(OPEN LETTER TO FELLOW NIGERIANS ON SOVEREIGNTY VII)
Dear Fellow Nigerians,
We started the year 2002 by raising and promoting the idea of sovereign conferences as an agenda item worthy of pursuit by every living Nigerian. This writer like every other awakened Nigerians was concerned about the Nigeria’s political structure that tends to be much of a handicap than a catalyst for growth, development and prosperity. We were worried sick about the carnage of woes, suffering and human deprivation that the political structure and its supporting institutions are inflicting on the innocent peoples occupying the geographical space called Nigeria.
In the search for answers, we realised that knowledgeable Nigerians have since 1993 persistently raised the need to convey a Sovereign National Conference as one of the first steps towards finding a long lasting solution to the problems of inept governance, injustices, inequalities and camouflaged chattel slavery in Nigeria. This writer concurred with this brilliant idea and has no qualm to add his voice to the knotty question of logistics that would arise in organising the Sovereign National Conference. It is in order to overcome the logistic problem of organisation, representation, cost, etc. that prompted the suggestion for a manageable phased out Sovereign Conferences. Since January, we have joined hands and voices with other concerned Nigerians to sing along about the inevitability of SNC as a necessary and unavoidable project.
The fundamental principles that informed the need to join voices with other Nigerians on the idea of SNC are the convictions that the present Federal Government of Nigeria is an inherited political force of occupation. That the unitary system of administration favoured by the military and the feudal lords was a cruel imposition that came first from the British Colonial Office and lately from the military prodigal sons of Nigeria. That the current political system in Nigeria, because of its lack of foundation from the community grassroots, has become inadequate to sustain development and growth.
Furthermore, that the historical objective which set up the Federal Government of Nigeria was first and foremost to serve the national interest of Britain and secondarily, to satisfy the greed and vanity of the puppets selected to manage it. Because of these incontrovertible historical and political facts, FGN has remained unquestionably an albatross on the neck of the indigenous population. Its purported claims of protecting and providing for the welfare of the peoples of Nigeria have remained a farce since 1914. The ever increasing untold cost and injury to the peoples are raising concerns of a probable social implosion if awakened Nigerians failed to take intelligent steps to redress the obvious imbalances of inequality, injustices and the high rate of state legalised robbery that is crippling the economy and the peoples of Nigeria.
In the six submissions so far presented to fellow Nigerians we have looked at what the personal role of each living Nigerian should be along the line of seeking and searching for the truth of our existence. We have offered suggestions on the contribution that political enlightenment from practical experience gained from Sovereign Family Conference can make to the mental and spiritual emancipation of Nigerians. We have tried to promote awareness that a properly organised Sovereign Community Conference can make a critical difference to the present institutional arrangements that depend on begging for handouts from the central government for their existence. In this essay, we shall like to look at the three penultimate stages – local, state and ethnic sovereign conferences – that should be organised before we can move to the final stage of organising the Sovereign National Conference.
Sovereign Local Conference (SLC)
We shall define local as the communities under the present administrative set up called local government. As we know, the past military administrations created most of the local governments by fiat. The creation of most of these local government generated hate-love scenarios across the country. The mischief-making military politicians did their best to sow a legacy of bad blood even in this important political assignment. They managed by design and thoughtlessness, as they played the politics of divide and rule, to sandwich incompatible communities together. In addition, they cited the headquarters of some of the local governments to spite one community leader in favour of another. They set aside or refused to allow historical antecedents of power inter-plays in these communities to inform their judgement and decisions. Consequently, most local governments have since been embroiled in cold and hot wars. Communal peace, unity, progress and prosperity have since disappeared from most communities.
The convening of a Sovereign Local Conference can therefore not be an easy task considering the seeds of bitterness and hate that the military marauders sow in the communities. The organisation of SLC shall call for more than a serious human effort from the enlightened indigenes. The tasks shall entail cultural and spiritual programmes of reconciliation of aggrieved and feuding communities. It shall call for the healing of the sores and scars of bitterness intentionally stoked up by the military and left behind to fetter the communities. The enlightened indigenes must appeal to their community members to allow the highest noble virtues of love and forgiveness to prevail. They must urge them to give a chance to the spirit of truth to take control of their communities and to guide the awakened members as they create, nurture and promote new moral and ethical values.
The justification for organising the SLC is based on the rational logic that stresses the wisdom of the dictum, which says, ‘together we stand, divided we fall’. It is a proven sociological fact that societies evolved as humankind discover that the common needs of survival are easier to achieve and manage in organised communities. The ancient people recognised the distinctions in talents and skills and appreciated that pooling these disparate natural gifts together would augur well for the happiness and safety of the commonwealth. The political theories that emerged shortly after the end of the Italian Renaissance reinforced the wisdom of together we stand, divided we fall. The commonwealth principles spiced with the truth of equality, justice and freedom have been adopted by every progressive society ever since.
