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It is my pleasure to present this valedictory lecture. I retired from the services of the University on September 30, 2008. Retirement sometimes results in what Thoreau characterizes as “destination sickness”. Other writers refer to the last three years of service and the first three years of retirement as the “Red Zone”. I am now almost through the Red ZoneThis is my third opportunity to present what I choose to call a statutory public lecture at this University. The first was the Faculty Lecture on behalf of the Department of Political Science in 1989. In the Lecture, I examined Federal Practice in Nigeria and came to the conclusion that Nigeria has not demonstrated the political will to operationalize federal principles. The second was the Inaugural Lecture which I had the privilege to deliver on behalf of the Faculty of the Social Sciences in 1998. I was of the opinion that Nigeria squandered the hopes of the founding fathers and citizens by abysmal political performance. Unfortunately, this is even more so now than then. This time I am presenting a Valedictory Lecture which will take a diachronic look at Nigerian Politics.

There are three possible approaches to a Valedictory Lecture. The first option is for the Lecturer to take a retrospective look at his/her career in the institution. This will be more of an autobiographic excursus which is not likely to be of interest to a sophisticated audience like this. I will, therefore not adopt that option. The second option is to look at the development of one’s academic discipline during one’s career. While this appears an attractive option, it is likely to be too narrowly focused and abstract for a general audience. The third option is to make a statement on national issues. I cannot give a state of the union address but I can observe the state of the union because Nigeria is the most important element in my study of politics. It is also a critical element because I am a stakeholder. I have therefore decided to adopt the third option.

This lecture is divided into six short parts. The first part attempts to develop an interpretation of the development of the Nigerian political space. The purpose of the section is to explain the impact of Nigerian political architecture on the evolution of Nigerian political character. Structures may be mere action spaces that can be configured and reconfigured with varying levels of success relative to the investment of political will. Other people hold that it is the constitution and the statute that determine action. The second section will examine the management of the Nigerian State to make it appropriate to the needs of the people. That section takes a quick look at post-independence constitutions. The third section examines Nigerian political parties which are supposed to pillars in the democratic process. In the fourth section we examine the nature of corruption which appears to have seriously damaged Nigerian image. Since Nigeria has been described as a country with fastest growing Churches and mosques we then turn attention to religion in Nigeria. The six and final section makes some suggestions on how to re-engineer Nigeria. Evolution of the Nigerian State

Modern Nigeria is the product of the British colonial architecture, “the expression of an alien will” (Soyinka 2000:5). It was put together with the sole purpose of serving British colonial enterprise which was basically commercial. Thus it has to have an optimal spatial and population size as well as resources. The conditions had been set by the 1865 Parliamentary Select Committee of the British House of Commons which recommended that a colony must be profitable so that it does not become a burden on the British taxpayer. In fact, the Committee recommended that Britain should withdraw from Nigeria, the Gold Coast and the Gambia and retain only Sierra Leone. However, Britain did not withdraw from Nigeria although Lagos was administered as part of the Gold Coast until 1886. The country now called Nigeria was constructed from territories acquired by the British at different times and by different methods ranging from gunboat diplomacy, military expeditions and treaty making. Technically, the method of colonial acquisition determined the difference between colonies and protectorates.

While colonies were inhabited by subject peoples, protectorates had special contractual relationships which, of course, the African potentates could not enforce. Thus the merger of Lagos colony with the hinterland violated treaty obligations, in effect, by treating people in the protectorate as subjects. But the British colonial administration even amalgamated and separated territories at will. Thus in 1906, Lagos Colony and Protectorate was merged with the Oil Rivers Protectorate to form the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with a view to reducing the cost of colonial administration. Similarly in 1914, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. In all these territorial joggling exercises, the British did not spare any thought about the compatibility of the various peoples. As one would expect from “a nation of shopkeepers”, as Britain was described by Napoleon, the amalgamation was driven by business calculations. They were not concerned about the sociological compatibility or social viability of the emerging polity. In fact they did not even attempt to make one people out of the diversity. Amalgamation was a form of political infection which Strachey of the Colonial Office, opposed saying, “Sir F. Lugard proposals contemplated a state which is impossible to classify. It is not a unitary state; it is not a confederation of states. If adopted, his proposals can hardly be a permanent solution…” (Quoted in Akinjide 2001:3

The effect was amalgamation without integration. The British were mainly concerned with freeing the British treasury of the financial responsibility for Northern Nigeria. Consequently, Lord Harcourt, the Secretary of State for the Colonies was later happy to announce “We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the Treasury. The ‘promising and well conducted youth’ (i.e. the North) is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a ‘Southern Lady of means’. I have issued the special licence and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the marriage ceremony. May the Union be fruitful and the couple constant” (quoted in Akinjide 2001: 3). As it were, the prisoner paid for his own handcuffs. But Sir Ahmadu Bello, the charismatic leader of the Northern Region, during the 1953 Budget session of the House of Representatives in Lagos, described the amalgamation as the “mistake of 1914” (Ahmadu Bello). It is interesting to note however that later when amalgamation finally blossomed, the legislature of Northern Nigeria was named after Lugard, the author of the amalgamation. More recently, Chief Richard Akinjide pointedly described the amalgamation as a “fraud” because “what the British amalgamated was the administration of the North and South and not the people (Akinjide 2000:2). Perhaps, agreeing with Sir Ahmadu Bello, for a different and contrary reason, Akinjide saw the amalgamation as “the genesis of our present crisis of confidence and political succession” (Akinjide 2001:3). In fact, June 12, 1993 is a proof that the amalgamation ordained the partnership between the horse and the rider. It did not even immediately impact administrative processes and almost amounted to a confederal arrangement. In fact it is best described as the loose affiliation of three distinct administrations each under a Lieutenant Governor but it stands out as the most enduring confidence trick wrought on Nigeria by British colonial genius. It was the construction of an empire of nations rather than a colony.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo was correct when he described the product as a mere “geographical expression” (Awolowo 1947:20; Aguda 1968:96). Neither did the British concern themselves with the mix and proportion of the conglomerate state. It however ensured the extension of surrogate rule christened indirect rule, an expediency that the British elevated to a doctrine. Both its pure form and its caricature mocked the local traditions it claimed to preserve but succeeded as a separatist instrument between the component units of Nigeria. As it turned out, Donald Cameron even reversed the 1906 merger of the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria in 1939. He thus finalized the colonial architecture of the political tripod reminding one of LEGO, a line of construction toys consisting of colorful interlocking plastic blocks. LEGO constructions are not so tightly assembled to require more than a child’s effort to separate and re-assemble to make other objects.

It is important to note that the development of the Constitution did not match the growth of the Nigerian territory. The Nigerian Council which was established in 1914 did not reflect the amalgamation. The Nigerian Council made up of thirty Europeans and six Africans did not have legislative or executive powers. It only exercised advisory powers and real power resided with the colonial officers. Even the Clifford Constitution of 1922-1945 conducted the affairs of Nigeria in a pre-amalgamation manner as the Legislative Council did not include elected representatives from Northern Nigeria which the Governor ruled solely by proclamation. Richard Sklar was right when he said that “the Northern and Southern Provinces were linked tenuously in law and through the person of the Governor” and their distinctive “political identities were preserved by the maintenance of separate administrative establishment” (Sklar 1963:18). The Legislative Council was not endowed with more than discursive powers but most significantly it quarantined Northern Nigeria from Southern Nigeria. It was not until thirty-two years after the phony amalgamation that Northern Nigeria was allowed in the legislative company of the South. The British therefore took a calculated, instalmentally incremental approach to the unity of Nigeria giving rise to the observation of Okibe that most of the colonial constitutional reforms de-emphasized the essence of corporate existence of Nigerians (Quoted in Nwankwo 2001). But the process spoke louder than the product which smacked more of a calculated method of unity by division.

The clumsy Constitution of 1922 was followed by what Justice Kayode Esho characterized as the “worst of times – the age of Sir Arthur Richards, who contemptuously gave Nigeria a Constitution without consultation” (

The Constitution was not discussed in Nigeria and the importance that the British attached to it is indicated by the fact it was debated for a mere twenty-nine minutes in an almost empty House of Commons (Wendy McElroy: It is important to note that the same session of the British Parliament quickly followed up in March 1945 by passing four Ordinances which Nigerian nationalists described as “obnoxious”. Three of these bills were the Minerals Ordinance, the Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance, and the Crown Lands Ordinance. It is ironic that later Nigerian governments embraced the spirit of these laws. The Petroleum Act of 1969 enacted by General Gowon adopted the totalizing phraseology “(T) he entire ownership and control of all petroleum in, under or upon any lands … shall be vested in the state”. Similarly, when Obasanjo was serving the balance of Murtala Mohammed’s term, he passed the Land Use Decree which was a direct descendant of the Crown Lands Ordinance. We may have to say at this point, but only in parenthesis, that military governments were, to all intents and purposes, indigenous colonial governments.

The Richards Constitution, which the British programmed to last nine years, came into effect on January 1, 1946. Its three-fold aim was to promote the unity of Nigeria, provide, within that unity, for the diverse elements which make up the country and secure greater participation by Africans in the discussion of their own affairs. Dr Azikiwe, in his vintage elements, described the constitution as the same poison in similar bottles with different labels. The only semblance of unity provided by the constitution was that after thirty-four years of amalgamation, it reluctantly ended the quarantine of the North from the South. But even then the Constitution gave official seal to separatist tendencies by creating regional Assemblies although it did not bestow regional powers to match. Some people have credited to this Constitution that it provided the framework for a federal constitution. Surely that was not the priority of the British at that point in time. The constitution failed in what it claimed. It could not have achieved unity through the compartmentalization of the country. What was most evident in the Constitution was the construction of the jigsaw puzzle that eventually came to be known as Nigeria. It set itself a second task recognizing diversity within the unity of the country. This is perhaps the origin of the mistaken cliché unity in diversity while the reality is a progressive diversification of the polity. It would have been a miracle to achieve unity through a contrary process. The Constitution created a Legislative Council that was only deliberative and advisory. In a sinister way, therefore, the people participated in the discussion of their own affairs.

The World War II had set in motion a hurricane of changes. Men and materials had been conscripted from Nigeria into the British Army and Nigerians saw battle in East Africa and Asia, particularly in Burma. The ‘Burma graduates’, as they were sometimes called, saw that the colonialists were not invincible as France had been occupied by the Axis powers, just as they have had to assist British wounded soldiers. The Allied Powers had claimed that the war was to make the world safe for democracy while Article 3 of the Atlantic Charter signed on August 14, 1941 affirmed the right of all peoples to self determination. However Britain thought that self-determination applied only to Nazi occupied nations which, according to Lord Moyne, the Colonial Secretary were “not in need of political tutelage”. In fact, Winston Churchill had inserted the phrase “sovereign rights” into Article 3 of the Atlantic Charter to exclude British colonies which he did not consider to be sovereign. On the contrary, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American President argued pungently that the colonial system means war. Exploit the resources of an India, a Burma, a Java, take all the wealth of these countries, but never put anything back into them, things like education, decent standards of living, minimum health requirements – all you are doing is storing up the kind of trouble that leads to war. All you are doing is negating the value of any kind of organizational structure for peace before it begins.

