Between Self-determination And Restructuring: Which Way For Nigeria?
It would now seem that the amalgamation project of 1914 has finally reached its apogee, 107 years after it was adopted and implemented as the best colonial policy for governing Nigeria as one colonial entity. No one needs a seer to know that the colonialists had no good intention for the newly created Nigerian state when the amalgamation happened. Nigeria came into existence out of a sheer colonial necessity, rather than as a prelude to a governance template that has at its heart the well-being and future development of Nigerians. And a century plus later, the consequences of not only the act of the colonialists but also the ideological complacence of the nationalists stare every one of us right in the face. Nigeria’s present circumstances do not need any enumeration—from banditry to insurgency to kidnapping, and the sum of all the self-determination agitation speak to the singular fact that the Nigeria state stands ominously at the edge of a precipice.
The clamor for self-determination has now displaced the agitation for restructuring in the cacophony of political reactions that mix with the loud cries of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria. the Nigerian Civil War was fought around the issue of self-determination championed by Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on behalf of the agitation for a Biafran state. That agitation was grounded on the right to self-determination recognized in international law. Biafra failed to materialize, but the deep-seated resentment of the Nigerian state that fueled it has refused to abate. With Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB, we see a persistent questioning of the legitimacy of the Nigerian state. The Sunday Igboho saga and the increasing call for the emergence of an Oduduwa State reinforced by growing insecurity is fueling the urgency of rethinking Nigeria.
The agitation for the restructuring of the Nigerian state seems to have stalled on the unwillingness of the political class to genuinely engage with a lopsided Constitution that imposes a unitary logic on a diverse and federal realities. And quite contrary to the socioeconomic and sociopolitical advancements demonstrated by the regionalism experiment of the immediate post-independence era, the political leadership still finds it very hard to make the crucial constitutional moves that could move Nigeria away from impending dissolution. And in the fissure of this hesitation, the Nigerian state is throwing up accidental heroes and heroines as well as opportunistic criminal elements catching on the insecurity and the chaos it creates to perpetrate evils against ordinary citizens.
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Between self-determination and restructuring, we stand face to face again with the ubiquitous problem of leadership in Nigeria.From the original prognostication of Chinua Achebe through the political poetry of Niyi Osundare, the political commentaries of several conscientious analysts to the vocal agitations and advocacy of Wole Soyinka and a class of other national figures, the leadership problem with Nigeria has been iterated into several issues in Nigeria’s national being. However, the brutal but incontrovertible fact of political leadership anywhere in the world is that it is the elite, through elite nationalism, that constitutes the fulcrum for transformational changes any state or nation needs to keep meeting the challenges of state- and nation-building. And Nigeria’s elite nationalism has its objectives and agenda already cut out for it.
First, there is the necessity of coming to terms with the dynamics of Nigeria’s ethnic diversity and how to harness its cogent potentialities for national development. There is nothing more to this than the equally valid fact that human capital development is the intangible asset of a nation that unlocks the tangible infrastructural deliverances a nation requires to achieve legitimacy and well-being for its citizens. Second, the harnessing of Nigeria’s diverse human capital requires an ideological framework—like Awolowo’s democratic socialism or Azikiwe’s neo-welfarism—as the mold for transforming human capital into national asset for sustainable development.
It is the sincerity of purpose of the political class that makes the difference between Nigeria remaining a protracted national project that is always in the process of yielding something good or bad, and Nigeria as a transformed national entity, always in dialogue with its citizens over the conditions of their well-being. It is this sincerity of purpose that delays in the self-gratification that seems to define the very essence of politics in Nigeria today at the expense of the commonwealth and its imperatives. If only we can learn the lessons of history, it will become clear that civilizations have risen and fallen based on the failed juxtaposition between self-fulfillment and national commitment. The Old Oyo and the ancient Roman empires provide very classic examples of how self-aggrandizement of the political class and inordinate ambition of a few who would rather look backwards to inherited glories of forebears than the permanency of change can torpedo any national aspiration.
The potential break-up of the Nigerian state is conditioned on what we all now know as the Nigerian condition—a litany of systemic dysfunctional dynamics that undermine every legitimate attempt at transforming the Nigerian state and achieving good governance for Nigerians. The Nigerian condition is further exacerbated by the insincerity of the political class and the logic of primitive accumulation. This raises the urgent question of how a new breed of leadership with transformational capacities can be generated. The weightiness of this question is moderated by the vicious cycle of self-recycling that has characterized Nigeria’s politics for many decades—the same names and same strategies have confounded the political direction Nigeria ought to take.
