By Bola Bolawole
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An authoritative report once described Nigerians as the happiest people in the world. That report came as a surprise to many because, even as at that time many years ago when things were not as parlous as they are now, Nigerians were nowhere near some of the most prosperous people in the world. Though Nigerians believe – largely erroneously, though – that their country is rich, the people have always been poor, the majority of them living miserably below the poverty level. The APC/Muhammadu Buhari civilian regime has taken the misery of the majority of Nigerians to horrendous and horrifying levels, such that, today, they are not only still poor but are also the poorest of the poorest as the country becomes the newly-crowned poverty capital of the world. Shoo to APC!! Shoo to Buhari!!
In the midst of this, Nigerians are still a happy people, generally-speaking. It is Nigerians who make themselves happy willy-nilly – despite the shenanigans of their government. Nigerians find all manner of ingenious ways to do this. “They will not come and kill person”, our people will say as they ignore the atrocities of those in the corridors of power. Rather than give themselves high blood pressure by yelling and howling at the obscene and primitive capitalist accumulation of those in public offices, our people will simply say awon were, asinwin ! and keep their cool! They must be mad people indeed for a government that advertised itself as anti-graft to break all records held by previous corrupt governments.
The failings and failure of government that attract public demonstrations elsewhere move no one to public or citizen action here. Instead, we mock them and mind our own business thereafter. So did NEPA, which meant National Electric Power Authority, become Never Expect Power Always and NYSC, which should mean the National Youth Service Corps, got translated into “Now Your Suffering Continues”! A few days ago, the same NYSC witnessed a slight modification, which is instructive and apt: “Now, Your Suffering Commences”!
Of course, the people’s suffering must have commenced in earnest for price hikes to assail them right, left and centre – all in the space of one week. Fuel price hike; electricity hike, DSTV hike, skyrocketing food prices, out-of-this-world transportation cost; all manner of taxes, impositions, and concocted deductions, etc were the unsavoury experience of people in the past weeks. And we have been warned that we have just started; that more hardship is on the way! Now, Your Suffering Commences!
The reason is not far to fetch. Under APC/Buhari, it has been corruption and looting of public resources galore; like never before, such that I was forced to refer to it as not just corruption but sheer banditry. Under APC/Buhari, it has been wasting of scarce resources like never before; such that we cannot by ourselves see what the government has done with our resources. Only presidential spin doctors and other government officials can locate the achievements of this civilian regime.
The huge debt that APC/Buhari has thrown this country into, if we push it into the ocean, as Grandma was wont to say, the ocean will be unable to wash it away. Servicing the debt – and “whacking” what is left rather than plowing it into development projects – is what has brought this suffering on Nigerians. The IMF and World Bank conditions are what the APC/Buhari regime is beginning to implement. The Chinese are on the sidelines watching and waiting to pounce on whatever has been used as collaterals for their own humongous loans once the APC/Buhari regime reneges.
A country like Nigeria, which spends 70 percent or more of its income on debts servicing, is sinking already and cannot keep afloat for too long, regardless of the quantum of further loans that may be poured into it. Our unfortunate reality is that the Nigeria Project, which held bright promises at its inception, has crashed! The Number One culprit is bad leadership. The Number Two is the inability and or reluctance of the various ethnic groups or nationalities making up the country to mesh and forge a common identity that will drive a common destiny. The disparate groups pull in different directions propelled, as it were, by differing and conflicting ideologies.
The time to unbundle Nigeria is now! If you do not, nothing will work, even if we roll over the Amalgamation Treaty for another 100 years. Of late, that treaty has been the subject of serious discussions. But while unbundling Nigeria, be sure not to proceed as was done with NEPA, whose so-called commercialisation or privatization or, to use the popular cliche, restructuring, has created more problems than it has solved. As they say, what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. No part of this country will witness any meaningful development until Nigeria is unbundled but once this country is unbundled, you will be shocked to witness the kind of rapid development that will begin to take place all over the territories now called Nigeria. History teaches that until the “National Question” is satisfactorily settled, no multi-ethnic nation will fulfil its destiny.
Take a look at the post purportedly by Dr. (Ambassador) George Obiozor. I used to know one person by that name, a one-time D-G of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, whose refrain was that Nigerians should identify and honour their national heroes. It reads in part: “Can you show me one multi-ethnic state in Europe where one group is positioned to dominate the rest that hasn’t broken up? For those who may not know, what you call “ethnic groups” in Nigeria is called “nations” in Europe.
“There’s nowhere in the world where the white man accepts domination from another white man in perpetuity… The Communists tried it, dividing society into capitalists and proletarians; deluding themselves that ethnicity is effectively swept under the carpet but what followed? The Communist edifices in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the big brother, USSR, all collapsed while the two Germans that are ethnically the same but split by Communism versus Capitalism were reunited. Such is the power of ethnic nationalism!
“Czechoslovakia was made up of two ethnic groups, the Czechs and the Slovakians. Both separated peacefully on 1st January, 1993. The former is today 10.6 million people and the latter, 5.4 million. Added together, they are not up to Lagos. Yet, they split for peace. Two masters can’t be in the same house.
“Yugoslavia in 1991 was 23.2 million, barely more than the Lagos population. It broke into six countries in the same year – all along ethnic lines, namely: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
“Then the big brother, USSR…Today, your fingers will not be enough to count the number of countries that have emerged from the USSR…
“In Europe, the two best examples of fairly stable multi-ethnic states are the UK and Switzerland. The former is led by reasonable men who permit regional autonomy to the Irish, the Scots, and the Welsh while the English dominate Westminster…
“The latter country, Switzerland, has four ethnic groups. Each of them rotates the presidency through seven cantons that constitute the federating units. All the four languages of the four ethnic groups are recognized as official languages and school languages to boot, namely, German, French, Italian, and Romansch that has just a few thousand speakers!
“There is nowhere in the world where the Caucasians allow the domination of their group by another. In Canada, Quebec is the only full French-speaking province, aside from a little section of New Brunswick. The other seven provinces are English-speaking. Yet, Canada is bilingual for the sake of Quebec! And each of the provinces is largely self-governing.
“Here we are in Nigeria; (we) have people arguing vehemently that a decrepit, structurally-flawed, and crisis-prone artificial contraption badly configured by the British only needs good people to survive! Why not centralise the powers of the British regions to London and see what happens!”
Need we say more! Except that the question is no longer whether but when and how this country shall be unbundled: Is it by war or by peaceful means? I prefer peaceful means. Will true federalism or confederation suffice or should we simply get to the bottom of the pot? I think those hedging on restructuring are not doing the country, themselves, and the rest of us any good because the bus will soon leave the restructuring bus stop – if it has not done so already! This is one clear case where a stitch in time will save more than nine.
In Asia, Pakistan broke away from India and Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan. In Africa, Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia and, recently, South Sudan broke away from Sudan. As we speak, Catalonia struggles to break away from Spain, and, in 2014, the Scottish missed getting their independence through a referendum; 55% voting to continue as part of the United Kingdom. The Irish Republican Movement has not relented in its struggles to exit the United Kingdom and force the unification of Ireland. Britain itself on 23 June, 2016 voted to exit Europe. Yoruba Exit – YEXIT – may be next! Thanks to Buhari’s cluelessness, clannishness, lop-sided appointments, divisive and provocative utterances, among others!