By Chiedu Uche Okoye
IS Nigeria not a British contraption? During the colonial era, it was Lord Frederick Lugard, a one-time governor-general of Nigeria, who cobbled Nigeria’s northern and southern protectorates together for administrative convenience. And his mistress, Miss Flora Shaw, christened the place Nigeria. Nigeria, a British creation, is a disparate political and ethnic entity. It is a nation of nations. Do we not have more than 250 ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, which is a heterogeneous country, it is not unexpected that the issue of ethnic rivalry will pose a great threat and challenge to the peaceful co-existence of the people. Nigeria, a heterogeneous country, has had its fair share of ethnic conflicts. Even before our country became a sovereign nation-state, the northern people threatened to secede from Nigeria in its nine-point programme in the 1950s owing to some problems that cropped up in the country, then.
Since then, Nigeria has not known true peace and unity. The internecine Nigeria-Biafra civil war, which claimed the lives of millions of people, and caused the destruction of properties, was ignited partly by ethnic rivalries that existed among the ethnic groups in Nigeria, then. The outbreak of that civil war was preceded by the January 1966 coup, which was labeled an Igbo coup, and the revenge and counter-coup of July 1966.
Those bloody coups scuttled the progress of our democratic government, set the stage for the outbreak of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, and heralded the entrance of the jackboots and brass hats into our politics. Until 1999, civilian governments alternated with military regimes in the leadership of Nigeria. The military rulers, who always branded their military governments corrective governments, did more harm than good to our dear country.
For example, the military regime of Muhammadu Buhari, which lasted between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985, violated our fundamental human rights. That military regime enacted decrees, which had retroactive effects.
The military regime of Ibrahim Babangida, which succeeded it, fared no better. It is often believed that Babangida (retd) institutionalised corruption in the country. Worst still, he truncated the democratic growth of Nigeria by engaging in an endless political transition rigmarole, which culminated in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. The cancellation of that presidential election, which was adjudged the fairest and freest election in our political annals, threw Nigeria into a political cul-de-sac. Thankfully, our country emerged from that political imbroglio not dismembered.
The interim civilian government of Ernest Shonekan, which was installed to stabilise the country, was shoved aside by Sani Abacha. The dark-goggle wearing Abacha epitomized kleptomania and sanguinary proclivities. He mindlessly looted our country’s financial till and stashed billions of naira in foreign banks. Twenty-two years after his death, his financial loot, which is kept in foreign banks, is still being recovered by the Nigerian government. That is a true portraiture and magnitude of his pillage of our economy.
In addition to his crime of larceny, he killed top members of NADECO, who were fighting for the revalidation of the stolen political mandate of Chief MKO Abiola. It was alleged that the Abacha goons liquidated Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, Pa Alfred Rewane, and others. So, the rump of NADECO dispersed, with some activists going into exile while others went underground.
Thankfully, in 1999, democratic governance berthed in Nigeria, again, after the unexpected death of Sani Abacha and the return of the military interlopers to the barracks. Now, we have enjoyed and experienced twenty-one years of unbroken democratic rule in Nigeria, with one political party seamlessly transferring political power to another in an atmosphere of peace.
That itself is a milestone in our political annals. But, has the existence of democratic rule in Nigeria since the dawn of the fourth republic transformed Nigeria to a technologically and economically advanced country and an oasis of peace and unity?
Since the dawn of the Fourth Republic in 1999, our successive civilian leaders, a majority of whom belonged to the PDP, frittered the opportunities given to them to re-make Nigeria.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was helped to power to placate the indignant Yoruba people over the annulled June 12, 1993 cancelled presidential election, couldn’t take Nigeria to an unprecedented economic and technological height as we had expected and hoped. Rather, sadly, he tried to extend his stay in office beyond the constitutionally approved two-terms through an underhand means.
And Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who died in office after leading Nigeria for a short while, evinced the tendencies of a good and able political leader. He could have achieved something tangible and commendable had he not died. But, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who completed the remainder of Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua’s first term in office, and ruled for one term, appeared to have been unprepared for the challenges and rigours of political leadership.
Muhammadu Buhari trounced him to become our president in 2015. President Buhari, who was perceived as Nigeria’s political Messiah before his assumption of office, has failed to live up to our expectations. His occupation of the highest political office in Nigeria has led to his demystification and the unraveling of the mystique woven around him owing to his inept leadership of Nigeria.
For example, he has failed to abide by the federal character principle in his appointment of officers into the leadership positions of federal establishments. That deed has continued to weaken our fragile national unity. Has he forgotten that unity is an incentive and force for the development of a country? And his response to the coronavirus pandemic has left much to be desired.
More so, in the recent past, he manifested the tendencies of a civilian dictator as exemplified in his disobedience of court rulings and orders. It took foreign leaders’ vilification and condemnation of his anti-democratic deeds for him to release Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki after they had been granted bail by the courts.
And President Buhari has failed to lift millions of Nigerians out of the dungeon of poverty as he promised because the economy is contracting instead of growing. He should know that diversifying our mono-economy from crude-oil has become a desideratum.
But Nigeria can achieve sustainable economic growth and technological advancement only if a political leader with leadership qualities, probity, and ideologies is elected to pilot our affairs. We can have such a political leader if we jettison the culture of imposition of leaders on the populace, which has become the egregious variant of our democracy.
Okoye, a poet, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State