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And what is even worse is that those aspiring to replace the present leadership cadre do not seem to have a better vision of what Nigeria should be. The only way to break the vicious cycle of opportunistic politicking is to revise the vision around which Nigeria can make progress. The progress that used to be defined in terms of modernity is now increasingly getting redefined in planetary terms. The race for the planets has picked up significantly among the developed states of the world. And Nigeria stands the danger of being left behind, even on the continent where the economic performance of countries like Ghana and South Africa is already outstripping Nigeria’s. There is the ominous possibility that the emerging new world order will leave Nigeria and Nigerians behind.
It takes a transformational leadership with foresight and perspective to discern the times with regard to the dynamics of self-determination and restructuring. One could ask, for instance, whether self-determination and restructuring are mutually exclusive in ways that leave Nigeria with the need to choose one rather than the other. It should be accepted as a fact that no leader wants a state to be dissolved on his watch. The national question is one that all leaders want to resolve within the ambit of the existing Constitution. There is no side of the equation that is not faced with critical challenges or possibilities. The balkanization of the Nigerian state along ethnic fault lines is immediately confronted by the likely benchmark in the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia. The restructuring agitation is equally confronted by the unwillingness to implement a genuine constitutional amendment that will refocus the political strategy for managing plural Nigeria. On the other hand, while self-determination accords with the global convention that provides the right for any ethnonational entity to seek its own political path, restructuring also generates the strategy for realigning the constitutional direction of a state.
This dilemma therefore confronts a visionary leadership with the question of how to achieve a win-win balance between the two ends of the choices confronting Nigeria. In other words, the choice then comes down to how the two sides of the equation could be managed while not jeopardizing the well-being of the citizens. Can a genuinely federal constitution answer the agitation for self-determination? In other words, is self-determination, for instance, possible within a restructured political entity that gives its federal components the capacity to generate the legal framework for their own development? Does a self-determining nation obviate the constant need for restructuring its constitutional framework once it fails to answer to emerging realities? Answering these questions in the first place requires the sincere commitment of the political elite to the governance requirement of a state like Nigeria. It requires a commitment to institutionally building a country and making it work for the citizens. It requires a commitment to a type of politics that allows for the participation of the citizens in decision making. This is because it is such a politics that could backstop a democratic governance that makes development work. It seems that in the final analysis, good governance is the critical difference between the prosperous and poor nations. Acemoglu and Robinson already made this clear in Why Nations Fail (2012).
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That we are today confronted with a choice between self-determination and restructuring speaks to the failure of Nigeria’s political elite and its aggrandizing proclivity. There is a need to constitutionally re-amalgamate Nigeria in ways that undermine the fissiparous tendencies that undermine unity. Elite nationalism is required for the emergence of a new breed of political elite willing to commit class suicide in their commitment to a new type of politics and institutionalism that rates the citizens higher than any personal selfish interests. This transition is possible because we have seen it work in some other climes. We have heard of politicians who stood firmly for the interest of the people. We have Nigerian leaders who can do the same.
Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary & Directing Staff, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos
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Toyin Falola: A Lifetime Achievement Honour For A Colossus
By Temitope Oriola
The Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) has awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Toyin Falola, a professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin. CAAS is the preeminent association of Canadian scholars studying Africa. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honour of CAAS. Therefore, it is rarely bestowed.
For context, no scholar received this honour in my three years on the board of CAAS as vice president, president and past president (2019-2022). The latest in Professor Falola’s constellation of global awards represents another acknowledgment of the worldwide status of the Bobapitan of Ibadanland. As a former president of CAAS, I know the painstaking process involved in the adjudication of CAAS awards. I am particularly delighted that Baba Falola, as we all call him, is recognised in this manner.
It was unusually fitting that York University, Toronto, was the venue of the conferment. Falola was a professor at York University between 1990 and 1991. He had also previously delivered keynote addresses at the CAAS signature annual gatherings and helped to organise the conference in 1991. The president of CAAS, Nduka Otiono, a professor and director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, noted that the “esteemed accolade recognises (Falola’s) exceptional contributions, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the field of African Studies in Canada and beyond.”
