, we thought we could approach any election and win even with the least preparation. But religion changed all that.
As soon as Muhammadu Buhari’s name appeared on the ballot, religious bigots went to work and came up with the ugly rumour that Buhari was coming to Islamise Nigeria. The rumour quickly spread like wild fire in the harmattan.
When we were pointing to the Federal Character principle and the numerous constitutional guarantees against marginalisation we were merely wasting time. Our Christian women and youths had run away with the rumour. And that was how, in the predominantly Christian South and Central Senatorial Districts of Edo State, those fine APC candidates lost the Federal elections that were held on the same day with Buharis, no thanks to religious bigotry.
That explains why a fortnight later, when we went for the House of Assembly election, APC virtually swept the entire poll!
We think the religionists were right and we were damn wrong! What do we see today? We see the collapse of the Federal Character principle; we see emerging signs of an administration embarking on wholesale ethnic or regional cleansing; and above all, we see an administration descending a dangerous slippery slope of Islamisation.
We reject the idea that Federal Character applies only at the entry point. It must also apply mutatis mutandis at every point, including the exit.
Who still wants to argue that the Federal Character principle has not totally collapsed after seeing the recent purge in the military, where about 90% of the 46 officers affected hail from Southern Nigeria as shown below?
South-South – 16 Officers: Maj. Gen PAT Akem, Maj. Gen ED Atewe, Maj. Gen Letam Wiwa, Maj. Gen FO Alli, Brig. Gen Ogidi, Brig. Gen Koko Essien, Brig. Gen PE Ekpeyong, Brig. Gen Bright Fiboinumama, Brig. Gen. M. Onoyiveta, Brig. Gen IMD Lawson, Brig. Gen Bashir Mormo, Brig. Gen AH Sa’ad, Col. Tonye F Minimah, Lt. Col. GC Nyekwu, Lt. Col. Adimoha, Lt. Col. OC Egemode,
South-East – 11 Officers: Maj. Gen TC Ude, Maj. Gen LC Ilo, Maj. Gen IN Ijoma, Maj. Gen O Ejimai, Brig. Gen GO Agachi, Brig. Gen Okonkwo, Col. CK Ukoha, Col. OU Nwankwo, Col. N. Achinze, Lt. Col C. Enechukwu, Lt. Col CO Amadi.
South-West – 6 Officers: Maj. Gen Mobolaji Koleoso, Brig. Gen Oyefesobi, Brig. Gen AI Onibasa, Col. FD Kayode, Lt. Col. T.E Arigbe, Lt. Col TO Oladuntoye.
Middle Belt (North Central) – 5 officers: Maj. Gen SD Aliyu, Col. Ojogbane Adegbe, Col. Audu, Lt. Col. Baba Ochankpa, Lt. Col. DB Dazang.
The Core North – only 8 Officers: Maj. Gen. MY Ibrahim, Brig. Gen M.G. Ali, Brig. Gen. L.N. Bello, Brig. Gen D. Abdusalam, Col. D.R. Hassan, Col. M.A Suleiman, Lt. Col. A. Mohammed, Lt. Col. A.S. Mohammed.
Whereas the Core North was virtually spared in the purge, the same Core North has totally dominated the entire National Security structure of Nigeria. The Core North as applied here is the name for Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani hegemony.
Today, the Chief of Army Staff; Inspector General of Police; Minister of Defence; Minister of Internal Affairs; National Security Adviser; D-G, Department of State Security, DSS; Chief of Staff; ADC to President; CSO to President; Protocol to President; Private Secretary to President, D-G, Customs; DG, EFCC; DG, Nigeria Prisons; D-G, Immigration; Minister of Petroleum Resources; and FCT Minister, are all of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani extraction of the Core North.
The two Heads of the National Assembly; and the two Heads of the Judiciary are also from the North.
Contrariwise, even at gun-point, so to say, one issue that almost blew off the roofs of the International Conference Centre in our Constituent Assembly, CA, days was the Sharia.
We raised voices and got near exchanging blows. Neither the several adjournments nor the shrewd tactics of the combination of President Ibrahim Babangida and the Secretary to the CA, Amb. Babagana Kingibe, could deter us. We fought like wounded lions.
Yet, the penultimate week, the Bill for the extension of the criminal aspects of Islamic Sharia Law to be applied throughout the 36 States and the FCT smoothly scaled its second reading in the House of Representatives – a House where there are Christian Representatives, whether elected or rigged-in; and a House where the Speaker is supposedly at least a nominal Christian! Islam has never had it so good!
Meanwhile, some of the Christian leaders who should take up the fight are pre-occupied with frivolities like visiting their political cohorts in EFCC detention! Who, then, will halt this steady glide towards Islamism?