REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA X FILES by Muyiwa Sowemimo

There are undoubtedly Nigerians from different walks of life with their experiences of Nigeria and many may include sacrifices made. Be it the ordinary Nigerian in remote villages; the retired old man who was a young man when Nigeria was still under British governance or during the Civil War; average Nigerian in different states feeling short of proper police justice; youths who have gone astray due to impoverished family units, or; even Diaspora Nigerians who feel their statuses as Nigerian emigrants automatically stereotypes them whether in South Africa or elsewhere. All will have their stories no less important to tell. The hope is where their stories are of less than ideal returns from their government as citizens of Nigeria; one day their sense of imbalances in public government will be a thing of the past.

At this time in Nigeria’s history therefore when people had it in mind as campaign slogans encouraged, to vote for change in 2015 national elections. In the wake of national electoral body having declared by in large that the peoples wish for change has become a step towards possible reality; in victory of the opposition party, APC that promised change. Various opinion articles are being written about what the President Elect’s focus should be.

Personal assorted experiences of this writer in Nigeria as a lawyer in private occupation, a political science post graduate in casual hobby musings, and, from privy knowledgeable snip bits discussions of what I call Nigeria’s X files; has prodded my conscience to add to opinion articles. What the reader takes out of any personal narration will depend on the mind of the reader. Though personal snip bits narration are intended to draw out the essence of achieving great heights in public service for the greater good of Nigeria, Africa. Not going into public service for power sakes or personal wealth. And; equally draw out existing challenges of a multi ethnic society even for best of statesmen. With conclusions, fluctuations of a multi ethnic society should not at this stage in Nigeria be forgotten, for thinking that waging war against corruption is the end of all. On account of how even best friends of different ethnic groups can though remaining best friends; along the lines realising that as different proud ancient origin nations under a united states of Nigeria, there must be an all out radical progressive nature of nation building for nations within nation to rest at peace as equals. The personal narration will explain better.

The average Nigerian and many Africans generally will be familiar with name of late General Muritala Mohammed. His picture is on Nigerian N20 currency note. He died in office in late 1970s as a military head of state on his way to work driving himself and having been struck down by an assassin’s bullet. He died for many Africans as an African martyr not long after giving a speech at African heads of state conference in Angola declaring Africa has come of Age. Less is known of his non military different ethnic groups’ kitchen cabinet members. One of such interesting members was someone I will just refer to as the late Jaguna.

Late Jaguna was a political advisor to then head of state. It was not the first time late General Muritala Mohammed had been planned to be assassinated. I gather from a still surviving childhood friend of late Jaguna, that Jaguna a card carrying member of international communist party who had his ways from his student days in UK in 1940s had risked his own life and previously saved someone who had become like his brother, General Muritala Mohammed, in a tip off about previous conspiracies. Much was said about late Jaguna’s closeness to the far North Muslim political establishment. But late Jaguna was equally brother like close to Christian Middle Belt high brass officers of General TY Danjuma, late Generals Adamu, and, Jalo and several others, and; had equally been of service to General Gowon as head of state before late General Muritala Mohammed.

Late General Katsina Hassan is said to have mused in privy that Sobo should have been the first Nigerian millionaire but when he comes to see us all he discusses is politics. By all standards late Jaguna was a Fabian, whose genuineness, without personal interests, endeared him in private friendship of more publicly known personalities (as well as endeared him in quiet corridors of power). Late Jaguna built a political bridge of immense influence but it was all largely for his Fabian quiet public service interests and not for enrichment. Aside from being interwoven with intellectually inclined high brass military officers of both Christian as well as Muslim backgrounds. Late Jaguna was also intricately interwoven with far Northern Muslim political and business establishment of the likes of Ahmed Joda, Bamanga Tukur, late Mai Deribe, Aminu Dantata, Shehu Malami, late M.D. Yusuf and, so on. Extending his brotherly largesse as a lawyer at times, without really being a business man lawyer but a perfect Yoruba gentleman friend.

It was therefore a surprise to see late Jaguna taunting the far Northern political establishment circa 1996 by stereotyping the North as feudal lords in newspaper articles. The group he was querying; amongst them were indeed very very close friends and; only close friends can have one side sudden intense difference as it turned out and yet their bonds not become an everlasting breakup. I had pointed out to late Jaguna that my own generational far Northern friends were questioning why he was taunting the far North and; that was when the reply shot back: “Do they know who I am to the North”. It’s safe to say late Jaguna was having a public discourse with people across the River Niger amongst whom some were not only close friends, but assuredly mutual political confidants. As a lawyer, undoubtedly late Jaguna knew the difference between this or that Northerner and never called out any particular names.

