THE ONLY WAY TO #EndSARS AND
MAKE NIGERIA GREAT AGAIN
By Anietie Usen
It was just over a week ago, October 22, 2020, that I got provoked. A dear friend and professional colleague, Femi Adesina, who is the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, wrote a doleful opinion on his website, femiadesina.com. The titled was “IF NIGERIA DIES, HATRED KILLED HER”.
As a known supporter of the ruling APC federal government and a long-time apologist of President Buhari, I hardly, though often rankled, object to Mr. Adesina’s views. I do this out of a deep sense of discretion and professional fraternity. He is doing a very tough job, at a very tough time, which, I reckon, none of his colleagues would envy or want to complicate.
But his last write-up, in the midst of the #EndSARS conflagration, took the gloves off my knuckles. For the first time and in spite of the mutual respect we share, I disagreed with him in the public. In the two-paragraph rejoinder that I wrote hours after his publication, I said: “I disagree with you Femi. My strong view is that if Nigeria dies, it would collapse and die on the debris of a crumbling FOUNDATION. The FOUNDATION of Nigeria today is severely flawed, weak and unmanageable. It is not a matter of (who is the) leader; it is a matter of the FOUNDATION and structure that support the leader and good governance in a huge and diverse country like Nigeria. UNLESS the FOUNDATION is RESTRUCTURED and REPAIRED, a total collapse is imminent and inevitable. Nothing else will do or work. All the beautiful programmes the President outlined this evening, and all the efforts of the present and past administrations are standing on a sandy FOUNDATION.
“Sir, we are building on top of a faulty and cracked FOUNDATION. No wise man, country or organization does that. Anything and everything put on top of a faulty FOUNDATION is counterproductive, dysfunctional and wasteful. Can’t we think?”
My rejoinder attracted the most reactions to-date on Facebook and other platforms, all of them positive on the side of this truth. My inbox was full to the brim, filled mostly by APC members who felt and still feels, I spoke their mind and the truth to our party, our leaders and country in two graphic paragraph. One of the messages in my inbox, which first made the rounds in 2017, should speak to the hearts of every thinking and patriotic Nigerian, across party lines, religion and tribe.
Titled “POSITIVE THINGS RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA WILL BRING” and attributed to a diplomatic cable by European ambassador, it said a proper foundation and structure for Nigeria should be five regions: Northern Region, Middle Belt Region, Western Region, Eastern Region and the Niger Delta Region; in addition to the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, for the Central Government.
To be sure, the structure contained in the diplomatic cable is not entirely strange to Nigeria. It is similar to what the colonial government and founding fathers of Nigeria, in their wise analysis of our diversity, sensibly, judiciously and intelligently, put in place, at the beginning of independent Nigeria. It is what gave Nigeria a good head start before Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu and his gang of errant soldiers derailed the country into the hands of unitary governments, in a succession of destructive military regimes. It is semblance of what another trigger-happy soldier, Major Gideon Orka, canvassed for, in his violent coup attempt in 1990 against General Ibrahim Babangida, which I covered and wrote graphic reports for Newswatch Magazine.
Though the coup was promptly quashed, many later praised Orka’s vision as the man who saw tomorrow, because it was that structure that promoted competitive communalism, a principle of political organization based on federated communes, in Nigeria in the early 60s. Competitive communalism saw each region of Nigeria, positively competing to outdo each other in various development indexes. Ironically and painfully, it is one competition that some thoughtless Nigerian leaders, including the self-righteous Olusegun Obasanjo, has over time resisted and never want to hear about. This is a big and unpardonable blunder, for a number of reasons.
For one, a unitary structure of government in a largely diversified society like Nigeria is like a man with a heavy burden of load on his head, walking and running with one leg. No stability. No speed and no momentum. That is the plight and blight of Nigerian leaders. Can’t we think?
Now, here are the possible scenarios and outcomes of a true Nigerian federal structure as encapsulated in the diplomatic cable.
Western Region: This is the first region that would likely experience economic explosion for obvious reasons. The Oduduwua Master Plan would be instantly inaugurated. There would be trans-regional, state-of-the-art transportation and communications infrastructure in place within the shortest possible time. The well-known human resource powerhouse in the region would be unleashed in full force to push the region quickly ahead for the benefit of Nigeria and Africa.
They also have the advantage of a strong socio-cultural bond. They have a common language. They have oil in Ondo State. They own the academia. They have mega corporations. They would possibly be the first part of Nigeria to have stable 24/7 power supply! That would spur other regions to catch up and achieve a similar feat. The region would also boast of knowledge economy. Local and foreign money from diaspora and investors would flood the region. More billionaires would be born. With good transportation network by roads and rails, living elsewhere in the region and working in Lagos would become a breeze.