The United States took Falola from Canada but his influence is very much like he never left. The University of Texas, Austin has somehow managed to hold on to Professor Falola. I am curious about how Texas has done that since 1991.
I met Professor Falola at the 2016 Africa conference at the University of Texas, Austin. I was immediately struck by his fine magnetic personality. You immediately felt an instant connection as you would a family member. The annual conference convened by Falola is an excellent gathering and for some young scholars, their first international conference outside Africa. The conference also attracts senior scholars and university administrators across Africa and the diaspora.
Toyin Falola received his B. A. (Honours) in History in 1976 from the University of Ife (later renamed Obafemi Awolowo University). His PhD in history was awarded by the same university in 1981. Falola wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The Political Economy of Ibadan, c.1830-1900.” Always on a quest to learn and chart new grounds, Falola received his D. Litt. in African Studies from the University of Ibadan in 2020 (i.e. 42 years after his first doctorate). This is the stuff of extraordinariness.
Professor Falola has received 16 honorary doctorates from universities across the globe. The roll call includes the University of Jos; Lincoln University; Olabisi Onabanjo University; Monmouth University; Federal University, Lokoja; and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
A Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Falola has held fellowships, professorships and distinguished scholar status at various universities and other institutions globally. For example, he was visiting professor at the Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, National Open University, Abuja (2019-2021) and honorary professor, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, from 2018 to 2022. Professor Falola was also Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress in 2016; visiting professor, Pontifícia Universidade Católica De São Paulo, Brazil in 2007; and fellow at the Humanities Research Council, Australian National University in 1995. He is a life member at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.
Traditional institutions have also bestowed high honours on Professor Falola. He is Nii Kpani Ashaabla 1, Adabraka Otukpai Palace, Accra, Ghana; the Agbakin of Kusela-Ibadan; the Bobagbimo of Ugboland; and the Mayegun of Auga, Akoko.
Being a globally recognised scholar and an excellent human being are not necessarily mutually inclusive. Falola is an iconic scholar, a mentor to generations of scholars and a humane person. His devotion to the success of others is astonishing and uncommon. Falola is intentional about creating opportunities for others. He derives great satisfaction in seeing others thrive. Falola’s accomplishments require a truly exceptional intellect, fine analytical mind, perspicacity and a strong work ethic. His long list of accomplishments speaks to a lifetime of devotion to investing in others and expecting nothing in return: World class brilliance meets humaneness.
.Oriola is professor of criminology and associate dean at the University of Alberta. He is president-elect of the Canadian Sociological Association and former special adviser to the Government of Alberta on Police Act Review.
10th National Assembly: Nigeria’s Last Chance
By Mon-Charles Egbo
In a few days, the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives would be elected upon the inauguration of the 10th national assembly. This event, typical of every contest, would throw up two categories of people: those who are pleased with the outcome and the ones who feel otherwise.
Understandably, the wishes of both sides are interests-driven though it cannot be immediately established whether the interests are about the country or individuals.
But on the belief that it is about nationalism, then head or tail, it is a win-win for Nigeria. This is because logically, both divides mean well for the nation only that their perceptions differ. And again, while spirited attempts, largely motivated by multi-dimensional sentiments, are made to externally influence the choices of the legislators-elect, the decision as to who would become their presiding officers begins and ends with them. Whether by consensus or merit, they are the ones that make the choices in the final analysis. It is within their exclusive rights and privileges and also, the election is a process that has strict conventions. So the outcome, like the two sides of a coin, coincides or is at variance with the wishes of the outsiders, once again, depending on whether their interests are broad or narrow.
Therefore as the 10th national assembly comes on stream, the basic public expectation is a sustainable dispensation of good governance delivered by a legislature that is people-oriented and under a leadership that is defined by dexterity, creativity and absolute loyalty to the people. For emphasis, Nigerians today deserve a responsive parliament driven by a deliberate commitment to regular citizens’ engagement.
Granted, these aspirations are as non-negotiable as they are core dividends of democracy. Yet, they are not automatic. They can only happen with the active involvement of a vigilant citizenry as researches show that strong democracies the world over are characterized by robust citizen participation. In other words, there can never be effective leadership without effective followership. This is the reason every well-meaning Nigerian should urgently pause and ponder on the prevailing sorry state of the country.
