Opinion: Renegotiating the new era-By Pastor Tunde Bakare
BEING TEXT OF SPEECH BY PASTOR ‘TUNDE BAKARE AT A TOWN HALL MEETING ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2018. AT BEST WESTERN PLUS PORT O’ CALL HOTEL, CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA.
London, October 17, 2018 (AltAfrica)-Introduction: Is The Unity of Nigeria Truly Non-Negotiable?Every now and then, we, the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are reminded that it is sacrilegious to even consider tinkering with the current make-up of the Nigerian state. At the 2014 National Conference convened by former president, Goodluck Jonathan, we, as delegates to the conference, were forewarned to regard the unity and indissolubility of the Nigerian state as sacrosanct.
In 2017, three years after that conference, when the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, addressed the nation upon his return from an extended medical trip in London, he echoed this sentiment by declaring categorically: “Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable.” I recall that the president was reacting to mounting agitations by dissident groups in the country. A little over a month after the president’s address, the Nigerian Senate responded to the heightened calls for secession by reiterating the same sentiment: “Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.”
When these statements are examined on the surface, they appear to embody the highest manifestations of patriotism and a firm belief in the Nigerian nation. However, these romantic expressions of affection for the country, when put in context, also hint at the unwillingness of our country’s leaders to have robust and honest conversations on the fragile state of our union. I am a patriot and an ardent believer in the Nigerian nation and I will never back any course that aims to break up my beloved country. Moreover, I am strongly convinced that the destiny of Nigeria is inextricably tied to mine and I am ready to spend and be spent to ensure Nigeria remains one indissoluble nation.
However, failure to address fundamental issues under the guise of preserving unity fast tracks disunity. I am also aware that in every human institution, from the family to the nation, honest conversations between members are the catalyst of healthy relationships. Fostering dialogue among the constituent parts of our nation, bringing grievances to the fore, and dealing wisely with such grievances, rather than avoiding them – these are the practical ways to keep Nigeria one.
Statehood can be enforced but nationhood must be cultivated, and honest conversations are the tools for cultivating nationhood. Therefore, my aim today is to unearth the undercurrents that necessitate such honest conversations among the constituents of the Nigerian nation, and to suggest that the terms and conditions of our unity are in fact negotiable and can be reconfigured. In doing this, I will be telling the Nigerian story and unearthing the major grievances that have forestalled our integration into true nationhood. I believe that, by so doing, we can find national healing and an appropriate framework for national coexistence.
The Foundation of the Nigerian State
Prior to the advent of colonialism, the entities that currently constitute the Nigerian state existed as separate groups. They were empires, such as the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire, the Kanem-Bornu Empire, and, later, the Sokoto Caliphate. Some were kingdoms and city-states like the Hausa city-states, the Nupe Kingdom, and the Jukun Kingdom. Others such as the Ibos and Ijaws were organised as towns, villages and clans.
Indeed, some form of cooperation existed among these entities; they often exchanged goods and services in inter-group trades. However, they also had inter-group conflicts ranging from mere distrust and mutual suspicion to full-blown wars. As a result of such wars and violent interactions, some nations were conquered; some kingdoms were annexed, some territories became vassal states, peoples were enslaved and, in some cases, whole towns were destroyed. You will agree with me that under such circumstances, these peoples who occupied the area around the River Niger would naturally regard one another with deep suspicion and that any future interactions would be volatile.
Nevertheless, by the middle of the 19th century, the European incursion into Africa intensified. Soon, the area around the River Niger gradually fell into European hands and the colonisation of the territories in the area commenced with the conquest of Lagos in 1861 to form the Lagos Colony. Subsequently, the British commenced a series of territorial mergers in the South. They merged the Oil Rivers Protectorate with surrounding territories to form the Niger Coast Protectorate. Then, in 1897, after the Benin Massacre and the conquest of the ancient Benin Kingdom, the colonialists merged the Niger Coast Protectorate and the conquered Benin Kingdom to form the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Nine years later, in 1906, they merged the Lagos Colony with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria to form the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria.