The colonial authorities bowed to both internal Nigerian labor upheavals of 1945 and 1949 and the developments in nearby Gold Coast where the demand for unpaid pensions of the war veterans of World War II resulted in the Accra Riots of 1948. In addition to all these, the international environment made up of the World War II and Roosevelt’s determination to dismantle Colonial Empires forced a change and cut short the planned tenure of the Richards Constitution. Sir John Macpherson who became Governor in 1948 initiated a unique grassroots constitutional consultative process based on a template prepared by him. He thus responded to the charge of lack of consultation of the previous constitution. He asked Nigerians to choose between Confederation, Federation with some measure of autonomy or Federation on the basis of the existing Regions. The consultations culminated in the All Nigeria General Conference at Ibadan in 1950. The Conference, among other issues, took two far-reaching decisions on the nature of the Nigerian polity and the relative representation of the regions. It decided that Nigeria should be a federation and that the Northern Region should have half the representation of the total membership of the Central Legislature with the remaining half shared equally between the East and the West. The Emirs of Katsina and Zaria had demanded at the conference that unless the Northern Region was granted 50% of the seats in the proposed Central Legislature, they would “ask for separation from the rest of Nigeria on the arrangements existing before 1914” (Proceedings 1950:218). With that granted, the ‘mistake of 1914’ was transformed into the charter of Northern hegemony. The population census conducted one year after retrospectively confirmed the numerical superiority of the North. Henceforth the North became the issue in Nigerian politics. Perhaps the lopsided political arrangement might have been less burdensome if the people’s choice for federalism was enshrined in the constitution. Instead, Macpherson Constitution was what Awolowo described as ‘a wretched compromise between federalism and unitarism’ (

The Constitution created an interlocking political arrangement in which the regional Assemblies served as electoral colleges for the Central Legislature with which it has a joint life span. The twelve members of the Central Executive were also nominated from the regional Assemblies to which they were initially elected. They represented their various regions and did not have cabinet or collective responsibility. The Ministers did not control government departments but were only responsible for specific government businesses hence the characterization as responsible government with defined limits. Furthermore, the Constitution did not make provision for the post of Prime Minister and the Cabinet was not constructed as a team. The colonial Governor retained both reserved and veto powers as he could legislate for the whole country in the interest of public order, public faith and good governance. The British constructed a constitutional diarchy based on accommodation and partnership with the colonial administration because they were not ready to relinquish power. It was a clumsy constitution which subjected federal structures to unitary practice. It failed the first test arising from the fact that Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who won the election in Lagos to the Western House of Assembly did not garner enough numerical support to become the Leader of Government Business in the Western Region or enough votes to represent the Western Region in the Central legislature in Lagos. He therefore resigned his seat and moved to the Eastern Region where his party, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon controlled the Regional Legislature. Prof Eyo Ita had been installed as the Leader of Government Business there and cannot be de-stooled. Secondly, the attempt to get the four Central Ministers from the East to resign their seats was rebuffed by the Ministers who later came to be known as ‘sit-tight ministers’.

The work of the Eastern House of Assembly was paralyzed. The annual budget could not be passed and the Eastern House of Assembly alone could not be dissolved because the membership of the Regional Houses was interwoven with that of the Central Legislature. Similarly, the Central Council of Ministers was nominated form the regional legislatures. They were not electorally independent of the regional legislatures.

The second challenge of the constitution occurred in the House of Representatives. On March 31, 1953, Chief Anthony Enahoro who had been elected from the Western House of Assembly raised a motion that the British should grant Nigeria self government in 1956. As expected, the leader of North Regional members of the House of Representatives amended the motion by substituting the phrase ‘as soon as possible” for 1956 which in effect was meant to kill the bill. The Governor added his weight by enforcing the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet. The four Ministers from the Western Region refused to abstain from participating in the ensuing debate. Rather, they opted to resign their positions. The political Lagos crowd was disappointed by the position of the Northern representatives who frustrated the motion and were booed. Less than two months after the Lagos affair, Chief S L Akintola led a delegation of the Action Group to Kano to explain the position. This resulted in the Kano Riots that left forty-three killed and two hundred and four injured. The situation appeared to have confirmed the feeling expressed by a Member of the Northern House of Assembly in 1952 that “since the amalgamation in 1914, the British Government had been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people are different in every way including religion, custom, language and aspiration… We here in the North take it that ‘Nigeria Unity’ is not for us” (Quoted by Adeleye It was no surprise that the Northern Region responded to all the events with the ‘Eight Point Programme’ which demanded a confederation. Finally the London constitutional Conference of 1954 opted for a federation.

Chief Awolowo’s request that a secession clause be inserted into the Constitution to enable each aggrieved region to secede was rejected (Sklar 1963: 265). He was however resolute that it has to be ‘one Nigeria or no Nigeria at all’ thus rejecting Dr Azikiwe’s 1953 proposal for a Dominion of Southern Nigeria. In order to back this position, the Action Group committee on the Constitution recommended that “if for any reason the Northern Region is unable to remain in the Federation of Nigeria, the West should stand alone” (Sklar 1963:265). This position was very similar to that taken by Chief Awolowo on the eve on the Nigerian Civil War when he threatened that “if the Eastern Region was pushed out of the federation, western Nigeria would quit the federation as well” ( Some people take that statement as an agreement or promise for the West to secede. However if one read the statement along with the similar statement made twelve years earlier, one would interprete it more as a threat than a promise. Secondly, even if one by a stretch of imagination interprets it as an agreement, it would have been an agreement with the Federal Government and not with the Eastern Region that was only mentioned tangentially. Such an important decision could not have been based on hearsay.

The Macpherson constitution precipitated several crises which hastened its collapse. The Colonial Secretary therefore approved “that the Nigerian Constitution be redrawn to provide for greater autonomy and the removal of power of intervention by the Centre in matters which could, without detriment to the other regions, be placed entirely within regional competence.” The Lyttleton Constitution removed elements of unitarism and promoted regional autonomy. It laid the foundation of a federal constitution by creating equal and coordinate levels of government in the functions allocated by the constitution. The administration of the State was distinctly separated from Central administration. The Constitution however created a federation of “unusual composition” in which one of the constituent units was slightly larger in population than the other two put together (Report 1958:1). It became the template for the Independence Constitution 1960 and the Republican Constitution 1963. However after the Enahoro 1953 Self Government motion the minorities were scared of systemic discrimination and domination by the majority ethnic groups. Each of the three Regions was made up of majority and minority groups roughly in ratio2:1.

Thus each Region approximated to a center-periphery political space. The minorities who were united only in name therefore pleaded for territorial recognition amounting to home rule. State creation has always been used in Nigeria to maximize the share of public wealth transfers through the political process. Unfortunately, the Northern, Western, and Eastern minorities never evolved a common political front because they were divided between the political parties of the same majority groups that they were complaining about. Thus Northern minorities were affiliated to the Action Group, Eastern minorities to the Action Group, and Western minorities to the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon. Their divided concerns were loud enough to force the colonial government to set up the Willink Commission with the following Terms of Reference:

to ascertain the facts of the fears of minorities in Nigeria and propose means to allay those fears whether well or ill-founded

2. to advise what safeguards should be included for this purpose in the Constitution3. if, but only if no solution seems to the Commission to solve the case, then as a last resort, make a case for the creation of states4. to report its findings to the Secretary of State for the Colonies

The Commission was made up of four members: Sir Henry Willink, Philip Mason, Gordon Hadow (Deputy Governor of the Gold Coast), and J. B. Shearer. An examination of the Terms of Reference and the Membership would suggest the outcome. The Commission was mandated to recommend the creation of states only ‘as a last resort’. This was similar to the mandate given to Sir Frederick Bourne by the Government of the Gold Coast in 1955 to recommend how additional powers might be given to the regions in a manner less drastic than those proposed by the National Liberation Movement which had demanded a federal system of Government for the Gold Coast. Quite expectedly, Frederick Bourne submitted that “federalism was unsuitable for so small a country” like Gold Coast. Instead, he recommended some devolution of power to the regions. It is then understandable that Gordon Hadow, Deputy Governor of the Gold Coast was included on the Commission. The result was predictable. The Commission reiterated in the Report “We were instructed to recommend the creation of a new state only as a last resort and if there appeared to be no other means of allaying the fears of minorities” (Report 1958: 32). The Commission therefore argued that although ‘the weight of public opinion’ supports the demand for new states, it would be insufficient to justify the cost and the disruption of administrative effort that new states will bring. This is more so because creating a new state will increase rather than diminish ethnic divisions (Report 1958: 32). It argued that the heightened ethnic conflict was a passing phase of the politics of independence which would subside thereafter, particularly with wiser statesmanship. It therefore thought that enshrining ethnic separatism in Nigerian politics would be counter-productive in the long run because the creation of a new state will create new minorities that will demand for yet new states.

Alternatively, the Commission recommended the creation of the Niger Delta Development Area as an inter-governmental institution to catalyze development in the area. Furthermore, to allay fears of discrimination and domination, it recommended that no Police Force in Nigeria should “at any time come under the control of political parties” (Report 1958:4).However, the most significant recommendation was the inclusion of the Human Rights Clause in the Independence Constitution of 1960. Nigeria thus became the first African country to have a broad human rights clause enshrined in its constitution. This did not necessarily translate to compliance although it pointed to a political best practice. The other weakness of the clause was that it emphasized individual rights while the problem of minorities is about people’s rights which were not addressed until 1981 by the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Article 19 of which stated most relevantly that “All peoples shall be equal, they shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the same rights. Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by another”. The recommendation of Willink Commission for an intergovernmental development agency was doomed at birth because it was based on the cooperation of adversarial competitive political structures. Niger Delta was to be developed by contributions from the Federal Government, the Eastern and Western Regional Governments between which there was no love lost. It could be likened to a common bond servant with several masters for whom none can be held accountable. Even its recommendation that the Police Force should not be subject to the control of a political party did not receive enough safeguard as the Nigeria Police eventually got into a cozy relationship with governments at different levels.

The Willink Commission was part of the closing glee of the colonial administration. Having prepared the instrument for the handing-over, the next was the selection of the personnel, the Nigerian successor elite. The British wanted to continue to have a stake in Nigeria even after independence. This was particularly more so in the age of the cold war when the world powers jealously guarded their spheres of influence. The British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan summarized the thrust of the policy in the ‘wind of change’ speech on February 3, 1960 when he said “The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact, and our national policies must take account of it”. Failure to do so ‘may imperil the precarious balance between the East and the West on which the peace of the world depends’ (…/a/wind_of_change1.htm_catched_similar).

