Being text of a PRESS STATEMENT by Professor Ben Nwabueze, Chairman, The Patriots; Project Nigeria Movement; and Igbo Leaders of Thought
In an Interview with the Vanguard dated Monday, October 16 2017, Chief Emeka Anyaoku said: “Since the 1967 Civil War, I do not think this country has ever been as divided as it is now.”
This statement, coming from a man known for his unstinted objectivity on matters of public affairs, represents the undeniable truth about the situation facing our country today. There are separatist agitations for the Republic of Biafra, Niger Delta Republic and Oduduwa Republic. There is the Notice issued by the Arewa Youths Coalition to Ndigbo to leave the North by 1st October 2017. There is the menace of Fulani herdsmen rampaging the whole country, killing and maiming innocent people and destroying their farms and properties. These divisive events are pushing Nigeria to the brink of disintegration.
To these must be added the divisive turn or course the issue of Re-structuring is taking. Instead of a principled approach based on its merits and demerits as it affects the whole country as one entity, Re-structuring has divided the country into North and South, according to how it is perceived to affect the interests of the North, or, as it is put in a report in the Vanguard of 15 October, 2017, in order to “ensure that the North is not shortchanged” by Re-structuring.
The interest of the North in the matter is defined to be to keep it (i.e. the North) “united” within a united Nigeria. The interest of the North, said Governor El Rufai of Kaduna State, is not Re-structuring, but to “address the dual challenge of poverty and deficiency in education in the region”. In his own contribution, even former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar said : “The North has nothing to fear [from Re-structuring] because we have the land, we have the population and we have the resources. The North has nothing to fear because oil will soon become history.” It is indeed lamentable that a matter touching on the vital interests of the whole country as one entity is being viewed and treated as a matter in which the interest of the North predominates and overrides everything else.
But the critical question, which disquietens me deeply, is as to why the division along the lines mentioned above is occurring just at this time, during the 2½ years rule of President Buhari, and why they had not occurred at any other time during the 46 years since the end of the civil war in January 1970. This is a question the Presidency appears never to ask itself, as it should. It (i.e. the Presidency), busies itself instead in self-justification and self-praise and in issuing stern rebukes and threats of repressive action against those who threaten the unity of the country. The President constantly regales us with the hackneyed talk about the unity of the country not being negotiable, forgetting that the unity of the country is yet to be created by the coalescing of the over 300 ethnic nationalities comprised in Nigeria into one united nation.
The game of self-justification and self-praise in which the Presidency constantly engages itself precludes self-examination, without which there can be no self-correction. President Buhari owes it to the Nigerian people to admit that the divisions tearing the country apart are caused by his actions and utterances; he should now begin the process of self-correction which involves the making of amends for his misguided past actions and utterances.
His actions and utterances under reference manifest a pre-determined Islamisation/Northernisation Agenda with the war against corruption serving as a cover. The existence of such Agenda is not something conjured up just to discredit him; on the contrary, it is an irrefutable fact.
His commitment to the Islamisation Agenda was heralded in a speech at a seminar organised by the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria in August 2001 where he (Gen Buhari) publicly declared that he was committed to implementing Sharia law all over the country. The Islamisation Agenda was a significant factor in the APC presidential primary for the 2015 election. The voters at the said primary, the majority of whom were moslems from the North, wanted a presidential candidate whom they could confidently rely upon to implement the Sharia agenda, and so voted overwhelmingly for Buhari as the man to be relied upon for the job, giving him 3,430 votes, as against 954 votes for Atiku Abubakar, also a Moslem but not a diehard Islamist like Buhari.
His position as a fervent apostle of the Islamisation/Northernisation agenda was re-affirmed in a speech he, as President-elect, delivered before an audience of exclusively prominent Northern Moslem leaders on 2 May, 2015 at Queen Amina Hall, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. “I charge you”, he said with the ardour of a zealot, “to join me as we build a new Northern Nigeria in a generation ………the best investment we can make in the North is not finding oil in the Chad Basin……..we will start with one local government in each state until we get to every school in all of Northern Nigeria……. To achieve this, I have secured a Northern rehabilitation fund……..to rebuild the North after the devastation of Boko Haram insurgency…… Join me my brothers and sisters and let us finish the work our forefather, Ahmadu Bello, started.” This was coming from a President-elect who, in his Inaugural Speech, designed to charm and beguile his listeners, said : “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”?
His actions under reference consisted in the main of appointments to strategic positions he made since assuming office as President on 29 May, 2015. Of the altogether 31 such appointments, 24 (or nearly 80%) go to Moslems from the North, 7 to the South, distributed 4 to the South-West, 3 to the South-South and nil to the South-East. To underscore the strategic nature of the 24 appointments, they include Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), National Security Adviser, Chief of Staff to the President, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Chairman, Independent Electoral Commission, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Inspector-General of Nigeria Police Force, Director, Department of State Security (DSS) and most of the top offices in that Department; Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); nearly all the Service Chiefs – the South-East was again excluded from the appointment of the Service Chiefs.
The Northernisation Agenda is further carried into action in the recent appointments to 15 top offices in the NNPC, distributed 10 to the North, three to the South West, two to the South-South, and Nil again to the South-East.
The Islamisation/Northernisation Agenda, as it is faithfully being implemented by the Buhari Federal Government, shows that Government to be a government for one section of the country, the North, to be precise. It is not the all-inclusive government that Nigerians desire.
These appointments, the concentration of 80 per cent of them in the North and the total exclusion of the South-East from them, is an affront to justice, social justice and equality in the administration of government.