This is imperative because except for ignorance or mischief, it is glaring that we cannot hand over to our children, the same country that we inherited from our fathers. The signs are there yet we seem indifferent. Or, are we not alarmed by the grim prospects of losing things and persons very dear to us, including innocent children, if Nigeria fails? What about the mental agony of losing personal liberties and becoming captives in our own land, irrespective of status? Are the masses not yet seeing the damning consequences of their age-long prejudice and hostility towards the national assembly? Are we not yet persuaded that certain things should either not have happened in the first place or should have happened differently if only we were actively involved in the goings-on in the national assembly since 1999? Could we have been this mercilessly impoverished and short-changed sequel to leadership deficit? Truly, every heart should bleed over Nigeria’s precarious situation because when it rains, no roof is spared.
However, there is good news. There is a ray of hope. A new beginning is possible. Nigeria can still work. But once again, it is a function of our actions now. Yes, our future is in our hands. Before us right now is an opportunity, possibly the last, to act, lest Nigeria slides into absolute failure.
So, if what informs our concerns and interests regarding the choice of the presiding officers are really borne out of patriotic and nationalistic ideals, despite the eventual outcomes, then we are morally liable for the success or failure of the 10th national assembly. Yes, what it becomes depends on what we do or fail to do now.
Hence if we wish not to bungle this last chance, then we should right away stand up and be counted. We must embrace this 10th national assembly as truly our own. We should seek to be fully abreast of its scheme of things. We have to accord it all the necessary support and cooperation for it to excel. It is no longer about short-term benefits but about what unites us and aids our journey to nationhood. Everyone should immediately remove their togas of ethnicity, religion and partisanship and think Nigeria first! The media, civil society organizations, professional bodies, labour unions, youth, women and community-based groups, the political class, as well as the clergy, should put on garments of activism in championing a legislature that derives its legitimacy and relevance from the people. Every mouth should loudly speak against bad governance whenever and wherever it occurs.
With an open mind, we should pay attention to how the legislature supervises the other arms, especially the executive. Specifically, we should demand explanations from the 10th national assembly as to why the country’s refineries are not operational and what they hope to achieve in the face of Nigeria’s dire situations, particularly the raging petroleum subsidy questions, poverty index, youth unemployment, insecurity, rising debt profile, health, education and power sectors, budget performance, federal character principle and then, why the federal executive council is awarding contracts without the public procurement council in place. We should clamour for legislative agenda with timelines and whose deliverables can translate to tangibles in the immediate, instead of high-sounding achievements that would exist only on paper and make no meaningful impacts in the lives of the people in the long run.
Then dispassionately, in pursuing these programmes of action, we should be seen to be fair, right and just always. We should be considerably articulate, skilful, objective and law-abiding. We should be alert, probing and listening and then be guided by reciprocal respect for these leaders. We should reject every form of confrontation, rumour-mongering, mutual suspicion and hate.
Equally, we should vehemently resist the divisive instrumentalities of religion, tribe and politics. We should seek to build social bridges always by being at the right places, saying the right things and then doing the right things at all times. We should commend and condemn when necessary. Where we stood before the election and subsequent inauguration of the assembly should not matter to us again. Rather, we should be anxious to see the 10th national assembly succeed by working through our representatives for issue-based engagements with the institution towards the attainment of a Nigeria where democracy and good governance reign supreme.
Using our periodic interactive sessions or town hall meetings with them, and their feedback channels, we should consistently demand accountability from the individual representatives while also availing them of useful information. Any lawmaker that is not accessible, principally through their functional constituency offices, should be called out respectfully. And while we keep records of our engagements with them for future reference, we must not distract or blackmail them with self-serving burdens of demand.
For the umpteenth time, if we live above board in our conduct this national assembly would always reflect the truism that “to whom much is given, much is expected” and also that as leaders, they are merely fellow citizens elected by loyal citizens and entrusted with the popular mandate. Also, the legislators would demonstrate indeed that they are agents and trustees of the people, and as such should always embody our wishes and desires. Furthermore, through our sustained advocacy, they would always draw a line between politics and governance in their actions.
Then above all and because equity demands clean hands, the first step in achieving all these is to have a fair knowledge of the workings and core mandates of the legislature. It is important also that we understand some operational challenges being faced by the national assembly. For instance, the 1999 constitution is not reasonably protective of the legislature, especially in its supervisory roles on the executive. Serially, there are no definite consequences for acts of disregard for the powers of the legislature by the executive. The former apparently exists at the mercy of the latter. Even more pathetic is the case of the state governors. But in the interim, it is only when we operate from an informed perspective that we can be factual and objective in our expectations and engagements with lawmakers.
And so in conclusion, this is just an early warning! The occasion calls for rapid and decisive actions. This is the last chance to redirect the ship of the country from the brink of collapse following the failure of governance, insecurity, corruption, unemployment and poverty.
As such, we the people, as the ultimate owners should immediately rise and take back the legislature. And in this, we have to let enthusiasm, patriotism, resilience and diligence guide us, so that “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”.
Egbo is a public relations practitioner and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dokpesi: His Legacy Lives
By ‘Timi Alaibe
Again, death has left us breathless with another devastating blow. It has claimed one of our best—an amiable fellow, a friend, a brother, an uncle, a visionary, an innovator, a man of unimpeachable value.
When the news hit the airwaves in the early hours of May 29, it had the eerie touch of the worst thing to be heard in quite a while.
High Chief Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi was different things to different people. He was someone so fully committed to the Nigerian Project, an exceptional African with respect for our beliefs and values, an inspiration and a patriot.
To the broadcast industry in Africa, he was the doyen—a pathfinder, an optimist, he never gave up on his convictions. His mind was always fertile with fresh and fruitful ideas.
At a time when it was forbidden for individuals to set up and own radio and television stations in Africa, he blazed the trail by establishing the Ray Power Radio and African Independence Television.
Suddenly, we savoured a refreshing experience—always tuning-in and listening to news, ideas and opinions or watching entertainments that were different from what we were eternally condemned to on government broadcast stations.
Everyone wanted to identify with these innovations. Their jingles, signature tunes and the dress styles of presenters were unique and purely African. Something new was in the air. We loved it.
He did the uncommon. When it was fanciful for Nigerians and Africans to bear foreign names and parade same on radio and television, he insisted that On-Air-Professionals must promote Africaness by using their native names.
Then he gave the staff free hands to practise what they knew in line with global best practices. High Chief Dokpesi never pretended to know it all. He appreciated professionalism in every aspect.
As these broadcast stations grew in prominence, he gradually started withdrawing his control and influence and handed over the management to young people with fresh ideas and required experiences.
I cannot vividly recall when we first met. But my eternal impression of him was that of a disciplined fatherly figure, a global businessman and someone who was not afraid of experimenting with new ideas irrespective of where such came from.
A first-class entrepreneur and lover of intellectual excellence, Dokpesi had useful connections in high places. He was an unequalled mobiliser of people and ideas.
High Chief Dokpesi was committed to the Niger Delta Dream. He supported and personally participated in discussions and negotiations meant to advance the cause of the Niger Delta region.
When we started the NDDC, he afforded us unqualified access to his mass media outlets to publicize our activities, prospects and challenges.
During my era as the Managing Director of the NDDC, High Chief Dokpesi was always there to offer advice. We had a shared vision on the implementation of the Niger Delta Development Master Plan.
Shrewd in business and inspiring in leadership, the Ezomo knew how to create and keep friendships. He stood by his friends, no matter the threats to his person. He never ran away from taking bullets for his friends.
In politics, as in business, he played by the rules. He was daring but straightforward. He was never afraid of telling the truth to power.
Then death knocked at a very unexpected time. It swept everyone off their feet and kicked us senseless.
It would be difficult to resolve this riddle: Why should such a man die—so suddenly? What happened? Many questions. No answers.
The huge irony is that Ezomo Dokpesi left us on the day a new President was sworn in to office. A true democrat, he left us on our democracy day.
Here was a man who fancied democracy and enmeshed himself in the emergence of a people’s President for Nigeria.
He dreamt it. He lived for it. He worked for it—until the day he took his last breath. That was what pushed him into partisan politics.
It is difficult to conclude that we will never see our High Chief again. It’s unthinkable. How would life be without his towering presence? But then, this is the truth we must learn to live with.
The death of High Chief Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi is not the end of his story. It actually marks the beginning of an endless reflection. His life was a history yet to be written.
To his family, I wish you God’s strength. To the Daar Communication community, you have to keep the flag flying higher and higher. To his friends and associates, we will surely miss him.
Adieu, Ezomo of Weppa-Wanno Kingdom.
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