Remarkable words indeed and; true enough under X files, the more you may understand no empty relationship talk. To make it more interesting, it was circa 1996 and late maxim ruler, General Sanni Abacha was Head of State. The Yoruba man was traditional High Chief of Egba, a tribal clan of Yoruba, the Jaguna of Egba (generalissimo of Egbas), a SAN, and, co principal partner with his predecessor, late Chief Remi Fani-Kayode (QC) (SAN)  of then Fani-Kayode & Sowemimo law firm.

The level of trust the old guard North had in late Jaguna went as far as that on day Buhari was over thrown as military head of state by IBB; I gathered that Buhari had otherwise been expected at Lagos Airport and it was Jaguna’s personal private driver that was to have picked him up. Clearly the Jaguna’s quiet backroom discussions in governance cut across an assortment of personalities, and, he was selective. Jaguna was what a Yoruba diplomat (late Ambassador Afolabi) referred to me for the first time in description as a Fabian or; rather the equivalent of a Nigerian Fabian. Fabian being a British political term for member or supporter of Fabian Society. An organisation of socialists aiming to achieve socialism by gradual rather than revolutionary means.

The decoded message the Jaguna was sending circa 1996 was that there had become an urgent need for his associated power block, the far North elites, to review their conservative natural political inclination for a more strident progressivism. With what later happened with emergence of Islamic terrorists Boko Haram group in North East, targeting even conservative far Northerners. Only a close friend can see the road ahead, say it to your face, all at risk of being misunderstood. I gathered the latter from late Jaguna private concerns of the type “do they (far north) not see how Saudi Arabia have ensured their people are generally relatively well off”. I asked him why he never visited them personally; and decoding his reply; at that time circa 1996 even a few members of the far North who were more progressives were under watch.

 

Where a (Yoruba) man was taken as a brother by other ethnic groups, and; vice versa (as a number of his other ethnic associates personally or one family member or the other were occasionally family guests back then when Lagos was federal capital and when other ethnic group friends who were not so familiar with Lagos).  Yet still in the end the Jaguna grew very concerned with the fact that despite having dedicated his life to a national agenda. A multi ethnic society was proving as it had done all over world history books; to be a perpetuating explosive feature in Nigerian affairs.

The message the Jaguna sought to send and never lived long enough to engage his friends on; is food for thought. Though a detached political analyst could take the view as follows. Whole of Africa is a feudal continent still. Other African citizens and not just Nigerians daily risk their lives fleeing from pharaoh like societies to dreams of a more egalitarian society in Europe. On internal power sharing structure in Nigeria, whatever opinions others may have, the far North elites cannot be blamed for appearing to in the past have seized over-riding power. All the realities of managing a diverse large multi ethnic nation just happened for following reason. As in any multi ethnic society, no matter how small, there typically arises a region for one reason or the other that has a perceived upper hand and has tendency to play that hand.

This is known as realpolitik or hegemony or, if one considers the input of former colonials, divide and rule. Nigeria since independence in 1960 has been plagued by such ethnic competition. Which has largely contributed to corruption in the form of nepotism (politicians from respective ethnic groups having to be compensated with political offices based on ethnic ‘federal character’ and those offices being seen as the particular cake of respective ethnic group in particular office). Probability of multi ethnic political competition being a continuing subtle and at times intense open feature is high. Trying to cut the surface of the cancer without removing the deeper deeper cancerous roots will continue to haunt Nigerians.

Fighting corruption is needed no doubt and is the most prominent expectation of 2015 President Elect (alongside other prominent expectation of defeating terrorists in North East Nigeria). Followed closely by other drastic challenges such as: a still useless national electricity supply; a none existing telephone land line service; the bizarre anomaly of a crude oil reserves nation importing refined oil due to deficiencies in local refineries; a science and technology including health sector that is base; a bare knuckle educational sector that breeds cultism out of misdirection of youths; a comatose industrial and manufacturing sector; too slow urbanization with major commercial urbanization limited to just a few cities (Lagos, and, Kano) rather than rapid augmented or revamped urbanization of other major cities in each of the 34 remaining states (to remove the concerns of indigenes that their states are being taken over by non indigenes who  relocate understandably for better city life opportunities) and; ultimately how, after era of the last old guard non corrupt political personality in person of General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), successive politicians will stay on track.