The British therefore mobilized voter registration in the North and the voter turnout was an unbelievable 89.2% as against 78.7% in the British election of the same year, 1959. The voter turnout in Eastern Nigeria was 74% and an even more distant 71% in the West. Even Lagos with a higher political literacy rate scored just 76.9% -thirteen percentage points less than the North. The figures show a clear difference between pro-British North and nationalist South. Since 1914, the British had shown some preference for Northern Nigeria while Northern leaders demonstrated respect for the British. For example, the Shehu of Borno once wrote to Lord Lugard (Quoted in Akinjide 2001:8) as follows:

Letter from the slave of God…, to our good helper, our prop, the solver of our difficulties, the one who carries our heavy burdens. Governor Lugard’s salutation was more scented than the musk perfume and sweeter than honey . May God prolong your life, the keeper of those who keep others.

The Emir of Nupe wrote in the same vein ‘Many beautiful salutations, a clean love…My present to you is two turkeys, 1 package of plantains and one of limes”. In order, therefore, to keep Nigeria in Britain’s pocket and in the free world, it was advisable to hand over power to a trusted ally. Thus before the full results of the pre-independence elections of 1959 were released, and in order to frustrate the alliance between the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon and the Action Group, the Governor General, Sir James Robertson invited Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Northern Leader to form the government. Dr Azikiwe was forced to “do a deal with the North” to avoid being jailed (Mason 2007:2). The British in their tradition of indirect rule orchestrated a surrogate administration at independence. It was no surprise that the Prime Minister retained Peter Stallard as his Private Secretary and a host of other colonial officers like Martin J Dent and D J M Muffett who had served in different parts of Northern Nigeria. In addition, Nigeria signed the Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact before independence. The case of Northern Cameroon is an interesting example of British self interest.

A plebiscite was conducted on November 7, 1959 to decide whether the Trust territory will remain as part of Nigeria or become part of the Cameroon. The vote was 42,979 for Northern Nigeria and 70,041 against. It was speculated that the British had planned to build a military base in Northern Cameroon. The NPC leaders were disappointed at the result of the plebiscite. The Sardauna appointed Mr. D J M Muffett as Resident General for Northern Cameroon to conduct a new plebiscite. D. J. M. Muffett was the Chief Electoral Officer for the Northern Region in 1959. The repeat plebiscite of 1961 indicated 146,296 votes (an increase of 240.4%) in support of the North while 97,659 (an increase of 38.7%) were against joining Northern Nigeria. This was a phenomenal turnaround. The grand plan of the British to keep Nigeria in the West succeeded. Nigeria’s foreign policy in the First Republic was pro-Western and was greatly affected by close relations with Britain. Balewa had said at the UN General Assembly on October 7, 1960 when Nigeria became the 99th member of the world body “We shall not forget our friends” referring to Britain. In fact throughout Balewa’s administration the cabinet was totally excluded from formulating foreign policy which was exclusively done by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretariat headed by Peter Stallard, a former British colonial officer (Abegunrin 2001:107)

Nigeria is hung by her history. The independence of Nigeria was attained through incremental constitutionalism. Between 1914 and independence in 1960, Nigeria operated five constitutions including the Independence Constitution. Colonial constitution-making in Nigeria did not adopt the amendatory process which would have made the constitutions progressively additive and thus create a tradition of constitutional continuity. Instead it adopted a wholesale replacement process which set in motion a political culture and psyche of dumping rather than adjusting constitutions. It also made people intolerant of constitutions because they are perceived as expendable instruments. Consequently, the culture of constitution mongering was established resulting in four constitutions after the independence constitution (1963, 1979, 1989, and 1999). The audacity of the military in assuming competence in writing constitutions for the people has contributed to this negative tradition. They even equate themselves with the people by plagiarizing other Constitutions with the preamble, “We, the people.” But, be that as it may, the British Constitution is not imitable or exportable. The British Prime Minister, William Gladstone, made the point when he observed in 1878 that “… the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from the womb and the long gestation of progressive history”. Thus a constitution is the product of its unique environment and is hardly adaptable to a different ideological climate. It expands through law, practice and usage which further entrench it in the environment. Therefore the jubilation by de Smith that “…the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy remains the most sought-after of Britain’s exports to the countries of the Commonwealth” (de Smith 1961:2) is unduly nationalistic. The British neither succeeded in transferring the Constitution nor even the spirit of a constitution. A Constitution remains a piece of uncomfortable literature when its spirit does not emanate from the people nor rooted in their hearts.

After independence, Nigeria was faced with rectifying imbalances in the politics of independence. The Romans believed that “everything that comes in threes is perfect” (Omne trium perfectum}. Not so for Nigeria. Nigeria’s regional triad was provisionally accepted in the hope that the distortions can be corrected after independence. A classic North-South dichotomy which has become the most defining character was embedded. The 1950 Ibadan Conference conceded fifty percent of the seats in the central legislature to the North but by independence the representation had risen to 55.8% (174 out of 312 seats). The North was therefore designed as the permanent winner of all inter-regional contested issues. Political contests in the colonial period were moderated by colonial umpires even though they were an interested party. There are no such arbiters after independence when the contests became fiercer. The transition from the struggle for power to the domestication of power is often a rough and uncharted course. In the analogies of B. J. Dudley and James O’Connel, people trained to play draughts were led to make those same moves in a game of chess, and the result is neither draughts nor chess (O’Connel: 1967:188; Dudley 1969:15). In post-independence contests, there was lack of reverence for law by political actors in the new power roles. They easily felt threatened by little challenges to their authorities. The combination of disdain for law and intolerance of dissent resulted in the fierce misapplication of state power manifesting in sensational political inquisitions and trials aimed at regime rather state security. The result was the further escalation of dissent. Intolerance of political actors in the name of the state discredits the state.

Unfortunately, post-independence constitution–making was overwhelmed by the need to re-order the past rather than structure the future. A Constitution can be historic and a product of history but must not be a documentation of history. Its quality lies simultaneously in its timelessness and permanent timeliness. Being riveted to the past, post-independence Nigerian constitutions were backward looking and incapable of navigating a political future which carries more mysteries than the past. The constitutions were therefore not prospective, pre-emptive or driven by principles. Furthermore, Nigerian post-independence Constitutions were written by a crowd in the interest of a crowd such that transient proximate beneficiaries write themselves into the constitution. The specificity of actors and interests, the crowd effect, coupled with the desire to defeat the past, obliterate the broad principles that should undergird a ground norm. This is at once the cause and the result of the lack of autonomy of the Nigerian State from the society (Napier 1997:93). Consequently, power is wielded outside the framework of approved constitutional rules and jubilantly justified by the misapplication of such rules like the ‘doctrine of necessity’. In the same vein, Adebayo Adedeji observed that expediency and compromise dominate political practice because the actors will not be hampered by reason or logic (Adedeji 2001:5) whereas a constitution is supposed to remain in force and respected even in extra-ordinary times. The dangerous doctrine of the constitution as a document of convenience is exemplified by the statement of George Orji, Governor of Abia State that Nigerians should not be slave to the constitution because “…the constitution can only provide a mere ten per cent solution to our political problems” (ThisDay, March 12, 2010). Don’t trust his statistics.

How much of the above were the ‘dividends’ of colonialism? Nationalists are known for playing the blame game of attributing all ills to the colonial rulers. It is easy to play the alibi or exaggerate the culpability of the colonialists though colonialists are not blameless. Any administration would entertain a legitimate interest in its successor. This is equally true of colonial administrations. A brilliant military officer of Northern extraction, Maj-Gen Chris Ali argued that Northern hold on power was based on four strategic leverages of geography, language, religion, and military when the first three factors fail (cited in Akinjide 2001:9). Rivers Niger and Benue demarcated the country disproportionately giving Northern Nigeria about two thirds of the territory. For whatever it is worth, the size has always been used to justify or make demands on the system. The strong irredentist demand of the Action Group at the 1953 Constitutional Conference for the merger of all Yoruba-speaking peoples up to Kabba was resisted by both the British administration and the Northern politicians. The spread of Hausa language and religion were fostered rather than created by the colonial system. The Hausa language was originally spoken only in the Hausa heartland and survived Fulani imperialism. Although Islam which was introduced through the Fulani jihad superseded the Hausa religions, Hausa language demonstrated such stamina and resilience that even the Fulani conquerors adopted it. British colonial administration aided the spread of the language to non-Hausa speaking peoples in north-eastern Nigeria and the Middle Belt paradoxically applying the Indirect Rule system which was touted as a culture preserver.

The Indirect rule system was however ‘a largely pragmatic administrative project’ (Ochonu 2008:1) which, in effect, accentuated ethno-cultural difference that was the centerpiece of the system. The British embarked on this administratively parsimonious path of engineering politico-cultural homogeneity especially the Middle Belt which did not have centralized political institutions. The result was a British-supervised indigenous or internal colonialism. Hausa became the language of administration as Hausa administrative auxiliaries appointed to the non- Hausa areas raised its salience as imperial language. It then became the second language of the non-Hausa areas of Northern Nigeria. But languages are embodiments of culture, economy and politics. Lugard enunciated the rational of the Hausa-driven integration process when he argued that the future of the protectorate of Northern Nigeria depended largely on ‘the regeneration of the Fulani... this capable race’ (Perham 1960:148-149). Ochonu saw British integration policy as both racial and logistical pragmatism. Flora Shaw had said approvingly that the Fulani were “European in form” and of “races higher than the negroid type’. She had in fact laid the foundation of the toxic characterization of the Fulani as ‘born to rule’ thus creating in them an entitlement mentality when she asserted inter alia “…that there are races born to conquer and others to persist under conquest” (Shaw 1905: 454}. The ‘ruler race’ concept was adopted in the Middle Belt as in Uganda and Hausa language was adopted as a lingua franca.

The Richards Constitution of 1946 adopted Hausa as the co-language of the legislature in the North. Similarly, Article 114(1) of the Lyttlelton Constitution of 1954 made English the official Language of Nigeria with Hausa retaining its co-official status in the Northern Region. Section 91 of the 1979 Constitution stipulated that the business of the House of Assembly shall be conducted in English but the house may additional conduct its business in one or more languages spoken in the state. Hausa thus attained great prominence as the as the language of regional politics, legislative discourse, civil service transactions and laws are even translated into it from English (Nigeria Year Book 1969: 358). The North is therefore the most linguistically integrated of the three Regions at independence. Although Islam is not as widespread as Hausa language in the North, it is also a highly potent instrument integration and political mobilization. In fact, it has become the most potent and enduring of the factors particularly because of its sectarian nature. Paradoxically, of recent, its strength has become its liability because the North is now ridden with inter-sect conflicts and inter-religious riots at the fringes in Plateau State.

