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Opinion

United States Of Nigeria Is Phantasm -By Fola Ojo

Akinwunmi Adesina is presently the President of the African Development Bank. The cerebral economist was also once a Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria. In his traverse and travels as a minister, he must have seen a whole lot. One of the things that I am certain Adesina must have experienced firsthand is the divisiveness of Nigeria as a country and the polarisation that’s rife among Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups. He must have also seen Nigeria’s innate potential for gargantuan economic growth and deft developments in all areas of our national life if certain things are positioned and fastened in the proper place, and the government is run by politicians and civil servants with the love of ordinary Nigerians in mind.

Against the backdrop of what Adesina’s eyes have seen and ears have heard, he sincerely believes that changing the name of Nigeria from the “Federal Republic of Nigeria” to “The United States of Nigeria” will usher in a change in the mindsets of a people who are finding it hard to sincerely get along. Adesina suggested the rebranding odyssey when he received the 2024 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership sometime last month.

“Instead of the Federal Government of Nigeria, we could think of The United States of Nigeria. The old would give way to the new,” these were the words of Adesina.

How viable will Adesina’s suggested experiment be? Will a mere name change alter the fundamental reasons why there are always ethnic suspicions, bountiful bellicosity, and abounding belligerence in every area of Nigerian life? Will a name change wake up natural haters and prod them to hate no more even if someone else who is not their kith and kin is running things in the purlieu of command and control of power and authority? With the extant swirling katzenjammer of ethnic schism and metastasising cries for the Balkanisation of our country, is a united Nigeria possible? I’d love to sit down face to face with Adesina and ask him how hatred can flip to love overnight because we are rechristening Nigeria.

Whether he hails from the northern part of the country or the South, it is a telling and towering truth that the present structural and political arrangement in the Giant of Africa is not working for the ordinary citizen. It is also true that most Nigerians see our togetherness as a callous coercion of an incompatible people by the British, and a cruel continuation of the unworkable arrangement by Nigerians who have always been in the position of leadership.

Ask regular northerners, they’ll tell you that severing their entire region from Nigeria is a welcome idea. Ask the same question in the South-West; its people are just waiting for a signal to leave the fold and flag off the Oduduwa Republic. Take a trip to the South-South and conduct an opinion poll within its people, they feel cheated and robbed by Nigeria, and they prefer to stay independent in steering their crude oil ship. There is no breathing being in the world that does not know where the South-East stands. The Igbo consider Nigeria an entrapment and a starkly unfair and unjust overlord. They want out of what they call a contraption like yesterday, and they’ve once dared it in a civil war that unfortunately claimed millions of lives. How truly united will The United States of Nigeria be as suggested by Adesina? Is a name change the magic wand we’ve always been waiting for so that Nigeria will fulfil its destiny?

A majority of Nigerians believe that the fusion of Nigeria has led to confusion, and it is far from being a marriage made from heaven. The belief of most Nigerians is that if the fusion of Nigeria was an experiment, it has failed in the laboratory of nation-building, and the original intention was etched in dubiety and insincerity. According to the Amalgamation reports addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, The Right Honourable A Bonar Law, the Governor General, wrote immediately after the fusion; “…the year 1914 will ever be a memorable one in the annals of Nigeria, in that it opened with the amalgamation of the two separate administrations of northern and southern Nigeria into a single government of Nigeria… as an outlying part of the British Empire in its trade and its revenue….” Is it not obvious from this submission that the rabid fusion of the northern and southern protectorates was about territorial control, expansionism, and revenue-garnering adventure for the British? With all of these in the minds of Nigerians, how will a mere name change of Nigeria trigger a reviving revolution?

You can change the name of a pig to a darling dove but a pig will always be a pig for as long as it lives in a dirty pigpen. Changing the name of Nigeria to the United States of Nigeria with the hope that things will change is a sheer phantasm. Without reorienting the minds of Nigerians and restructuring the whole gamut of government, achieving the Nigeria of our dreams that Adesina spoke loftily about will be a long shot. To restructure the Giant of Africa and cut the central government to size is where part of Adesina’s opinion gladdened my heart.

“To get out of the economic quagmire, there is a compelling need for the restructuring of Nigeria…..Restructuring should not be driven by political expediency but by economic and financial viability. Economic and financial viability are the necessary and sufficient conditions for political viability…. Surgeries are tough. They are better done well, the first time…The resources found in each state or state groupings should belong to them. The constituent entities should pay federal taxes or royalties for those resources,” Adesina also suggested in his March 6 opinion.

Adesina’s expressed opinion has woken up a discourse among intellectuals and true lovers of Nigeria like this writer. This is the time to start talking about why the Federal Government has grown so callously colossally strong that it has eventually succeeded in emasculating and muzzling the states that are supposed to be viable and strong. This is the time to talk about the outrageous percentages that accrue to the centre as allocation that has caused the dislocation of Nigeria’s infrastructural base. It is time to talk about why refineries and pipelines that took years to build now take minutes to bomb by a people so angry and bitter. It is time to talk about why, despite so many incentives that historically flow into the Niger Delta areas, most of these people still live as scums in slums. It is time to talk about why men and women brazenly steal public funds, and some people believe it is their natural right to loot without recourse to common sense and morals.

Out of ignorance, the present structure of government has created intractable problems for the country. Nations relishing in abundance and prosperity today exist because their men work hard sacrificially in unison to make those nations great. Their men in the purlieu of power apply common sense to governance as they play their essential parts. A nation fails because its men fail. True federalism will speed growth and development. It will douse ethnic tension and crush the hues and cries of widespread self-determination. Each state will be at liberty to grow at its pace, and all federating units will breathe the air of freedom with more resources and greater control at their disposal to attract foreign investors and the domestic growth of the economy. What Nigeria has worked up till now has not worked. We must retool and restructure. And it won’t really matter what name you call Nigeria.

X:@FolaOjotweet

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