By Yinka Odumakin
Continued from last week
I DO know and appreciate that many Nigerians have made and are making sacrifices for this country. But let me, as an individual who has made some sacrifice for Nigeria and who will make more if required for the unity, equity, development and progress of Nigeria, say here and now and for avoidance of doubt that no individual Nigerian, tribe, ethnic group, community, religious group, social group or any other Nigerian group for that matter should be seen, identified, treated, called, stigmatised as slave or inferior to other or others and to be exploited, oppressed, discriminated against and/or dominated.
Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians on the basis of freedom, equality, equity, justice, fairness, peace, security, cooperation, mutual dignity, respect, shared values and shared prosperity. If these factors are removed, Nigeria falls to pieces. But for now, we can still make hay while the sun shines. While the unity and integrity of Nigeria will be defended with all that I can muster but surely not at the expense of my liberty, human dignity, freedom of choice and human rights.
Freedom Of Choice And Human Rights
I will not relent by exerting effort, ability and capability to make contribution to the development and progress of my land of birth. If I allowed myself to be enslaved in Nigeria, I would have left shameful legacy for my children and their succeeding generation forever.
May God forbid! In that way, my existence in life would amount to naught. “If the hands cannot be swung,” the saying goes, “they are better held above the head perpetually.” My services to my country and to humanity would have ended in total failure as I would have lived not to carry out the divine mission of making better what I found. If I fought racial and tribal injustice and oppression in South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Sudan tenaciously and successfully, it will be remiss of me to do any less in Nigeria. It is a divine duty and responsibility which must be attended to, if necessary.
It would appear that the National Assembly is fully aware of the lurking danger and wants to be proactive which is commendable. But the Nigerian Constitution does not give the National Assembly the power to write a new Constitution but the power to amend existing one. What is required is a new Constitution to meet the agitation and aspiration of all Nigerians and to allay all fears.
The Executive and the Legislature need to work together to establish a Constituent Assembly. The exercise must not be compromised like the present Constitution; it must have full legitimacy of ‘we the people’. Talking of a new Constitution, maybe we should try a hybrid Constitution of President and Prime Minister sharing executive power in a presidential-cum-parliamentary system. And before we descend any further, let me warn, from experience, those who are beating the drums of war and domination from all quarters. I joined the late Bisalla, under General Hassan Katsina, to write the appreciation and the operational instruction for the Civil War.
We estimated that Federal Government would suppress the Biafran rebellion within three months. To make allowances for the unforeseen, we allowed six months. But it took us 30 months, five times what we allowed for, and what is more, we nearly lost the war. And as a Field Commander at the end of the war, I can attest that we fought with all Nigerian tribes, including Igbos against Biafra.
And if after over 10 years of fighting Boko Haram, the terrorist group is still waxing strong, let nobody out of self-delusion think that a war of self-determination by one or more geopolitical zones of Nigeria with the present disenchantment would be easily suppressed by the rest of what may remain of the country. Some will fight to the last drop of the blood of their group rather than suffer the indignity of slavery, oppression, domination and atrocious injustice in the land of their birth and the only one that they can call their country.
If Boko Haram can get an outside support, any geo-political zone opting for self-determination may equally get an external support. War may not necessarily go as planned, estimated and predicted. Everything must, therefore, be put in place to avoid a war, the end of which no one can precisely predict. There is no assurance that Nigeria can survive a second civil war. But rather, we should seek political solution and avoid a destructive civil war.
Most of the assumptions in our Constitution have been found to be unrealistic and unrealisable in practice by any administration that wishes to put them in the rubbish bin. This is the situation today. Let us put our experiences to work and fashion out a political order and arrangement that will strengthen our togetherness while making room for healthy and useful competition within the one entity, Nigeria.
We need not go the way of Yugoslavia or Sudan and certainly not the way of Rwanda and Somalia. But none of these countries knew the avoidable and divisive end from the beginning. Let us learn from the experience of others and of our founding fathers who resolved their political differences through dialogue and debate without resorting to violence and separation but accommodation, telling themselves hard truth, tolerance and give-and-take spirit. That was the foundation of Nigeria at independence and let it continue to be.
If all we are interested in is power and not holding the country together harmoniously and wholesomely, we may hold the mirage of power and lose the nation or the country bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. Today, we can still collectively debate, dialogue and lead our country to where by consensus we will want it to be as a united, strong, harmonious, dynamic, fast developing, productive, fast growing and progressing nation with sufficient leeway for autonomous development and management by component units on the basis of healthy competition, mutual respect, caring and sharing for one another, within one nation and one destiny, with shared values, common goals and venerated diversity.
There are still people of goodwill who can speak up and speak out and take effective and positive actions individually and collectively that will corporately save the country from rudderlessness and disintegration. We must allow a stitch in time to save nine, so that we are not pushed to the realm of the unknown and which may be for all of us, undesirable. May God save and keep Nigeria and make it what the likes of Frederick Fasehun had wanted it to be.