Home Column Time for Nigerians to ditch ethnic arithmetic, state of origin and federal character

Time for Nigerians to ditch ethnic arithmetic, state of origin and federal character

by Business News Report

 NigeriaWhen in the late 70s General Murtala Muhammed came on the Nigerian political scene, he created an unusual sensation. His words were laden with ‘immediate effect.’ He had a vision of what he thought Nigeria should be that it was not. As a military general, who participated in keeping Nigeria one, he was consumed with the passion of a united Nigeria. A Nigeria that is free from the encumbrance of North-South dichotomy. He wanted to see a Nigeria where there was justice and fair play to all, no matter where they came from.

That was what led to his renaming states he created and those created before him according to landmarks instead of the North, South, West and East naming of states in the country before him.

Nigerians have come to agree that the greatest danger facing the development of this great country is not necessarily corruption, but lack of national identity and sense of belonging in the country. Most Nigerians owe their loyalty to either the north or south. Politicians who want to get undue advantage not necessarily for the north or south, usually fan the embers of North/South dichotomy. The ideals of Murtala was catching on in that most Nigerians were beginning to see themselves as belonging to particular states and not region before the men with flowing agbada returned to the scene to reintroduce the North-South equation and ethnic arithmetic into the body politics of Nigeria.

It was at the Constituent Assembly that these old politicians, whose interest is their pockets and stomach, smuggled into the national dialogue, geo-political zones. It was in a bid to continue the old political economy and ethnic arithmetic that has dragged the nation backward for years. The PDP then latched on it by its constitution insisting in power rotation and sharing according to the defined six geo-political zones. These zones were artificially created along political leanings and not comparative economic advantage in any sense.

The idea of political zoning, which ought to have been a party affair within the PDP, has been turned into a national issue depriving the nation of the best hand to serve the fatherland Nigeria. 

As Nigeria prepares for a national conference, the conferees must agree to dispense with issues of zoning, state of origin, federal character, and catchment area admission policy in federal schools that have dragged the nation back. State of origin in Nigeria’s body politics is the evil machination of Nigerian politicians that has hindered even economic development in Nigeria. A Nigerian is a Nigerian. The national conference must free Nigerians from this baggage. A Nigerian can be born anywhere but must be free to live, work and own properties anywhere in the country he chooses to live in without let and hindrance. The constitution that will come out of the conference must make it a criminal offence for any official of federal, state or local government or private sector employer to ask any Nigerian of his/her state of origin.

Nigerian politicians should be ashamed of themselves to have allowed this for so long. Countries like America, Australia and Canada are asking millions of citizens of other countries to migrate to their countries yearly. It is because of the economic advantage a growing population confers on a country. China today is an economic powerhouse because of its market size and a huge productive population that offers cheap and affordable labour to international businesses. In China, it is not just that there is corruption, it is of high magnitude, yet the country is moving forward economic wise. Here at home, we have human resources we are wasting on the basis of state of origin. Many Nigerians who ordinarily would have been gainfully employed have no access to such job opportunity because of their state of origin.

It is an act of political intolerance to see a fellow Nigerian as a foreigner in his homeland. It is this political intolerance that would make a state governor to deport a Nigerian from his state to his home state. It is only in Nigeria that there is deportation within a nation’s sovereign borders.  A Nigerian from Sokoto must be able to live in Rivers, work in Rivers and become a governor there if the people so desire.  Same for an Edo, Ijaw, Yoruba or Ibo man living anywhere in the northern part of the country. It is by so doing that Nigerians can ever give their best for the nation. This is what will encourage mobility of labour.

Nigerians will not be interested where the president or governor comes from if the economy is growing and absorbing able-bodied men and women as they come out from schools. Nigerians will be gladdened to see any president where ever he comes from who will guarantee them 24 hours of power supply, access roads, security of life and property, freedom of movement of goods and services.

The conferees must also be ready to confront the issue of federal character that has enthroned mediocrity in public service. A Nigerian from anywhere in the country must aim at being the best. It is unfortunate that today, the question of federal character has been stretched to a ridiculous limit.  Nigerians must deal with it if it intends to develop knowledge economy. It must also deal decisively with the question of catchment area in university admissions in federal institutions that have made it near impossible for national integration. There is no better place to handle this than the forthcoming national conference.  



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