While the colonialists carried out this territorial remapping in the South, they came headlong with the Sokoto Caliphate in the North and eventually defeated one of Africa’s largest empires of all-time. Then, in 1900, they created the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and consolidated this protectorate through further conquests.
By 1903, all the territories in the area around the River Niger had been conquered; by 1906, the regional lines between the North and the South of Nigeria were clearly drawn in the form of two separately administered protectorates. However, on January 1, 1914, under the leadership of Lord Frederick Lugard, Britain amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.
There are certain important points to note on this phase of Nigeria’s evolution. First, the entities that today constitute the Nigerian state were brought together by force of arms. The sovereigns who handed these territories over to the colonising powers negotiated from a position of weakness; they were incapacitated by Britain’s gunboat diplomacy.
In Lagos, for instance, Oba Dosunmu was compelled to sign the Lagos Treaty of Cession with the gunboat pointing towards the Iga Idunganran, the palace of the Oba of Lagos. In Benin, Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was deposed and exiled upon the defeat of his army. In the North, Caliph Muhammadu Attahiru I of the Sokoto Caliphate was killed as he mobilised the people of the Caliphate in resistance against Lord Lugard whose forces had already taken over the caliphate by force of arms.
Another important point to note is the fact that several of these conquests and mergers of territories were not executed by the British government but by a profit-making enterprise, the Royal Niger Company. Nigeria only became the property of Great Britain in 1899 when the Royal Niger Company sold the territory to the British Crown for £865,000! Can you imagine that Nigeria was purchased by the British government as a piece of real estate?
Finally, the use of the term ‘amalgamation’ in reference to the series of administrative mergers underscores the fact that the integration of the peoples and cultures within the merged territories was not the overriding objective of the colonialists. Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘amalgamation’ as: the process in which separate organisations unite to form a larger organisation or group, or an organisation or group formed in this way…
When you probe further, you will find that the word ‘amalgamation’ is applicable to objects such as metals and corporate organisations, not necessarily people in the context of a nation. Therefore, the Amalgamation Proclamation of 1914 can hardly be said to be a case study on forging true nationhood. Instead, the emphasis was on the most effective means of managing an economic enterprise. This foundational gap in the nationhood formation process defined our coexistence right from the beginning and has lingered in our national consciousness. This nationhood gap left a trail of unresolved issues; issues that have come to be described as ‘The National Question’ or ‘The Nigeria Question.’
The National Question seeks answers to a simple yet complex set of inquiries: To what extent are we truly a nation? How can we design the frameworks of state to forge true nationhood? From 1914 through independence all through to the present day, our quest for nationhood has been a journey in search of answers to these questions. In addressing the Nigeria Question, I will focus on a sensitive component of this conundrum: the North-South dimension.
The North-South Dimension of the Nigeria Question
At the 2014 National Conference, I saw firsthand the degree of volatility in the relationship between the North and South of Nigeria. As we convened to seek acceptable solutions to our nation’s structural and functional problems, we were greeted with a position paper titled ‘Key Issues Before Northern Delegates.’ The document, which had been prepared by northern delegates, argued that, since 1914, the North had contributed more to the national economy than the South but had received less in terms of budgetary allocations; it also argued that the North had, over time, sacrificed its interests to allow for a Nigerian state. The document not only sought to demand more for the North at the expense of the South, it also preemptively attempted to paralyse the position of the South even before the commencement of deliberations. It sought to condition the South to negotiate from a position of weakness. To further charge the already tense atmosphere, HRH Dr. Muhammadu Barkindo Mustapha, Lamido of Adamawa, spoke on behalf of the Northern delegates and threatened that they would “easily walk out of [the] conference” if the modalities of voting for resolutions at the conference were not resolved.
Expectedly, the southern delegates were taken aback and poised to hit back reactionarily at the North. Some had become impatient in the face of the perceived opposition of the North to progressive proposals from the South and were already humming separatist tunes , but some of us were convinced that was not the best approach. Subsequently, a few fellow southwest delegates met at my residence with some consultants to brainstorm on the issue. With the support of the International Centre for Reconstruction and Development (ICRD), the think-tank I founded in 2007, and the collaboration of the consultants, we created an intelligent rebuttal titled ‘Lest We Forget.’ Besides correcting the factual misconceptions and fallacious assumptions in the northern document, we reminded the delegates to the conference that, under international law, the continental shelf of the Atlantic Ocean is connected to the southern territory of Nigeria. Considering this, we redesigned the map of Nigeria to extend the southern territory into the continental shelf.
