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Tag Archives: Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria-The “Nigeria” Question:Balkanization,Federalism,Subsidiarity and the Passion of the Village Square

Events in Nigeria,in the last one year,from the near-country-wide bombings to the murderous exertions of the “Boko Haram” in the North,culminating in the orgy of violence in the same North,that greeted the announcement of Goodluck Jonathan as the winner of the 2011 presidential election,have given fresh impetus to the question as to whether the Nigerian people are best served by remaining within a united Nigeria or going their separate ways.On one side are the irredentists,who argue that Nigeria has irredeemably failed,and as such it’s constituent tribes should be allowed to go their different ways.In support of this balkanization option,they cite the progress made during the first republic,when Nigeria practiced regionalism.On the other side,are the nationalists,who hold the view that,apart from the practical difficulties of splitting Nigeria into “compatible” ethnic groups,a united Nigeria has certain advantages in  scale and diversity.

Nigeria’s problem is not so much that Nigeria is not homogeneous.Nigeria’s problem stems from the fact that Nigeria is artificial,a colonial creation.And our people being indigenes at heart,cannot relate to it viscerally.There is no gut-wrenching reaction to anything Nigerian,in the same way we react when our tribes are taunted by outsiders or racist remarks are directed at us.That sense of belonging or ownership that we have with regard to our tribes,is not felt for Nigeria.We are still basically tribesmen: Igbos,Yorubas,Hausas,Ijaws,etc living in a space called Nigeria.But we were not the only people colonized.Much of the Middle-east and Asia suffered colonization too,in one shape or another.The difference is that most of those countries are historic: they were already existing in a state similar to their present form.This  difference is of crucial importance.

In much of the Middle-east and Asia,the template for citizenship did not change with colonialism.The people lived within the same borders and related to each other,as well as the state,much as they had done for thousands of years before colonization.The only difference was that the king or emperor was subject to the influence of the colonial master.After colonization,they did not need any re-indoctrination to become citizens of their country,because nothing had changed.Their kings or emperor simply went back to ruling their “nations”,as they had done for millennia.The people and their kings did not have to get used to a new geographic contraption,no.It was still the same country to which they had paid allegiance for antiquity.Unlike Africa.Where colonialism meant lumping together mutually distrustful and  independent tribes into new,and arbitrary unions,dictated only by imperial politico-economic rivalry.

It is this difference between African and Asian colonial experience,that explains the contrast in the quality of leadership between the two regions.Asian leaderships have a legacy of Nationalism: they can draw from a tradition of leadership,which viewed the entire country as the primary constituency of the king or emperor.You might have noticed that Middle-eastern or Asian dictators generally tend to be benevolent.While they may not have had perfect human rights records,they still developed their countries,unlike African dictators.This is because there existed a tradition of  “national-scale” leadership.This contrasts with our experience,where leaderships,lacking such a legacy of “national-scale” vision,fall back on “tribal-scale” myopia.Our leaders are mere clan-patriarchs at heart,unable to provide the necessary leadership on a national-scale,because their vision cannot seemingly transcend tribe.

It is because the irredentist understands this leadership-limitation,that he advocates balkanization,believing that leadership within tribal enclaves would be fairer and more accountable.Not because of hatred of other tribes.The irredentist’s sovereignist enthusiasm is therefore functional,not necessarily sentimental.It is about living in a space where one feels comfortable not only physically,but developmentally;It is about not being afraid that one would be  stabbed in the back: literally through sectarian violence or metaphorically in the shape of discriminatory government policies.It is about responsive governance,and an engaged citizenry.Understanding that the irredentist’s true craving is for good governance,should give hope to both nationalists and  irredentists,that balkanization of Nigeria need not be inevitable. The question to be asked is this,”can we  secure the same governance and security that the irredentist craves,while retaining the advantages of scale and diversity that come with a united Nigeria?”

