Whether Nigerians like it or not, what he nation is passing through today are self-inflicted injuries, what football rules call ‘Own goal’. Take for instance the issue of insecurity. The current state of insecurity in Nigeria has become a worsening concern to all reasonable citizens. Abduction by gunmen has become an industry in the country to the point of many governors paying ransom to kidnappers. This is an aberration as it is embarrassing.
The way the government is going about the solutions to insecurity, there seems not to be an end in sight. Government has been rewarding perpetrators of insecurity and insurgency and by doing so, reinforcing the same insecurity it seeks to deal with. For example, the Government has been paying ransoms to these criminals even though much of these illicit transactions have been under the table. It is not lost on citizens as information still filters out. Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, for example, once admitted offering money to the herdsmen to prevent reprisal attacks.
Call these criminals by any name – bandits, terrorists, kidnappers, name it! They are all criminals. That is what they are! The ransoms they get are rewards and therefore are Reinforcers of their criminal actions as established in Learning Psychology research. Such incentives can attract their colleagues in West Africa to all head to Nigeria if they perceive that crime pays here and criminals get away! In psychology, any behaviour rewarded is bound to recur. How then can such crimes go away when the forces of demand and supply are in full display? No, such violent crimes cannot go away.
Nigeria seems to be in disarray. The fault lines and ungoverned spaces are growing and sprawling all around to the point that the South East that used to be the safest zone in the country is now home to Unknown Gun Men (UGM). This situation has degenerated also to the different zones clamoring for secession.
If these agitations and fault lines persist without some hard measures taken urgently, the future of the Nigerian nation is bleak. Government is applying too much stick and less carrot in the strategic sense for the reason that the Government does that preferentially. For example, one heard a sitting Governor, El Rufai to be precise, saying that the difference between herdsmen and bandits on the one hand and Nnamdi Kanu/IPOB and Sunday Igboho on the other is that while the former are doing business, the latter have taken up arms against the State. Really? So, bandits are doing business as well as their killer herdsmen counterparts? Is it these same foreign herdsmen who can’t speak English or Hausa, organizing mass kidnappings and these bandits that the governor is calling business men?
Governor El Rufai really needs to clarify his position in order not to mislead Nigerians who may believe that those in authority are justifying and glorifying such evil and think that Nigeria is degenerating to a criminal enterprise with everybody being the worse for it.
Then, there is also the issue of poor inclusiveness in governance and failure of government to move the nation towards true federalism. Though one wouldn’t hold the issue of Restructuring against President Muhammadu Buhari as such since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan were there for 14 years combined, and didn’t restructure also, the issue of Restructuring remains the reason why there is so much restiveness and insecurity in the country and ultimately, the separatist agitations. The Nigeria Union is simply no longer working for anybody and President Buhari can write his name gold by restoring true Federalism to Nigeria.
What this suggests is that if the Government wants to end all these separatist agitations and restore unity and move the country forward, it should simply restore Nigeria to federalism as our founding fathers agreed with Britain before independence. Return to Regionalism may not be possible but transferring the powers enjoyed by the Regions prior to the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War to States as federating units is tenable.
Fact is: the 1999 Constitution has made Nigeria a unitary country with 68 items on the Exclusive List while only about 16 items are found on the Concurrent List. Nigeria will never move forward unless we return to federalism, take it or live it.
Some have said that the Government appears to be supporting the bandits and killer herdsmen who destroy and kill at will but ‘plotting’ to sanction and jail other agitators. While contrarily, so much resources have been committed to bring Nnamdi Kanu back to Nigeria even bypassing normal extradition process while Sunday Igboho has been driven underground and a manhunt launched to apprehend him.
Yes, the Government must deal with criminality, but not separatist agitations. One can say he doesn’t want to be a Nigerian anymore. As Citizens renounce their citizenship, ethnic groups can say they want to opt out of the country. But they must follow due process and not engage in armed struggle to achieve the self-determination goal. That will be treason and actionable. Scot wants independence from Britain; Catalonia wants independence from Spain; even in the US, there is a group asking that the State of California, the 6th largest economy in the world, become an independent nation! But none of them has taken up arms against their nations and it must happen in Nigeria.
Patriotic citizens should never support armed struggle. Restructured Nigeria is the best deal for all sections of the country. But the Government should be advised to treat all citizens equally. Government should not carry a sledgehammer and go after a Nnamdi Kanu or Sunday Igboho while running Operation Safe Corridor for the so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists who are now given the option of renouncing terrorism to get rehabilitated and reintegrated into the Nigerian society. That’s a double standard, which is alienating sections of the country.
Many have asked: will Nigeria survive? The answer is neither here nor there. It depends. Though Nigeria is a very resilient country, Nigerians must stop taking the unity of the country for granted. Yes, Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution says the country is indivisible and indissoluble. The Constitution of the USSR said the same. Those of Yugoslavia, Sudan and a whole lot others had Constitutions that declared their nations’ indissolubility and indivisibility. But where are they today? Even organic countries break up when they fail to do the needful, let alone an inorganic country like Nigeria, which an artificial colonial creation. Nigerians need to read the book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, and see how Nigeria is fast fulfilling all the preconditions. Patriots must rise now and help pull the country from the precipice. Nigeria is still a beautiful project and salvageable.
President Muhammadu Buhari has also laid the issue of Restructuring at the doorsteps of the National Assembly. While pleading that the President has to do the push if indeed he wants Restructuring, the National Assembly will live up to their expectations if they amend the 1999 Constitution to match the requirements of a true federalism. If the lawmakers are really democrats, they have to amend the Electoral Bill to allow electronic voting, which means including electronic transfer and collation of results; if they will remove 30% of profit of NNPC devoted to oil explorations in the basins, they are patriotic indeed. Oil is going away, so such money should be devoted to repositioning Nigeria for life after oil.
Let’s help our President and save our country. We have no other one to call our own.
Dr. Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, writes from Abuja. Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: email@example.com; follow me on tweeter:@LawMefor1.