Having thus positioned ourselves to negotiate from a position of strength, we emphasised the need to build a united Nigeria made up of a strong North and an equally strong South rather than adopting a divisive approach. Eventually, the conference regained its focus and unanimously passed its resolutions, including the ‘Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration.’
I refer to this experience because it brought to the fore the plethora of unresolved issues seething beneath the relationship between the North and the South like a keg of gunpowder; it brought to the fore the North-South dimension of the Nigeria Question, or what you may also call the North-South Question; it brought to the fore the frosty relations between northern and southern Nigeria even before the 1914 amalgamation. The North-South Question encompasses the unresolved differences and grievances, the mutual distrust and suspicion, and the power struggles between the two major geopolitical divisions in the country. It has been a tumultuous quest for an acceptable basis of coexistence and interaction.
The North-South Question and a History of Grievances
Historically, the dissonance between the North and South of Nigeria traces its origin to the southward advance of the Sokoto Caliphate in the 18th century. Opinion leaders in the South see this southward advance as a manifestation of an imperialist agenda with a persisting legacy.
The North-South trust deficit was further widened prior to and following the amalgamation as the colonial administration isolated the colonies along sectional lines, especially the North-South geopolitical lines. When the southern part of Nigeria began to demonstrate considerable radicalism, the colonial masters became wary of this influence spreading northward. They therefore deliberately hindered the inflow of Christian missions and western education to the northern part of the country.
The colonialists also created a governance structure which isolated the North into the Native Authority system and denied it representation in the Legislative Council created under the Clifford Constitution of 1922. As a result of this, the North was given late exposure to national governance. This produced inequity in North-South development and governance preparedness. By the time the North and the South came together in the first broadly representative federal legislature in 1947 under the Richards Constitution, the obvious regional disparities jolted the North. By so doing, the colonialists not only set the stage for future developmental inequalities, they also fostered resentment and hindered such open and honest conversations that could have dealt with conflict hotbeds long before independence.
The first signs that all was not well with the system were statements credited to the leading lights of Nigerian nationalism at that time. For instance, in 1947, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in his book, Path to Nigerian Freedom, stated:
Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English,” “Welsh” or “French.” The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.
Furthermore, Tafawa Balewa, years before becoming prime minister, said while addressing the Legislative Council in 1948:
“Since 1914, the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any sign of willingness to unite…Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country.”
Years later, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern Region, said:
“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future.”
This distrust of the prospects of nationhood by northern and southern leaders soon led to the first open confrontation between the two camps in 1953 when the motion for independence was moved by Chief Anthony Enahoro. Reacting to the motion, Sir Ahmadu Bello reminded the Legislative Council that:
“Sixty years ago, there was no Nigeria but merely a collection of communities very different in outlook and mode of life.”
In essence, the motion for independence was vehemently resisted by the northern representatives as the North was unprepared for self-rule. Instead of the 1956 date proposed, the North amended the motion to read “as soon as practicable.” As a result of these differences, the South walked out of the Legislative Council while the northern representatives were openly ridiculed by the southern masses on the streets of Lagos.
Following this debacle, the Action Group sent a delegation led by Chief Samuel Akintola on a tour of the North to mobilise support for the cause of independence among the northern masses. This move precipitated the first interethnic riots in Nigeria’s history, known as the Kano Riots. At this point, the northern leaders reached what appeared to be the limits of patience and threatened secession or the adoption of an “eight-point programme” which emphasised regional autonomy.
However, our founding fathers navigated these conflict hotbeds with intense negotiations at conferences that culminated in eventual independence and the adoption of a federal system of government with the regions as federating units. These negotiations by our founding fathers sought to redefine the Nigerian construct from the commercial undertone to the genuine quest for nationhood. However, even independence could not truly resolve the North-South Question. When the British eventually began to take off the vestiges of colonialism to pave way for independence, reports allege that the former colonialists tilted the ethnopolitical balance in the interest of the North.
