The politics of Nigeria’s existential questions

The politics of Nigeria’s existential questions borders on the absurd. As absurd as the politics is, the questions are inexorably insistent on truthful answers being proffered even against the wish of those that have been hushing those irritating and irreverent questions.

It is the nature of man to question his existence. Mankind does the little that can be done to master his environment, but certain things are beyond human control which shows that history and development of mankind do not entirely depend on the will of man because man is merely a plaything in the hands of fate, destiny or posterity.

Antiquity is littered with the histories of several great civilizations, empires and kingdoms that sprouted, prospered and withered away with several questions buried with it. Britain, our mother-country came to terms with its existential questions as their constitutional template based on autocratic monarchy was questioned in piecemeal reforms starting with King John’s 1215 Magna Carta granting certain civil rights to the people. It did not go far enough. The question of religion ensued when King Henry VIII broke away from Roman Catholicism on question of divorce. To overcome the question he established Church of England.

These religious skirmishes and other political issues continued until Cromwell overthrew the monarch and instituted a Civil Government. Crownwell Constitution crumbled and England descended into anarchy and remained unstable until the 1688 when the present constitutional order was instituted with the monarchy divested of substantial governmental power while freedoms, democracy and rule of law became the legal order. The restoration of constitutionalism in England ushered Industrial Revolution that made colonialism possible in Africa and Asia.

A major product of that colonial enterprise was the creation of Nigeria out of the amalgamation of over 300 ethnic nationalities. But in creating Nigeria, England did not want it to prosper as a modern nation state, but to remain a neo-colonial state perpetually attached to its apron string.

That is the truth that Britain does not want anybody to know or to know at its own convenient time. Not many Nigerians know this fact. Now, the question is: what can be done with this fact? Usman dan Fodico is credited with the saying that “conscience is an open wound only truth can heal it.”

Yes, truth heals wounds of national conscience, but Nigerian leaders do not want truth to heal Nigeria’s multifarious wounds. That is the problem! But nature abhors vacuum. So, as Nigeria staggers and stumbles on the weight of its burdensome wounds inflicted on its conscience by Britain and its local rulers, these questions can no longer be suppressed.

In 1966, the supremacist politics designed and entrenched in the constitutional framework by Britain had boiled over when Northern People’s Congress sought to swallow the opposition party, the Action Group, and almost accomplished but posterity punctured the scheme and plunged Nigeria into crises that have remained till today. The 1960 Constitution designed by Britain had been abrogated by British-trained who imposed unitary constitution on the people since 1966, to the discomfort of Nigeria.

The operation of this Basic Law has plunged Nigeria into innumerable crises and the people have been agitating for a change, but the rulers continue to insist that there can be no change while patriots are treated as trouble-makers. Since 1970, the people have been expressing rejection of the constitutional order imposed on them by the local rulers through various acts of defiance such as armed robbery, coup d’états, corruption and ethnic quarrels across the country.

Many patriots have counselled constitutional reforms that factor the people’s will and consent or alternatively the dissolution of the amalgamation, but rulers disagree insisting that the unity of Nigeria is “non-negotiable” and “sacrosanct.”

In the 1980s, the expression of the people’s disagreement with the concept of Nigerian unity has been shown in religious riots in the Northern states with incalculable costs to Nigerians. In the 1990s there were economic crises as in the SAP riots which dovetailed the political crises of June 12 which was by-product of supremacist politics.

Till today, officialdom has not bothered to inquire about the reason for the cancellation of that election. Several questions to the ruler of that era, General Babangida had met with the usual “I take responsibility” and in a recent interview, he claimed Nigerian politics and governance dynamics dictated it. It was only Prof. Omo Omoruyi, in a book that claimed Babangida told him that the Northern socio-political establishment insisted on its cancellation as it was tantamount to dismantling the British-imposed constitutional framework which would require another Lugard to build. Today, and since 1999, the people have loudly been questioning the existence of Nigeria in various ways.

The Niger Delta protested the environmental degradation of their area and central government’s sequestration of their petroleum resources without direct benefits to them. They were partly appeased for peace. The Igbo have been questioning the existence of a ‘Nigeria’ that defeated Biafra and took them captives.

Present Igbo generation thinks the Biafra surrender was wrong and that another Biafra experiment will take the Igbo out of Nigeria. The Yoruba since June 12 have been questioning the existence of Nigeria and their commitment to federalism agreed upon for British grant of Independence. Recent events have divided the race into the federalists and those who are for self-determination or secession.

The Hausa/Fulani political establishment is comfortable with the present existential structure and so raises no questions about it except to seek permanent power at the centre to guarantee that existence. But history and posterity in their ineluctable ways which are beyond human comprehension have continued to act in other ways to raise doubt about Nigeria’s existence. By irony of history, the Hausa/Fulani were sceptical about the unity of Nigeria and their two leading political leaders (Sardauna Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa) consistently kicked against the unity of Nigeria as they feared Southern domination.

Britain assured them of protection by not only rigging the constitutional structure and political infrastructure in their favour as 50% Central Legislature representation not founded on demographic data was built into the 1953/1957 Constitutions. Present generation of Northern leaders have increased it to more than 50%.

But despite this guarantee of domination of Nigeria, the ordinary northerners are not satisfied with Nigeria’s existence and since 1980s and 1990s religious riots, insecurities and current insurgency by Boko Haram, bandits, Fulani herdsmen and sundry marauders have rendered Nigeria ungovernable in line with some Northern leaders’ threat during President Jonathan’s administration that if they were ‘denied’ political power that they would render Nigeria ungovernable.

Now, their wish for political power has been realized, but the factotum (the rabble) that made themselves ready for that ‘war’ has refused to lay down the arms. Now, they want Nigeria as an Islamic Republic or something else. And now, the Amalgamated Union of Food Stuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria has imposed economic blockade against the South and demanded compensation in billions for their losses to insecurity. Can you beat that? But against all these questions of Nigeria’s existence, the rulers have insisted that nothing will change and that Nigeria remains as it is.

Nobody knows how these questions about Nigeria will be answered, but the auguries are not pleasant. The forebodings point to sinister and unfavourable consequences for taking these agitations and questions for granted. Their resolution is beyond human comprehension, but if history would be a guide then all we can hope for is a watershed cataclysmic end.


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