[lg policy] ONE NIGERIA: Unity in Broken Tongues

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 9 14:25:20 UTC 2011

ONE NIGERIA: Unity in Broken Tongues
By Idumange John


Over the years, the leaders of this geo-political space called Nigeria
have tried to formulate policies and programmes designed to forge
national unity and integration. The Gowon administration introduced
the National Youth Service Commission, NYSC. About 40 years after, the
programme has not only achieved its purpose but its continued
existence has been called to question.

When the fratricidal war ended in 1970, the Gowon's regime also
instituted the "Federal Character" designed at integrating all ethnic
groups affected by the war, particularly the ethnic groups from the
South. It was introduced in the spirit of no “victor no vanquished”.
Successive administrations also established the National Institute of
Cultural Orientation, NICO, the introduction of the Language Policy
and now the National Orientation Agencies. All these agencies were
established to bring about national unity through value
re-orientation, religious tolerance and ethnic accommodation.

In 2002, 40 Nigerians and other experts on the country attended a
conference at the Kennedy School at Harvard and they expressed their
profound distress at the parlous state of Nigeria's democracy. Among
the critical ingredients of dissension and instability include
critical governance deficit; over-centralization of power by the
centre, lack of transparency, lack of economic diversification,
corruption and the imposition of Islamic law. Others are lack of human
and investment security and human rights abuses. The Group recommended
a national conference to debate constitutional reform, and leadership.
These challenges and inherent contradictions of democratization are
not in a hurry to go.

The burden of forced unity after the Lugardian fiat in 1914 is a
foundational error that has negatively affected the constitution hence
the cry for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). A sovereign
national conference would enable the various ethnic groups to
re-negotiate the basic structures and power sharing arrangements in
our federalism rather that the trial and error methods we have adopted
to balance the structural defect in the foundation of Nigeria. If we
acknowledge the contributions of the likes of Harold Dapa Biriye,
Anthony Enahoro and other nationalists, then it is high time we
re-visited the knotty issue of true federalism in Nigeria. The
interminable killings in Jos, insurgency in the Niger Delta, the Boko
Haram movement, the Movement of Emancipation for the Sovereign State
of Biafra (MASSOB), the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
(MOSOP) and others mushrooming for purposes of reinforcing the need
for local autonomy, has made the call for SNC more urgent and

When a nation lacks national integration and national unity has
resulted to a situation whereby there are no acceptable national
ideology and value system underpinning our existence. Rather than use
our cultural affinities to intensify devotion and loyalty, discipline,
dedication and faith, by our thoughts, words and deeds we work hard to
widen the gap existing among the various ethnic nationalities. This is
becoming evident as Boko Haram runs rampage, itching for a negotiation
with the Federal Government, with the allure and attraction of an
Amnesty Programme. My thinking is that the Amnesty Programme was
necessary because most Ijaw Communities: Odi, Odioma, Okerenkoko;
Agge; Kaiama, Ayakoromor, etc were destroyed. These communities were
not only destroyed, the inhabitants were decimated, traumatized and

Besides, The Niger Delta Youths were holding the testicles of the
nation – the oil rich Region. But the Youths in Boko Haram and their
sponsors are have forgotten that Islam is a hard sell. In Nigeria,
there are Buddhists, Christians, Taoists, Zoroastrians, African
Traditional Religionists, Confucians, and colony of free thinkers like
me. The sponsors of terror in the land are not true Muslims because
Islam abhors the use of violence without a justifiable cause. Besides,
all the sponsors are beneficiaries of Western Education – they
acquired at the Sandhust Academy.

When I saw the Nigerian Armed forces arrest the street urchins as
perpetrators of the Boko Haram bombings in Bauchi and Maiduguiri, I
wonder aloud what their sponsors are. It's like cutting the tail of a
snake whereas the head is left untouched. The approach of the security
forces in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. The Boko Haram phenomenon
in which violence meted out to innocent, law abiding citizens is not
acceptable, but to solve this problem would require spreading the
dragnet to catch the sponsors of terror and teachers of fundamentalism
– who must be investigated, caught and punished. This politicization
of Islam has undermined the government's national integration efforts
and proven to be quite detrimental to the process of democratization
and good governance.

Nigeria is “republic of quarrels” because the various ethnic
nationalities have not been able to coalesce into a single
functionally integrated organic community. The plural nature of the
Republic and her historiography is harassed by the polemics of
centripetal bearings. We therefore have a fundamental controversy as
to whether Nigeria is a nation state or a hotchpotch of ethnic
nationalities owing primary allegiance to their primordial groups
without the desire to coalesce.

Nigeria is indeed a nation united with broken tongues, and the
familiar areas of polemics in the mass poverty of the committee
syndrome. There is an obvious quarrel on how to solve the economic
problems of the country. While some Nigerians advocate the wholesale
adoption of market driven, neoliberal paradigms that would ultimately
transfer wealth into the pockets of comprador bourgeois, others argue
that privatization will only exacerbate mass poverty, while at the
same time creating a few billion naira a class that could even topple
the political economy. Now there is a major controversy as to whether
States can pay minimum wages of N18, 000, which in other lands can
pass for welfare package of the unemployed. Another controversy is in
the area of removing subsidy from petroleum products. We must
deregulate to the point of overkill so we reduce the population by
increasing the mortality rate.

In a state where the masses are exploited to their where civil
servants are treated as “real servants” and where some people are
treated as “second class” citizens the so called “Nigerian Project”,
which seeks to engender the spirit of fellow-feeling among Nigerians
will only remain a good intention. The “Nigerian Project” is a myth or
at the very best a pragmatic fallacy that cannot thrive on inequity
and illegality. Members thus Republic will continue to quarrel about
fundamental issues like resource ownership and control.

Those who have cash crops in their land cultivate, harvest and sell
them to advance their cause. Solid mineral resources are mined and
sold by the owners, but the same people support the injustice of
sustaining the laws dispossessing the oil bearing communities of their
land, resources and heritage. This is a fundamental basis for quarrel
and the underpinning factor for the oil style insurgency in the Niger
Delta Region. In Nigeria, when it comes to issues like revenue
sharing, fiscal federalism and power sharing, such quarrels are not
often led by reason, by driven by self – interest and personal

Perhaps the most controversial area is in the Petroleum Sector.
Nigeria is the sixth greatest oil producer and an influential member
of OPEC, yet there are only four refineries producing below 40%
capacity. Bonuses and royalties paid to the federal government through
the NNPC are lodged in mysterious accounts accessible to only
political power holders while the refineries decay, huge sums of money
is believed to be spent on Turn around Maintenance, yet the same group
of undertakers are appointed and re-appointed to do damage to the

I perceive the frustration in Nigeria as being mainly caused by
poverty rather than religion. I therefore urge the Jonathan
administration to concentrate on the solution of the nation's economic
problems rather than politick with religion. We seem to be approaching
the precipice as the masses have reached their peak of endurance the
elastic limits of human suffering. Soon, the masses may be compelled
to take their destiny in their own hands.

Idumange John, is Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group, NDIG


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal,
and to write directly to the original sender of any offensive message.
 A copy of this may be forwarded to this list as well.  (H. Schiffman,

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list