The contention by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that the cracks in the structure of the federation could lead to a collapse of the edifice is not new in any way. Many scholars, opposition figures, activists and foreigners have predicted that the Nigerian nation may soon fail if nothing is done to halt the rate of degradation of the foundation. It’s instructive that the vice president, a Professor of Law, said so on the country’s 60th Independence anniversary, and at a service to mark the celebration.
The vice president has always been known to be reticent. He has always tried to steer a middle course in intervening in national discourse, and has been attacked many times for refraining from pushing the call for restructuring of the federation. So, coming up with such a position that tends to suggest that a lot is wrong with the federation as it is, is considered alarming in some quarters.
While some Nigerians have given a different meaning, suggesting that all may not be well with the leadership to the view, others think it suggests that the vice president is trying to step out of the shadow as the end of his tenure is at hand. Whatever may be the reason, it has brought to the fore, once again, the fact that the restructuring debate is not one that could be pushed to the back burner. It is an indication that the national question is one that must be answered, and now, too.
It is interesting that ethnic associations such as Afenifere, Ohanaeze and the Northern Elders Forum have all supported the quest of the vice president. We see this as a welcome development. While we agree that this could have been done earlier, it is still not too late to revisit the structure of the federation, as it is clear that the current system is not working. Many foreign commentators even thought it would have collapsed before now. All that could go wrong with, and in a country, has gone wrong with Nigeria. Elections have always been a serious cause for friction and conflict. Violence continually attends electoral contests, giving the impression that the tottering ship of state would soon sink. It is a miracle that this has not happened.
That we have always survived just at the point that the country approaches that precipice should not be taken for granted. Conflicts along ethnic, religious and class lines are not strange to plural societies. But, history has taught us that the way to survive is to enthrone noble ideals such as equity, justice and support for the vulnerable. Where the leaders are not known to be sincere, the state becomes even the more dysfunctional and the country could sink into the rank of failed states. When the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), despite its size and strength, refused to pay attention to such forces, it disintegrated. The domino effect was felt all over the world as a bipolar world order became unipolar. The United Kingdom did not know peace until it found accommodation for the quest of the Irish in Northern Ireland, and the demand for devolution of power to the Scots. Spain is still buffeted by the Catalan crisis.
The Nigerian Civil War lasted 30 months at a time the world was not this sophisticated; any other push to internal resurrection or war based on ethnic or religious divide would have catastrophic effect which we cannot afford. In recent time, even religious leaders considered conservative have spoken on the need for a restructuring based on the people’s clamour. President Muhammadu Buhari cannot insist on retaining Nigeria as it is. It does him no credit that he leaves a disintegrating Nigeria, more difficult to piece together, to his successor. The last year of his administration is no time to take action. Former President Goodluck Jonathan did so and it led the country nowhere. As it was with the Obasanjo regime, so it was with the Jonathan government. Repeating the same mistakes would only show that successive administrations have little room for patriotism and nationalism. Nigeria should be saved, and only a discussion of the way forward, steered by sincere leaders, could save the country. This house must not be allowed to collapse.
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