The fourth factor of Northern ascendancy in Nigerian politics is the military. In the Second Republic, members of the National Party of Nigeria which most Nigerians choose to regard as a descendant of the Northern People’s Congress were known to have boasted that there were only two parties in Nigeria: the NPN and the Military. It was widely believed that the Military coup of 1983 was to prevent the North from losing political power. The high military leverage of the North also has origins in the colonial period. The British had operated on the basis of the now-exploded martial race theory which is based on assumptions that certain races have better martial qualities than others. For example, the Scottish Highlanders were said to perform better in battle than others on the British Isles. Flora Shaw described the Fulani as “a conquering and ruling race” that drove their adversaries in the Sudan southwards. The British saw this as commendable chivalry. On the other hand, Dr Baikie’s description of the Tiv was in the same vein though less complementary. He described them as an ‘unfortunate tribe unable to comprehend anything beyond war and raping’ (Baikie 1854:106). The warlike character of the Tiv, however, fits well into the requirements for a martial race that is typically brave, well-built, valiant and strong. The binary division of martial and non-martial races approximates to that of brawn and brain. Martial races are depicted as possessing valour although lacking initiative and leadership qualities. Therefore, according to General Frederick Sleigh Roberts, they are not good for officer ranks.

The non-martial races, on the other hand, are unfit for battle because of their sedentary life style and love of pleasure although they are smarter than the martial races. These are broad generalizations which are prone to be wrong but they formed the basis for recruitment into the West African Frontier Force which was the precursor of the Nigerian Army. The recruitment therefore generally favoured the Northerners more than the Southerners. It must be said, though, that the Yorubas disdained the Army (and also the Police). Those who enlisted in the Army or the Police were regarded as forced by desperation. In fact there are songs in Yoruba to the effect that the Police is a cursed institution. On the contrary, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern Region deliberately adopted a policy of leadership projection in which he cultivated the military and sponsored military recruitment drives. Furthermore, each commissioned officer was advanced a building loan by the Government of the Northern Region and the house was rented to the Government. This endeared the officers to the Government of the Region as well as respect and loyalty to the Sir Ahmadu Bello. The administrations of the Eastern nor the Western regions did not have such concern and public relations for officers from their Regions because they ran mass rather than elite parties. Apart from the deliberate cultivation of the emerging Northern military elite, the Northern educational system promoted elite integration. There were few voluntary agency schools and almost all schools were run by government with students drawn from all over the Region. It is no surprise then that schools like Bauchi Teachers College, Barewa College, Government College, Keffi, Government College, Dekina, to name a few, were breeding sites for the Northern elite. This situation tended to have created some measure of political solidarity particularly under a feeling of Southern assault as the saying goes that “Common danger brings forth harmony” (Commune periculum concordiam parit). Even at the tertiary level of education, Northern scholars were a class to themselves. They were almost all on regional Government Scholarship and some of the luckier ones also concurrently enjoyed Federal Government Scholarships. They lived as kings and had high regard for the Northern Regional Government and its leadership. It is no wonder that some of them later grew to become staunch members of the Northern People’s Congress, or the mythical ‘Kaduna Mafia’, or staunch followers of the Sardauna of Sokoto.

The Northern political class was more cohesive and more politically savvy in creating and manipulating an under-dog status to rally the support of Northern citizens. It kept that feeling of solidarity alive by posturing as the defender of Northern interests through the Northernization policy which secured public service positions for them. All told, the Northern political class strategized more consciously efficiently than the Eastern or Western political class. Of course they enjoyed the advantage of a narrow solidary elite group linked mostly by old boys’ network, religion, and language. The effect was that the North, in the language of a Nigerian Bank, was “big, strong and reliable’. By contrast, the West was an active belligerent against the status quo and relatively efficient in creating public goods while the East was a passive belligerent actively desirous of benefiting from the status quo. It was a matter of time for the West to get a hard knock just as a hard knock awaited the East whenever it was fed up, as it later was, with the role of a second fiddle.

Managing the Nigerian State

In 1965, Colin Legum described Nigeria as the only “open society’ in all of Africa. The British surprisingly also expressed high hopes for Nigeria as a model of democracy in Africa. Federalism had been adopted as a form of territorial democracy. To some extent, it ensured the separation of the regional combatants but the resolution of disagreements in a group of three where none has absolute majority required a coalition. The winning coalition in any game of three is two and so the North and the East combined to change the leadership and philosophy of the West by declaring a state of emergency in the Western Region in 1962. The coalition installed a government more friendly with the North and further weakened the West by creating another Region from it. The victory of the coalition spelt disaster for the Eastern Region whose relationship with the North has gone progressively sour. The North then replaced the East with the West to form a new coalition. The new coalition went after the East similar to what happened in the West. The assault was a campaign of hate and death that resulted in the declaration of secession of the Eastern Region from Nigeria. Secession threats were not new in Nigerian politics. Even the Northern Region which was “big, strong and reliable” had issued an “Eight Point Programme” threatening secession in 1953. Similarly, the west had also threatened secession in 1953 on the status of Lagos. Unfortunately, Col Odumegwu Ojukwu, Governor of the Eastern Region felt pushed beyond political brinkmanship. The ensuing civil war resulted in the victory of federal forces over the Eastern Region and defeat was not made any sweeter by the war caption of “No Victor, No Vanquished”. The civil war completed the conquest of the East and the West by the North which also sustained near-mortal injuries.

The war changed Nigeria in a fundamental but not necessarily positive way. It occasioned a restructuring of the political domain and political reform. As a war strategy, the Eastern Region was divided into three states with two states for the minorities who had long agitated for separate statehood. Judging by the number of States the Igbos thus became a minority in the South East. Three states were also created in the West to retain parity with the East. North-South parity was also maintained as six states were created in the North. Vertical and horizontal parity is an enduring issue in Nigerian politics. The North did not resist the creation of states in the North for three reasons. First ascendancy of the North was maintained with North-south parity. It is important to note two reasons why the creation of states in the North was not resisted by the North. Second, the States were created by Gen Yakubu Gowon who himself is a Northerner. Fhird, it was a war strategy to bring down the secessionist regime. Initially, after the creation of States in 1967, the three regions tried to keep the regions intact through the administration of joint assets. The North operated the Interim Common Services Agency while the East operated the Eastern States Interim Assets and Liabilities Agency. While these agencies are moribund, the spirit of the North is kept alive through the Northern Governors Forum made up of the nineteen Northern Governors. It is important to note, however, that the creation of states has dealt a serious blow to the solidarity of the North. For example, at the July 31st, 2010 meeting of the Northern Governors’ Forum to decide whether the Presidency was zoned to the North in 2011, the vote was almost evenly divided between supporters and opposition. The division followed the majority/minority divide in the old Northern Region.

The division of Nigeria into thirty six States still conferred numerical superiority on the North with nineteen of those States. However, the composite nature of the Region has become much clearer particularly in the absence of a northern leader acceptable to all the States. However Mohammed Abdulrahman, Secretary of the Political Committee of Arewa Consultative Forum observed correctly that

The North is divided by the creation of States and many people don’t understand the damage it has done … But it made neighbours and brothers enemies … The creation of States created different blocks and pockets of power that wanted to be their people’s lords (The Sun, June 20, 2010).

The process equally weakened the Eastern Region which lost the minorities and became landlocked. The federal system also suffered a critical distortion because states were created on adversarial grounds and with a view to sharing federal allocation. The earlier criteria for creating administrative units like social and financial viability, spatial compactness, and common historical origins were all abandoned. It was just enough to make a case of marginalization against the majority group. The result is that most of the States are not financially viable. They are therefore dependent on federal allocations to maintain their public service and even render skeletal social services. Consequently, the more States created, the less the capacity of those States to perform normal state functions and the greater the dependence on the Federation Account. Nigeria has therefore become a federation of subordinate rather than coordinate States as the only financially viable government is the Federal Government. The revenue powers and the revenue-sharing system have combined to overload the Federal Government with so much money that it has become the financier of the other tiers of government. That power of the purse has translated into enormous political clout which has distorted the federal balance of power. This explains the inordinate competition for the control of the Federal Government. It is surprising that the States are not complaining about the lopsided allocation although for an entirely different reason, the South-South zone which produces crude oil for Nigeria has complained about the inequity of the derivation criterion. The case of the South-South however proves the point that the best way to understand Nigerian fiscal federalism is through fiscal sociology because no other method explains why derivation fell from 50% in the First Republic to 1% and grudgingly crawled to a mere 13% today. The South-South delegates to the 2005 Nigerian Political Reform Conference argued that derivation would not have been rated so low if oil had been found in the core areas of the Nigerian ethnic majors.

The creation of States also highlighted the need for equity and ethnic justice by challenging the ruler caste mentality. In 1979 the informal understanding by the National Party of Nigeria was power rotation between the North and the South. It is difficult to see it as a firm agreement because Chief M K O Abiola challenged Alhaji Shehu Shagari at the party primaries in 1983. This rocked the party but Shehu Shagari won the primaries and later went ahead to win what his followers described as a landslide victory. The coup of 1983 did not allow the arrangement to play out although there were rumours that the North would have abandoned the NPN at the end of Shagari’s term in order to prevent a power shift to the South. The allegation was that the North would have adopted the Peoples Redemption Party of Malam Aminu Kano. Senator Barkin Zuwo of the PRP was being promoted as the arrow-head of the alleged deal. The coup that followed saw four successive Northern military officers (Mohammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalam Abubakar) as Heads of State. Sandwiched between Babangida and Abacha was Ernest Shonekan for a testy eighty-two days. He was only used as palliative for the annulment of June 12 presidential election. Babangida and Abacha however ignited the call for power shift to the South by their political errors. In the language of the late M K O Abiola, Babangida aborted a baby that was already born by annulling the freest election in Nigerian history as a way of continuing his open-ended tenure and preventing a power shift to the South. Abacha, on his part, removed Shonekan, another Yoruba, from office, incarcerated Abiola for attempting to claim his electoral mandate, and, worse still, schemed a self succession. The Yoruba felt they have had enough, withdrew from participating in politics under the Abacha Government and formed the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to canvass democracy and good governance. Paradoxically, as an act of deception, Abacha had commissioned a new Constitution in 1995 and Vision 20/10 thereafter. Both documents made excellent recommendations although he never meant to see them implemented.