In this discourse, we shall like to promote the idea of a SLC as a process that can establish a people-initiated, people-desired and people-supported local government. The SLC should be a carefully considered deliberate action from the heart of the common people. The promoters and organisers must be able to work tirelessly among the people, to educate them about the needs, the gains, the sacrifices, the contributions and the dedication expected from each member of the communities to a people-sponsored local government. There is a need to expose every member of the communities to new ideas and new values of governance and government. The colonial inherited attitude in the communities that handed over the responsibility of managing communities to a foreign manager called District Officer has since been transferred to the foreign educated sons of the soil. Most members of our communities have grown up to believe that the administration of their society is beyond their competence. That it is only the English-speaking, certificate-holder and honorary-titled citizen that is capable of serving the community in a political capacity.
We must endeavour to correct this type of myth and fallacy and to expunge them forever from the minds of the people. We must promote the need to accept popular participation, not as a mere election-voting citizen, but actual participation in the running of our communities as a primary condition for the establishment and management of local government. We must discourage professional politician since the constitution in the making must mandate every citizen to volunteer two-five years of ones life in service to their communities and governments.
As it was in the Community Sovereign Conference, the SLC participants duly appointed by the resolution of the Community Sovereign Conference must divide themselves into various committees that suit their competences. They must endeavour to marshal out workable working papers for the consideration of the Conference. The grand objective is to write a memorandum of understanding with respect to social, economic and political objectives for the joint administration and management of the participating local communities; and to make recommendation for institutional arrangement for cooperation and development of their communities. The delegates must remember that the simpler the memorandum is the better and more promising it shall be for successful implementation.
Sovereign State Conference (SSC)
The 36 state structure of Nigeria is one of the Trojan horse gifts bestowed on Nigeria by the military. The military aided by political collaborators conceived the breaking down of the pre-1966 four regional governments into smaller states as a panacea to the tribal and ethnic problems of Nigeria. The history of state creation moved from 12 states created in 1967 to 19 states in 1976, 21 states in 1987, 30 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FTC) in 1991 and finally to 36 states plus FTC in 1996. Unfortunately, these expensive exercises have not solved the ethnic and tribal problems. The creation of states actually intensified and enlarged the scope of the problem. It has exacerbated the awareness of differences in language, culture and religions. The further we go in the direction of state creation the deeper we fell into the snare of human differences and cultural diversities.
On reflection and with hindsight it is obvious that the physical adjustment of boundaries is not really going to solve the problem of political nepotism, religious bigotry, ethnic domination and enslavement and all kinds of economic, political and religious corruption. It seems the problem has more to do with our nature as human beings. If we had understood this truth maybe it is to our human nature we could have addressed our energies and resources in the search for solution. We could have spent more time to discover our human nature, to understand its strength and weakness, to cultivate and harness its virtues and to weed away and destroy its vices.
The lesson learnt from the short history of Nigeria should guide us in our search for fruitful solutions. In organising the SSC we need to recognise that each state boundary is an artificial construct. The military split many communities with common historical lineage into two or more contiguous states. These oversights or clever designs under a divide and rule policy, has ensured a continuous strife and bitter feuds in the states concerned. This is particularly noticeable in the Niger Delta region of the country where the country derives most of the resources that fattens the treasury of Nigeria. The splitting of the people of this region into several states under a state creation arrangement that aims at putting people of similar culture and language under the umbrella of a state cannot be an accident. It must definitely be a political design to ensure disunity among these marginalized and exploited Nigerians. Without a united front, it becomes extremely difficult for them to articulate a common agenda against the stranglehold of their exploiters.
Therefore, the organisation of SSC ought to help those communities divided into two or more states to decide to either keep their present boundary or make representation for adjustment. If Nigerians are truly fighting for justice, freedom and equity, then as a moral principle we cannot accept as sacrosanct and immutable the boundaries created by either the forces of occupation led by British colonialist or Nigerian Military despots that enslaved and destabilised Nigeria. There is a need to adjust these boundaries in the light of fair play, truth, common sense, reality and social cohesion. This shall be one of the items on the agenda of the SSC. We cannot continue to run away from the truth of our enslavement. In order to secure true freedom we must establish the truth of our existence, why we have recorded such a dismal failure as a society and we must face the consequences of truth. The consequences of truth are nothing else than spiritual and political freedom. It is only as a freeborn we can negotiate the political arrangement that will suit our human nature and promote unity, progress and prosperity in our communities.
