56 YEARS OF MANAGING CRISES AND VIOLENCE

Nigeria’s 56th year independence anniversary came on October 1, 2016, at a time, the advocacy and calls for the restructuring of the country to a more workable federal arrangement are becoming louder and louder. Some Nigerian youths have actually gone steps further to question the basis for the continued existence of the country under a centrally controlled structure.

They question the value and status of independence the the British colonial authorities ceded to the nation’s foundation Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, after a long and winding struggle, dating back to the trans-Atlantic slave trade years. The real snag is that after decades when many of the nationalists were intimidated, ridiculed, tortured, and jailed, and some paid the supreme sacrifice of death in the fight for freedom, we have a country we do not know how to restructure properly.

 

Nigeria is home to over two hundred distinct ethnic nationalities, indigenous, tribal, linguistic, cultural and migrant groups. They include the Edo, Igbo, Hausa, Idoma, Yoruba, Igala, Igbira, Gbagl, Kanuri, Tiv, Yoruba, Ibibio, Efik, Kanuri, Ogoni, Annag, Itsekiri, Ewe, Fulani, Zuru, Ogoja, Jukun, Ikwere, Ika, Ukwani, Nupe, Efik, Basage, Kaje nations and many more.  Inspite of the savagery of the centuries of slavery, all the tribes have retained their distinct territories and cultural identities.

It is a true statement of fact that all of them have great leaders with the names of knowledgeable men and women, like Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Anthony Enahoro, J.S Tarka, Michael Okpara, Dappa Biriye, S. L. Akintola, J.S Olawoyin, Rotimi Williams, Michael Imoudu, Gambo Sawaba, Margaret Ekpo, Wuraola Esan, Funmilayo Kuti and many others. The Republic of Nigeria, had some of the brightest and articulate selection of nationalist fighters in the third world. Among the erstwhile colonial countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations at independence in 1960, Nigeria was ranked next to India

Sadly, Nigeria throughout the last five and half decades has become a huge rodent park, riddled by political intrigues, betrayals, treachery, back-stabbing, sabotage and violence as political leaders fight for a share of the spoil of power.

 

If for nothing else, this is why the clamour for restructuring has continued to rise. We cannot forget great interventions in the past made by numerous  political organizations, movements and associations. To remember them is to realize how long has been the struggle for restructuring. To name them; National Council of Nigerian Citizens, Niger Delta Congress, Borno Youths Movement, Ilorin Parapo, Otuedo, Ekiti Parapo, Dynamic Party of Nigeria and Cameroon, Action Group, Dynamic Party, Igbira Tribal Union, Ibadan Parapo, Midwest State Movement, Northern Element Progressive Union, Republican Party,  Northern Peoples Congress,  Middle Belt Congress, Zamfara Commoners Party, Igala Union, Esan Tax Payers Association, Urhobo Progressive Union, Ibibio Progressive Union, Igbo State Union, COR State Movement and more. The military regime banned all of them on coming to power in 1966. The list shows clearly that only few of the pre-independence political parties and organizations by their programmes and objectives had restructuring as goal. Many of them did not have Pan Nigeria world outlook as they were more interested on issues relating to their immediate communities. But it shows why they were giving strong support to the principles of regional autonomy in one Nigeria.

On reflection, it is instructive that majority of the protagonists of the restructuring of Nigeria during the colonial years were from the North. The negligible few northerners now against restructuring must be doing so to annoy certain people, as their views are completely opposed to the position held by the past Northern leaders, including the great Ahmadu Bello who had wished for a custom union and even opted for a separate sovereign state, but had to settle for a federal arrangement out of compromise, following debates at the various pre-independence constitutional conferences held in Nigeria and Britain. Alhaji Bello at the 1954 ,   constitutional conference in London said, “ As for me, I would have preferred the north to leave the other parts of the country but stayed only because of the importance of the southern coast line in international trade and the fact that it might be difficult to control the rail system as I would have liked to”

The three Regional Premiers, Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe for the East, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello for the North and Chief Obafemi Awolowo for the West knew what they wanted and pursued their objectives to the minutest details. Under their careful watch, a comprehensive framework for the devolution of power to the regions was adopted which was why the three regions were able to get self government at separate dates between 1957 and 1959, before independence proper in 1960.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was an Igbo leader and a Pan – Africanist, yet, he believed strongly that every tribe in Nigeria should have the right to self – management. In a presidential address at the Igbo State Union conference at Aba in 1949, he said, “The Igbo people have reached a cross-road and it is for us to decide which is the right cause to follow. We are confronted with routes leading to diverse goals. As I see it, there is only one road that I can safely recommend for us to thread and it is the road of self determination for the Igbo within the framework of a federated Commonwealth of Nigeria, leading to a United States of Africa. Other roads in my opinion are calculated to lead us astray from the part of national realization”.