The Constitution which was never promulgated recommended the office of President with two Vice Presidents and divided the country into six geo-political zones. One of the two Vice-Presidents must come from the same zone as the President so that, if for any reason, the President died, the Zone will not lose its slot. The President was to serve only one term of five years so that by the end of thirty years all the geo-political zones would have had the opportunity of producing the President of the country and mandatory rotation would come to an end. Zoning was therefore proposed as a sun-set law to last thirty years {S.229(1)}

At the death of Abacha, the baby was thrown out with the birth water. Abubakar initiated a 25 – person Constitution Committee which removed all traces of Abacha from the constitution. Zoning therefore ceased to be a constitutional provision but was adopted as a party position by the Peoples Democratic Party. The Military Government of Gen Abubakar released Obasanjo form jail and drafted him to contest the election on the platform of the PDP. The unanswered question is why the Military selected the PDP and how did they know that the PDP would win. Like the departing British administration almost forty years earlier, the military government was interested in its own successor. Chief Edwin Clark argued that Obasanjo was selected ‘to pacify the people that were wronged’ (The Sun, July 4, 2010). A section of the Yoruba public felt that the Northerners who handpicked Obasanjo were Bad Samaritans who had their own agenda. Obasanjo later revealed that he was required to sign an undertaking which would have tied his hands so he refused to sign. The situation was well captured by Mohammed Abdurahman who said inter alia that “ … Obasanjo did not join PDP … PDP joined Obasanjo” because he became his own man with his own rules. He went on to say “When Obasanjo’s hold on the people who joined him became too much, the PDP that joined him started becoming weak” (ibid). Obasanjo completed the four years in 2003 which some members of the PDP had thought was the maximum because they had thought of a single term for the President and the Governors.

In fact some members started popularizing what they called the “Mandela Option” which means a single term. Obasanjo got a second term and so some people argue that he killed zoning because some members of the party like Abubakar Rimi, Barnabas Gemade, Rochas Okorocha contested the primaries against him. As if to achieve an over-kill, he launched a Third Term agenda. The attempt failed but recorded significant casualties among the governors and in the National Assembly. The lesson is that, in Nigeria, it is safer to offend the State than to offend powerful individuals. By the end of Obasanjo’s tenure he had the party in his pocket. Initially there was controversy about the next zone to produce the President but finally the party settled for the North. Gen Obasanjo was said to have taken over from there and picked Umar Yar’Adua, the Governor of Katsina State whom many people knew did not have the benefit of good health. It was the fear of Atiku Abubakar, the Vice President that occasioned the nomination of Yar’Adua. Atiku who had a firm grip of the PDM which was the most powerful faction of the PDP could only be rendered politically weak by the nomination of Umaru Yar’Adua whose late brother, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua founded the PDM. Goodluck Jonathan who was still learning the ropes as Governor of Bayelsa State after his boss became a casualty of Third term was nominated as his running mate. Jonathan has since become a high speed train (Un train a grande vitesse). Gen Obasanjo swore that he did not deliberately select Yar’Adua knowing that he could not complete his term. I hope also that he was not paying back the ‘Bad Samaritans’ who handpicked him for the Presidency on behalf of the South-West.

The health and death of Yar’Adua revealed the unwillingness of the Nigerian political class to play by the rules. The constitutional stipulation about the health of the President was avoided with spurious interpretation or lazy sentiments that anyone can be ill forgetting that the President was no longer in the class of anyone by virtue of being President. Yar’Adua had checked into a Saudi Hospital without prior requisite communication with Senate or the Vice president. The Nation was kept guessing and speculating about her President depending for the most part on rumours by international media and outright lies by a faction of the Cabinet that was basking in the President’s absence. Even the First Lady, Turai Yar’Adua, played a leading role in the concealment and disrespect of the Office of President. The President was brought back to the country still ill and kept in a specially constructed outfit outside the Presidential lodge. Nobody was allowed to visit him on the excuse that he could be infected. Within that period, Nigerians and especially the Vice President were threatened several times by the cabal that they would bring out the President. On not less than three occasions Nigerians were told that the President was well and would resume work soon. The waiting suspense was spiced with the visits of Imams and Clerics to pray for the ailing President.

Finally, the Senate jubilantly violated the Constitution through an unnecessary application of the ‘doctrine of necessity’ after a national image failure. It was a master stroke of unpatriotic craftiness.. Even Iyorchia Ayu boasted about this kind of craftiness when he claimed a Northern patent for the ‘doctrine of necessity’ and went on to say “as politicians we have a way of improvising ways of managing our federation to avoid crisis” (Vanguard, July 5, 2010). In the nightmarish episode, however, there was a glimmer of courage and conscience by an Amazon and member of the Cabinet, Dora Akunyili. She tabled a Memo to signal the need to end the show. The rest is history. The Yar’Adua saga prove the dictum constitutions do not necessarily guarantee constitutionalism.

There are two main fall-outs of the unfortunate death of Yar’Adua. The first is the burning issue of religion. After the swearing in of Goodluck Jonathan as President and the nomination of Namadi Sambo, Governor of Kaduna State, as Vice President, some sections of Kaduna State reminded the country that religion is sill part of the political equation in Nigeria. They argued that Namadi Sambo should not be confirmed as Vice President because that would mean that Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, a Christian, would succeed him as Governor of Kaduna State. They argued (PM News May 18, 2010) that

Kaduna State is Muslim-dominated and a Christian Governor will mean subjecting Muslims to a Christian
Kaduna serves as the historical (sic) centre of the North which indirectly represents the headquarters of the Muslims and so should not be given to a Christian to govern

The above argument is oblivious of the fact that religious affiliation is not a condition for holding political office even though Kaduna State has recorded several ethno-religious riots. The situation is complicated by the fact that Kaduna State adopted Sharia Law which would now be the responsibility of a Christian Governor to implement. This contradiction is the effect of Obasanjo’s hopeful but unhelpful silence when Zamfara State was declared a sharia State. Obasanjo saw it as a political challenge through the instrumentality of religion and tactically avoided falling into the trap. Although Obasanjo enjoyed peace by silence, two critical issues remain. First, is the declaration of sharpie law in a State coherent with the constitutional provision that Nigeria is a secular state? Second, Is a Christian entitled to political representation and/or rulership in such a State? These are postponed dangers

The second issue thrown up by the Yar’Adua event is the crisis of hegemony for the North. Up to the Presidency of Obasanjo, the North was in a position to assume a right to rule and offer it to whoever it wills. From Obasanjo’s second term it became clear that the North can no longer assume the right to rule. Mill’s law has become less applicable to the power game in Nigeria. The Jonathan accident of office tends to indicate that the North, in the obscure language of bureaucracy, will have to be considered along with others. A few years ago, spokesmen of the North confidently asserted that they conceded power to the South and can take it back at will. Iyorchia Ayu put the position as follows (The Nation, June 21, 2010):

The people of the North never demanded zoning of any political office in Nigeria. However they acceded to the demands of their compatriots in the South who see zoning as the only mechanism for ensuring equal and easy access to power by every Nigerian regardless of geographical location.

Describing the present position, Abdulrahman however said despite the North’s population which should have been a bargaining chip, it is now begging to rule Nigeria using zoning as a weapon. … The tables have turned. It is we begging for zoning to rule a Country that we have ruled for thirty eight years. (The Sun, June 20, 2010}

Zoning has been the most controversial issue in recent times. It is disputed even by those who founded the PDP and were party to all its rules. This is either a failure of memory or mere political mischief. Chief Edwin Clark described Obasanjo’s first term as “something done to pacify a people that were wronged” (The Sun, July 4, 2010). Abdulrahman agreed with him when he said that “it was an attempt to put June 12 behind us” and it was in the interest of the Northern establishment to put June 12 on the side (The Sun, June 20, 2010). On the contrary, Dr Babangida Aliyu, Governor of Niger State and Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, said We should learn to respect agreement. We should not throw away agreement because things have changed, if we must renege on the agreement we must come back to the table to negotiate and discuss it (The Sun, June 24, 2010).

He however displayed some flexibility having said earlier that zoning was not sacrosanct and it may be waived for Jonathan. He was of the belief that the issue of zoning was hyped “instead of the issue of integrity, honesty, and discipline” (This Day, July 29, 2010). Some members of the party have made the case for Jonathan to compete. Perhaps the most logically sustained argument was made by Adeniran Ogunsanya, Jnr (This Day, May 26, 2010). However a logical argument may not necessarily be a neutral argument. His position was based on the inseparability of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket and the oneness of the Presidency. Furthermore, the ticket is not transferable. Apart from that, “should a Northerner get the presidential ticket, he would be entitled to a fresh eight years in office negating the doctrine of power rotation and the North would then get some 12 years of unfettered rule to the disadvantage of the South”. That would also mean that the North has a third term. Consequently, even when an incumbent fails to get a second term, power automatically shifts to the North or South as the case may be so as to forestall a zone succeeding itself. Therefore Yar’Adua is the only Northerner qualified to contest for his second term though his candidacy is not even automatic as he has to win at the primaries. Having been precluded from contesting the primaries for his second term on account of untimely death, the lot falls on Jonathan, his successor on the ticket. Following the logic of this argument, Jonathan can only serve the balance of the term which ends in 2015. It is perhaps on the strength of this argument that Babangida has now indicated that he wants to be President for only one term of four years. The problem with that is that he cannot be succeeded by another Northerner unless that Northerner will also serve a single term.

The North and/or northerners have expressed strong views. For example, the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting of the Northern Political Leaders threatened that “Northerners have all it takes to win free and fair elections without special arrangements” (The Sun, June 21, 2010). In the same vein, Yahaya Kwande of the Northern Political Forum went further by saying “if Jonathan wants to contest the election, the option left for him is to leave the Peoples Democratic Party” (The Sun, June 28, 20100). This is not to say that the North can speak with one voice o the matter. Three States of Kano, Borno and Yobe are controlled by the ANPP. The Governor of Kano State, more or less stated the position of his colleagues when he said that in 1999 when the PDP adopted zoning “it was done behind closed doors. It should remain so” (This Day, July 29, 2010). Buhari also dissociated himself from zoning and the National Publicity Secretary of his party, Congress for Positive Change said “CPC made it very clear that we don’t believe in the principle of zoning because it is against the tenet of democracy” (This Day, July 29, 2010). The problem of zoning cannot be resolved in isolation.

As customary in Nigeria, a crisis is never wasted. Every crisis is an opportunity for re-opening old wounds or inventing usually unrelated new issues. They were such issues that determined the outcome of the zoning debate. These included the proposed e-registration of party members and the amendment of the PDP Constitution in line with the Electoral Act to disqualify unelected officials as automatic delegates to party conventions. Both of these were unacceptable to the Governors because they whittled down their powers and influence (This Day, August 12, 2010). Another important issue is the demand of twenty three Governors who wanted to be assured of automatic tickets for the second term before supporting Jonathan’s candidature (The Nation, August 7, 2010). The National Executive Committee at its meeting on August 12, 2010 took an ambivalent decision upholding zoning and at the same time allowing Jonathan to compete in the primaries for the party’s presidential ticket (This Day, August 13, 2010). The ambiguity is typical of most Nigerian political decisions which are not definitive and thus postpone final resolution. Alhaji Ishyaku Ibrahim has raised the issue of an internal contradiction in the decision to the effect that posts are zoned to geographical areas and not to people. Therefore, if Jonathan wins the primaries, it negates the principle of zoning to geographical zones (The Sun, August 14, 2010). This is, therefore a problem- in -waiting.

