REJIGGING NIGERIA: Can the Country be saved by the Convocation of Sovereign National Conference (SNC
REJIGGING NIGERIA: Can the Country be saved by the Convocation of Sovereign National Conference (SNC)?
By Segun Sango
Bluntly put, every socio-economic and political facet of Nigeria can be called a disaster. Nothing works in every critical departments of the economy. Nigeria’s stupendous natural and human resources have not been deployed to make a positive impact on the economic and living conditions of most Nigerians. Nigeria’s political regimes for most part of the country’s existence have been far from ideal. Nigeria remains at the bottom of the ladder internationally in the areas of healthcare delivery, education and crucial modern socio-economic infrastructures. Officially, leading politicians in and out of government in Nigeria belong to the category of the highest-paid rulers in the world. When they are not crippling Nigeria’s economic prospect with their fat jumbo salaries and allowances, they will be busy looting the country’s resources through one pro-capitalist policy or another.
Expectedly, the combinations of all of these factors have engendered social crises that in turn provoke serious concern among Nigerians about the desirability of keeping the country as a corporate political entity. In this regard, the development of a right-wing and reactionary Islamic group popularly known as Boko Haram has only acted to heighten the fears of many about the desirability or practicality of keeping Nigeria as a corporate entity in the long run. On top of the unresolved nationality issues troubling many parts of Nigeria, the Boko Haram group has presently, through its bombings and regular killings in many states in the northern part of the country, with special murderous attacks on churches under the alleged quest to make the country an Islamic republic, raised to the front burner of public discourse the old question of whether to keep Nigeria as a corporate entity and if so under what terms. According to the demographic figures inherited from the former colonial masters and creator of Nigerian state the country’s population is almost roughly divided into equal half by both Muslims and Christians.
There has been a resurgence and cacophonic calls by several political groups for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) with a view to determine whether Nigeria should be retained as a corporate entity and if so to democratically and mutually agree on acceptable terms for co-existence. On the other side of the spectrum are also several notable elements insisting that Nigeria is “one indivisible and a non-negotiable entity”. On our part, as socialists, right from inception, given the historical background that Nigeria’s creation was completely done without the democratic participation and consent by different nationalities and tribes that make up the country, we have always upheld the inalienable democratic rights of Nigerians as the ultimate power to determine whether Nigeria should be one, which we socialists advocate, and on what terms. The unity of Nigeria has to be voluntary, which is why socialists support the right of self-determination. But we also warn that any separation from Nigeria would not resolve the issues facing the new country unless there was also a break from capitalism.
As socialists, we very much appreciate the fact that having the inalienable right to determine whether Nigeria should be retained as a corporate entity or broken up into smaller entities cannot now fully ensure that Nigerians or the people living in its various subsequent entities will have a guaranteed access to commensurate economic development and decent living standard. The socialists are totally different from all political trends that regard the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference as an automatic solution to Nigeria’s numerous, economic, religious and nationality crisis. We strongly hold the position that Nigeria can be retained as a corporate entity and its diverse nationalities and people having a guaranteed decent living only on the basis of a socialist transformation that runs the entire economy and society on the basis of genuine needs and aspirations of the people economically and politically.
THE OPPONENT OF AN SNC
However, as socialists, we totally disagree with all those who argue that Nigeria is “one indivisible entity” whose corporate existence is not even subject to discussion and changes by Nigerians. In combating this wrong and false view point, we should note that Nigeria as a corporate political entity only came into existence in 1914. Before this date, the various nationalities, tribes and groups that subsequently made up the country now called Nigeria had never been under one political, military or economic administration. We also note that the British colonialists, the founder of Nigeria never consulted, let alone secured the consent of the diverse nations and tribes that make up the present Nigeria. We equally note that the different Nigerian ruling elites that have been ruling Nigeria in one way or the other before and since after independence have never really permitted a process wherein the Nigerian people can democratically decide whether to keep Nigeria as a corporate entity and if yes, on what basis. Under colonial rule and before independence in 1960, there were some cacophonic calls for the creation of additional regional governments from the then existing Northern region, Eastern region and the Western region. As a response, the British colonial government set up a special public commission popularly called ‘The Willink Commission’ to look into what it terms ‘the fears of the minorities’ in the post independence era and propose ‘the means to allay those fears’. Significantly, the ruling elites of all the major nationalities in Nigeria, i.e. the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbos and the Yorubas, all stoutly opposed the agitations of the minority nationalities for the creation of additional regions for the people of the minority areas. In post independence period, on the basis of narrow and self-centered political and strategic calculations of the ruling elites of the Hausa-Fulani and the Igbo nationalities, the mid-west region was created out of the western region while stoutly rejecting the agitations for the creations of the middle belt region and the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers State from the northern region and eastern region respectively.