It was evident from the outset, that the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates inflicted on Nigeria in 1914, by Lord Fredrick Lugard, was more of an exercise in confusion and crises breeding. The nationalists made recommendations to the 1958 conference in London for the creation of 11 regions before independence: North: Sokoto, Hausa, Kanuri, Central and Middle Belt regions; West: Yoruba, Lagos, and Midwest regions; East: Igbo , Rivers and Calabar – Ogoja regions.

The colonial office at the London conference, said it was not feasible to create additional regions before independence in 1960, because of time limitation. It instead, referred the issue to be handled through the process of federal principles and democracy after independence. This was never accomplished before the country erupted into crises and violence few months after independence

In his lamentations, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, leader of the Western Region delegation to the 1958 conference in London, said, “His Majesty’s government had refused to create new states in Nigeria or at least break the North into two before the advent of independence on 1st October 1960 and I felt quite strongly that Nigeria had been sentenced to a long period of doom”

Many factors worked against the political class of the immediate pre and post independence era. The nationalists inherited an Armed Forces which in spite of the regimented training of its officers and other ranks, treated the political actors as inferior bloody civilians. The colonialists did not help matters as they deliberately prevented any form of interaction between the two institutions that were destined to play vital roles in the implementation of the Nigeria post independence programmes

When some gangs of young officers in the Army then struck twice in January and July 1966, killing a large number of civilians and military men including the Prime Minister, two Regional Premiers, a Federal Minister of Finance and a host of top Army officers, their action was seen by the gullible Nigerian public as merely getting rid of a set of notorious societal irritants. It merely showed that apart from the fact that the Nigerian decolonization process was incomplete, it was handled in such a zig–zag manner by the then outgoing colonial administrators to ensure that power went into the hands of a pre – determined group.

It was the poor handling of the transition to independence that created the pathways to the state of violence, shoddy growth and development that we have witnessed during the past 56 years, turning us into poor and miserable society of under-rated and corrupt people.

Nigeria is today ranked as one of the world’s five poorest nations, with a minimum wage of 18,000 naira, less than 50 dollars per month; it has the world highest mother and infant mortality rate; it is one of the countries where polio disease is yet to be eradicated. Illiteracy per capita is the world highest with over 10 million children of school age out of school.

The economic programmes and infrastructures that were successfully established under a mixed economy during the first five years of independence were disrupted, destroyed and abandoned by successive regimes of dictators, professing to make success out of a dysfunctional geopolitical system.

The unworkable and destructive nature of the centrally controlled nation such as we have is not different from the kind that in 1923 led Chief Hauden Deskaheh, leader of the Iroquoi tribe of Canada and his team to travel to Geneva Switzerland to protest before the League of Nations, the body that preceded the United Nations, His grouse was against the unified ex-colonial state left behind by the European expansionists, which was worse than situations under slavery and colonialism.

Although Deskaheh was refused hearing on the excuse that the matter fell within the internal affairs of the Canadian government, the point was made. For exposing the government, Chief Deskaheh and his team were refused re-entry into Canada and were granted political asylum by the government of Switzerland in Geneva. On the intervention of the Mayor of Geneva, Deskaheh returned with his team to Geneva in 1925, at a time Canada had started looking into the positive sides of devolution of power in a nation state. It is an irony of history that the Confederation of Switzerland and the Canadian federation are today the world’s two most decentralized multi-ethnic nation states, where the component parts, however, big or small are allowed the right to self determination.

