By Chiedu Uche Okoye
BASED on the political antecedents and experiences of most countries in the African continent, the heterogeneity of a country is a fillip and force for its political combustion and conflagration.
Since the dawn of post-colonialism in Africa, some African countries, which are multi-ethnic in nature and composition, have been battling the vexed and divisive problem of ethnicity. Ethnic rivalry has become a feature common to most African countries.
Consequently, some African countries had disintegrated. Somaliland emerged from Somalia while Eritrea pulled out of Ethiopia. Sudan split, giving birth to South Sudan. Sadly, the newly independent state of South Sudan has had intermittent political turmoil, which is traceable to the problem of inter-tribal battle for political supremacy.
Now, the Luo and Kikuyu peoples of Kenya are always fighting over political power at the centre. And the people of Southern Cameroun have not stopped agitating for statehood.
Back home in Nigeria, the remote cause of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, which raged between 1967 and 1970, was ethnic animosity which reigned in the country then. That gratuitous civil war caused the loss of millions of human lives and the ruination of our country’s economy and infrastructures. Till now, we are still rallying from the disastrous effects of that internecine civil war. But have we forged unity and national cohesion from the crucible of that war?
The answer to the question is no. Nigeria is still a disunited country, which is sundered apart by the divisive factors of religious differences/conflicts and ethnic rivalry. Nigeria, which has more than 250 ethnic groups, is an amalgam of ethnic and sub-ethnic groups, which are highly incompatible.
It is a blend of diverse ethnic nationalities, which are antagonistic of one another. That is why disunity with its concomitant effects of underdevelopment has been our lot for a long time.
Nigeria has always convulsed along ethnic and religious lines, with the North being the hotbed of religious crisis. In the first decade of this century, a newspaper reporter made a prognosis pertaining to the founder of the Islamic religion that caused quite a stir in Nigeria, driving the conservative Northern Muslims to start rioting and destroying properties.
Again, the Maitatsine religious uprising in the 1980s in the North caused the destruction of lives and property. Now, the Boko Haram insurgents are waging a religious war to enthrone Islamic theocracy in the North. During the periodic national elections, the jostling for political offices by politicians will heat up the polity and cause the monster of bitter ethnic rivalry to rear up its ugly head.
However, Nigeria embraced and adopted federalism as a panacea to the centrifugal forces of ethnic rivalry and nationalism and the issue of religious conflicts. More so, our adoption of the federalist structure ought to have afforded the component units in our country the opportunity to develop at their own pace. But sadly, Nigeria is not practising true federalism. Our federalism is a grotesque caricature of what federalism ought to be.
Here, in Nigeria, a federal state, the centre is always dishing out financial handouts to most state governments, whose finances are always in the red. What obtains now in our benighted country is a departure of what happened in the First Republic when we had regions and practised true federalism.
Then, the regions achieved economic prosperity and financial buoyancy by their practice of agriculture. It’s regrettable that regionalism died with the collapse of the First Republic.
The component units that make up Nigeria will achieve rapid development if we are to practise true federalism. The states and local governments ought to be independent and seek alternative ways to generate revenue rather than depending solely on financial handouts from the centre for survival.
If Nigeria were a true federal state, we ought to have state police forces given the humongous population of Nigeria and its large land mass. The fact is, our practice of true federalism will unleash the potential of component units in the country and ignite the rapid development of Nigeria.
However, even if Nigeria were a true federal state, the existence of peace and unity in our country would still be a sine qua non for us to achieve economic and technological advancement. A disunited country, which is at the brink of descending into an anarchic state, cannot achieve greatness.
Nigeria survived a civil war and surmounted the political imbroglio caused by the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election. The cancelled June 12, 1993 presidential election nearly threw our country into a civil war.
So, to placate the indignant Yoruba people over the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man, was helped to become our president in 1999. Then, the political situation in the country gave rise to the emergence of the unwritten principle of rotational presidency.
And since the dawn of the Fourth Republic, two major ethnic groups had taken turns to rule Nigeria. Chief Obasanjo, a Yoruba man, was Nigeria’s president between 1999 and 2007. And, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, a Hausa/Fulani Muslim, didn’t complete his first term in office as the cold hands of death snatched him. By 2023, Muhammadu Buhari, a Northern Muslim, will have led Nigeria for eight years.
So, for the sake of political fairness and equity, which will guarantee us political stability and national unity, the presidential post should be ceded to the South East in 2023. The South-East has not produced the president of Nigeria since the Fourth Republic was birthed.
More so, the emergence of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will lead to the abatement of the struggle and agitation for the creation of the sovereign state of Biafra.
A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will assuage the Igbo people’s feelings of alienation and marginalisation caused by the injustices meted out to them overtime. Again, when an Igbo person becomes the president of Nigeria, it will signal and herald the true re-integration of the Igbo people into the mainstream of Nigerian politics.
Are Igbo people not being viewed with suspicion and treated with disdain by the rest of Nigerians since the end of the civil war in 1970? Our abiding by the unwritten principle of rotational presidency and practising of true federalism will lead to the positive transformation of Nigeria.
Okoye, a poet, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State