Issues and circumstances surrounding the formation of Nigeria as a country are largely responsible for great number of violent crimes in Nigeria. The imperial wars of the 19th century by Fulani jihadists in the North and the British imperial economic and political activities culminated in wars of subjugation and colonisation which brought about violent crimes such as kidnappings for slave trade, fraudulent trade and politics. Fulani jihadists introduced slave-raiding for kidnappings for Trans-Sahara slave trade while European traders and politicians introduced trans- Atlantic slave-trade and corrupt business ethics and commerce which Nigerians copied. Ethnic mistrust and consequent violent inter-ethnic conflicts were planted by British colonial governance system to keep the people divided for easier control and management.
The earliest inter-ethnic conflicts such as the Jos 1945 and Kano 1953 riots were the direct results of colonial politics by British designed tribal parties (NCNC, AG and NPC). The rigging of the constitutional structure, political infrastructure and the electoral malpractices foisted on Nigeria in 1959 to ensure that NPC’s Balewa succeeded Britain’s departing colonial government is a case in point. Ethnicization of issues of governance engendered indigenes/settlers clashes of the early period of 1990s and 2000s military-rule-designed politics culminating in the cancellation of June 12 Election ushered political crisis of 1993 to 1998 which bastardized politics and further entrenched a culture of frauds, theft, political thuggery and assassinations as handmaids of politics. Nigeria was clearly cascading to the edge of destruction which British diplomat, John Campbell called “dancing on the precipice without falling over.”
It was tottering to the abyss by 1998 when General Abacha died and Nigerian military autocrats panicked and quickly wrote a basic law which is a feudal and an unapologetic autocratic constitution which it imposed on Nigeria and recruited compliant elites to fill the posts and run the state. From 1999 when civil rule was restored, Nigeria was in social ferment.
The Niger Delta agitation had festered with belligerence as many insurgent groups emerged and took up economic sabotage of oil exploration and exploitation by destroying the facilities especially oil pipelines and engaged in oil bunkering which was a preserve of the rich before then. There was also secessionist movement in the Southeast just as religious fundamentalism which reared its head in 1980s burgeoned and assailed the North and became official through Zamfara State government enactment of Sharia legal system, which later escalated to Boko Haram insurgency.
Since 2012, the Boko Haram has consistently maintained a state of belligerence with Nigerian state without respite. By 2015, the Biafra separatist movement has metastasized into several groups especially the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra which has gained both local and international recognition that the Federal Government panicked and designated it a “terrorist organisations.” Between 2015 and 2021, the herders/farmers crises have taken a difficult dimension visiting terror on the Middlebelt/and several Nigerian communities forcing the Yoruba states to create Amotekun security system to check the violent activities of the herders.
The herders’ terrors have also induced Yoruba separatism spawning separatist activists led by Sunday Adeyemo alias Sunday Igboho and Prof. Banji Akintoye and they appear quite serious. In October 2020, the youths of Nigeria stunned the nation and international community with their protest that shutdown Nigeria and later degenerated to riots. The youths protest was anti-misgovernance tagged #ENDSARS. Prior to #ENDSARS, there has been serious security concerns especially the activities of the bandits, cattle-rustlers, illegal gold miners in the North, human traffickers, Yahoo-yahoo and so many other crimes making government appear overwhelmed.
What should be done to pull Nigeria back from the brink of the precipice appears quite simple but difficult. The simplicity of it lies in the fact that the problem of Nigeria is rooted in the absence of agreement by the various (over 300) ethnic nationalities that Britain forcibly formed into a state for its benefit and this absence of agreement has been defined by the fact of British conquest between 1851 and 1914 to form her.
Britain granted Nigeria Independence but neo-colonial contradictions arising therefrom brought Britain and its western allies back as neo-colonial custodians to use Nigerian military forces to reconquer Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 and institute a neo-colonial legal order that has further bastardized the British imposed legal order turning it into a Frankenstein monster which has been devouring its members since 1967 to date.
The autocratic constitutional framework and the feudal economic system are at the taproot of Nigeria’s problem but the rulers don’t seem to understand it. Nigerian rulers insist that the system is not the problem but rather the operators which is not true. Any day the rulers accept this simple fact and succumb to the clamour to allow Nigerian peoples to sit at a round-table to discuss and agree on the questions that agitate their existence in Nigeria that day will mark the beginning of the rebirth and healing of Nigeria that has been severely diseased and traumatized by endless crises. But the acceptance of dialogue by the rulers may not come easy as it is a fundamental fact of history that beneficiaries of a bad system may not easily give in to the agitators’ demands for a new constitutional framework. Change does come easy because of the uncertainties surrounding it or its proposition.
A proposal of a new legal order to supplant the old order ordained by the British colonial authorities, and which order has been further changed by the indigenous rulers since 1966 and entrenched in 1999 Constitution will be a herculean task for the proponents of change in Nigeria for several reasons. One, the change sought for against the current legal order will affect adversely the beneficiaries of the enormous rights and privileges bestowed to the beneficiaries by the current legal order.
These beneficiaries constitute formidable enemies to change are Nigerian president and the governors and their subordinates, all the legislators from the federal, states and local councils and the caste of economic exploiters of the feudal political economy represented by contractors and commission agents, those afraid of change and those who feel comfortable having the present system and consider change a risk to the life they have been used to since 1960 to date.
But outside the individual or collective opposition posed to change by the people already identified, the most pernicious challenge to change of Nigeria’s legal order that has proved dysfunctional and beyond reform as pointed out by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the position of the ethno-cultural group represented by the Hausa/Fulani that feels advantaged by the design and praxis of the British/ military-ordained constitutional framework currently at work. By the British structural entrenchment and the later military rule changes effected between 1946/1960 and 1963/1999, the Hausa/Fulani group feels advantaged that it has consistently argued against change but its insistence is at the risk of keeping Nigeria dysfunctional and incoherent which has also induced systemic crisis that has led to the insecurities that have bedevilled Nigeria.