What can we learn about Nigerian political culture from the debate on zoning? More often than not, Nigeria political discourse is in high, sometimes even belligerent, tones which attract more volume as it progresses. Most issues are discussed with embedded historic or ethnic backgrounders that only make meaning to those who follow the development. Political discourses in Nigeria are therefore very expansive and elastic. And the Nigerian political class has abundant talent for making simple issues difficult. A national political discourse is usually an occasion for political regurgitation. Relevance is not necessarily an attribute of such discourse as extraneous issues are sometimes deployed as tactics of negotiation. It is not uncommon that the unity of the country is usually called to question in the process. Threats of secession are often thrown around thus showing that the unity of Nigeria cannot be taken for granted. Unfortunately, when decisions are finally arrived at, they remain at the mercy of the selfsame political decision-makers. The decisions are often tentative because they are not driven by principles but often by affective conditions of ego, political careerism and ethnicity. Nigerian high policy decisions are determined by what is momentarily right rather than what is intrinsically good. That is the case even with the choice of zoning and rotation which benefit the political class more than the system.

The other issue arising from zoning is that Northern protagonists of zoning are tactically but wrongly making the North synonymous with Islam. Rotation is between the North and the South and not between Islamic North and Christian South. In the first place, Nigeria is constitutionally a secular state. Second, neither the North nor the South is mono-religious. To emphasize religion is to disenfranchise the Christian in the North and the Muslim in the South. While that may not be a critical issue in most of the South which entertains greater religious tolerance, it will be problematic in the North. For example, in North-Central and North-Eastern Zones, Christian interest in Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Kwara and Kogi would be seriously undermined. Even other Northern States like Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, have substantial Christian population whose rights must be respected. Political Parties as Gangs

The nature and character of decision and action can also be illustrated with the political parties. Competitive political parties are the pillars of a democratic system. First Republic political parties were regional. Perhaps that was because the colonial system devolved power at different rates and even at some point made the regional houses electoral colleges for the central legislature. They however became impediments to national unity. The 1979 Constitution recommended national political parties five of which initially emerged. However the preponderance of the leadership of the old parties in any of the new parties established the connection and descent of those parties. The Third Republic however made a more deliberate attempt to clean the parties of their ethno-regional flavour and leadership. Guidedly, the Military Government established two national political parties which politicians were invited to join. No member of the parties could therefore claim any privilege as founder but only as joiner which everybody was. Government also provided initial funding and constructed party offices all over the country. This meant that nobody could claim the pride of place of founder or funder. The process was criticized as undemocratic because parties are supposed to be voluntary and evolutionary. They were ridiculed as “Babangida Babes” or Parastatals. They functioned to produce the best election in Nigerian history. They occasionally put democracy to test like when the Social Democratic Party in a Kwara Local Government elected a tailor as Legal Adviser over a Lawyer.

Unfortunately, in a move that is comparable to building with the right hand and demolishing with the left hand, Babangida annulled the successful election pleading unproven security reasons. General Sani Abacha demolished remaining fledgling democratic structures. Abacha’s transition programme, which was custom designed for himself produced five parties from one branch and differentiated them with five artificial names. All of them, quite expectedly, adopted him as their presidential candidate. At his death, the 1999 Constitution started a new beginning with the formation of political parties which now number about five dozen because Nigerians have pushed democracy to its limits that there should be no cap on the number of parties. The result is that the parties have become impediments to democracy. They prevent the aggregation of political forces that would strengthen democracy and exaggerate the gap between the party in government and the others. The opposition is therefore weak and easily over-run by the government. Consequently, the country does not have the benefit of a prospective alternative government or a party that can serve as the speed breaker to a government that is prone to be bad. As things stand in Nigeria today, the Peoples Democratic Party has become a political predator of other political parties. By a process that is arguably contestable the PDP controls about 83% of elective positions although around 34% of the elections were challenged for glaring irregularities. The apparent strength of the party tempted the former Chairman of the party, Vincent Ogbulafor to prophesy that the party will rule Nigeria for the next sixty years. It will be difficult to trust his prediction since the same stars did not reveal to him that he was going to lose the pedestal on which he made the prediction shortly after. The partisan boast that the PDP is the largest party in Africa tends to indicate the absence of a competitive party system rather than the strength of the party. The size and dominance of the party puts Nigeria within the zone of a single party. In fact, Nigeria is now a ‘partocracy’ because the PDP has become regime of its own, though not on its own. It has more than an absolute majority of more than two-thirds and could amend the constitution without the support of any other party. This was proved by the recent constitutional amendment. Even President Jonathan said that all the other parties have conceded the presidency to the PDP. The extent to which the debate of the zoning of elective offices by the PDP gripped the whole country is characteristic of a partocracy rather than a democracy. The PDP has swallowed Nigeria.

How does one describe the parties and their activities? I call them parties very advisedly. A functional political party must have an identity not just its name or the names of its members. A political party is a political brand that is distinguished and distinguishable from other political parties by its mission and vision often set out in its ideology. In advanced democracies, the words conservative, liberal, and radical are sufficient summaries of such ideologies. At election times, manifestoes are distilled from such ideologies to fit the needs of a constituency, and the general needs of the time. In the First Republic, some Nigerian political parties like the Action Group, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon, and Dr Chike Obi’s Dynamic Party had ideologies. In the Second Republic, the Unity Party of Nigeria also embraced an ideology from which it distilled its Four Cardinal Programmes. There is however a noticeable decline of political seriousness such that by the current dispensation none of the parties has any clearly articulated ideology. There are therefore no nodal organizing principles just as there are no distinguishing intellectual properties. The result is that the parties are incapable of assisting the people in making the right political choice. Consequently the people rely on mundane and flimsy issues that cannot manifest as programmes. Elections held under those circumstances cannot produce a social contract or a mandate because no concrete programmes were canvassed. A social contract becomes even more farfetched in a regime of alleged authoritarian elections where results are concocted and real ballots are not counted. Perhaps we can explain without excusing the absence of defining programmatic characteristics by the fact that all the present political parties are makeshift arrangements in which the more incongruous the membership the better. They are not organic parties and the compatibility of the membership is very doubtful. Chidi Amuta describes them as a “casino assemblage of political convenience” (This Day, May 20, 2010). The only ones that can stick together are those that have produced governments that can award contracts and offer board appointments since there are no intrinsic binding interests. Strange bedfellows stick together when the bed is cozy.

The lack of ideological dividers or barriers results in another characteristic of the political environment. All the parties are porous and mere utility parties. Such a party environment is prone to party migration, resulting in pasture-driven trans-humance politicking. Our politicians need nomadic education. The frequent migration accounts for the large number of decampees and de-decampees (i.e. those who change parties). These party commuters (or party hoppers as they are known in the West Indies) do not have any adjustment problem as all parties are more nearly the same. They do not also have ethical dues to pay because politics in Nigeria has become, in the language of Joseph Stalin, in a different context, “the worse, the better”. There are highly placed party officials, Governors and National Assembly members who have migrated to and out of all significant political parties. They receive red carpet treatments and are offered policy making positions for their waywardness. One example of these classical executive nomads is a Governor who was in PDP, migrated to the AD in 2003 and later returned to the PDP. He left PDP to join PPA under which banner he won the gubernatorial election and completed the circle in 2010 by making a triumphant return to the PDP. After all, the umbrella is said to be large enough. Worse still, there are political philanderers and political polygamists who simultaneously belong to two parties, or possibly more. In the First Republic, it was widely alleged that Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was NPC on the platform of the NCNC. In recent times, the Nigerian Peoples Party was embroiled in internal conflict until one of the leaders was compensated with an appointment by the Federal Government. The party was so badly fractured that it changed its name to All Nigeria Peoples Party to have a new beginning. But that was no respite as the new Chairman of the party, Don Etiebet, an alumnus of the PDP who allegedly did not sever his umbilical link with that party. In 2004, Gen Jerry Useni, accused Etiebet of anti-party activities. Babayola Toungo, in an article titled “Who is Etiebet’s Paymaster?”, concluded “But in the light of what has transpired since, it is my contention that Etiebet has all along been playing the role of a double agent in the party” (

Etiebet was succeeded by Chief Ume Ezeoke as Chairman of the Party and was later Buhari’s Running Mate in the 2007 presidential election. After the election, two petitions emanated from the ANPP stable: one by Buhari, the Presidential candidate and the other by the party, the ANPP. While the Court proceedings were on, the Party withdrew its own case leaving the candidate alone in Court. The Chairman of the Party and Running Mate then started negotiating participation in the Government of Yar’Adua. Members of his party eventually joined the Government that Buhari continued to challenge in court. His son was allegedly appointed a Special Adviser to the President whose election his party was challenging in court (Vanguard, August 24, 2010). Ultimately Buhari was forced to leave the party to form another party: Congress for Progressive Change. People without the gift of personal principles cannot be expected to uphold public principles.

The Umeh Ezeoke affair cited above is a clear evidence of the absence of consultation and internal democracy in the parties. The parties are infested by so-called party chieftains who function as godfathers and even warlords. They are laws unto themselves. They even over-rule the party. There have been occasions when those who did not contest elections went to the Senate and got addressed as Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The PDP argued, strangely, that it was the party that contested the election and could nominate any person to fill the office. This is a dangerous doctrine in a democracy. In 2007, Rotimi Amaechi who won the PDP gubernatorial primaries in Rivers State was denied the platform of the party in favour of Celestine Omehia who went ahead to win the gubernatorial election as the fourteenth governor of Rivers State. Amaechi challenged the decision up to the Supreme Court which declared that the party had no right to reverse the decision of the party primary. The case of Ifeanyi Ararume in Imo State was similar. Ararume won the Imo PDP gubernatorial primaries but the party substituted him with Charles Ugwu. Ararume went to Court only to be told by the High Court and the Court of Appeal that the PDP had powers to determine who its flag bearers are. This is a strange dispensation of justice which was reversed by the Supreme Court a day before the gubernatorial election. The PDP expelled Ararume for challenging the decision of the party in Court. He therefore contested the election as an expelled member on PDP platform PDP and lost to Ikedi Ohakim of the PPA whom PDP had instructed its members to vote for. Thus PDP which won twenty seven out of twenty eight House of Assembly seats lost the gubernatorial election Ikedi Ohakim. This case confirms what Diepreye Alamieeyeseigha, former PDP Governor of Bayelsa state said that “Nobody can be sure of winning an election if he is not a member of PDP. Those who win elections in other parties are sponsored by members of PDP because of disagreement within the party” (Sunday Sun, May 23, 2010). The High Command of the PDP was also alleged to have allowed the ANPP to win the 2007 gubernatorial election in Borno State.