Soon, the Northern region, in the bid to bridge the developmental gap between the North and South, adopted what it called the “Northernization policy.” By this policy, northerners were given priority consideration for public service roles. Where there was no qualified northerner, the opportunity would be extended to an expatriate on a contractual basis. Nigerians from other parts of the country would only be considered, again on a contractual basis, where no expatriate could take on the role. This affirmative action policy was, however, received by the South as discriminatory.
The issue of an acceptable national census also heightened tensions around the North-South Question. Since the first census in 1921 all through to the 2006 census, population counting in Nigeria has always been controversial, sometimes resulting in violence. The reason is not far-fetched. Population figures determine how many seats each constituent part gets in a representative government, and they also determine revenue allocations. More than these, in an ethnically charged electoral system, they are predictive of election results.
The ethnic construct of political parties in Nigeria also served to heighten North-South tensions. Political parties in Nigeria began to take on a sectional undertone when the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) was formed in 1949. The NPC was formed in apparent rejection of the avowed nationalist inclination of the preexisting National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) established by southern leaders in 1944. This ethnic undertone of political parties set the stage for post-independence election disputes and political intrigues between the North and the South. It was against this backdrop of politically motivated mutual suspicion that the first coup and countercoup were prosecuted. The ensuing violent actions and reactions around these events climaxed in the Nigerian Civil War that claimed the lives of many Nigerians.
Even after the civil war, the North-South Question remained unresolved. The resulting military era only perpetuated northern dominance in the political space. As a result, since independence, although thirteen individuals have served either as presidents or heads of state, only four of them have been from the South.
More questions arose with respect to North-South relations when the June 12, 1993 elections were annulled. They became even more complex when, five years later, General Sani Abacha, who was notorious for clamping down on mainly southern opposition to his dictatorship, died as Head of State. Matters became more complicated when the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, Chief M.K.O. Abiola (GCFR), died a month later.
The North-South Question continued to demand answers when we returned to civil rule in 1999. It was what was at play when the North endorsed Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for the presidency in 1999 while the South, in particular, the South-West, largely supported Chief Olu Falae. It showed up in the 2011 presidental elections as “a clear division within the country between the North-South, Muslim-Christian lines,” with the South voting for the People’s Democratic Party’s Goodluck Jonathan, and the North voting for the Congress for Progressive Change’s Muhammadu Buhari.
The North-South Question has been at the heart of every allegation of sectional interest in federal government policies and programmes; it was at the heart of the Northern perception of marginalisation during the presidency of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; it was at the heart of the ultimatum given by certain northern youth groups to the Ibos to vacate the North by October 2017; it is at the heart of the outcry over perceived lopsided appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari; it is at the heart of the bickering over revenue allocation; the demand for resource control; the herder-farmer conflict; and the clamour for self-determination by various groups in the country, from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to the Niger Delta Avengers.
Ahead of the 2019 elections, the North-South Question is the lens through which the issues will likely be approached by many Nigerians; it is at the heart of the misinterpretations of the call for restructuring and even the rejection of those calls by certain quarters. Take it or leave it, the 2019 presidential elections will revolve around the North-South question even though the two leading candidates are northerners. It is what makes the choice of running mates a major deciding factor in the presidential electoral equation. It is a question that demands answers; a question that demands national reflections; a question that demands a return to the negotiation table. Let me state at this juncture that my close involvement in the political space since 2009 has been about finding a resolution to the North-South Question.
The North-South Question and My Political Trajectory
On the 23rd of December, 2009, on a flight from London to Lagos, I saw a vision that changed the course of my life. I saw male conjoined twins who shared a head. One had a left ear while the other had a right ear. They both wore baseball caps. As I looked on in that vision, I heard both boys pleading: “Don’t separate us; if you do, we will both die.” When I awoke from that vision, I instantly thought that God was speaking to me in respect of pregnant women at The Latter Rain Assembly where I serve as overseer, and so I asked the prayer team to pray against congenital deformities. However, God impressed upon me that He was showing me the state and the fate of the North and South of Nigeria. He was showing me that, despite the imperfections of both parts of the country, separating them would amount to national suicide. I therefore charged the prayer team to pray against the disintegration of our country.