With the myriad of expectations on President Elect to achieve in four years of a government’s tenure. Needless to say, fixing what is really an over sixty years old problem that stretches back to the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 by the British, can hardly be expected to be completely achieved in four years.  An umbrella expectation of President Elect is better put as stabilizing the nation and putting it as largest African population nation back on track, as once hoped African shepherd superpower. Under the latter umbrella heading, the following as everyone expects should be there:

 

  • An electricity power supply policy to boost or review now privatized electricity sector, with simple objective as follows – accelerate reforms to guarantee regular power supply in shortest near terms. Nigeria has been deceiving itself all these years as giant of Africa that cannot power its economy.

 

  • Internal and territorial border security needs to be zeroed into, and, life and property in Nigeria for citizens, foreign business men, and, would be tourists be a matter of as humanly safe as possible. This means the armed forces need to be restored to professionalism and return of track record of its combatant achievements in Liberia past peace keeping intervention. A new police bill or policing review policy to be considered to completely over haul the police service in Nigeria (with new training programmes, more sophisticated equipment, removal of officers that do not past tests, and, employment opportunities to attract a higher caliber of professionalism). The judiciary system at federal and state level also needs to be reviewed and up to task of providing the people with consumerate re assuring remedial justice services. All the aforementioned, will equally go a significant long way to boosting foreign and local investments; which can further aide: diversifying the economy, and, propel commercial urbanization of more cities in more of the 36 states of Nigeria including infrastructural development.

 

  • Anti graft agencies (including police in its traditional role of as an independent arm of government and not subordinate to politicians) should not only work to uncover corruption. But also geared to weed out corrupt politicians and civil servants who are not reconciling with the opportunity to change (and or need to be more publicly conscious with funds that came into their hands from the past or funds that are required to be managed by them under new government).

 

Aside from the more obvious above expectations, I would add, not far unlike as fiscal federalists or constitutionalists or regionalists and generally different shades of nonetheless passionate nationalists have considered, the following:

One way or the other going back to the very foundation of Nigeria, and, the short of long of doing this without long talk of ruffling feathers of those who are worried that the talk is about breaking up Nigeria; is to review commonwealth foundation of over an incredible number of over 250 different tribes grouped together under a United Nations of Nigeria. In any case another constitutional conference would be a waste of time; as the politicians of today are still not geared to same level of public service as founding politicians. A presidential special committee can instead be raised to review and make recommendations to National Assembly as regards basis of commonwealth as summarized in Chapter 2 of the Constitution: Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy and; the President learn how to effectively play congressional politics to win National Assembly to his side. The President Elect, when he was military head of state in the 1980s, approach was previous attempt to discipline society in a programme known as War Against Indiscipline. (WAR). President Elect therefore is not oblivious to concern that there is something wrong with the national spirit of the citizenry. As it stands as regards the commonwealth objectives, Chapter 2 of the Constitution is arguably no longer current, since privatization of several national public services went underway under former President Obasanjo’s 2007 Federal Government. As Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy is arguably meant to be geared to a nationalization policy, as opposed to privatization. Again ironically just how many hundreds of years realistically might it take to fully realise S.15 (3) – “For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the State to: …. (c) encourage inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin…” And; where it may be realized and a real united states of Nigeria is created; has such inter-racial coupling created racial harmony in the United States of America? As it stands even more ironically no legal action can be taken on Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. Because it is none actionable legally, and, as a lawyer this is strange, and, an X files matter Nigerians generally and not just lawyers really need to push the frontiers of. Such opinion musings requires time to fully discuss in engagement with Nigerians. One, like good intentioned Nigerians, ends wishing 2015 Mr. President Elect: the type of futuristic free society wisdom, and, courage of Abraham Lincoln; the absorbed statesman craft of late Lee Kuan Yew in creating an Asian post colonial miracle in Singapore; the type of national inspiration exuded in JFK’s kitchen cabinet, and; the fortitude luck to be one of the few African heads of state that leaves a succession legacy that continues. By and by if Nigeria is Republic; why do we call our leaders Their Excellencies? Is Mr President not more republic like? Is Nigeria really a Republic or are we all not really serfs under different ethnic feudalists in all regions? Thank God for Nigeria X files nation building it is a far Northerner Mr. President Elect that has it in mind to start down playing such affairs. S.A.O. SOWEMIMO