The absence of party discipline is further complicated by the supremacy of the Government over the Party rather than vice versa. In almost all the States, the party has been subordinated to the Government. Thus at the Federal level, the President is the leader of the Party, while the Governor heads the Party in the states. The effect of this is that the parties which could have exercised oversight over the elected functionaries have been emasculated. The Chairmen of the Parties have become errand boys of the elected officers as most of them depend on contract awards from government. They can also be and are changed at will by the President and the Governors. They are always conspicuous in the entourage of the Governors or attend morning devotionals at the Presidency. The PDP Governors have become a very strong power centre paradoxically because the Party Constitution stipulated that all persons elected or appointed to positions by the States are automatic delegates to the National Party Convention (vide Art. 12.7; 12.40;and 12.84 of the PDP Constitution). Since the Governor appoints them, he therefore has a lien on their political conscience. Put together, the Governors can and have decided very critical issues turning Nigeria into a casual state run, at best, on the basis of informal arrangements. The collective support of the Governors for the candidacy of Yar’Adua sealed his nomination for the presidential election. They forced the payment of excess crude oil money to the States in US dollars against the opposition of the President, Gen Obasanjo. They resolved the stalemate on the election of the Party Chairman in favour of their candidate, Vincent Ogbulafor in 2008 and endorsed his removal from office in 2010. They successfully moved the National Assembly to take or refuse to take certain crucial decisions. For example they prevented the National Assembly from impeaching President Yar’Adua in spite of his violation of the Constitution. On August 12, 2010 their opposition of the on-line registration of PDP party members stopped the exercise. They ensured that the immunity clause of the Constitution which protects them against prosecution while in office was not expunged in spite of public demands. And finally, the Governors took a resolution that the candidate for the Presidency must always come from the rank of the Governors. This is why Chidi Amuta foresees the emergence of the Governors’ Party (This Day, May 20 and 27, 2010) and Olusola Balogun described them as ‘Mini’ Presidents (This Day March 14, 2010). Niyi Akintola, SAN saw the role being played by the Nigerian Governors Forum as an illegality (The Sun, March 14, 2010) by what Femi Okurounmu called a “dangerous power cabal” distorting the federal power arrangement. Matthew Mbu saw them as a “lobby group … abandoning their primary role of delivering services” (The Sun, June 7, 2010).

This group is sustained by the need for self preservation after most of them have reduced their states to personal fiefs or what Chidi Amuta calls “estate states”. Yusuph Olaniyan sees them as Emperors “who have become institutions that dictate to the platform that produce them” (This Day, August 13, 2010). They successfully protected themselves from being sanctioned for their many misdemeanours while in office by securing the retention of the immunity clause in the Constitution. They are shielded from prosecution while in office and seek to elongate the immunity by seeking membership of Senate thereafter. They therefore want to live outside the national legal regime. Typical of this group is the that on-line governor that mesmerized his State for eight years. He made empty promise of making the State computer-literate and of producing ethanol as substitute for oil. To further ensure protection against the law, he sought shelter under the PDP umbrella. Even President Obasanjo supported the hoax of ethanol. Another Governor in a troubled South-western State also unsuccessfully flew the kite of ethanol.

The Audacity of Corruption

The exaggerated national visibility of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum is symptomatic of the breakdown of the constitutional structures of vertical and horizontal accountability. Nigeria has gained a high reputation for corruption. As Prof Isaac Albert said on May 5, 2010 “the present day politicians carry their ideologies and consciences in their handbags and hawk them so long as the asking price is handsome enough”. Corruption is the worst instrument of destructive destruction in the country today and is now on public display as in a trade fair. Even the judiciary has not been immune from it. At the graduation of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the President of the Institute, Chief Afe Babalola, declared that some judges have dented the image of the judiciary through desperate collusion with desperate politicians who want to buy justice. This was corroborated by Justice Kayode Esho that indeed, “the performance of some judges serving on the election tribunals had caused widespread dismay among Nigerians” by collecting bribes from election petitioners and/or respondents. Gen Ishola Williams of Transparency International had complained earlier that “judges are using the tribunals to make money. All those who have gone through election tribunals are multi-millionaires today” (The Nation, June 20, 2010).

The National Assembly has orchestrated a sumptuous self remuneration that forced former President Obasanjo to blow the whistle. He indicated that it costs N250m to maintain one single Senator annually. For him, this is excessive and unsustainable. (The Sun, August 5, 2010). It is a quick kill in slow motion and what Femi Falana describes as “provocative prodigality”. Hon Ali Ndume, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives did not contradict Obasanjo. He only said that Obasanjo lacked the moral right to complain about it because he is the “godfather of corruption” (Nigerian Tribune, August 8, 2010). The National Assembly has taken undue control of the instrument of wealth transfers to institute a resource capture and thus maximize its share of wealth transfers. Considering the parlous state of the economy and the relative penury of the Nigerian worker the self service award by members of the National Assembly is a gross misdemeanor and abuse of public trust. That the members continue to defend the outrageous remuneration is evidence of their capacity for pathological behavior.

Corruption has grown to the point of doctrine. Since the First Republic, it has been customary for politicians to surreptitiously canvass for support by pleading that communities should abandon the politics of confrontation and join the mainstream. In the early 1960’s the Yorubas were wooed with such bread and butter strategies. Such campaigns proceeded by computing how much the Yoruba lost by being in opposition. Thus people are invited to the ‘federal table’ so to speak. The implication is a life of ease and sharing of the national cake, as it were. As late as 2003, the same campaign of joining the mainstream and benefiting from federal largesse was beamed to the South-West zone. It was not what won; but it created doubters some of whom were swayed. In 1983, when Odumegwu Ojukwu returned from exile, he joined the National Party of Nigeria “because the NPN was the mainstream and for us to be at the centre we have to be in NPN” (Daily Champion, January 10, 2010). Even Charles Soludo, as late as 2010 during his gubernatorial campaign, was quoted as saying

Anambra people have been at the periphery of Nigerian politics by not being in the party at the centre and this development has greatly affected the State especially in attracting federal presence in terms of projects and investments.

The call to join the band is relentless and made without caution. When Orji the Governor of Abia state visited Obasanjo in Abeokuta, he was commended for leading his State “to the mainstream of Nigerian politics” by decamping to the PDP. Of recent, the demands for the creation of states are presented as an admission to the corrupt ring. For example, in making a case for an additional state in the South-East, Hon C I D Maduabum declared that the South-East Zone has lost N200 billion by being one State short from 1999 to 2010. He believes his own arithmetic and the intension is clear.

Two things are clear from the implicitly corrupt prescription for mainstreamism. The first is that it is a mischievous and monstrous doctrine. It is anti-democratic because it is recipe for the elimination of pluralism which is a principal defining principle of democracy. Mainstreamism is therefore a covert invitation to a single party system and words like confrontation, opposition, and criticism become terms of political blackmail. The intension is to criminalize dissent and thus diffuse the moderating influence of citizens on government. This is more so the case where government is funded almost exclusively without taxation. Similarly, there is an inverse variation between the political clout of States and the number of States in the mainstream. Thus the influence of States over the Centre reduces as the number of States in the mainstream increases. Once the threshold of the winning coalition is exceeded all other additional states become redundant to decision making. Following Mitchels’ Iron Law of Oligarchy, a caucus of States would emerge to steer the course of the mainstream. At that point, the inclusiveness of the mainstream therefore results in the exclusion of some States. A periphery within the centre then develops.

There is therefore a weighting and rank order of States in the mainstream. The second implication of the depletion of national resources by corporations and individuals is that it will result in the tragedy of the commons. Following Hardin’s Commons Theory, when individuals and/or groups independently, rationally but selfishly draw down on a finite common resource, it will result in the depletion of the resource to the long-term disadvantage of all involved. Thus the drawing of inexplicable salaries from a finite treasury, and the creation of States and Local Governments to accommodate verandah boys and girls will ultimately result in the ruin of the Nigerian polity. Not appreciating the consequences, some people pose the dilemma whether it is a right policy to look while others loot.

Religion in the Service of Sin

The politicians are unyielding. Normally, they engage propaganda as ‘all politicians are professional seducers. They woo people for a living” (Carlin, :6 ). Nigerian politicians are fond of claiming a link between them and the electorate. It is common for politicians to say “my people” want me even when the constituency is unaware of the candidate. They worship symbols rather than substance. People are now treated to signposts as old Dispensaries are labeled General Hospitals and Health Centres are called Specialist Hospitals. Achievements in road construction, education, and social services are read out leaving the constituents wondering where they can be found. Listening to budget speeches by some Governors an attentive citizen can almost recite it along with them because some projects recur over a number of years without ever being executed. Any rebuttal of these fake statistics is simply dismissed as the response of political opponents who cannot appreciate the efforts of government. The antics of the politicians have the effect of depoliticizing the polity as Nigerians are progressively being inoculated against infantile propaganda. Shorn of the inflation of election turn-out figures, the real turn-out is dipping because the politicians are becoming less and less credible and the vote does not count. There is no electoral integrity and elections are mere rituals of acclamation. At best the government is a disguised dictatorship delivering governmentalism rather than governance. The people have suffered a reversal of rising expectations as the great potential of the country is sabotaged by pretensions to governance. Politicians have diluted their reputation downwards while the people have learnt to read their lips and body language in keeping with Aristotle that the leader is the sum of everything he does (The Economist, February 27-March 5, 2010:66). The electorate has therefore developed positive protective skepticism against the political process and political mistrust has turned into distrust. In such moments of despondency, Nigerian political leaders have resorted to both secular and sacred religion. Their secular religious appeals come in the forms of civic axioms. Shehu Shagari, in the closing days of his administration, admonished the Nation to embrace an ethical revolution. Most Nigerians saw his pious pleas as a ploy and ridiculed the effort. Gen Buhari in his days as military Head of State popularized the maxim “We have no other country that we can call our own”. Truth is true but the operative socio-political environment determines the credibility of truth. Buhari was catching on when his regime was terminated in a coup that came on the platform of human rights but ended by abrogating the electoral wishes of the people. Babangida made the point that legal justice is not social justice. He established MAMSER as a civic education outfit but it ended up as a government image-making machine. The panel of consultants told MAMSER took that only citizen-friendly performance can endear people to the government. Even Gen Abacha was not left out in this game. He sermonized that “Nobody loves Nigerians more than Nigerians”. This propounds an ideal that the general political environment created by Abacha’s dictatorship made untrue. Nigerians saw through the psychological manipulation. Abacha had intended to pitch Nigerians against international human rights protests from the West. The harsh political environment which he purposely created necessitated resistance to the appeal.