Then, on the 2nd of January, 2010, as the polity had begun to heat up in respect of the health status of then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, I had another vision. In this second vision, I saw two young girls aged about ten and eight respectively. The younger one had renal failure and was about to undergo surgery. The older girl said, “I don’t want my sister to die; I will donate my kidney.” I then saw both of them wheeled into the theatre. After a while, the surgeon came out, pulled off his blood-stained gloves, and said, “The surgery has been successful.” When I woke up, it was impressed upon my spirit once again that the two sisters represented the North and South of Nigeria, and that both parts must cooperate to facilitate the recovery of each region.
In Ezekiel 37, particularly verses 15-22, we see a template for North-South collaboration, and this has formed the bedrock of my convictions. Listen to the conversation between God and Prophet Ezekiel:
15Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 16″As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ 17Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.
18″And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’— 19say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘ 20And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.
21″Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.
In essence, no more North-South divides; just one nation, under God; no more local versus diaspora; just one nation, under God; no more us versus them; just one nation, under God.
I had the two visions I earlier referred to when Nigeria was facing imminent disintegration. Knowing that God was asking me to intervene, I summoned civil society groups to a meeting at Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, on the 7th of January, 2010. That day, Save Nigeria Group (SNG) was born, and it became my lot to lead it. From January 12, we began engaging the system until the issues surrounding the North-South Question at that time were resolved by the doctrine of necessity.
After that victory over constitutional crisis, we engaged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan on the need to restructure Nigeria and set the country on the path to a true people’s constitution. Our proposals were contained in what we called A Contract to Save and Transform Nigeria. When that government failed to heed our calls, we decided to seek credible alternatives together with whom we could salvage our nation. Consequently, as I have said in the past, I invited a number of brilliant minds to my residence to deliberate on the way forward. This group, known as ‘The Arrowheads,’ comprised the likes of Oby Ezekwesili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Donald Duke, Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Fola Adeola, Jimi Lawal, Yinka Odumakin, Jimi Agbaje, Wale Oshun, and a few others.
Furthermore, as I have explained elsewhere :
Our aim was to build a winning team from amongst this new breed of leaders. When I was asked by the group to be its chairman, I accepted only on the condition that I would not be required to join any political party and that I would not run for elective office.
Our strategy was to engage the leading political parties ahead of the 2011 elections with a view to building this winning team around the most credible and most plausible candidate. Our engagements at the time revealed the then General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as the best suited among the contenders. We made our findings known to the nation on October 10, 2010.
However, it came as a shock to me when, on January 15, 2011, Muhammadu Buhari invited me to be his running mate. At first, I refused and, after a meeting between Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the content of which was communicated to me by Nasir, I suggested Okonjo-Iweala as running mate to General Muhammadu Buhari for the following reasons. First, it ticked the gender box and then it resolved the ethnic question especially as regards Eastern Nigeria, which had had a history of exclusion since the Civil War. Moreover, given her pedigree as a Managing Director at the World Bank, it was going to guarantee international support. Nevertheless, Muhammadu Buhari was unyielding in his nomination of me. After several consultations, I accepted his invitation and jumped into the fray on the condition that the restructuring of the nation would be made the paramount agenda in our manifesto. We lost that election to the force of incumbency.
During the campaigns, President Buhari had declared publicly that he would never again contest for public office. However, I was convinced that Nigeria needed him to stabilize the polity and to pave the way to the New Nigeria. Therefore, I led some of the Arrow Heads to him and persuaded him not to throw in the towel. We then facilitated his meeting with leaders of the South West and ignited a series of negotiations that led to the eventual formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by way of a merger of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) with the erstwhile Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
It was my privilege to move the CPC motion for that merger at Eagle Square in Abuja on the 11th of May, 2013.
All these involvements in the polity were geared towards resolving the North-South Question. From accepting President Buhari’s nomination in 2011, to facilitating the political merger, I was bridging the North-South divide in line with the visions God had showed me. I was also doing this in the spirit of a vision I had as a thirteen-year old when I saw myself on a mountaintop with two notable personalities in the Nigerian political space: then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, a northerner, and then Leader of Government Business, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a southerner. We were overlooking Nigeria and having conversations about the nation.