Specimen of the constitutions of some heterogeneous countries studied by the consultative committee of the national conference, organized between 2005 and 2007 in Lagos, by the Pro-national Conference Organisation (PRONACO), led by the late elder statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro were from Canada, Switzerland , USA, UK, Russia , India , China, Japan , South Africa, Spain and Malaysia

Everywhere there is something wrong with the centrally controlled nation state; the geopolitical structure is wrong; the politics and polices are wrong; the economy cranky. There cannot be anything right out of everything that is wrong.

Empirical evidence guided by the dynamics of human evolution is fast proving the point that the centrally controlled heterogeneous states idea has become obsolete and like slavery and colonialism destined to the refuse yard of history. The Nigerian government should not be scared, discussing the basis of our coexistence and unity.

Since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war in 1970, there has been international instruments with provisions within the United Nations system on how ethnic and indigenous nationalities can struggle for the right to self management within the larger nation state, without violence. Such instrument include the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity; UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; International Labour Organization, Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples etc. All the heterogeneous states that have genuinely tasted and implemented the principles of decentralization have found the process suitable and beneficial to the practice of democracy on the long run.

Nigeria in the last 56 years of independence has continued to dwell on the soiled atlas of pessimism, deceit, doubt and frustration. The outcome needless to say has been ceaseless turnover of fickle minded leaders of both the civilian and military paint, who see the perspectives of power only from the prisms of arrogant display of vanity, self enrichment, ethnic manipulation and primitive accumulation of power and wealth.

As the old adage says, “When a set of people find themselves travelling on a wrong route, no matter how far they had gone, they must turn back, to get to their right destination”

It is a gravitation in illusion for anybody to hold the wrong view that Nigeria can survive as a unitary nation state in the face of the prevailing reality. The reality is that the centrally controlled nation states all over the world have nothing to offer the people, except a cemetery of crises, violence and death.

 

Alfred Ilenre is Secretary-General, Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Rights Organization of Africa (EMIROAF) and Director Centre for 21st century Issues (C21st)

E-mail:- efirid@yahoo.com

Tel: 08033352188

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All Eyes on Governor Ambode To Appoint More Women In Lagos State

The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria has come and gone but for women in Lagos State and indeed throughout Nigeria, it will go down in history as the election that almost obliterated whatever gains they have recorded in elective positions since the beginning of this current democratic dispensation in 1999.
Women who contested in Lagos State recorded significant losses which saw the number of women at the Lagos State House of Assembly shrunk to 4 from 7 in the last House of Assembly while the number of women from Lagos in the House of Representatives reduced to 1 from 3 in last National Assembly.
Despite the electoral losses, many women are still hopeful that the losses can be mitigated by having more women in appointive positions. This is more so in Lagos state where the newly elected Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode by his utterances and actions before and after the elections have committed to ensuring gender equality and particularly committing to having more women in governance.
According to Mr. Akiwunmi Ambode on February 5, 2015 during the Town Hall meeting held for Gubernatorial Candidates in Lagos State by women at Muson Centre in Lagos, he said,
“Iam more for women’s right and equality. While I was the Accountant-General, I had six women directors and two male directors. We wish to see sometimes soon, women governors and women speakers of the House of Assembly in Lagos state”
He further committed himself by saying that;
“My commitment towards women in everything I do is very personal. No girl would be denied good education. You can hold me accountable for every word that I have spoken,” (http://saharanewspost.com/2015/02/lagos-women-drill-ambode-agbaje-adeniji/)

The most auspicious time to hold the Governor accountable for every word that he has spoken is now, when he is set to appoint his cabinet and reconstitute the boards and agencies which he dissolved immediately he stepped into office as Governor.
It is very important to set the records straight and awaken the consciousness of the new Governor to the fact that history beckons on him to achieve parity for women in the governance of Lagos State.
Historical review of appointments into Lagos State Executive Council since year 1967 when Lagos State was created revealed that, women’s representation in the council has not exceeded 21% either Under military or democratic government. The situation under this current democratic dispensation is worse off as the highest so far recorded is 11% ( see figure 1, 2 and Table 1 below), a percentage way below 35% affirmative action stipulated under the Nigeria National Gender Policy (2006)

Figure 1-page-001Figure 2-page-001

The position of the Deputy Governor remains the only position where women have had higher representation than men. Between 1979 and 2015, Lagos has had 6 female Deputy Governors compared to 3 male Deputy Governors (table 2)

TABLE 1-page-001

Figure 1-page-001Figure 2-page-001

In over 4 decades of the existence of Lagos State, men have been 14 times opportune to get appointed into Lagos State Executive Council than women. This is indeed a poor showing from a State acknowledged as the role model of good governance in Nigeria. It is unjust to say the least, that despite the active participation of Lagos women in politics, especially the women traders who are noted for their political mobilization and massive voting during elections, they hardly ever win elections or are given appointments in government.

Over the years, Lagos no doubt has shown considerable political will in the quest for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The predecessors of Governor Ambode; Governors, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Raji Fashola has helped to set the ball rolling by enacting and adopting gender sensitive Laws and policies such as, Child

<img src=”https://c21stnigeria.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/table-2-page-001.jpg?w=300″ alt=”TABLE 2-page-001″ width=”300″ height=”124″ class=”align TABLE 2-page-001left size-medium wp-image-386″ />

rights Law, Paternity leave, Domestic Violence Law and gender Policy. It is time to deepen the engagement and raise the bar on behalf of women by achieving parity for women in appointive positions in Lagos State.

It will be naïve to think that securing more appointive positions for women in Lagos State under the new administration of Governor Ambode will be automatic. It will definitely take a lot of lobbying and advocacy. Women have braced up for the challenge. Lagos state Gender Advocacy Team (LASGAT) has been in the forefront of the advocacy for more women in Lagos State and have taken up the challenge.
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Before the elections, LASGAT prepared the Gender and Social Inclusion Charter for candidates contesting elections in Lagos State to endorse. The charter brings to the fore the desires and voices of Lagos women, youths, people with disabilities, marginalized and socially vulnerable communities to the centre of political discourse. The charter made 7 demands referred to as” 7 Point Development Asks” by which government will be held accountable and responsive to gender equality, women’s empowerment and inclusion in Lagos state. The 5th Development ‘Asks’ in the charter calls on Lagos State government to demonstrate Political will to Gender equality and inclusive governance by establishing a system of gender mainstreaming which incorporates 35% of women in all sectors of government (https://c21stnigeria.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/gender-equality-and-social-inclusion-charter-for-lagos-state/).

A few female candidates in Lagos State endorsed the Charter at an interactive forum organized by LASGAT for female Candidates contesting in Lagos state before the elections. After, the elections, LASGAT had a consultative meeting with elected female members of the Lagos State House of Assembly to strategize for the implementation of the Charter.

To show the commitment of LASGAT in supporting the appointment of more women, a list of credible, qualified and competent women who can be appointed into various appointive positions in Lagos State was complied and the list was sent to the Governor for his attention. This was done to foreclose any excuse that qualified women are not available or that women are not interested in serving the State. It is expected that the Governor will act on this list.

Judging by the recent appointment of 10 women permanent secretary out of the 19 newly appointed permanent secretaries in Lagos State, it appeared that Governor Ambode has began to make good his promises to Lagos women and he is set to redress the injustice of the past by appointing more women into Lagos State Executive Council and Boards of Parastatals and Agencies.
The appointment of more women permanent secretaries is welcomed and celebrated but efforts to see that more women are appointed into the Lagos State Executive Council and Boards of Agencies must be intensified until it is achieved. Afterwards, advocacy efforts to put pressure on the government to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Law wherein 35% of all appointments in Lagos state is reserved for women should proceed. The Governor should know from the outset that appointment of more women is not to be a one off thing. His vision of seeing women attaining the position of Governor and Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly can only materialize if it is recognized in a written Law.

Need it be emphasized that participation of women and men in politics is very essential to ensure that their rights and issues are addressed within the framework of governance. Significantly, increasing the representation of women in politics and governance provides the avenue through which they can change discriminatory Laws, policies, programs and practices that affect them.

Consequently, Governor, Ambodes must not shy away from exercising his power as the executive Governor of Lagos State in favour of women. He is better placed now than ever to redress the historical marginalization of women in appointive positions. He must stand with the women of Lagos and live up to his electoral promises. All eyes are on him to make it right for women.

By
Ms Gbemisola Titilope Ngozi Akosa
Executive Director
Centre for 21st century Issues
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