IBB, Casino Capitalism and    National Security By Adagbo Onoja

Tribalism, Federalism and the Sovereign National Conference in Nigeria
 By Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko  Newsdiaryonline   Sun Feb 12,2012


Dr Ralph


One of the most contemporary challenges in Nigeria is the call for convocation of the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to discuss the new future of Nigeria. Some believe that only an SNC will provide the needed opportunity for the dialogue of the diverse interest groups in the nation to examine and re-examine the possibility of sustaining the present composition of the Nigeria state.  I believe that it is not unconnected to the conflicting perspective and expectations from the nation of Nigeria. As in all situations of conflict, the many factions in the country have been involved in various forms of in-fighting. Some have fought due to religious conflict,others along ethnic/regional conflict with many on the basis of resources development and utilization.

Yet, the fact remains that fighting alone does not resolve conflict, no matter how necessary it may be to protect the voiceless and powerless groups in the country. From the realization that fighting does not resolve conflict and will therefore not resolve the conflicts in Nigeria, the next option is to consider dialogue. Despite the many platforms for dialogue of Nigerians by Nigerians and for Nigerians like the National and State Assemblies, there is still the growing dissatisfaction on the extent of the ability of the parliamentarians to discuss in the best interest of the nation.Executive dialogue forums like the Governors Forum, the Federal Executive Council and even the National Council of States seem not preferred by many. Insisting on a more participatory platform devoid of present political affiliations, some feel that only the SNC offers the way forward. This is the basis of the callsfor a sovereign national conference in Nigeria where “we the people” can engage in productive dialogue to address the differences and formulate a common path to move forward in the days ahead.

Some of the advocates of the sovereign national conference are advancing the need to practice true federalism where resources in a particular region are produced and managed aswell as utilized by the region and for the region.  Unfortunately, a lot of assumptions are being made in this proposal. One of such assumptions is that Nigeria has regionsalready created which the policy of true federalism will stand on. Do we really have regions in Nigeria? The answer will be both yes and no! Yes, in the sensethat regions were announced in the 1940s as a counter proposal to the Lugard1914 Amalgamation of the Protectorates of the North and South. They were named the North, East and West regions and with the Mid-West region added later. Yet,no, in the sense that Nigeria never had regions because the reality of what wasdescribed as North, East and West were most un-geographical but mere expression sof major tribes in the nation, where Hausas were called North, Igbos as East and Yorubas as West.

So, should the proposed SNC advocate for true federalism and will it serve the greater good in our present context and level of consciousness and development of nationhood in Nigeria? I seem not to be a disciple of this school of thought. I however believe in dialogue as a way to resolve conflicts but do not hope that a dialogue geared toward settlement of the agitators will ever end the conflict. If those with oil are settled to control the oil in their areas, and those with cocoa are  settled to have control of their cocoa, etc, will that end the conflicts around Nigeria? I know that it will never address the real issues of conflict and cannot prevent its re-occurrence.

I do understand that the concept of true federalism is supposed to work for the interest of the people and nation. However, the major condition for such federalism to work for the people and the nation, which is the core interest of most people, is that such a nation need to have people who recognize and realize that they are citizens of the nation and not indigenes of tribes with affiliations to state of origin andnot places of birth/residence. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not have the enabling foundation yet to practice true federalism as Nigeria is a country with indigenes of tribes and not citizens of the nation. In Nigeria, the people are still more affiliated to their states and local government areas of origin that places of birth and residence. This makes Nigeria to be a nation without citizens but with many indigenes of tribes. For some of us, we are even older than our states of origin, which makes the whole idea of my place of origin ridiculous. I have always asked why I am older than the place I supposedly originated from.

On the true state of Nigeria since the 1940s, I know that we have never had geographical regions in Nigeria.Unfortunately, Nigeria was rather tribalized but not regionalized as the present so called East and West regions are in the South and the present North region have more of the geographical West and East within. Hence, without a prope rregionalization beyond tribal affiliations, it will be risky to consider true federalism as today's states in Nigeria are mere glorified smaller tribes.


Most people in Nigeria today were not alive when Nigeria was created and I think that it was not a bad idea to bring diverse people together. Even though some key elements in nation building were missing and we inherited what was supposed to be a unified nation but rather amalgamated and even tribalized nation, the idea of a nation of Nigeria remains good and should be realized. Our calling should not be to destroy the efforts of the past but to improve upon what we have already. This is what I consider as the greatest thing we should do. I think we should work toward the re-unification of Nigeria and it is possible as we can. Let us re-vision Nigeria and not embark on a di-vision of Nigeria. The idea of federalism on the wheels of tribalism will only divide us instead of unite us.

Today’s Nigeria is a federation of ethnic groups and tribes and we will continue to face tribal issues until we grow beyond the present tribalized Nigeria and build a truly National Nigeria where everyone will be a citizen of Nigeria and not an indigene of a tribe.  I think that what we therefore need to do is begin a process of creating a new National Culture that will guide us all as Nigerians beyond our ethnic cultures. Such a national culture should be the basis of the code of conduct for each citizen in the family, the curriculum forschools and the constitution for the communities. Hence, the National Culturewill be expressed through our Conduct, Curriculum and Constitution.

After this, we need togeographically re-structure the present Nigeria into a true North, East, Westand South where North will be in the north, east in the east, west in the westand south in the south. At the moment, what we have is Ibos as the East,Yorubas as the West, Hausas as the North and once in a while Niger Deltans asthe South and Middle Belt as the central North. This is tribalization and notregionalization. States are created again from such tribal basis as most stateshave tribal names than regional description as well as LGAs.  Such true regionalization will now producechildren in families as well as students in schools who are all citizens ofNigeria and what will count will be place of birth and residence and notstate/LGA of origin. We will begin to see Nigerians in Nigeria and issues willbe treated on merit and not in terms of tribes.

Finally, on such a foundation,development will be addressed on a national basis. As we have NDDC for Niger Delta, we will need to create Western Nigeria Development Commission, Eastern Nigeria Development Commission, Southern Nigeria Development Commission and Northern Nigeria Development Commission as each region has enormous resources that need to be developed and utilized by Nigerians in the region.

In this way, we shall no longer look for religious or tribal President but a National President who will lead Nigeria with a national heart. This is what I understand and advocate as the way forward for Nigeria. First, we should create a New National Culture,secondly, we should geographically Regionalize Nigeria and thirdly, we should develop Resources Nationwide. Other internal issues can be addressed with this external framework in place. This is a vision for a new Nigeria that I have offered at no cost to anyone but should be used by anyone agitating for a new Nigeria.

Therefore, while advocating for a sovereign national conference as an opportunity for a national dialogue, let us remember that our tribal affiliations will prevent our ability to focus on national transformation but may end up in national deformation. If we shall ever practice true federalism, we must first eliminate tribalism and ethnic affiliation but rather focus on producing citizens of Nigeria. If a sovereign national conference is convened on the false pillars of tribalism and true federalism is advocated and adopted, then, let us be sure that the present state of fighting because of religion, region and resources will multiply in hundreds and thousands as each religious denomination will fight another, each regional ethnic group will fight another and all resources shall become tools for our many wars.

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