The concept of equal treatment needs explanation. The concept is predicated upon our common humanity as living human beings, with a soul, the ability to breathe, think, speak, move about and to act, and a capacity for emotions and sensations. Every human being feels pain, anguish and happiness, and is endowed with a conscience that enables him to judge between right and wrong, and to form beliefs, just like everyone else. The differences which undoubtedly exist between individuals because of differences in physical, intellectual and will power are only differences of degree, which leave unaffected our basic common human nature. Because of our basic common human nature, all citizens have more or less the same need for the security of their person and property, for justice in their dispute with others, for peace and order, for happiness, the good life and for welfare care generally, for obedience to the laws on the part of all, and the protection of their basic human rights.
The rationale for the state to treat all citizens equally arises partly from our common humanity as human beings with the very same basic needs noted above, and partly from the need to avoid the incidence of unfairness in the administration of government, except where such is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. If the state is the product of a social contract, then, all citizens should count equally in relation to it. In this view, a democratic state is an organization in which the relationship of all members to it is on equal terms, whether it pertains to the conferment of rights, the imposition of obligations, the security of lives and property, the administration of justice, the distribution of social amenities or the exercise of legislative and executive power generally.
The importance of justice in human society is perhaps best illustrated by considering the feelings aroused in us by injustice. Whereas justice is a cold virtue that evokes no feeling, injustice or unfairness arouses intense fury in us, as we get heated up and indignant about it. “Indignation, which is the conceptually appropriate response to injustice, expresses, as its etymology shows, a sense of not being regarded as worthy of consideration. Injustice betokens an absence of respect, and manifests a lack of concern.” Lucas, On Justice (1980), p.7. For this reason, the occurrence of injustice, especially if it is on a wide scale, immediately puts the “unity and coherence of society under strain.” Lucas, op. cit., p. 4
Justice is thus rightly regarded as the “bond of society,” Lucas, op. cit., p. 18, the “cornerstone of human togetherness.” Oputa, Lecture on Justice. It is the condition in which the individual can feel able “to identify with society, feel at one with it, and accept its rulings.” Lucas, op. cit., p. 1. An unjust society cannot maintain its unity and cohesion, because it cannot arouse in its members a strong enough feeling of loyalty and allegiance. Injustice not only alienates the individual’s loyalty, what is worse, it also arouses him to disaffection. An individual, denied recognition by society, cannot but feel alienated and disaffected. “Justice,” wrote James Madison, fourth President of the United States, “is not only the end of government, it is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” James Madison, The Federalist, No. 25, ed. Clinton Rositer (1961). Unjust action by the state as between the racial, ethnic and religious groups comprised in it (i.e. the state) is of far greater concern. This is because of its tendency to generate greater bitter resentment and to provoke more violent social conflicts than unjust treatment of individuals.
By concentrating in the North nearly 80% of his strategic appointments and by excluding the South-East completely, a feeling of alienation, of not being wanted, may have been created on the part of those so disadvantaged or excluded. A feeling of alienation may grow into that of disaffection or disloyalty. The recrudescence of the widespread agitation for the revival of independent Biafra may not be unconnected with the feeling of alienation generated in the agitators by the exclusion of the South-East Zone from President Buhari’s strategic appointments. By thus excluding Ndigbo from these appointments and thereby alienating them from President Buhari’s Federal Government, every Igbo man and woman feel at heart a Biafran, much as they passionately love Nigeria and want its territorial sovereignty preserved, and maintained over them – i.e. Biafra existing in the heart and mind, but not in actuality or in a physical sense. The entire Igbo race of over 50 million people scattered throughout the whole length and breadth of the country might just as well be proscribed as Biafrans!!
In the face of the exclusions of Ndigbo from appointment to the strategic offices mentioned above, and the feeling of alienation from President Buhari’s Federal Government thereby created in them, the much-talked-about assignment to them of four ministerial portfolios – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Commerce, Science and Technology, and Labour and Productivity – pales to relative insignificance, if it does not border on an irrelevancy.
Coming back to the all-important question of the unity of the country. The issue is confounded by the illegitimacy of the state in Nigeria, as in nearly every other country in Africa, owing to its origin as an imposition by an alien imperial power, whose authority to rule is thus not derived from, or backed by, tradition, convention or myth accepted and respected by the people over whom it exercises rule. Karl Maier, in his book, This House has Fallen : Midnight in Nigeria (2000), p. 7, has rightly described it (i.e. the Nigerian state) as “the bastard child of imperialism”. To legitimise it is one of the primary and daunting tasks of the President of Nigeria. President Buhari is hereby assured of our support should he ever decide to embark on that role.
A readily authentic means of legitimation is by a constitution, deriving authority as the supreme law of the land, from the people, in whom is reposed the sovereignty of the country with its constituent power, a constitution adopted at a Referendum. A constitution, made in this way, launches the country on a new beginning, bestows much-needed legitimacy on the state and unity on the country, and serves as a medium for the implementation of Re-structuring. Re-structuring is after all about how to strengthen and nurture unity of the country.
Apart altogether from the issue of legitimising the state, the recent incident of parents rushing to the schools to collect their children because of the rumour that the Nigerian Army might administer immunisation to them against monkey pox casts a shadow on the legitimacy of the Federal Government and its agency, the Nigerian Army, in the eyes of these parents. The operations launched by the Army in the South-East and the South-South States, and the unfortunate names given to the Operations – Operation Python Dance and Operation Crocodile Smile – create in the minds of the people of those States, especially the unsophisticated masses, an image of the Army and its employer, the Federal Government, as a python and a crocodile, out there to devour people, and from which therefore their children must be kept away.
The message, the practical significance, of the incident is clear: the people need protection, but the protection they need is not protection by the Federal Government of President Buhari, but protection against it.
Lastly, I urge dialogue and, as an ultimate step, the setting up of a Peace and Reconciliation Commission, as has been done in 23 other countries of the world.
Professor Ben Nwabueze
October 18, 2017