Organising the SSC is partly in recognition of the present geopolitical arrangement of the country. However, we need to note that state governments have equally imbibed the culture of economic exploitation and political domination as practiced by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Every atrocity found at the federal level is being repeated many folds at the state level. Most state governments in the federation are forces of occupation. This evidence of tyrannical rule, though a normal practice during the military force of occupation, ought not to continue under a democratic regime. However, in the last four years, the State Governors and their agents have adopted the insolence habits of treating the local governments as sidekicks. They have exercised the power, just like the FGN, to withhold budgetary allocation to erring Chairman of Local Government, to arbitrarily take possession of the assets and resources of local government, and to over-reach in their interventions on local government affairs, policy and administration.
These are evidences of despotism even in a nascent democracy. It only confirmed that the state governments are colonial authorities. The people of the states never delegated the power the government is ruthlessly exercising over them. The people of the state never formally acceded to the constitution under which state government derives its legitimacy. Most of the population have not even seen a copy of the constitution promulgated on their behalf but without their input. The present state governments, despite their posturing to the contrary, are agents of the Federal Government. They are willing tools in the present arrangement to keep the status quo. If these assertions were true, would the organisers of SSC be waiting on these saboteurs to support the initiatives?
In mentioning the above, we are trying to help SSC organisers to remember that the enemy they have to contend with is right in their houses and not in Abuja or Sokoto. The political feudal lords from every part of Nigeria are members of a single cult. They have derived so much comfort from the status quo since 1960. The political families that run the affairs of Nigeria have colluded over the years to keep the majority of Nigerians out of the gravy train. The names and pedigrees of the representatives from each state in this political cult have remained unchanged since 1960. It will therefore be foolish to depend on this calibre of Nigerians to reorganise the political structure that has served their families so well. Once again, we would wish to alert Nigerians that we must not trust all the levels of government and their officials with the organisation of the sovereign conference project. We must be vigilant to identify and to remove their leprous fingers throughout the stages of the project.
Sovereign Ethnic Conference (SEC)
There has been a lot of sloganeering with respect to the important position of ethnicity in the political equation of Nigeria. The proponents of Sovereign National Conference (SNC) have actually based their arguments on the need to accord each ethnic group a central position as nations and equal partners in the Federation of Nigeria. The argument put forward has drawn its strength from the principle that the sovereignty of each ethnic group in a federating state is an inalienable right and therefore the rights to self-determination cannot and should not be withheld from the ethnic groups or nations.
To accept the principle of Ethnic Sovereignty will naturally lead to the articulation and determination of the rights and privileges that must accrue to sovereign ethnic groups. This philosophical manner of thinking and the effort to actualise the deductive principles have raised fears in the minds of those who have assumed all along that the ownership rights of Nigeria belongs to them by divine allocation. The argument of Ethnic Sovereignty is therefore tantamount to sedition in the eyes of the owners of Nigeria. As a result, the hidden owners of Nigeria through their spoke-persons have consistently challenged the sovereignty project as a road to disintegration.
Only political fools will fail to understand the position of the opponents of the sovereignty principle. The enemies of SNC are quite right in their reasoning. The call to accept the sovereignty principle of each person, each family, each community, each state and each ethnic group is a call for the disintegration of the status quo. To pretend otherwise is to be mischievous and hypocritical with the truth. There is no reason to hide the truth of the matter from all concerned.
What the proponents of SNC are saying, though in a politically correct manner, is:
- That they are aware of their subservient positions in the present structure of Nigeria.
- That they have decided to reject this position now and forever.
- That they have a mission to seize the natural rights bestowed on every person by the creator of life.
- And that they are no longer afraid to declare openly to the hearing of all concerned their mission of securing freedom, equality and justice for all.
If the proponents of sovereign conferences are afraid to declare this mission openly then they are not ready for freedom. We need not tell them that those who are holding the rein of power of Nigeria as owners of an ungodly empire secured by shedding the blood of innocent peoples would not sit idle without fighting back to thwart the sovereignty project with blood as usual. But it is the duty of the canvassers of sovereign conferences to tell the covert owners of Nigeria simply but firmly that those of us bearing the burden of enslavement are no longer willing to cooperate and live with servitude.
- That we, the hitherto forsaking indigenous people of Nigeria, have suffered enough and are now resolve to uphold our natural rights to self-determination as we manage the resources the creator of life in its mercies gave to our ancestors and which we are mandated to inherit and pass on to our posterity by the inalienable natural rights of inheritance.
- That we are aware of the history of our political disenfranchisement and economic deprivation of all that was ours by right and that we are prepared to redress the atrocities perpetrated on our ancestors by the invading forces of villainy from the East and west of the world.
- That we are prepared to forgive all those that stole our lands, destroyed our culture and enslaved our lives for five centuries but we are no longer prepared to abide by their inhuman rules of economic, social and political slavery any more.