We definitely can,like the United States.But to do this would require,like the United States,faithful adherence to the principle of federalism.Although the United States is geographically,numerically and economically several times the size of Nigeria,it is much smaller administratively than Nigeria.This is because the Americans apply the principle of subsidiarity: the idea that things are better done at the lowest competent level of government.Most of the things that matter to Americans are handled locally.In contrast,in Nigeria,you cannot change your electricity meter,without reference to some bureaucrat in Abuja.There is too much power and money concentrated in Abuja.This is what frustrates,and alienates the citizenry.If we want to see a Nigerian citizenry animated by the passion that characterized the typical African village square,we need to bring back the village square.To do this would entail extensive decentralization,true federalism and resource control.

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Nigeria-2011 Presidential Election:A Referendum on Zoning

According to http://wwwpunchng.com,”INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, declared Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party winner after the results of the nine states whose results were not taken on Sunday at the National Collation Centre in Abuja had been announced. Jega said that apart from having the highest number of votes cast in the election, the President was also able to meet the constitutional requirement on the spread of votes.According to him, Jonathan scored the mandatory 25 per cent of votes cast in 31 states and the Federal Capital Territory to emerge the winner.” Explaining further,the INEC chairman said, “The constitutional requirement is that parties must be able to score at least 25 per cent in two third of the total number of states and the FCT.Based on this, the positions of the parties are as follows: Ribadu of the ACN scored 25 per cent votes in four states; Buhari of the CPC scored 25 per cent of votes in 16 states and Jonathan of the PDP scored 25 per cent votes in 31 states.” Out of the 38,209,978 total valid votes, Jonathan polled 22,495,187 votes (58.9 per cent) while his closest rival, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change came second with 12,214,853 votes or 31. 98 per cent.

Nigerian presidential elections have never been about issues or programmes,they are usually contested along the fault-lines of ethnicity and religion.Victory is usually secured by the incumbent- or for the pro-establishment-party,depending on whether the transition  is civilian-to-civilian or military-to-civilian.Thus political parties do not act as vehicles for aggregating political thought;no,they are more like cartels designed to trade access to power.But in order to avoid “civil war” within the ranks of the ruling elite,it became necessary to establish some sort of order of precedence.Given the emotivity of ethnicity and religion,a zoning formula based on these two had to be instituted.Thus came the PDP,Peoples democratic party,zoning accord of 1999,which allegedly stipulated that power should rotate between the North and South;each zone was to get 8 years.

According to this arrangement,after president Obasanjo‘s 8 year-tenure,power duly returned to the North with the presidency of Yaradua.But death intervened,truncating Yaradua’s presidency and leaving Jonathan,a southerner,as president.When Jonathan decided to run for president,certain segments of the North felt cheated,feeling that it was still the North’s turn,given that Yaradua did not complete his tenure.So the 2011 presidential election was about zoning.It was not only Northern elements who favoured zoning.Plenty of people within the southern elite also supported the zoning principle.In and outside of the PDP.It was no coincidence that of the four established parties,three had Northerners flying their presidential flags:Nuhu Ribadu of the Action congress of Nigeria,ACN;Ibrahim Shekarau of the All Nigeria peoples party,ANPP;Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for progressive change,CPC.

From this analysis,it is clear that support for zoning cuts across ethnic,religious and party lines.And no surprises there,for it is an elite stitch-up that enables the fleecing of the commonwealth.The reality is that irrespective of your ethnic or religious affiliations,if you are not a member of the elite group,you do not benefit from the zoning of offices.You,in fact,lose.Only members of the elite,those actively involved in the divvying of our wealth,benefit from zoning.And ordinary Nigerians seem to have caught-on.So they trooped out last Saturday to proclaim a loud NO,against zoning.Jonathan’s victory is a clear rejection of the burden of zoning.The South West provides dramatic evidence of this.Having rejected the PDP,in favour of the ACN,during the national assembly elections a week earlier,the people went out and voted for the presidential candidate of the PDP,rejecting the presidential candidate of the ACN,a Northerner.The elite stitch-up might have thrown up a Norherner as presidential candidate,but the masses were having none of it.