Confederacy Option Booting

Olugbenga Jaiyesimi

Olugbenga Jaiyesimi

Affairs of countries are grouped into the social, economic and political spheres. In polity discussions the social sphere takes a back seat to economic and political issues. The social milieu are also handled by non partisan figures like traditional rulers, the clergy, teachers, and parents while the politico-economic seem to be the preserve of political actors and analysts. While social upheavals are far and in between, we are confronted with politico-economic upheavals frequently.

Discussants say we cannot divorce our economics from our politics. Some of us differ on this. Others believe if we do not get our political framework right our economy will continue to suffer. I hold the view that our economy can be sufficiently insulated from our politics as a matter of choice. The heavy government presence we have in our economy is by choice. A reversal can also be deliberate.

I once believed no matter what the Nigerian polity was,  no matter the type of leadership,  civilian or military, APC or PDP the Nigerian economy would trudge along. I believed that polity maneuvering like restructuring would not deliver better economic fortunes. However, recent events have made me reconsider because our political structure is negatively affecting our economics. Our politics has bred insecurity country wide and has put a stop to economic progress. The 1999 constitution bred the type of politics we have today. Meaning if we want to change our economic trajectory we would have to change our 1999 constitution.

In the forty six years of colonial rule the country  had three constitutions imposed on it by colonial masters, with minimal inputs by natives. Founding fathers and representatives of various nationalities crafted the 1960 independence document and  later 1963 Republic constitution. This federal constitution recognised our  differences and tried to make up for this diversity. We also started out with a Westminster style parliamentary system.

The military in 1966 threw spanners into the works and tried to ignore our diversity by going unitary both by decree and being innate in their command structure. In 1979 they complicated issues by foisting on the nation the latter day version of the American presidential system. Latter day because Nigeria did not go by the original spirit of the 1789 American constitution that made the American government in Washington DC a weak partner to the states. What Nigeria adopted was the post 1930s depression operating system introduced by the Roosevelt New Deal which now saw a bigger central American government.

The shotgun 1999 constitution is a derivative of the 1979 constitution and is now fraying at the edges. Though a group of fifty wise men had gathered in conferences for the ’79 constitution the ’99 constitution was imposed in haste as the military were in a hurry to quit and civilians were in haste to assume power. Hence various nationalities never sat at a conference to iron things out.

The last 24 years have been a discovery of sorts about ourselves and our different nationalities. No sooner had the third Republic started that a section of the country demanded Sharia rule and got it. Minorities have also raised issues of resource control which have just been swept under the carpet. Meanwhile a pretence Federal Republic continues. Tussle for power both at state level and for at the centre is doing us in because of the opportunity these offices offer the occupants by way of the constitution, opportunities to stupendous wealth, the type th US president isn’t exposed to.

We are now in the situation the philosopher Ayn Rand described in her book Atlas Shrugged. She wrote ‘….When in order to produce you have to obtain permission from men who produce nothing…..when corruption is rewarding and honesty a self sacrifice, then you know your society is doomed! An objective  of a new constitution should be making power at all levels unattractive and reducing cost of governance, this being one of the defects of the pseudo US presidential system we adopted.

The last 24 years revealed a conquest mentality of a section of the country and as the Bible asked, How can two walk less they agree? In Nigeria the saying is more complex because we are far more than two in this arranged marriage. The marriage was arranged while we were in pubescence’. Now we are more mature, a family meeting need be convened to chart the way forward.

We have discovered that core values are at odds in Nigeria and as in a marriage if the parties sleep facing differing directions a divorce might be in order, the Orkar solution. The arranged marriage  of 1914 also bore good fruits and for the sake of the fruits a form of accommodation should be found. When addressing this accommodation the frequent call is for a return to Federalism couched either as True Federalism or Fiscal Federalism.

Why do we want to return to a structure that failed us? It was bound to fail because in principle those we come into a federation should have similar values even if they do not have the same tongue. It’s interesting that while the British allowed then Rhodesia to split they kept Nigeria one. While they allowed India to divide in 1947/48 Nigeria did not have this option. For various reasons our founding fathers did not make a strong demand for partitioning as obtained in India.

The last twenty four years have allowed us to discover that Nigeria is like  oil and water in a container.Try as you may they never mix. Shake the container as much as you want they separate out. Apply heat a gentle one or otherwise one evaporates and leaves the container or the container cracks and spills the contents. Leave the two in a container at ambient temperature and they coexist separately in the same container, a confederacy best fits this latter scenario. The Federalist unity in diversity has tried to unite  us but the late Sardauna Ahmadu Bello was right, we are too different.

Discussing the way forward include those who want total dissolution  and those who say our unity is fait accompli and not negotiable. I suggest organising Nigeria into a Confederation which is a meeting point, a mid way of the two positions. A confederate country while recognising our differences will preserve the gains of the last hundred years.  The gains are mainly economic and includes a huge market that is the envy of other countries. A confederacy can allay fears of domination of one group over others.

Constitutions are wrought around shared values and when this is ignored crisis erupts eventually. The American Republic had its eruption 72 years after its landmark constitution because they swept slavery under the carpet in 1788. France could not gather its act because they thought highly of themselves and that man was basically good. Hence France moved from one crisis to another culminating in five attempts at Republicanism. The American founding fathers knew power corrupts anyone who wields it hence  checks and balances including the Bill of Rights were put in place. We copied the US without its Bill of Rights to prevent government oppressing the governed, this to our chagrin.

Our intelligentsia our thinkers must find core values around which the spirit of a future constitution can be anchored. If there is none let us acknowledge we do not have  common values. The states or regions would coalesce around their identities with their values clearly stated. So if you moving into Sharia region you behave in ‘Rome as Romans behave’ or more precisely as Saudis behave in Saudi Arabia.

Our constitution must state clearly that ‘NEVER AGAIN’. All vestiges and appearances of servitude must disappear because  our slavish history, which we are yet to come to terms with, impair us. Let us find a way  to constitutionally avoid domineering government which is another of our tendencies. Let our citizens know they are responsible  for taking us beyond the moon. While South Africa lost Elon to the US our budding Musks should be made to remain. This starts with the constitution which should reflect or deflect our inner constitution. Hence let us fashion constitutions with our innermost demons in mind.

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