The much maligned 2019 federal elections has come and gone. Like so many pundits were cocksure even before the first ballot was cast, President Muhammadu Buhari was by it returned to a second tenure of four years. Notably, among other things, it was wished in the main to enable him finish all the good works he had begun upon victory in the 2015 exercise. As the hullabaloo about the ‘resounding’ electoral success yet simmers, the time is apt to regurgitate some of its determinants.
The restructuring of the country’s geo-political architecture remains the hottest in this volatile field. Even as many are yet to come to terms with it, apart from the corruption and integrity doppelganger, it remains the next distinguishable parameter between the two frontrunners in the election. Any wonder then that most of the ‘ethnic’ groupings through their umbrella organisations endorsed the candidate that promised to carry out this – no doubt – onerous surgery on the country upon his ascension to the presidency after the election.
These organisations apart, notable voices of reason across the country did not fail to personally harp on the rationale for this all-important move. Like Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations. In one of his observations to the federal government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the selfsame elections, he opined that it was the only way for our country to succeed on the road to political stability and realisation of its rich development potential. According to him, all this will involve is the restructuring of our present governance architecture ‘to the true federalism practised in the years before the military intervened in our national politics’.
And there lies the rub.
It was well known that before the achievement of independence from Britain, the heroes of that struggle had endless harangues with Westminster. It ended up bequeathing us a federalist constitution that saw the constituent regions agreeing to develop each according to its ability with little emphasis on the centre. Like the document specified, each was then to pay requisite taxes to the central government. All agreed, it was signed, sealed and delivered on October 1, 1960 well before its republican follow-up some three years later.
As recorded in the Time magazine of November 10, 1958 ‘delighted’ Londoners watched ‘ceremonially dressed Nigerians’ for an entire month ‘parade into Lancaster House’ for the historic conference that bequeathed us independence. As derogatory as the piece came, it highlighted the internal divisions between the then three regions that made up the country very well. ‘Behind the scenes,’ it went, ‘the conference had revealed ominous signs of trouble to come.’ So much that in spite of all the jubilation accompanying the ‘success’ of the assembly, in the article’s words, ‘Nigeria’s West African Pilot felt obliged to warn: “Independence without difficulties is a dream of Utopia.’’
It should therefore beat the imagination of every supposedly true citizen of this country that all it took to dismantle this noble arrangement was the action of five disgruntled majors of the nascent nation’s military. Following their abortive attempt to take over the government of the country, they had been overrun by the military hierarchy. In the confusion they had bequeathed us a unitary system that has proved our undoing to date. Like is, since 1966, it has survived military coups on end till the 1999 return to a military-gifted democracy that still has the army in charge somehow.
As they ran out of ideas in uniform, their retired officers had run the gauntlet overtly and covertly to the utter disdain of true democrats. Sidelined to mere errand men, the best brains in the land have watched the land battered by all kinds of malaise occasioned by purposeless and inept leadership. Indeed, it has come to appear as though the military is the only place to acquire leadership potentials in this land. The development it was that had seen its first graduate member enlisting, to his own avowal. Albeit prompted by developments in South America, this was to play out to the letter here. And surprisingly, it still does; as proved by the just concluded poll.
However, now that the reality is slowly dawning on us, this is a call to all who have realised the importance of this clarion call not to lose hope. Like evangelists we should keep the good fight up. The journey of a thousand miles, it is said starts with a single step. Like it is, we are well past the second. Proselytising does not often have to be by force or electoral fraud to be real. To be most effective, it has to come in the shape of a ‘reality yarn’ as the young will rap.
To this has been given the credence of the truth that oil money on which the fiction of our unitary economy is based is slowly drying up worldwide. Like it stands, the possibility of the nation subsisting on this fictive arrangement for longer is now clearer than crystal. Therefore, the sooner we shape up, the better for us living now as well as generations yet unborn. If nothing else, we would have succeeded in playing to those iconic lines of our national anthem that says that ‘The labours of our heroes past/Shall never be in vain.’
-Isidore Emeka Uzoatu, author of the novel Vision Impossible, wrote in from Onitsha.