It is under this conviction that the struggle for liberty, justice and equality can have meaning. Any pretence that the sovereignty project is otherwise is a testimony to our unpreparedness to do battle with the evil of our time. It is a testimony that we are still riddled with fear and inferiority complexes. It is a testimony common among southern politicians and ‘non-core northern’ politicians who are ready to eat their cake and have it at the same time. It is a testimony that we are willing to sell our souls for the price of pottage; and it is a testimony that we are ready to negotiate and to exchange our birthrights for cheap political appointments, government contracts and monetary gains.
In the past ten years, a host of ethnic groups have taken the bull of sovereignty by the horn and have gone ahead in various forums to articulate the needs of their ethnic groups. Some have even produced constitutions for the political structure and administration of their groups. These efforts are commendable but it seems the organisers are falling into the same moral error or quagmire as the Federal Government of Nigeria. This unilateral action of concerned but non-elected sons and daughters of the soil may eventually impose an unwanted political structure on the lower levels of sovereignty – family, community, local and state. Beyond the sovereignty of a person, adjudged as inalienable, competent authorities delegated by appointment, or selection or election must negotiate the political arrangements of all the other higher levels of sovereignty. No matter how highly concerned any of us is, it is immoral to impose our ideas and wishes on the people whom we wish to see freed.
What we shall advise at this stage is that concerned knowledgeable Nigerians that have participated in the unconstitutional ethnic forums should take the intellectual gains of such participation to their individual communities and promote the organisation of Sovereign Community Conference as passionately as they have done in the aforementioned ethnic forums.
Like a weaver, let the job of weaving a New Nigeria start from the lowest level of social organisation. Let us see how tolerant each of us is, even at the community level, where the supposedly illiterate members of our communities can have the opportunity to challenge our highfaluting ideas about society. We must not repeat the same mistake of instituting a regional or ethnic government based on covert ownership rights by a cabal of educated elites or professional politicians. No Nigerian is available for slavery anymore. The whole idea of a Sovereign Conference is to abolish all signs of servitude and slavery in Nigeria. It is not to give opportunities to some local kingpins to usurp the control of the present immoral and inhuman political structure of governance.
If we can do excellent jobs at the SCC, SLC and SSC, the Sovereign Ethnic Conference would be easy and less cumbersome. The volume of materials that would emanate from each level of the conferences shall be enough to set the agenda of the SEC. However, the first task before the SEC shall be reconciliation of age-long differences among the sub-ethnic groups. For any ethnic group to behave as if everything is fine within is to lose sight of the record of history. We all know that there is no ethnic group without internal strife, rancour and endemic contentions on trivial and serious matters.
For example, it will be the height of tomfoolery for the people of Yoruba or Ndiigbo or Ijaw or Idoma ethnic nations to refuse to recognise and acknowledge some of the historical differences that have continued to mar human relationships and social, economic and political cooperation among their sub-ethnic groups. There are vivid memories of injustices and inequities within each ethnic group perpetrated not by outsiders but by the members of the same ethnic group against their near and distant cousins. Unless members of each ethnic group can recognise these human errors of the past and are willing to stretch forth a clean hand of peace and love after offering due apologies on behalf of their ancestors for all the atrocities committed against their kinsmen, then it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to fashion a truly harmonious political structure of administration at the ethnic level.
We must not take the Sovereign Conferences project as a superficial or cosmetic exercise. We should not see it as a jamboree for political and professional orators to parade their wares or for scholars to demonstrate their erudition in political theories. The Sovereign Conferences should remain a forum of last resort to genuinely seek answers to the simple problem of human needs, human welfare, societal cohesion, institutional arrangement that will conveniently satisfy our common pursuit for human happiness and comfort.
In addition, the sovereign conference should be specifically and fundamentally an avenue to heal the spiritual ailments in the communities and in the souls of peoples of Nigeria. We cannot live in sin and expect the grace and blessing of the creator of life to multiply in our societies, so says one of the scriptures.
There are too many sins of omission and commission in our hearts and in our lands. The present malady bedevilling us are the result and the fruit of the historical wrongs that we are yet to correct. The spiritual solution for all human transgressions is repentance. We can cover up deliberate mistakes committed in ignorance but when each of us has come into the knowledge of truth and have gained wisdom, the onus fall on us to make amends as quickly as possible. It is the only sensible step to win back divine peace into our lives.
Dear Fellow Nigerians, let the healing of wounds that began at the Sovereign Family Conference continue in earnest to the Sovereign Ethnic Conference. No pretences, no lies, no clever manipulation of kinsmen to secure political advantage; let us put all our cards on the table. We must recognise our shortcomings as human beings and we must continue to struggle with everything in our souls to overcome them.
In The Spirit of Truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Common Concerned Nigerian
24 December 2002