Face Faced with the challenges of growing poverty, insecurity and corruption, Nigerians from diverse ethno-geographical and religious backgrounds seem united on the need to restructure the Nigerian federation. With the inability of successive administrations since the start of the Fourth Republic in 1999 to ensure the welfare and security of the Nigerian people, restructuring has now become the holy grail of good governance, the final solution and the silver bullet that will kill the corruption-induced economic crisis. as well as insecurity.
But the problem with the restructuring claim is the lack of unity among its proponents as to the appropriate definition. Depending on which side of the divide you belong to, “restructuring” could mean control of resources, regional autonomy, decentralization of powers or the imposition of sharia, a clear reflection of Nigeria’s deep-rooted internal contradictions. These contradictions are believed to be the result of the British colonial experiment of creating a modern nation from a multiplicity of ethnic nationalities through the merger of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914. This process is generally believed to be in which the people concerned had had no say, as they had not been consulted on the nature and form of the emerging modern state of Nigeria within which they were to live, continued to create socio-political tensions that severely test the very foundations of national unity.
Many also believe that there is an urgent need to renegotiate the terms and conditions of the unity of the Nigerian nation by the Nigerian people. However, the clamor for restructuring along ethnic lines is retrograde, a recipe for Nigeria’s suffocation.
No nation on earth has a perfect state structure, as each case is a work in progress. Nigeria’s structure is no exception. Its problem is not so much one of structure as the functioning of the structure by various operators of state affairs at all levels and branches of government. Nigerians yearn for “true federalism” in the mold of the semi-autonomous federating units of the First Republic. But the romanticization of the First Republic masks the fact that the 1963 Constitution did not quite work because it created a conflict between national citizenship and regional indigénat, a bulwark against national unity and cohesion.
The failure of the rulers of the First Republic to resolve the issue of national identity and lay the solid foundations of a united and cohesive nation remained the scourge of Nigeria’s national socio-economic underdevelopment.
No nation was divinely created. In the process of evolution towards nation-states, colonialism plays and continues to play a vital role through trade, diplomacy and, in some cases, conquest through war. These interactions have their pains and their gains. The focus on the pains of colonialism by pan-African historians has obscured its enormous gains. Britain, the colonial master of Nigeria, was first conquered by the Normans and later colonized by the Romans. The name “Britain” is believed to be the anglicised form of the Roman “Britannia”. The untaught lessons of our colonial experience are the strength in the unity of the British people, which grew from a small island nation of around 18 million people to colonize a country of 50 million people at the time .
The systematic conquest of the various kingdoms and city-states that make up Nigeria by the British was possible because the indigenous peoples did not present a united front against external aggression. The British individually engaged each native kingdom and each city-state in diplomacy, trade and warfare to facilitate the process of colonization for their benefit, otherwise no nation on earth could have conquered a united Nigeria in its present form.
Interestingly, an unintended benefit of colonialism was a coalescence of diverse indigenous peoples into larger ethnic groups through backward integration of sub-ethnic groups into larger tribes that led to a new identity for indigenous peoples, which roughly corresponded to the administrative federating units. these were the regions of the First Republic.
British sociologists and anthropologists, who have conducted a thorough exploration of the British sphere of influence around the Niger region, have managed to isolate and identify similarities in the norms, cultures, traditions and languages of peoples by otherwise distinct, leading to the current ethnic groupings by which Nigerians are identified. Prior to this backward integration, there were no ethnic groups known as Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. In the western region, it was Oyo, Ijebu, Egba, Owu, Ijesha, Ife, etc., with Yoruba as the language of communication. In the Eastern region, they were the Aro, Bende, Ngwa, Ikwere, Onitsha Ado, Wawa, Oru, etc. of the Igbo language. Similarly, in northern Nigeria, the Hausa functioned less as an ethnic group but more as a linguistic group of a cultural commonwealth of ethnic groups who shared commonalities in geography, culture and tradition. The Hausa language has thus been greatly enriched with the original vocabularies of the various adoptive ethnic groups that have come together under the Cultural Commonwealth of Northern Nigeria.
This backward integration was so successful that the various ethnic groups who now identify as Yoruba of the southwestern region of Nigeria fostered a common socio-political identity with which they bargained for a fair share of national resources. Interestingly, the man often credited by historians with working hard for Yoruba political unity in the modern era, Obafemi Awolowo, was an Ijebu, an ethnic group that does not share ancestry with the rest of the Yoruba. Oduduwa. He was greatly helped by no less than one person than Sir Adeyemo Alakija, a Saro (descendant of former slaves repatriated from Brazil). Yoruba identity was further reinforced by the traditional sanction of the Ooni of Ife, who according to some historians is not a descendant of the line of Oduduwa, the patriarch of the seven original ruling dynasties of Yorubaland , as paramount chief of the Yoruba tribe.
Similarly, the Igbo tribe was united under the political leadership of Nnamdi Azikiwe, whose origin can be traced back to Onitsha Ado, a distinct group among the larger Igbo ethnic groups that traces its roots to the ancient kingdom of Benin. The political leader in the North was Ahmadu Bello, a descendant of Fulani migrants from Futa Djallon. His administrative genius was deployed to build a highly cohesive northern region by assimilating and integrating the diverse diverse ethnic groups of the north into an Arewa identity. The culmination of this effort was when Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, son of the servant of the Madaki of Bauchi, whose origins can be traced to the Jarawa, a minority ethnic group in Bauchi province, became Prime Minister of Nigeria with a majority of seats. . won by the APN in the federal parliament of the First Republic. The success of the backward integration of Nigerian peoples and cultures is a clear indicator that we were not really different as a people. We just didn’t realize how intimately connected we were. If the Oyo, Ife, Ijesha and Ijebu resolved to unite under the Yoruba identity, the Aro, Wawa and Bende came together under the leadership of a descendant of the kingdom of Benin through Onitsha Ado, and the confederation of diverse northern ethnicities have assumed a new unified Arewa identity, then they can all come together and adopt a Nigerian identity by way of forward integration. All it will take is a collective resolve to be Nigerians and not so much physical restructuring as a people are what they decide to be.
Consequently, the rigidity with which Nigerians now cling to their ethnic identities, which are largely colonial creations further deepened by the political expediency of our founding fathers and have led to the clamor for restructuring along ethnicities, is a sad story that should have no place. in a modern nation. Nigeria’s diversity is simply the beautiful plumage of a great bird and should not degenerate into fault lines that are largely based on superficial ethnic grouping. We must abandon the rigidity with which we maintain this superficial ethnic identity.
Unfortunately, the desired forward integration of ethnic groups into a Nigerian identity has been hampered by the failure of African social scientists and anthropologists to deepen the study by isolating and identifying the similarities between peoples and Nigerian cultures. The unfortunate practice of some leading intellectuals in Nigeria of reducing public discourse to promoting the ethnic supremacy of one group over another has significantly set back the backward integration that was achieved over six decades ago. , making restructuring along ethnic lines a recipe for endless disintegration.