Which Way Nigeria ?, By Wole Olaoye

Despite everything, Ofeimun believes Nigeria didn’t go too far to be saved. He wants Nigeria to be reinvented. And he advocates that the elite use the intellectual rigor necessary to find a more federalist way out of the current chaos.

This house is falling, so many people say of the Nigerian project. They point to many indices that signal the psychological fragmentation of the concept of nationality from all directions on the Nigerian compass. Quarrel here, discord there, murders everywhere. Such situations drive men and women of good will to put their heads together to find a way out of the labyrinth.

The Obafemi Awolowo Foundation provided such an important forum for their annual talk in 2021 that was held practically in line with the COVID times we live in. The lecture, which was chaired by Professor Wole Soyinka, attracted well over 500 guests. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary General, was the guest of honor, while Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar was the royal father of the day. Professor Michael Faborode, former Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, masterfully moderated the event.

The stage was set in a few words of wisdom by the Sultan, who openly admitted that Nigeria was once again on the sidelines and demanded that all hands be on deck to save the nation from the war. He warned: “War is not a wish … During my career as a military officer, my business trip took me to Pakistan and the borders of Afghanistan, where I saw conflicts and deaths and disturbances in life with people who otherwise felt comfortable and are in IDP- Camp with all the outrage and suffering. “

Chef Emeka Anyaoku suggested a way out based on his many years of experience in an international environment. He noted, “There is ample evidence that a federal system based on more economically and socially sustainable federation units with less dominant central government will put Nigeria on the path to greater political stability and a more secure economy and growth.

Guest speaker Odia Ofeimun (poet, polemicist and author) buried his teeth on the subject of “Where to go in Nigeria?” Tracing the source of current centrifugal tendencies in the country, warning that the perceived expansionist leanings of the Fulani ethnic group may be driving the Land in an unstoppable turn. When he realized that political parties have become a toothless collection of rulers who have no common ideology but only the will to seize power for self-enlargement, he wrote in an article two years ago about the development of the so-called “Kabiyesi Syndrome”. moved into the background. in which I explained how elected people get taller than the constitution.

The current state of uncertainty across the country could have been averted or at least minimized if the current government had implemented the plans already set by its predecessor. Education is the key to development. Keeping 15 million children out of school and without skills is a recipe for disaster. He looked back at President Jonathan’s efforts in this regard:

“He (Jonathan) built 165 Almajiri schools and 27 colleges,” recalls Ofeimun. “In a country where fifteen million school-age children lay fallow on the streets, mostly as Almajirai, lured as recruits by various terrorists disguised as Boko Haram clergy, this might be more fitting than a reaction who have favourited should ride terror halted by education! Therefore, he created a special military unit, the Safe School Initiative, which was approved by the United Nations in 2014, to covertly and openly protect schools and universities in the age of the education-hating Boko Haram … “

The area where the government has spent so much energy, even at the expense of alienating large parts of the country, is an attempt, according to Ofeimun, to create independent “republics” for Fulani shepherds across the country.

However, Ofeimun noted, “After General Buhari removed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and got down to business, one of the first things he did was shut down all education companies that had such high expectations of the strategy. As if the federal government had simply become an arm of the notorious Boko Haram, haters of schools and kidnappers of school girls, and blockers of the spread of so-called Western education, all grand plans were simply discarded and abandoned. “

The area where the government has spent so much energy, even at the expense of alienating large parts of the country, is an attempt, according to Ofeimun, to create independent “republics” for Fulani shepherds across the country. He tracks the emergence of various crises between ranchers and local farmers over the years, wondering why the livestock option was not explored in the north, especially since this zone is three times the size of the south. He wondered what happened to river basin development agencies that were built at high cost to provide water for agriculture and animal husbandry.

Ofeimun’s analysis of the sudden surge in foreign bandits is quite exciting:

“It just happened that the great problems and turmoil of our time centered on shepherds who migrated en masse as ethnic groups of the Fulani from Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad, as well as from other parts of Africa. All apparently accepted invitations to join the struggle for countries not normally identified with the Fulani in Nigeria. Or to put it in the strict social media: The Fulani in Nigeria invited the Fulani all over Africa to come to Nigeria to take over the country with armed propaganda … “

According to him, “Fulani youth from inside and outside Nigeria who should really benefit from Marshall aid to equip them with the education and skills that could lift them out of grave poverty have been dragged in caravan loads by dragoons by the hundreds of thousands up north and south dumped in forests and virtual urban jungles in the south … these are certainly the grand and subaltern tales of our time in the face of governments openly urging indigenous farmers in the central belt and across the country to be hospitable to strangers they, ordinary farmers, with Kalashnikovs (AK47 rifles). “

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Against this background, people have resorted to all forms of self-help: “Understandably, the local populations across the country who feel unprotected and betrayed have lost their trust in the national security apparatus to be accountable. They see all security forces, all under a particular, parochial, ethnic leadership, as easily and constantly overtaken by virtual crooks who wreak havoc. So-called hoodlums pump general suspicion into public spaces with forms of impunity that lead all communities to take their own security precautions. “

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka urged the governors not to continue to wring their hands helplessly. He suggested that they should use the existing constitutional framework to wrest more power from the center of federation units and to ensure the prosperity and well-being of their peoples.

But self-help has its problems, and Ofeimun approaches the problem with his own question: “What if every ethnic group, especially those dispossessed by shepherds, decided to buy weapons and set up raiding parties to do the same to others, what was done to them? ? It would be an effort to disintegrate Africa’s most populous state with virtual anarchies and trauma not too dissimilar to what Africa experienced during the time of the slave-hunting wars that literally destroyed our continent and paved the way for colonialism. “

We obviously don’t want things to degenerate to this level.

In the Nigerian forest, all animals should be the same, says Ofeimun. If Fulanis from other countries are to receive automatic Nigerian citizenship, as some politicians of this ethnic group are promoting, Yorubas and other ethnic groups with brothers and sisters in Benin, Ghana and other countries in West Africa should be given the same privilege. And where are the current international borders and the protocols that regulate them?

Despite everything, Ofeimun believes Nigeria didn’t go too far to be saved. He wants Nigeria to be reinvented. And he advocates that the elite use the intellectual rigor necessary to find a more federalist way out of the current chaos.

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka urged the governors not to continue to wring their hands helplessly. He suggested that they should use the existing constitutional framework to wrest more power from the center of federation units and to ensure the prosperity and well-being of their peoples.

Overall it was an evening of great intellectual intercourse with Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia and others who preoccupied Ofeimun on a number of issues.

Ambassador Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosunmu’s set goal of the annual lecture was achieved. “With this event we are trying not to criticize gratuitously, but actually to provoke a national dialogue that will ultimately lead to a consensus on the way forward for this country,” she said.

And the mystics and sinners and kings and plebeians say, Amen!

Wole Olaoye can be reached at [email protected]

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