Decades after that childhood vision, the North-South Question and, indeed, the broader dimensions of the Nigeria Question, still demand answers. Those answers will be found in a re-examination of the substance of our nationhood. They will be found in efforts at national reconciliation and integration; they will be found in resolutions that seek to transit our country from the amalgamation to the making of a great nation; they will be found in frameworks that seek to recreate the structure of our polity.
The North-South Question and other dimensions of the Nigeria Question must be approached with the understanding that, at the heart of the matter is the quest for equitable distribution of resources. In essence, it is an economic question as much as it is a social and political one.
It is the question on the minds of the nearly 87 million Nigerians back home across the country, North and South, who cannot tell where the next meal is going to come from. It is the same question on the mind of the women in Yabo, Sokoto and the women in Okpoma, Bayelsa, who cannot access decent prenatal healthcare; the same question on the mind of the widow in Gasarwa, Borno State, who lost her husband to a Boko Haram attack and the widow down south in Abakaliki whose soldier husband was killed fighting Boko Haram; the same question on the mind of the farmer in Plateau State and the farmer in Edo State who both lost their wives to the murderous activities of herdsmen; the same question on the minds of parents from Kebbi to Calabar, who cannot afford a decent education for their children or decent shelter for their families. It is the same question on the mind of the graduate of Ahmadu Bello University in Kaduna in the North and the alumnus of the University of Ibadan in the South who are both caught up in a rat race for limited jobs in an underdeveloped national economy; the same question on the minds of the government clerk in Yola and the public school teacher in Umuahia who have not been paid salaries for a while; the same question on the minds of ordinary Nigerians across the nation, in the North and in the South, who are united in suffering and in the audacious hope that, in spite of the pains of today, one day, “e go better.”
It is why my answer to the Nigeria Question is the restructuring of our nation to foster the geo-economic potential of the six geopolitical zones that embody the North and the South. It is why, in the 2019 election, my involvement will be geared towards facilitating the honest conversations necessary to resolve the broad dimensions of the Nigeria Question including the North-South Question. It is why I will be stirring up the Nigerian people at home and abroad around an idea whose time has come, mobilising the people around the compelling vision of the New Nigeria, bringing together the major contenders for the 2019 elections, and getting them to commit to the pathway to a New Nigeria that I call ‘Sixteen Pragmatic Steps to Restructuring Nigeria.’
During a live broadcast from The Latter Rain Assembly this past Sunday, I unveiled these sixteen steps. Let me reiterate them on this platform so that the Nigerian diaspora will be challenged to own the narrative and to demand the implementation of this blueprint towards a New Nigeria.
Sixteen Pragmatic Steps Towards Restructuring Nigeria
Phase 1: The First Two Years: 2019 – 2021
Step 1: The President, by an executive order and in full consultation with the National Assembly and the Council of State, shall establish a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Restructuring.
Step 2: To chair the Presidential Commission, the President shall appoint a wise and discerning Nigerian who must be incorruptible, of high moral standing, and of unquestionable integrity, highly respected among national influencers, able to build bridges among the diverse interest groups in the country, and willing to serve his/her fatherland without remuneration.
Step 3: The Chairperson shall devolve the Presidential Commission into six Zonal Commissions and shall appoint for each zone a Zonal Commissioner. The Zonal Commissioners shall be technocrats mandated to create and implement masterplans for their respective geo-economic zones and to coordinate the transition of the economies of the states within the zone into integrated zonal economies, working closely with the respective state governments.
Step 4: The Presidential Commission will launch a nationwide reconciliation and reintegration drive and shall creatively communicate the New Nigeria narrative with a compelling national vision and brand identity.
Step 5: The Commission shall institute a social impact bond for the implementation of the zonal economic masterplans; the financing scheme shall be structured into key sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, and solid minerals development, as well as the creative, culture and innovation industries, based on zonal competitive advantage. Education and human capital development in each zone shall be designed to build capacity for the socioeconomic and industrial agendas of the respective zones.
