Opinion

Opinion: Why is this acclaimed population advantage not transformed into high yielding productivity

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State recently made the following proud statement; “Kano has a population triple or four times some states, therefore, should be given a higher consideration in terms of employment. We have 44 local government areas. We have 484 wards, 24 members of the House of Representatives, and 40 members of the state assembly. None of the states in Nigeria has such a structure. In fact, we are the biggest democracy in Nigeria”. Wow!

Some questions; why is this acclaimed population advantage not being transformed into high yielding productivity through human capital development? So it is just a dependent number? Is Nigeria a beggars’democracy? Who is fooling who?

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo once said that “Nigeria is a country perpetually potentially great, almost permanently in crisis, regularly threatened with disintegration, prolongingly plundered and mismanaged, forever talking about democracy but retreating from democracy”. He knows what he was saying with his wealth of experience from serving the nation at highest level twice, first as a Military Head of State and second as a democratically elected President.

A parasitic system whereby the only contribution a section of the country makes is projecting a large population does not augur well. There is no need quibbling about the simple fact that Nigeria at present is sustained by oil and gas revenue accruing from Southern part of the country. In terms of trade, major foreign earnings of the country come from the south. The only thing the Northern part of the country brings to the table is human population based on fraudulent claims. By this population prebendal political paradigm, Nigerian democracy hangs on what the North decides through periodic general elections. It portends that nothing will change in the country until the status quo is reconsidered.

A brief history of how the country was plunged into present the day-to-day festering political cul-de-sac reveals that “the so-called Nigeria created in 1914 was a complete fraud. It was created not in the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians but in the interest of the British. And what were the structures created? The structures created were as follows: Northern Nigeria was to represent England; Western Nigeria like Wales; Eastern Nigeria was to be like Scotland. In the British structure, England has permanent majority in the House of Commons. There was no way Wales can ever dominate England, neither can Scotland dominate England. But they are very shrewd. They would allow a Scottish man to become PM. They would allow a Welsh man to become PM in London but the fact remains that the actual power is rested in England. That was what Lugard created in Nigeria, a permanent majority for the North. The population figure is also a fraud”. Perhaps, no other person than Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation would have made the revelation above. He was actively involved in early days of the country’s politics.  

The present day agitations from different sections of the country are nothing but manifestations of people coming to recognition of the inherent fraud in the prevailing political arrangement. If only there is wisdom and modesty in leadership, much of the recurring problems would have been curtailed long ago.

A forced union is an aberration, an unsuitable relationship. Is there a person who is willing and capable to give answer to the following questions?
(1) Who is afraid of a Nigeria based on a thorough acknowledgement and true reflection of our diversity in every affairs of governance? It requires using wisdom to balance political appointments, revenue allocation and distribution of resources.
(2) Who is afraid of a Nigeria administered on the bases of economic contributory capacity of each section of the country? This entails resource control and devolution
of powers to justify federalism. 
(3) Who is afraid of a Nigeria practicing parliamentary system of government? This was how the country started from the independence era. It still works well in Britain, Germany, South Africa, Canada, India, Israel, Australia and many other countries. Will this not save costs, curtail wastages, reduce political bottlenecks, delays in policy execution and brigandage at the various levels of governance?
(4) Who is afraid of a Nigeria allowing each constituent parts of the country to manage its own internal security?

If we refuse and fail to embrace the opportunities being presented now to have a genuine national discourse, without any no go areas, all talks about democracy, one-man-one-vote, national unity, will amount to an exercise in futility.

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln

For a long time, the National Population Commission has been part of this unwholesome practice through claims of not being able to conduct national census due to lack of funds, sabotage, and external frustration. Ideally, a census should be done every 10 years, but it appears difficult to sustain mainly because it is not considered a priority in an economy like Nigeria. The timing requires political will and proclamation by the president.

As noted by Richard Akinjide, “Nigeria is the only zone whereby you go from the coast to the north, the population increases and you come from the north to the coast, the population decreases. Well, geographers, anthropologists and population experts, draw your conclusion” All previous censuses in Nigeria were conducted in an environment fraught with political interference. This was because there was an incentive to inflate population figures. 

It is relevant to underscore the sensitive and strategic issues at stake here this; National Population, National Identity, Voter Population and eventual Electoral Results. These invariably form the bases for delineation of electoral constituencies, distribution of resources, allocation of various government positions, political patronages and more. The institutions that oversee and address all these and more, are being headed by Nigerians from a particular region of the country, in brazen negation and breach of Section 14(3) (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended), which provides that: 

  1. The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.  
  2. The composition of the Government of a State, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognize the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the Federation.

Furthermore, the level of impudence and impunity being exhibited by the Buhari/APC Administration is only emboldened by the fact that using population democracy, no useful change can be made provided that northern Nigeria gives strong backing to the bad governance going on. The type of representative democracy required in Nigeria is very far from what Buhari/APC rule has shown and continues to show Nigerians. The PDP was struggling during its 16 year rule at the center, but some Nigerians thought there was need for change and manipulated many other Nigerians into believing and expecting change. The change being witnessed now is backwardness at its gross level. It has demonstrated that a winner-takes-all form of presidential system does not benefit a diverse country like Nigeria.

How and why it happens that Oil Resources in one part of the country is being managed by people from another part, needs to be addressed. How and why it happens that the major viable sea ports in the south are being managed by people from the north need to be addressed. How and why it happens that major borders for economic activities are in the south, but being controlled by people from the north need to be addressed. These are some of the sundry troubling issues depicting the pathetic state of our polity.

This bogus nature of our democracy will continue to rear its ugly head in form of vociferous agitations for ‘restructuring, true federalism, secession, self-determination, referendum,’ until there is a radical change. Today’s Nigeria only pretends to be a democracy whereas it harbors a fraud, ailing and begging for healing. By the time it becomes readily apparent to everyone that a significant national existential challenge has arisen, solving it may be extremely expensive, especially given the amplitude to which vested interests will by then have entrenched themselves in implacable opposition to change. Peaceful change is always preferable to violent change: prevention is better than cure. May wisdom prevail!

I pause here, using the following words of a leading wise scholar, Hilary French, saying “a man who tried to hold back a flood with a pail would probably be considered more of a crank than a saint, even by those he was trying to help

Chukwuma Onyekwelu, a Legal Practitioner and Communications Consultant writes from Abuja.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @Chuma_Onyekwelu

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