Historical Review of Restructuring During the Colonial Era: Minimum Imperatives for Restructured 21st Century Nigeria
by Tony Nnadi, Esq., Secretary-General of Lower Niger Congress (LNC)
Lagos-based privately owned television, Africa Independent Television (AIT), has devoted its program People, Politics & Power (PPP) to throw enough light on Restructuring of Nigeria – a topic which has gained currency in popular political discourse among all constituents of Africa’s largest democracy. Host of this show, Imoni Amarere, invites his host and Secretary-General of the Lower Niger Congress (LNC), Mr. Tony Nnadi, to provide his own insight into Restructuring of Nigeria as understood from the perspective of a legal expert and longstanding leader in activist groups that have dealt with this subject matter in the past 25 years or longer.
The interview is nearly 50 minutes long, but every second of this period is a learning moment for those who have the time and interest to get to the bottom of what is truly wrong with contemporary Nigeria and why the widespread call for geopolitical restructuring of the country has now attained a deafening pitch from all the nooks and crannies of the nation. To set the stage, the interviewer first reviewed perceptions of Restructuring the country as seen from perspectives of acknowledged political leadership groups articulating positions of the three largest ethnopolitical constituents: – the Hausa-Fulani (North), the Igbo (East) and the Yoruba (West).
From all indications, there is unanimity over the fact that Restructuring has become inevitable in order to stem the tide of widespread disaffection among plurality of interest groups in the country. But that’s where the unanimity ends. Various groups, however, tend to understand Restructuring from the angle which tends to favor them most. Some may, in fact, be receptive to Restructuring only as long as such an undertaking shall not radically upend their habitual relative advantages in a restructured Nigeria.
Mr. Nnadi’s LNC articulates and represents the strategic interests of the Lower Niger territory which is coterminous with First Republic’s Eastern and Midwestern Regions. In preceding decades, the interviewee had played active as well as leadership roles in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), Aladinma and Movement for New Nigeria (MNN). As a lawyer, he was a lead counsel in a lawsuit filed in Lagos High court in 2007 to prove that the subsisting 1999 Constitution, on which Nigeria’s 4th Republic’s democracy is predicated, is a fraud because the document was not written by “We the people…….” as claimed in its preamble. This constitution was produced by the last military dictator, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and the junta he headed and promulgated into law by issuance of a military Decree No 24 of 1999. The 2007 lawsuit was such a statement of fact that government of the day was unable to mount any meaningful defense in the court of law.
The issues elucidated by Mr. Nnadi in this interview are meant to further enlighten the polity about the relevant matters at stake which must be faced squarely and rectified or risk making the much-talked-about Restructuring an exercise in futility. Nigerian peoples have written only the 1963 Constitution since it became an independent nation state on October 1, 1960. Nigeria, during the First Republic, enjoyed relative peace, stability and economic prosperity across the board till the federal constitution was toppled in a military coup d’état in January 1966 by young army officers. Army rule abrogated the 1963 Republican Constitution, arbitrarily carved up Nigeria into 12 states and quickly took the country into a murderous 30-month Civil War in which an estimated 2 million noncombatants perished from mass starvation, disease and hostile firepower by the central government forces.
Since conclusion of the horrid war, the former four-region Nigerian federation was sequentially transmogrified into 36 states that have become de facto vassals of the unitary command-style government in Lagos and later on, Abuja. Nigeria’s ongoing political malaise can easily be traced to 1966 when the 1963 Federal Constitution was abrogated at gun point by uniformed gun-toting young army officers who were desirous to play politicians with absolutely no iota of experience in the field to go by. The groups with which Mr. Nnadi is affiliated wish to see Restructuring of Nigeria to start with returning the country to the regional federalism it had before the dark curtail fell in 1966.
The Lower-Niger paradigm, which Mr. Nnadi advocates, is also akin to positions already adopted, in principle, by the Yoruba in the West and Ndiigbo in the East. The North is still uncertain about what to propose to replace the status quo which has favored its military and political elite corps particularly well in the past 50 years. The North is home to the majority of ethnic nationalities that comprise Nigeria in the Middle Belt. The Hausa-Fulani, who are mostly Muslims, have increasingly become alienated to inhabitants of the Middle Belt who are majority Christians. North’s geopolitical leverage over the South in past half century was because the dominant Muslim Hausa-Fulani have, somehow, managed to sell the vast region as a monolithic entity. But the incessant inter-religious communal clashes and land grab by bloodthirsty Fulani herdsmen militia have combined to burst that myth for good.
The LNC has since adopted the broken map created by the MNN Lagos Conference of June 30, 2011 as the preferred model for restoring Nigeria back to regional federalism akin to what prevailed before 1966. The rationale that informed this broken map is already fully explained elsewhere. Additionally, Referendums are to be utilized to ascertain the true wishes of constituents at the regional and national levels for the broken map to work as designed.
The default option, going forward, remains the infallible logic of returning sovereign rights of the country’s ethnic nationalities whose ancestral lands were initially commandeered, with their approval, when colonial Britain coupled Nigeria together about one hundred years ago. Nigeria, as currently constituted and operated, has reached the end of the road and is currently tottering at the edge. Until wise counsel can prevail sooner than later, breakup a la defunct Soviet Union or Yugoslavia may easily became the fate of today’s Nigeria.