Friday, 11 January 2013 17:49

Philosopher King, Realist Prince And National Unity

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Once again the United States of America (USA) has shown that its own brand of democracy is primarily based on exchange of ideas, debates, dialectics, and dialogue especially with respect to her internal affairs. This is reflected in her handling of the “fiscal cliff” and gun control issues. Yes, it may not always be the case in international affairs where force was used especially under the Republicans, who had destroyed great World civilizations in Iraq, Afghanistan etc.  The difference between a democrat’s approach and a republican approach is that the democrats believe you do not kill your enemies to be their friend. The republicans believe you must kill your enemy to be their friend. Despite the difference, both agree that “exchange of ideas with the hope of ultimately reaching agreement” is the first best approach to leading a nation and evolving it into a united country. Theirs’ has always been a combination of Philosophy and Realism. It is a proof that coercion alone does not guarantee a united country; rather dialectics, debates and discussions.

So it remains very incorrect to say that Nigeria’s unity achieved through guns should be sustained by guns. Nigeria’s so-called unity today is so fragile and unsustainable we must allow ideas and discussions of the issues surrounding it. The un-discussed, fragile and unsustainable Nigerian unity is ticking away and it is responsible for some negative attitudes of Nigerians towards development. But will Nigerian leadership allow the discussion process? These are fundamentals easily ignored but eating deep into the Nigerian complex rot.

The process of nurturing ideas into policy is simple provided the leadership believes and allows it. When an issue erupts and it is of a national scale and significance, it provokes idea-solutions of various colour, contour, content and context from different persons, groups and organizations especially in federalism. The first thing government should do is to rightly define the issue in the light of its circumstances and history. The next thing to do is to bring the challenge to the public for debate and put in place government agency or ministry to monitor and report on all the critical idea-solutions offered by the public. That debate must be totally free of government interference. The fourth thing to do at the end of the debate is to get a National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the relevant ministry to articulate the idea-solutions into a draft document. Next, the articulated document is submitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for deliberation. The sixth thing to do is to draft a government position paper reflecting FEC’s position. Next is to develop it into an Executive Bill. Next, is to deposit the bill with the National Assembly (NASS). The bill is passed into an Act of the NASS. The tenth stage is for the government to put together all necessary machinery for the successful implementation of the Act. The eleventh stage is to set up the Policy Monitoring & Evaluation machinery for the assessment of the impact as well as public reactions to the policy and report back to the government. This is the policy feedback loop. The last stage is the constant reviews, amendments and refining of strategies of the policy and its implementation. Private bills should pass through the same stages.

This process does not vitiate the different roles of the three-tiers of government in tackling challenges within their constitutional responsibilities. So the process could also be applied at the micro levels with minor modifications, if any. This caveat saves us from unnecessary duplication of government efforts at resolving society problems. An example of such duplication is government’s efforts to develop the Niger Delta. There are the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, 13% derivation fund, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Special Adviser on Amnesty Programme, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), River Basin Development Authority in Niger Delta states, state governments in the Niger Delta, Local Governments in the Niger Delta etc. Yet, development in the Niger Delta is hardly commensurate with the millions, billions and trillions of Naira spent in the Niger Delta.

The significance of allowing public debate on national issues before making a policy is that when such issues erupt in the future, the government can always remind the people of the decision that was taken on this matter in the past, and the people will always agree because they were involved. Again public debates are the iron-crucibles that shape, strengthen and refine ideas into utilitarian policy state for the enrichment of the common good.

Unfortunately for Nigerians, this had not been the case. The reason is that Nigeria’s political leaders hate contrary ideas, public disagreement, debates, dialogue etc. This is why most of the important issues that should have been discussed had not been discussed and they had remained unresolved. For example, the fact that Biafra was conquered by Nigeria does not mean that the security of the Igbo in Nigeria is better today than in 1966. Or does the killing of Kenule Saro-Wiwa in 1995 mean that the survival of the Ogoni is better today than it was in 1995? Both are not; so how can we determine that these people will have confidence in the unity of Nigeria?

Many have argued that the ideas-hating-attitude by the Nigerian political leadership was inherited from Nigeria’s colonial masters and the military. But both the colonial masters and the military are gone! The truth may be that their effects are still around. Hence Nigeria’s leadership still strongly believes in the use of force and the continued suppression of alternative ideas, debates, dialogue and dialectics on issues of national importance. For example, in the interview granted to The Guardian and published on Sunday December 30, 2012, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who ruled Nigeria for eleven years was proud and happy to say that: “… my own generation fought for the unity of this country.” It was this fighting mentality that led to his mass killings at Odi, Choba and Zaki-Biam as civilian President. These are issues that political solutions would have resolved without killing Nigerians and a good example was late President Yar’Adua’s amnesty solution to the Niger Delta militancy. Can the peoples of Odi, Choba and Zaki-Biam forgive Nigeria without discussing and reconciling the issues? Never! So, how can Nigeria remain one country with such anger in the minds of the people?

It is this kind of anger (which, for example, Prof. Chinua Achebe had succeeded in bearing for 45 years) in people on whom force was visited that had led to Achebe’s recent book on the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. The same anger produced by the use of force had led to Shell not producing crude oil from Ogoni since General Abacha killed Kenule Saro-Wiwa in November 1995. The use of force on people does not produce lasting unity; it rather produces hate, intolerance, suspicion, the feeling of rejection and the incessant move for separation, which Obasanjo, in the said interview, feels is a joke. I would rather think Obasanjo was joking because he appears not to understand that the complaints of the people are stronger than military weapons. The military power of the former USSR could not stop small ethnic groups from leaving the union.

So, one way to have Nigeria’s fragile unity strengthened is for government to be courageous enough to put up a platform (not the kangaroo-type recently organized by the NASS for their so-called constitution review exercise) for the thorough discussion of the key issues that have hurt the minds of the Nigerian people and have led to hate and intolerance amongst Nigerians. Some of those issues to be discussed should include the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates on January 1, 1914; Bakassi people’s demand for self determination;  the creation of Nigeria into three regions that led to the abuse of ethnicity; the ethnic minorities second class status in Nigeria; the common claim that the Yoruba is tribalistic and they appear not to care about it; the sacking of Prof. Ita Eyo by Azikiwe from the Eastern House; the imprisonment of Obafemi Awolowo; the Operation Weti; the 15th January 1966 coup; the 1966 genocide against the Igbos in Northern Nigeria; the 29th July 1966 Danjuma coup; Biafra; the Gideon Orka coup in April 1990; Dele Giwa; the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election; the killing of MKO Abiola; the Ogoni Bill of Rights; the Odi, Zaki-Biam, Choba and Zagon-Kataf killings. My own ethnic group, Ikwerre, is angry that since 26th April, 1993, the Nigerian state could not produce who killed Dr (Senator) Obi Wali in his bedroom at his home village Rumuigbo.

The success of this discussion may mark the beginning of the true healing process of Nigeria’s hateful past because these are the key issues that had embittered Nigerians against themselves and they are all products of force or Realism. The use of force to rule a people can only put the country together for a while, but it surely cannot sustain the building and development of the nation which requires the sincere cooperation of the people.

Nigeria may disintegrate through a very violent revolution if we continue to disallow these issues to remain suppressed and unresolved. Nigeria cannot use force at all times and succeed, she therefore needs to imbibe the culture of allowing social discourse that would generate the requisite ideas needed to sustain national unity. It is never a matter for the Realist Prince alone or the Philosopher King alone, it is indeed a matter for both with the latter having over 60% consideration. If you still doubt how it works, ask the Americans!

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja, Nigeria.

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