Religion has also come in handy as an instrument of citizen control even when it is clear that the leaders lack authentic life and spiritual integrity. Oftentimes Muslim political leaders remind Nigerians that “Power comes from God and He gives it to whoever He pleases”. Following this principle, Shagari advised that the electorate should reject those who offer themselves for election in favour of those who are drafted by the people as in his own case in 1979. He concluded that that is the position of Islam (The Sun, August 1, 2010). Some Nigerians however feel that those dragged into elective offices in the past have not proved that they deserved it. Similarly, Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State said that the eight year tenure of Saminu Turaki as Governor of Jigawa was a testimony to the willful disobedience of the cardinal principles of Islam and that people resort to religion because they believe in their capacity to cheat providence. People like that want to serve God as advisers. Geidam concluded (The Sun, August 5, 2010):

When an individual simply wants to emotionalize issues or escape from moral predicaments and burdens, he mischievously turns to religion. … By embellishing any issue with the religious flavor, at least two or more people might care to ‘taste’.

Nigerian political leaders have been employing religion for quite some time. Tafawa Balewa had the badge of a God-fearing man although it is difficult to tell who really fears God. Considering the behavior of God-fearing Nigerian political leaders, born again or regenerated, one wonders whether God does not have enough reason to avoid them. In the First Republic, Nigerians went up to Senegal to consult the Imam of Kaolack. There were rumours that some Nigerian leaders imported diviners from the Congo. Abacha camped a host of Imams to recite the Koran a million times. And while Nigerians anxiously awaited information about Yar’Adua’s state of health, the Nation was advised to pray. Niyi Solanke was unhappy about the bad uses of prayer and thus said:

The military stole us blind, they asked us to pray. Politicians are stealing us blind, they ask us to keep praying. Bankers are stealing us blind, they ask us to keep praying. EFCC cannot successfully prosecute those that it has been set up to prosecute, yet we are asked not to be tired of praying.

This is how not to make prayer warriors. Politicians themselves may not even trust in prayers.. On August 3, 2010 at the PDP headquarters in Abuja, charms were seized from a party member from Osun state. He said he brought the charms for protection and to fortify himself. A Police Corporal at the beat turned to the journalist and said he and his colleagues need to fortify themselves ahead of the 2011 elections. He then concluded: “Maybe Jega needs to revise his budget for the election to make provision for this miscellaneous item” (Punch, August 4, 2010).

In spite of the antics of politicians, Nigerians still recommend an appropriate cosmic and spiritual balance for the Nation. Accordingly, Justice Kayode Esho, at the Institute of African Studies on May 4, 2010 enjoined Nigerian judges to “… have the fear of God at heart because He is the Judge of judges”. Tam David-West added his voice on August 11, 2010 when he advised politicians to take their religion into politics to sanitize the system and launch the country into prosperity (The Sun, August 12, 2010). And at the same venue, Buhari recommended a leadership that will rule with the fear of God. The Church is becoming uncomfortable with the immoral deployment of religion and there might be an active ecclesiastical intervention in public affairs. The Awka Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) criticized the prevailing state of politics as “a competitive business venture” (Vanguard, August 8, 2010). Pastor Enock Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God admonished his congregation to register, vote, and protect their votes. He warned “from now, if anybody messes up with our votes, we will fight. We love INEC and will pray for INEC but we will fight anybody that messes up with our votes this time” (Vanguard, August 15, 2010). Dr Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly is the Coordinator of Save Nigeria Group (SNG) which organized rallies against the secretive handling of President Yar’Adua’s illness. The SNG promises to cooperate with a political party to sanitize the electoral process.

The Nigerian condition, on the other hand, has galvanized some sections of the relevant public to active interested silence. This complex phenomenon of active silence is demonstrated by Pius Adesanmi’s statement that “I have become a much happier citizen of Nigeria since I lost hope in fellows in the rulership” (Sahara Reporters, July 31, 2010). This is a form of sitting to be counted rather than a disinterestedness in the affairs of state. Most Nigerians are in a state of strategic withdrawal which is hurtful to the polity because it is an attempt to expunge the State from their lives. Although membership of the State is legally obligatory, the State itself remains only a juridical rather than an empirical phenomenon once citizen faith is withdrawn. To most citizens, there is a redundancy of the State because of its glaring under capacity utilization and/or the self-serving attitude of the political leadership. They tuned off because of the negative signals from the political system. The mind is just like the eye. The moment a foreign object threatens to intrude, it closes just like the eye. The state-citizen disconnect will accentuate the decline of the State and increase citizen anti-state behavior.

But there is another class of alienated citizens that is too traumatized to complain. They have entered the range of fatalistic resignation. According to Bolaji Akinyemi the resistance of those people is summarized in their prayer “God dey”. Mohammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s political long distance runner identifies them as those who “only grumble in their bedrooms”. They are docile followers who fear that their suffering will increase when they protest. Buhari characterizes this behavior in Hausa as Mutuwa Zuciya (The Sun, August 8, 2010). This is a politically unfortunate situation because when liberty dies in the hearts of citizens no constitution, no law and no court can do much about it whereas while “it lies in the heart, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it” (Learned Hand, 1952:190).

Re-engineering the State

Nigeria can work if only Nigerians work. Apathy is equivalent to an election boycott which enables the wrong contestants to win. There is an direct relationship between citizen vigilance and governmental performance. Citizens are the compass of government which and the State loses direction when it is abandoned by the citizens. In such situations, governments expand their powers by manipulating the apparatus of state to the disadvantage of the people. The people are then subject to their own government. The government is free from all democratic encumbrances and even the moral order of the society. The State becomes the agent of the government. The State becomes a resource to be exploited by the government. At that point the government the government perpetuates the exploitation of the people claiming the authority of the State couched in such terms as security, national interest, national survival, national progress, national unity. When a government reaches for such final arguments, more often than not, its concern is regime security because it is a logical contradiction to imagine that national honour, national greatness, national progress can be achieved at the expence of the people who are coterminous with the nation. As we have pointed out earlier, it is not uncommon in politics to manipulate axiomatic public values for citizen control. Values can be used for anti-people policies because acting against such values raise doubt about the citizen and not the government. While it is possible to certain actions are not in accord with national interest or national security, no citizen can repudiate the need for national security. Elections have been annulled in the interest of national security which are hardly defined or even definable. Huge budget allocations have been set aside as security vote by those who spend the money to threaten national security circumvent official audit processes. The point we are making is that government is prone to crime and a government devoid of citizen control is a potential criminal at large. Government must therefore be tethered to the people to operate within a certain radius of action under the watchful eyes of the people. One of the ways of doing this is to have regular periodic credible elections by an electoral body that is independent in fact and in statute. The experience in Nigeria is that it is the majority that rules and not the constitution. Thus the electoral body is at the mercy of the majority. It may be too early to jubilate over the appointment of men of integrity who at the critical time may be told not to set the country on fire as Prof Eme Awa was advised. The advice to the Independent National Electoral Commission is to the self seeking incendiary argument as scare tactics. The devil has dared the INEC for so long that the INEC must for once dare the devil for it might be the painted devil after all.

The society must equally stand behind the INEC to challenge the devil and take a principled stand to restore an acceptable balance between government and the people. The decline of the civil society as the prompter and check on government has accounted for run-away governments resulting in government without governance. The civil society, particularly the University based ones had effected qualitative changes in Nigerian governance in the past. The National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) was instrumental to the abrogation of the Anglo- Nigerian Defence Pact.. In the same vein, the NUNS’ protest against the Census figures of 1964 necessitated a clean-up of those figures. There were also individual activists that blew the whistle against certain acts of government. People like Tai Solarin, Prof Ayodele Awojobi, Comrade Ola Oni, Bade Onimode, Akin Ojo, Friday Onoge, Bala Usman, Gani Fawehinmi, Aka Bashorun, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Femi Falana, and Rotimi Akeredolu got the various governments to think twice if not straight. Comrade Ola Oni single-handedly dragged Coca-Cola Company to court over the issue of return of empties. Gani Fawehinmi served months in harsh prisons for expressing his views within the law. The Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Ibadan published an influential Journal of Opinion of high quality and wide circulation. The ideas expressed in them still ring true today. Some Scholars at the University of Lagos published the Lagoon Echo which was awaited anxiously by government functionaries. The Faculty of Arts and Science, Ahmadu Bello University was equally very vocal and helpful in venting citizen interests. Most of these outlets are moribund thus creating a vacuum of respected opinion. That vacuum was sorely felt during the Third Term gamble in 2008. Politics is too important to be left to politicians.

The University constituency as a civil society must come alive again. When that constituency leads in matters that put the nation on the path of efficient development, it will further prove that it own constituency demand ties in with overall development. We must lead the way in purposefully shrinking government which has spread too thin into popular retrogressive areas. What we need today is a government of basic needs which will set in motion in other areas of development. A government of ‘Thirty-point Agenda’ mistakes campaigning for governing and confuses rhetoric with reason. Governance is not about permanent campaign and political theatricals. There is an urgent need for prioritization and ranking of governmental functions. At this critical point, Nigeria should concentrate on Energy, Transportation, Education and Heath. A functioning energy system will stabilize old jobs and create new ones. Adequate road and rail infrastructure facilitate the movement of goods and services. Education and knowledge production is the most essential tool of development. However, the present trend of the proliferation of Universities is a disservice to the country. Some States even started with multiple campuses that consist of a Faculty or two at most. There is therefore no requisite synergy between disciplines. In all, the national executive carrying capacity for Universities has been exceeded. One official once boasted that Nigerian Universities will graduate one thousand PhDs annually. This is dreamy optimism. Sentiments and pious political wishes will not sustain our educational system. The next is Health. It is only a healthy population that can develop a nation. Our health system should strive to make health facilities available, accessible and affordable. It is a proof of failure that our leaders sneak out to French, Saudi, German and Indian hospitals to cure their cold. The rest of us are sentenced to fake drugs and out of stock syndrome from dispensaries that have been designated Specialist Hospitals. We must build the institutions of governance and institutional governance. Nigeria needs strong institutions and not strong men. The end of personalized institutions without systemic roots is log overdue. There is no more space in the mortuary of institutions where Green Revolution, Operation Feed the Nation, War Against Indiscipline, Option A4, and Cassava Revolution are lying in restless peace. The process of institutionalization must be based on the understanding that the state is not available for sharing in whatever form or shape. The modern State is complex can only be governed by neutral technical competence and not sentiment in any form or guise. Finally, .Local Government administration should be rescued by depoliticizing it. Finance and/or Administration experts should be appointed Council Manager for each Local Government after a professional interview by a competent consultant. The appointment should be for a period of four years renewable after successful audit. Local Governments must be liberated from Governors who have added Local Government to their portfolios. We must rescue federalism from the hands of its beneficiaries who want to destroy it. The above observations and suggestions are made from the perspective of a student of Nigerian Politics who has been both a beneficiary a victim of the system.

Thank you for your attention.

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