The Nigerian edifice is collapsing and it is official. In a rare moment of political illumination, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo lamented that the nation was on the verge of collapse and using the metaphor of a building, said that the visible cracks if not well attended to may lead to the collapse of the Nigerian state. The vice president made this earth quaking revelation at interdenominational service in Abuja. Hear the vice president: `Fortunately for us, our walls are yet broken, but there are apparent cracks that could lead to a break if not adequately addressed`.
Following the outrage that greeted this revelation from the seat of power, the presidency tried to do damage control, saying that the vice president was quoted out of context. But it must be stressed here that a written text was given to the media men and women at the event. As my Isoko people would say, it is impossible to retrieve spits from the mouth and words are like spits, the moment, they are out, nothing could be done about them. I would rather salute the candour of the vice president.
However, his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari in his Independence speech was still climbing the high horse believing that everything was well with the nation. He prided himself on the achievements of his administration and also used the building metaphor. Listen to President Buhari: `This administration has been focused on rebuilding and laying the foundation for a sustainable Nigeria. Of course, we have met and are still meeting the challenges inherent in any rebuilding initiative- more so that of a nation like Nigeria has undergone avoidable levels of deprivations.`
If the truth must be said, the avoidable deprivations are caused by the political elites and their military collaborators. The president failed to address the unjust and outlandish brand of federalism currently choking the nation. The avoidable levels of deprivations are caused by the political class who believe that governance is an ego trip of primitive accumulation of wealth for self, family, friends and cronies. As long as our politicians delude themselves that they are on the right path of `laying the foundation for a sustainable Nigeria`, so long will the cracks in the buildings widen and could lead to the collapse of the nation. I am not a prophet of doom but the signs are everywhere and the vice president acknowledged that much.
Governance is a continuum and I will not buy the argument of the Buhari administration passing the blame on previous administrations. The people of Nigeria did not give him mandate for eight years for him to be inventing excuses for failures. We need honesty of purpose and sincerity in tackling the problems of the nation. The first place to start is to treat all Nigerians as citizens. A situation where some people are treated as citizens and others are regarded as subjects is the very recipe for disunity and disintegration. The President must demonstrate in deed and in truth that all Nigerians are equal. Unfortunately the signature tune of this government is that those from the north should be given special treatment. If you think that I am not thinking straight, convince me why majority of important federal appointments are from the north.
A lot of prominent Nigerians of high intellectual standing have spoken about the imperative of restructuring and the fine grains of federalism, so I will not burden you with that. But what is really creeping under my skin is the notion in the north that advocates of restructuring are against the north. This notion must be corrected and those talking about referendum should be aware of its consequences. Restructuring is about implementation of fiscal federalism, devolution of powers to the state, state autonomy and state police. It is an error of judgment fundamentally flawed to harbour the thought for a split second that advocates of restructuring and fiscal federalism are doing it because of crude oil.
What the advocates of fiscal federalism and restructuring are saying is that at least 50 per cent of the revenue should go to the state. This was the standard before the military incursion in 1966. The north is highly endowed with solid minerals. However, these minerals are not being exploited because of sheer lazy economic thinking. Zamfara, one of the poorest states in the country is awash with gold ore and the government is folding its hands while foreigners and local artisans are milking the state dry. Time was when lead poisoning affected the state and it was foreign doctors who came to the aid of the state whereas our doctors were in their annual ritual of strike. There is abundant gold ore in Osun State and both the federal and state governments are in slumber. There are other solid minerals in the north that are not exploited. The immortal lines of William Shakespeare worry the mind: Something is wrong with the State of Denmark and only Heaven will amend it.
The Buhari administration is paying lip service to national unity and oneness and it is my supplication that the views of Osinbajo shall not come to pass. Majority of Nigerians are of the firm belief that the nation should remain indivisible. But the political elites do things that tend to shake the faith of the mass of the people in the country. The proponents of referendum should know that it is a political decision that is either yes or no. Are we going to conduct referendum on unitary system of government or federalism, or should we remain in one country or choose between federalism and confederalism. The unfortunate aspect of the Nigerian tragic story is that the members of National Assembly who are supposed to give us direction are busy contemplating their political navel under the guise of constitutional review. Now is the time for patriots to speak truth to powers and do the needful. Rebuilding a nation requires the ingredients of truth, honesty and equality before the law. These virtues are in short supply and it is left for the Buhari administration to address the ills plaguing the nation with strategic and nationalistic thinking. The Nigerian building has failed the integrity test and it will be insanity to leave it like that. I rest my case.
Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392