Six years after independence, the Nigerians state was engulfed by an almost 30-month civil war which threatened to end the history of Nigeria as a country. The military officers, who were then in power, backed by the ruling elites of the northern and western regions respectively, cleverly and arbitrarily, divided Nigeria into 12 states (a development which to a considerable extent, met the agitation and demands of nationalist groups across Nigeria), a strategy which largely helped to isolate and defeat the country called Biafra which itself was created by the military officers and ruling elites of the Igbos nationality. Thus, it can be stated without any fear of contradiction that the idea of Nigeria’s creation and its retention as a corporate entity had always been faced with serious agitations by interest groups before and since after independence. For a considerable period of years after the civil war ended in 1970 and largely based on stupendous incomes from petrodollars, these agitations considerably receded to the background in many cases. But after several years of the rapacious pillaging and looting of Nigeria’s natural resources and finances by the combination of imperialists, capitalists, corporations and their representatives and ruling elites across Nigeria, the country has once again been pushed to the edge of political disintegration.
Presently, there exist several centrifugal forces seeking the ‘restructuring’ or the ‘demise’ of Nigeria as a corporate entity. Largely too, the ferocious and murderous activities of the Boko Haram groups, which has resulted in the killings of thousands of Nigerians and its special attacks on churches and members of other Nigerian nationalities that live in certain part of northern region, (a phenomenon that has caused enormous loss of properties and complete dislocation of their owners) has equally sharply posed the question of whether Nigeria should be retained as a corporate entity and by what means. In response to this political development, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, warns against habouring the idea of dismembering the country as the army was prepared to pay the supreme price in defending the unity of the country. (Vanguard, November 25, 2011). Socialists propose and will defend the idea that Nigeria should be preserved as a corporate entity in our campaigns and agitations before and during the convocation of a genuine and democratically elected Sovereign National Conference. We are nonetheless totally opposed to the false, messianic and militaristic disposition of the Chief of Army Staff quoted above and all elements that support that kind of view point. But we are not defending the current Nigeria state, socialists stand for a united movement of Nigerians to achieve a workers and poor government that acts in the interests of the vast majority and not the competing groups of exploiters.
THE BOURGEOIS PROPONENTS OF AN SNC
There are certain dangerous and undemocratic propositions being made by sections of the bourgeois ruling elites that are calling for convocation of a Sovereign National Conference to rejig Nigeria. We specifically reject the idea that representation to the SNC being advocated be simply based on ethnic origins/nationalities. Whatever anybody may say, Nigeria as a country, will be hundred years old in 2014, just about one year and a little from now. Thus there has developed over the preceding years, a certain degree of co-existence, occupational and residual interactions/intermarriages between the diverse nationalities and groups that make the present day Nigeria. In today’s Nigeria, it is not possible to have an SNC that can properly and justly represent the economic needs and political aspirations of the citizens of mega cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Jos, etc. with their heterogeneous origins and religions. Socialists will vigorously campaign that representation at the envisaged SNC be based and dominated by democratically elected representatives of workers, poor farmers, petty traders, youths and students, rank and file members of the armed security forces and the generality of the poor in totality.
THE SOCIALISTS STAND POINT ON THE SNC
As have been repeatedly expressed above, the socialists fully support the democratic rights of the Nigerians themselves to democratically determine whether Nigeria should be kept as a corporate entity and if so, to mutually agree on the modalities for such co-existence. We equally insist that the SNC being advocated and its decisions must be fully sovereign and never to be based on the veto powers of the elements in power. We equally hold the firm believe that the nationality struggle i.e. the struggle to democratically determine the fate of Nigeria as a corporate entity, and the struggle to ensure decent living standard for the people of the various component parts of Nigeria are one and dialectically connected struggle.
Socialists maintain that the working masses must combine the struggle to achieve their national democratic aspirations and decent living standard as one struggle. Consequently, socialists hold the believe that the working masses of all nationalities across Nigeria would need to engage in collective political struggle to remove the current profit-driven and narrow minded capitalist elements from political power in order to achieve genuine and peaceful co-existence among the various nationalities and groups that make up Nigeria. As we always argue, the building of a powerful pan-Nigerian socialist political platform led by the working class, poor farmers and the youths who in contrast to the prevailing unjust order strive to build a society wherein the stupendous natural and human resources of Nigeria are maximally harnessed to meet the basic economic and political needs of every Nigerian constitutes the only realistic way to ensure that the prevailing capitalist ruling elites from all the nationalities are defeated. The outlined political ideas shall form the basis upon which members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) will continue to conduct their political relationship especially within the working class and left movement and against all capitalist parties and trends in Nigeria.