We are usually very quick to blame the military for some if not all of the ills of this country. Nigeria’s first military junta began following the 1966 Nigerian coup d’état which overthrew Prime Minister Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was made the Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria, but was soon overthrown and murdered in a coup in July of the same year. During the military stint came the subsequent civil war that further divided the country and so it continued until 1999. Nigeria today is seemingly democratic with there having been no military coups since 1999, however the decades under military rule have had a resounding impact on the nation with all of its 36 states created by the military and there still being a considerable military influence evident. In the post military era, we are still ridden with killings on all sides, endemic corruption, poverty and the rise of insurgency and amnesty, the annulment of elections, incessant killing of innocent lives by terrorists in the north east, environmental degradation in particular; desertification that has submerged the entire grazing field of the country and finally, an old constitution that needs revising.
While the issue of desertification is not purely due to leadership decadence, the mitigation or lack of mitigating actions are. As a result, there’s been an exponential increase in the migration of millions of men and animals that lived at the fringes of the Sahara over the centuries which has led to a number of violent clashes with farmers trying to protect their livelihood being trampled upon by the cattle and even unprovoked killings in the middle belt and other parts of the country.
We also have the power houses that played another definite role in further dividing the nation and they are The Arewa group – a political and cultural association of leaders in Northern Nigeria formed in 2000 which has considerable influence in the political scene., Ohaneze group – an apex Igbo socio-cultural group that represents all Igbo communities within and outside the country with an objective, among others, to foster unity among its members in order to better allow them to be representative within the political scenario of Nigeria; and finally, the Afenifere group – a socio-cultural organization for the Yoruba people of Nigeria with political intent as well. The three groups representing a large portion of the populace in the country have objectives or manifestoes that strictly seek to look out solely for the political interest of their tribe and not the collective interest of the nation. Not being a member tribe or aligning with one often times means not having a strong voice in governance.
We have dealt with this issue in a previous article entitled; Eight Years for the South, Eight Years for the North and Zero Years for Nigeria. In that article, I wrote that though it is not written in the constitution but to be a Nigerian is to be fully aware of the unwritten law of power sharing in the country. Borne out of a desire to maintain balance in the way regions get access to power, the power sharing culture says that once a region has completed a presidency tenure (irrespective of competency) the next region on the list now has claim to the throne – forget the different names of candidates from varying regions. The powers that be usually have decided the most likely candidates based on their regions.
This unwritten constitution is partly or wholly responsible for the underdevelopment of the Nigerian nation that has remained a Third World country like was mentioned in my previous columns whereby we eat the cake and share the cake at the same time and this is what we have done after five decades. The Nigeria that I was born into over eighty years ago, planned and executed short, medium and long term development projects which were inherited by our founding fathers over fifty years ago. Since our freedom from the military and initial freedom from colonialization, we have had very little to show in the instance of consistent improvement and it appears that the future is no better based on the ongoing trajectory. This is so because of the sharing mentality that has eaten deep into our political blood cells.
Even the states have started sharing development and political appointment among senatorial districts. The civil service and the local government structures have not been left out; even the traditional institutions to a point of inventing and manufacturing traditional heads in every town and village just to pacify albeit erroneously as many people as possible. In the process, it has come to be every man or woman for himself or herself, and the country as a nation being left unattended to.
This same sharing formula has distorted every developmental plan that was handed down to our founding fathers and like was mentioned in the aforementioned article what we have as a nation is a cake in which the whole nation eats from it and divides at the same time.
I have addressed some of these issues in my previous articles but seeing as not everyone enjoys reading, I will continue to repeat a few of my sermons over Nigeria especially for some of us crying more than the bereaved even though a number of us were not even born when the rut of the nation began.
It is necessary to state here that the military was and still is made up of Nigerians; the only difference between us and them is the uniform and guns that they have which is provided by our tax money. It is also known that in some cases, they appointed civilian governors and surprisingly a number have also gone on to become civilians.
Wole Soyinka in a recent speech at the African Drum Festival in Abeokuta which I was privileged to have attended as his guest, said the change overs from military dictatorship to civilian leadership need to be done more thoroughly by putting the military rulers into some form of re-orientation before civilian rule. This is very important in a country that continues to recycle it leaders. If we can’t change them, maybe we can reform them although change is always the best option.
A lot of countries without the same endowment have all emerged e.g The Emirates yet we stay the same. We must therefore get out of our comfort zone and find out what’s stopping Nigeria from emerging into political maturity and competency.