Nigeria: “One Government, hundreds of Sovereigns”


For those who are interested in finding a simple moniker for the cause of Nigeria’s limited success in its nation building efforts, the immediate past US Ambassador to the country, Mr Stuart Symington, may have provided some interesting relief in that direction. In a trending video on the social media circuit, the envoy was addressing a gathering of apparently eminent Nigerians during the 243rd anniversary celebrations of his country’s independence and noted how Nigerians are both citizens as well as subjects, in their own country.

That means that on one hand they are citizens of the country Nigeria, while on the other, they are also subjects to the various traditional rulers of sovereign nation states, – the Emirs, Obas, Lamidos and Obis, along with various others who as sovereigns, hold sway in the hundreds of ethnic nationalities that make up the country. In a sense he was alluding to the fact that every Nigerian is a servant to at least two or even three masters. One remains the constitutionally established secular, political leadership of the country represented by the President, while the others comprise the traditional ruler who dominates the Nigerian’s ethnic base as well as the pastor or imam or even the native doctor who determines his or her spiritual direction.

The US envoy Symington, was in his element with respect to superlative graphic elegance, as he further alluded to how this situation robs the country of critical traction to move forward, along the path of true nationhood, simply because loyalty to constitutional authority, remains diffuse and inchoate. Whereas at the point of coming together to form the Nigerian nation, all constituent ethnic nationalities were expected to have dropped their allegiance to their primordial sovereigns, that has not taken place. As the country’s political history testifies, most Nigerian leaders and followers as well, see themselves firstly as ethnic nationalists, then adherents to whatever religious persuasion of their preference, and finally to the Nigerian nation. And given that no nation grows into mature nationhood as long as the loyalty of the citizenry to it is not optimal, the chances of Nigeria becoming an exception, remains doubtful. Hence the US envoy had prayed that all these sovereigns – along with their citizens and subjects, would synergise efforts, to build the Nigeria of the dream of all right thinking citizens of the world. That means that they should recalibrate their subservience to the different authorities which they pay allegiance to, in favour of the country Nigeria.

Incidentally, there is significant doubt that much of the leaders and even the citizenry actually believe in that prayer, beyond the terrain of contemplation and vocalization. Hence much of the talk about one Nigeria as a nation remains mere double speak, as most advocates of such an agenda say so with their lips, while in their minds they mean something else. This is the Nigerian conundrum which Symington also at the same occasion, chided the country when he opened his homily with the words “Nigerians know what to do”, to solve their problems. Thanks to him and others that through their eyes, any doubting Nigerian should appreciate that the world sees us clearer than our national penchant for pretentiousness, offers.

This foregoing contention remains the argument behind the call for   restructuring the country from the present 36 states unitary structure, to the pre-civil war era of regionalism, which gave significant autonomy to the federating units, and who were hitherto autonomous ethnic nationalities in positive their own rights. However, such a revisionist agenda fails flat on its face, due to the historical rough deal of tacit and manifest subjugation, meted out by the ethnic majorities to the minorities, which led to the present political structure of the country.

The foregoing minor digression notwithstanding, it would seem that the present administration of President Muhamadu Buhari is yet to come to terms with the accelerating slide of the country away from  progress,  especially with the growing perception that it has a hidden agenda of promoting the interests of favoured ethnic sovereigns above the national interest. Specifically, the administration is increasingly being seen as subjugating other sections of the country in favour of the President’s Fulani ethnic minority. Even if such a contemplation were not true, and is confined to the level of mere speculation and perception, it still spells danger.

In any case it has attracted consequences of concern. For instance, if nothing demonstrates that it is no more business as usual in Nigeria’s politics, the emergence of the Amotekun dispensation in the South West provides enough evidence for the country to contemplate and effect a change of the narrative. Come to think of it. In less than a month, a section of the country has successfully launched a private army based on a public-private partnership, and has placed the Presidency not only on the spot, but tacitly dangling a near endorsement of the ‘rebellion’.

Following a meeting between the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, and the six South West governors last week, the Amotekun agenda upgraded from an outright “illegality” as it was initially profiled by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami an is still transforming. At least a statement by Mr Laolu Akande the spokesman for the Vice President, hints that an accommodation has been granted the Amotekun agenda by the federal government in the country’s community policing initiative.

Admittedly, for some time the government had been indeterminate with restructuring the country’s security architecture, especially as it pertains to formally integrating inputs from the various communities across the country into the scheme. Now Amotekun, with all that can be said about its good, bad and ugly sides may have joined other earlier outfits to expand the window for ‘unlawful’ but expedient, decentralised law enforcement including community policing and eventually state police in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, other parts of the country are also watching with keen interest, and strategizing on how to set up their own outfits, by seeking the same relief asserted by the South West for Amotekun. At this stage it can be imagined what will be left of the country if and when even just a dozen out of the hundreds of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria with their respective sovereigns, set up their private police forces and possibly armies.

From a superficial perspective, it may seem a comfort zone for the federal government to bank on the country’s military to contain any such rash of private militant outfits. But what of if in the face of any contingency the military fails to deliver a successful interdiction and subjugation of these armed groups under the command and control of hundreds of sovereigns?

Boko Haram, Biafra, coalition of Niger Delta liberation movements, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) and many other groups who are already primed to surface with potent fire power in defense of their ethnic homelands and sovereigns, are all factors that will define the apocalyptic outcome of any conflict between them and the Nigerian military.

In any case, it will be more beneficial in every ramification for the Buhari administration to look deeper into the innards of Amotekun and other similar initiatives and their implications for national security, and interest and sunity.

For in the final analysis no party wins ultimately in any war, no matter the side on which it stands.

God, please save Nigeria.

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