As Nigeria marks its 60th year as an independent country, former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria and presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the 2019 election, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, has lamented that rising secessionist sentiments across the country are indications that Nigeria is a failing state.
Moghalu said that the nation is riven by sectarian tensions and distrust, fiscal economic failure, rising poverty and a massive class divide, and with no unity of vision or purpose for the country’s future and destiny, and indication that claims of the nation’s indissolubility is unrealistic.
In a paper titled “Quo Vadis: Nationhood, Development and Democracy in Nigeria,” delivered by at the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN), he said it is obvious to any objective observer or participant in its daily political, economic, social or business life that ours is a deeply troubled country.
Sixty years after 1960 independence which came with high hopes, Nigeria has continued search for elusive nationhood, adding that while some regale in Nigeria’s continuous existence as an achievement, others see that as a low bar ambition because a country should not just exists, but must provide security and an enabling environment for prosperity for its citizens.
“Secessionist sentiment is on the rise. A number of separatist groups are seeking to break away from Nigeria because they view our country as an irredeemably failing state unable to guarantee security, justice and equity for its citizens. “While the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) is a prominent example, there are other groups, mainly in the Yoruba Southwest (“Oduduwa Republic”) and in the Ijaw-dominant Niger Delta (“Niger Delta Republic”).
The multiplicity and diversity of these groups is an indication that this is not an “Igbo problem” but rather a deeper and wider one,” he said.
He classified the contemporary Nigerian citizens into three: “(a) those who have lost faith in our country’s viability and want it to break up into smaller more ethnically and religiously homogenous nations; (b) those who are dispirited by Nigeria’s current condition but believe something can – and should – be done to reverse the slide, and (c) those who believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Nigeria, and view citizens with opposing perspectives as “agitators”.
Delving into the nation’s history, he said like virtually all other countries in Africa, Nigeria is an artificial creation of a European colonial power, just one of several examples of arbitrary demarcations across ethnic nationalities lumped into convenient (for the colonizers) administrative arrangements that left behind, in the wake of independence six decades later, an inconvenient mess that the “inheritors” have remained unable to sort out.
“An unwieldy amalgam of nearly 400 ethnic nationalities, 500 local languages, and two dominant religions –Christianity and Islam – and a population of 206 million people (the seventh most populous country in the world), Nigeria is a personification of complex diversity.
Where there is no vision, there is division,” he said. He shared the sentiments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Prof. Wole Soyinka who had said respectively that Nigeria was drifting fast to a failed and badly divided state; economically, our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country, a country that is close to extinction.
“Nigeria as it is designed and operated today is not working. At the core of today’s national malaise, our sense of anomie, is a general feeling of dissatisfaction with overly centralized, effectively unitary governance in what is nominally a “federal” republic.
The Federal Government has sovereignty over all mineral and natural resources and appropriates to itself a majority of the revenues therefrom – an inversion of true federalism.
There are 68 items in the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution. The constitutional powers of the Federal Government are suffocating Nigeria and preventing the country and its dynamic citizens frommaking real progress.
“There exists as well a strong perception in the country’s Christian and southern populations that the mainly Islamic northern political elite seeks to dominate the rest of the country’s constituent groups, a fear that has increased in recent years in which, without precedent, the heads of the three arms of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – are today northern Muslims.
“Fulani killer herdsmen have moved southward, killing, raping and maiming victims in the Middle Belt states, the Southwest and the Southeast as they seek to grab farmlands for cattle grazing, with zero judicial accountability for the thousands of lives snuffed out.
Meanwhile, in an irony that often escapes Nigerians who fear “domination”, Northern Nigeria itself faces economic depression as insecurity in the region has increased over the past decade because of the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group and the wide prevalence of armed banditry.”
He identified nationhood as a necessary foundation for development and a successful democracy, adding that Nigeria faces a challenge of nationhood because the country does not meet the most fundamental approaches to the definition of a nation – a large group of people having a common origin, language and tradition, and usually constituting a political entity.
Moghalu stated, however, the solution to the quagmire requires the presence of three conditions, the first being the need for leadership with vision and inspirat i o n a l capacity to establish a sense of common purpose or destiny that rises above the country’s internal diversity and serves as a unifying force, like Kermal Atartuk of Turkey, who made Turkey a fully secular and modern state.
“The second, flowing from the first, is that the leadership of any nation or nation-state must create and inculcate in the citizens a philosophical worldview – a sense of origin, destiny, understanding of the world and the country’s place in it, strategy, and values that will guide the society, as a sense of the distance between the desired end state and the society’s present condition.
“This worldview is thus a national ambition that drives everything – the country’s leadership selection standards and processes, governance, the organization of economic activity, defense, and foreign affairs,” he said.
Moghalu warned that Nigeria may continue to exist as a nominally sovereign state on current trends, while being in reality a failing state – one unable to guarantee neither the security nor the prosperity of its citizens.
“It is imperative that we avoid this scenario, one in which we are in between the living and the dead. To do so, if we agree to coexist as a nation, means that Nigeria must be fundamentally, constitutionally redesigned to become a workable federation,” he said. Moghalu wants ethnic nationalities and religious leaders must discard a spirit of entitlement. “
Any notion, worldview or agenda of ethnic or religious domination must be firmly disavowed in action, not merely in rhetoric.
To pursue such an agenda is to invite an inevitable conflagration that will lead to a violent breakup of Nigeria in the same manner as the former Yugoslavia. “I know only too well that the prevalent attitude of our political leadership, one of burying its head in the sand like the ostrich with the argument of one, “indissoluble” Nigeria is unrealistic.
It will ultimately be self-defeating.
Any educated person will have too many examples of countries that have splintered, either violently or peacefully, in contemporary history – Bangladesh from Pakistan, Pakistan from India, Czech and Slovakia from Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia.
They all were once considered “indissoluble.”