The future of our Republic
In a sense, the future of our sadly fragile republic lies in the hands of the men and women who currently hold and wield power on our behalf at the national level. I refer to the executive branch of government and the National Assembly. But largely and potentially it also lies in the hands of the mass of the people, the people who have now been given a voice in the practice of democracy. Peoples’ power which matured in the 20th Century has been given a vibrant vent in the 21st century particularly with the capacity of the people to clearly and articulately express their views in spite of opposing forces, in spite of government, especially through the use of social media.
To be sure when our Republic was born, the people did not have the kind of voice which they currently have. But the leaders were conscientious, ready to listen to the voice of the people whom they led. Those who fought for and obtained our independence were quite knowledgeable. They prepared themselves for the task of nationhood both mentally and psychologically. When we read speeches made by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh during the First Republic we get a sense of their perception of what the country should be. These nationalists made long term plans for the nation in agriculture, education, power generation and supply, and steel production. The hope was that Nigeria would ultimately become an economic and political giant. They were also conscious of their territories and the needs of their people; they were also positively competitive in spirit.
Indeed, but for the violent truncation in 1966 by the military it is possible that true federalism would have remained in place. And our national goals would have been achieved. The years of military rule recognized the need to continuously tinker with the States-structure. From the post-war twelve-state structure in 1970, we moved on to 19, and finally to 36 states. However, because essentially the terms of the union were not visited because of the unitary command style of the military, the approach to federalism has remained fashioned in the tradition of command and control. It is this command and control attitude where the constituent parts of the federation are beholden to the centre that restructuring should change. The burdens of leadership and demands of the constituents would significantly be reduced after restructuring.
With the advent of social media there is a vibrant outlet for leaders – political and cultural – to gauge the mood of the country. In the last year of the Jonathan administration it was clear that the PDP government had lost the country to what turned out to be mass hysteria. The followership in the country had succumbed to the narrative of ineptitude which became dominant by the day. The forces which ganged up against him were enormous, formidable and deadly; and the administration did not stand a chance against the Western powers and coalition of domestic forces. A cursory reading of the mood in the country could be gleaned from the Internet at the time.
We are gradually returning to the spirit of mass disenchantment again. It is true that there are millions of extremists parading themselves as spokesmen of the people on blog sites, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Some of the views expressed are outright lies or fabrications. But an aggregate of the views can give us a sense of where we are. Social media is an extension and expression of the brave new world, the world of the youth. The long absence of the President has given rise to the kind of expressions that were reserved for the last administration. Added to this is the negative vibrations emanating from the National Assembly with regard to restructuring the country’s political system.
The onus therefore is on the younger generation to seize the day through democratic means and change the fortunes of this country. As far as I am concerned the fate of the youth in the north is the same as that of their counterparts in the other region. They should not fight one another. Instead they should cross ethnic lines and establish a new political order through a new political framework. Except the current leaders do the unusual and change the trajectory of this country, the entire nation will be in peril. I have had the privilege of spending time in all the regions of the country, from Delta to Rivers to Ado Ekiti to Plateau, Sokoto and Lagos. There is nothing in the DNA among these ethnic groups that promotes hatred or hostility. Ethnic hostility is a social or political construct.
Repression or suppression of ideas is not the answer to widespread clamouring for a particular cause. All issues should be addressed frontally through consensus building. The parable of the calabash in our folklore is instructive. An issue that agitates the mind is like the calabash that is pressed into a river. It will always bubble to the top. No one should be fiat declare that there can be no variables in a dynamic situation, a society that is pulled to all sides by extreme and moderate forces.
President Buhari in my view still enjoys the goodwill of the international community and a good percentage of the local population. However, it is not advisable to make any definite statements about the political class, whether in the PDP or the APC at this time. As usual they started making permutations when the President’s visit became extended beyond what they expected. How much loyalty they will show as they get ready for 2019 is a subject of conjecture!
In concluding this brief essay on the future of our Republic, it is important to reiterate that the advantages of staying together as a re-negotiated nation far outweigh what benefit we may have by staying apart. The perception right now is that the federation is not built on justice, fairness and equity. The current holders of power should remember that if they do not address the burning issues other after them would do so. The soul of the nation and the lives of its citizens are far more important than the ego of any persons or groups.
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