As the profile of Lagos and that region rise, so would the profile of Nigeria and Africa. Isn’t it sufficiently embarrassing that, till date, no African nation has made it or measured up with the Asian and Arab nations, not to talk of the new European countries? The entire Africa, nay the world has over-waited for Nigeria to rise and be a good model for other African countries. The success of any part of Nigeria, is the success of is all. It is called corporate success.
The scenario for the Northern Region would make it a model islamic and thriving cosmopolitan society like UAE and Qatar. Sharia would, with little or no opposition, make the Region the least corrupt, morally, economically and systematically. Arab nations would move in with their petrodollars to partner with the Northern Region, share their experience and bring world class infrastructural adventure into the region. Jaiz bank and Unity Bank would become mega banks. Arabic and Hausa would compete with English for dominance in schools. This region will generate more solar power than any other region. Next to the Western Region, this region would probably be the next to have 24/7 electricity. They would start exporting food as a major foreign exchange earner.
For the Middle Belt Region, the focus would be given to solid minerals development, exports, tourism and food production for Nigeria and international market. It could become a food basket of West Africa. They would probably export more food than other regions. Mega mining and food corporations would flourish. With their beautiful and near-Europe climate, this region would probably attract and host more tourists than any other region in Nigeria.
The Eastern Region, with their famed innovative spirit and unmatched entrepreneurship would transform into the Auto Industry Hub of Africa. Indigenous manufacturing of vehicles that would, with time, compete with foreign vehicles would commence in earnest. Heavy-duty construction equipment and sophisticated machines and tools would follow. Like the Western Region, more billionaires and millionaires would sprout, as the Eastern Region take the challenge to surpass other parts of the country. The disruptions of Biafra agitations would reduce, if not fizzle out. There would be so much development that villages would transform into towns and towns to cities. This Region also enjoys the advantage of mono-cultural affiliation and interrelationship. Their kinsmen and women living overseas would rush back to take advantage of the semi-autonomy.
Their neighbours to the South, East and West in the proposed Niger Delta or Atlantic Region are the wealthiest crude oil-rich land in Africa. Since 1975, the region has accounted for more than 75% of Nigeria’s export earnings. Together Niger Delta oil and natural gas extraction comprise 97 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange revenues. It is estimated that 38 billion barrels of crude oil still reside under the Niger Delta Region. Beyond crude oil, this region holds 187 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven gas reserves, making Nigeria 9th in the world and accounting for about 3% of the world’s total natural gas reserves of 6,923 Tcf.
On top of that, it is the home of the long neglected palm oil industry in Nigeria, with the serene and hospitable Akwa Ibom State, the biggest producer of crude oil, also featuring as the biggest producer of palm oil. Before the advent of crude oil in Nigeria, Nigeria was the world’s largest palm oil producer with global market share of 43%. This naturally wealthy region, can return to active and scientific palm oil production like Malaysia and compete favorably with other regions in making Nigeria great again.
With the Atlantic Ocean at its backyard, major sea ports in Rivers and Delta States, Oil and Gas Exports Free Zone in Rivers State, as well as the newly established Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone in Akwa Ibom State (regarded as the largest in West Africa and jointly owned by Akwa Ibom State government, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and an American private equity investor), this region could well be among the firsts to brace the tapes developmentally and push the country ahead.
For now, it is only Akwa Ibom State that has a visible and viable state-run airline. With a good foundation and proper structure, all regions would be poised to have their own airlines. Like the United Arab Emirates, UAE, a country of only 10 million people and seven regions, where a large degree of independence is maintained; a healthy competition among the seven Emirates has so far produced two world class airlines from Dubai and Abu Dhabi Emirates. Faced with a healthy competition in virtually all directions, Nigeria’s GDP would rapidly increase. The heavy burden on the President and the Federal government would be reduced, as Abuja would concentrate on foreign affairs, defence of the territorial integrity of the nation, immigrations and such related matters.
EndSARS and the kind of nationwide explosion witnessed in recent weeks is nothing compared to the consequences of failure or refusal to restructure Nigeria. The time is now. We must think smart rather than go around the same vicious cycle: the vicious cycle of parochial calculations, in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate each other, leading inexorably to a worsening situation before our very eyes. Can’t we think? Can’t we see our fortunes and reputation dwindling so badly and horribly rubbished and marred. Where is the report of the 2014 National Conference of the Nigerian people. Can’t we start somewhere there before calamity befalls Nigeria and by extension Africa?
I bet the change that we in APC promised Nigerians six years ago can never materialize under the present rickety and cranky 54-year old structure that has consistently, over time, failed to bear expected results. The revolution of rising expectations and rising frustrations are combining right now to make everywhere, (even Calabar and Uyo, the most peaceful spots in Nigeria), combustible. To restructure Nigeria is a task that must be done.
*Mr. Usen is a multiple award-winning journalist, author and technocrat