Phase 2: The Next 2 Years: 2021 – 2023
Step 6: Through policy harmonisation and coordination, the state governments will progressively integrate the state economies into zonal economies. The Zonal Commissions, at this point, will relate to the states as regional development consultants, midwifing the emergence of six geo-economic zones in line with the zonal masterplans.
Step 7: As internally generated revenue increases, the federal allocations disbursed to the states and local councils from the federation account will be progressively reduced. At the same time, the percentage derivation, which is the amount of revenue retained by the state from which it was generated, will be progressively increased by necessary constitutional alterations.
Step 8: A counterpart funding mechanism will be instituted as a competitive reward scheme for the zones based on their internal revenue generation efforts. Access to this counterpart funding will not depend only on the amount of internal revenue but also on the effort and creativity deployed in integrating the economies of the states in each zone, especially in areas of competitive advantage.
Step 9: A series of constitutional alterations will be championed as needed through the National and State Assemblies. These will progressively devolve powers to the states so they can have greater control of their economies. In turn, the states will confer greater powers of consultation on the Zonal Commissions, such that, on behalf of their client states, the Commissions can take further steps towards integrating the states in line with the respective zonal master plans.
Phase 3: The Next 4 Years: 2023 – 2027
Step 10: A series of succession steps will be taken to consolidate the gains of the first four years. First, the Chairperson of the Presidential Commission, having been tested with the geo-economic development agenda, may opt to serve in an elective or appointive capacity. The Presidential Commission will then be transitioned to the Office of the Prime Minister dedicated to implementing the regional development agenda. The President, who will emerge from the 2023 elections, will then appoint a technocrat as Prime Minister with the ratification of the National Assembly.
Step 11: The federal government, through the office of the Prime Minister, will begin to reduce its involvement in socio-economic management to that of a policy standards regulator and facilitator ensuring global best practices.
Step 12: The states, through the Zonal Commissioners, will continue to manage socio-economic policies in line with the zonal masterplans, with the facilitation of the Prime Minister. At this point, the Nigerian economic map will have taken the shape of 6 geo-economic regions, 36 economic hubs, and 109 industrial clusters derived from the present senatorial districts.
Step 13: The President, focussing on defence, foreign affairs and national integration, will begin to geo-strategically position Nigeria in the international community as an African Great Power.
Phase 4: The Next 4 Years: 2027 – 2031
Step 14: By 2027, this geo-economic and geo-social model, which will have been in operation for eight years under the 1999 constitution (as amended), will be codified into a geopolitical framework. The framework will have geopolitical zones as federating units as well as a modified presidential system of government. The result will be a new draft constitution that will have for its preamble the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration.
Step 15: Nigerians at home and in the diaspora will be accorded the opportunity to adopt this framework through a referendum, thereby giving the people a constitution that will be truly deserving of the introduction, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…”
Step 16: The succession plan will, once again, be activated to bring in a new generation of leaders. This new generation of leaders, who will have already been integrated into the leadership ecosystem, will continue the rapid socioeconomic advancement. They will ensure the consolidation and expansion of Nigeria’s positioning as a global power made up of six geopolitical zones, each of them more prosperous than Dubai. In due course, this generation of leaders will, in turn, pass the baton to the next generation.
The sixteen steps are mapped out with the confidence that the best of the North and the best of the South can come together to lay out the frameworks of an equitably structured nation. They are designed with the understanding that we, as one people, can begin to unite our hearts in the quest for a more perfect union. They are phased in such a manner that ensures that no part of our nation is left behind and no part is hindered from developing a competitive edge. In the end, we will have provided sure answers to the Nigeria Question such that it will no longer matter which part of the country one is from, North or South – we will all be proud of our identity as Nigerians and citizens of a great and prosperous nation. That is the New Nigeria we must vigorously negotiate for in 2019 and beyond.
I am convinced that, by the grace of God and the resolve of Nigerians, Nigeria will be saved, Nigeria will be changed, and Nigeria will be great in my lifetime.
Thank you for listening, God bless you, and God bless our nation, Nigeria.
Pastor ‘Tunde Bakare
Serving Overseer, The Latter Rain Assembly (The LRA);
Convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG)