There were four regions in Nigeria up till January 1966 and the regions were semi autonomous and doing very well. They were in very healthy competition and even the Northern region that was by far behind the three other regions in education, infrastructure, social amenities and political sophistication was tagging along, thanks to Sir Ahmadu Bello’s vision and determination to bridge the gap and build a formidable power base.
Each region had its own Constitution and Laws side by side with the Federal Constitution and the Western region which was easily the most progressive at that point in time even had its own Consulate office in the UK.
The Western region and the Eastern region opted for Self Government two years before the Northern region reluctantly accepted to be self-governing. And even when Anthony Enahoro representing Western region moved the motion for Independence the North said it was not ready.
Be that as it may, all the regions worked hard to attain self-sufficiency in an economy with the famed Ground nut pyramids in the North, the Cocoa and Palm produce in the West and Coal and lumber in the East. When the Midwest was excised from the Western region it also brought a bit to the table. Regions contributed 50% of their earnings to the Centre while retaining 50% each. In other words, if the country made 400 Nigerian pounds, 200 went to the centre while 200 stayed with the regions as opposed to nowadays when the Unitary Government at the centre grabs over 75% of the country’s earnings to swell the pockets of marauding vultures in Abuja.
The peace and prosperity of Nigeria was shattered by the Military incursion into government via the first Coup d’état on January 15, 1966, and the destiny of Nigeria became a pun in the straps of jackboot politicians. Unfortunately, very, unfortunately, the incidence of military adventurism coincided with the exploration of oil and the oil boom that followed.
The Military’s Decree 34 put paid to regionalism and set the country on the ruinous path of unitarism and wrong headed centralized economic and fiscal policies that had continuously dragged the country backwards.
The Military set in motion the distrust, acrimonious suspicions and braggadocio that led us to vengeance coup of July 29, 1966, that almost wiped out the elite of a section of the military from a section of the country. To date, the wounds of the vengeance coup are yet to heal. In rapid succession, serious genocidal wave in the North led to a war of pogrom in the East and the destiny of Nigeria got further damaged and the hope heaped on the country at Independence in 1960 virtually disappeared.
While the war raged the Military altered the boundaries of the regions and carved out 12 states which was the beginning of the politically and self-serving balkanization of the country to strengthen the Centre and weaken the regions so that no part of the country would be strong enough to challenge the imperialistic design of the Unitary Government.
Six years after the avoidable war which boys in their early 30s dragged the country into ended, those who put Gowon in power in 1966 felt compelled to shove him aside and the fiery Murtala Mohammed and the vengeful sadist Olusegun Obasanjo stepped in. They immediately set to work to nail the coffin of Nigeria’s already battered destiny. They took a sledge hammer and walloped the Civil and Public Service to pop. Hundreds of thousands of public servants including the leading lights like Sir Manuwa were rudely and senselessly sacked. That was the greatest blow to one of the most vibrant institutions in the land.
Next in their onslaught was a further balkanization of the country to 19 states and enthronement of culture of fear and timidity in the Nigerian citizenry. For purely selfish reasons the Military under the power drunk duo of Mohammed and Obasanjo jettisoned our time tested and smooth running parliamentary system and imposed corruption laden winner-takes-all American style Presidential system on the country to make the centre unassailable and complete the cycle of authoritarian unitarism.
The Military cut off their head in Murtala and the Cabal that controlled the Military decorated the seat of the head of State with Obasanjo. The real power behind the throne was a young Fulani Lieutenant Colonel who was catapulted overnight to Brigadier General. The booming capital of Nigeria was disrobed and the country was commanded to move her capital to Abuja ignoring the worldwide practice of stationing capital cities close to the country’s ports.
Another great blow to the country’s destiny was the rabid nationalization of all the country’s major assets and particularly the symbols of the regional landmarks. The prestigious University of Ife, the great Ahmadu Bello University and the historic University of Nigeria Nsukka which the Premiers of the regions where they were situated laboured to establish were forcibly taken by the Unitary Government of Obasanjo and Yar’Adua. The Military nationalized all tertiary institutions including privately owned High Schools and thus messed up education in the country. Awo’s remarkable legacies like the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, Africa’s first Television station also in Ibadan did not escape the thoughtless and fiendish hammer of Obasanjo.
The Military ruined the country’s geographical space with 36 unviable states and 774 fraudulent local governments which are all a stupendous drain on the slim finances of both the states and the country. Nigeria’s cost of governance is the highest in the world and her National Assembly the most unwieldy and shamelessly corrupt.
I must quickly make a clarification regarding the three classes of the Nigerian Military. First category is the very professional Military; never took part in coups and never held political office. There is the second category which specializes in coups and political offices. The third category is the Military Politicians. That group went into the Military for the singular purpose of acting out their political dreams. A good number of that class also became civilian Governors and are still in the National Assembly.
I should also add that despite destroying our collective destiny as a country, we should give credit to the Military for creating virtually all the physical landmarks in the country. The Military gave Nigeria the 2nd and 3rd Mainland Bridges, the ultra-modern National Arts Theatre, Murtala Mohammed Airport, Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Lagos –Ibadan Express Way and several highways in the country and created a modern city of Abuja among many other physical structures. The Paper Mill at Oku Iboku, Oil Mills, Water basins and even the Refineries were all created by the Military.
Now there is most challenging episode in our collective destiny. Nigerians want the country to go back to status quo which existed before the Military messed up their political structure. We want to go back to SIX AUTONOMOUS REGIONS in a Confederation or loose Federation as in the First Republic. Let each region develop at its own pace in its own space, abolish the master-slave relationship that currently exists, end all acrimonies and suspicions engendered by religion and ethnicity, stop the rampaging Fulani herdsmen terrorists, reduce across- the- state armed robberies and kidnappings, and return to Parliamentary system and get rid of money guzzling National Assembly.
Nigeria has only three choices; leaders of the country to come together and agree to all these demands without bloodshed, second choice is through national civil disobedience with each current state refusing to remit any money to Abuja from resources in their state while nobody goes to Abuja again with cap in hand, the third which is the most unpalatable is to ask the Military which created the political mess to return us to status quo ante!
Time is not in our favour. The time bomb is ticking. And whichever Cabal that may be hiding in the wings believing that all the current agitations will die down must be living in fools’ paradise. Nigerians are tired, very tired of the unworkable yoke on their necks. Explosion may follow and no country on earth can cope with the attendant refugee crisis.