By Jide Oluwajuyitan
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, three days ago, at the maiden APC Youth Conference, advised youths to “be involved in politics if (they) are keen on how the future will turn out because social media do not transform the lives of millions for good or ill”.
Unfortunately, this appeal may not resonate well with many of our youths because of their frustration over President Buhari’s mismanagement of our crisis of nation-building these past six years. But the message couldn’t have come at a better time because our youths, social media wizards, hardly read anything beyond the garbage churned out by many uniformed Nigerians hiding under the anonymity of social media to cover up their ill-preparedness for leadership – a responsibility which requires a lot of sacrifice and preparedness.
I recently asked some Mass Communication majors aged 21-26 cutting across both public and private universities to name some newspaper columnists of pre-independence, post-independence and contemporary newspaper columnists. The sad answer from the majority of them working on their final projects was “we don’t read newspapers”. I didn’t ask them questions on Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe, or the Nobel laureate Soyinka. I didn’t bother them about Hausa states before Fulani conquest, the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire or how the Igbo republican society managed their societies for centuries before imperial powers’ disruption. Neither did I ask about the Holy Bible, Holy Quran or Ifa without whose knowledge those we often regard as salt of life after graduation can manage society.
A great many of the EndSARS generation did not know that Tony Enahoro, who remains the greatest parliamentarian Nigeria has ever produced, was editor at 22, that Zik returned from Ghana in 1934 to elekzikify the Nigerian press or that Awo, a self-made man who never had money to finish primary or secondary school, wrote the best book on Nigeria federalism The Path to Nigerian Freedom as a student at 36.
Osinbajo’s call in my view is for the youths to understand the nature of our problem, compounded by colonial and post-colonial contradictions. In fact, many of them see those calling for restructuring as the problem. I once listened to lectures by Sam Adeyemi and Awosika, two great Nigerians the youth look up to as model claiming there was no difference between Nigerians.
They forget if Germany, regarded as “German machine” is forced to cohabit with leisure-loving French elite that celebrate liberty, freedom and licentiousness over work by going to club with their spouses who they exchange with another woman and return home the following morning holding hands, and Great Britain where you have to wear maternity dress to hide your pregnancy, there will be more social dislocations than we today have in Nigeria
But more importantly, our youths must avoid falling into the same trap set by the imperial powers for the Arab and the Maghreb youths in North Africa with whom we share similar colonial and post-colonial experiences.
Faced with economic crisis from 2008, compounded by Muhammar Gadhafi’s decision to fund African Development Bank to free African countries from IMF, World Bank and Paris Club borrowings that only further impoverish African nations, the West led by America with Bush doctrine, finally settled by Obama’s flowery lecture in Egypt, the youths were set against their dictatorial leaders. From Tunisia, to Libya and Egypt, one dictator fell after another.
Today the Arab and Maghreb region are under a new wave of colonialism. Gadhafi was killed like a chicken against international law by the west and a country he turned from a desert to a paradise where students didn’t pay fees, got subsidy for unemployment, got support to build their own homes if they get married; where citizens were not paying electricity bill has today descended to a war-torn nation where life has become nasty, brutish and short as it used to be in Europe before their exploitation of the resources of Africa and other colonized nations of the world including India. Syria is engulfed in a civil war fueled by world power rivalry with more than half of the population in exile or killed. Saudi Arabia is armed by America to obliterate Yemen.
Today, the Arab world with 300million-strong population speaking the same language sharing the same culture and worshipping the same Allah are at war with themselves.
The consensus among our founding fathers as it was with other multinational and multi-cultural societies was that the only social system that guarantees unity in diversity in deeply divided society like ours is federal arrangement. It guarantees ‘individual and group rights defined in form of language, culture, and religion or socio-economic status’. It was not difficult for the Yoruba to embrace this because by nature, history and temperament they are federalists. However, the Hausa/Fulani, who, according to Richard Sklar, settled for confederacy in 1953, ostensibly because their region was 70 years behind the South in educational development and because of the South’s disrespect for their culture. The Igbo and NCNC opted for unitary system in 1959 (because of their mobility and educational advancement since they stand to gain more from a unitary system.
A workable federal arrangement, that will guarantee freedom, liberty and equality for every linguistic group described by the departing colonial masters as “the unfriendly inhabitants of the Mama Hills, the anti-social Mumuye of Muri Province and the “naked warriors and the mangrove forest”, became a lifelong pursuit for Awo who once accused his political opponents of carousing around while he burnt the midnight oil proffering solution to Nigeria’s problems. He started his crusade with the publication of his book, Nigeria: Path to Freedom, as a student at the age of 36 in 1945.
As a 39-year-old Yoruba representative at the 1948 Ibadan General Conference on the Review of the 1946 Richard’s Constitution, he canvassed vigorously for a federal structure based on ethnic nationalities as against the northern delegates’ insistence on a loose federation, with the centre controlling only defence, external affairs and customs. We went into independence with a colonial master-umpired federal arrangement.
With temporary power in the hands of the East after the January 1966 coup, Dr. Ben Nwabueze was widely believed to have drafted Decree 34 of 1966 that turned the country to a unitary system. However, after the war, the victorious North, drew up a federal constitution that guarantees the north can rule in perpetuity if we agree democracy is a game of numbers. Abdulsalami Abubakar consolidated the northern hegemony by imposing the current constitution, the sources of current social dislocations without reference to Nigerians in 1999. This therefore is the short history of Nigerian constitutional crisis
Then as if there is no coordination or consultation among the youths, Sowore, their 2019 presidential candidate chose June 12, institutionalised as a democracy day in recognition of Abiola’s victory after Babangida, the evil genius who annulled the most credible election in our nation’s history; Sonekan, the usurper, Obasanjo the accomplice, Yar ‘Adua and Jonathan had danced on Abiola’s grave for 25 years as a day to call for the resignation of a popularly elected President Buhari. If only for its symbolism, Sowore could have chosen another day to ventilate his disenchantment with Buhari’s handling of national affairs.
Our youths who must necessarily inherit tomorrow must first try to understand the nature of our problem. That was what their forebears did. The West African Student Union (WASU) founded on August 7, 1925 by 21 law students led by Ladipo Solanke and Herbert Bankole-Bright to seek independence for West Africa countries were the first to recommend Nigeria must run a federal arrangement patterned after Swiss federation.
Buhari is a mere symptom of our unworkable structure.