In an ideal world Nigeria’s challenges can be overcome. In practice however, this has proven impossible because of Fulani unwillingness to negotiate with the other sections of the country as equals.
The concept of Restructuring is not novel. The first major attempt restructuring of Nigeria occurred a mere seven years after independence. In January 1967, before the war between Nigeria and Biafra, there were diplomatic negotiations in Aburi, Ghana where each region of the country was represented by a military governor. There, in what became known as the Aburi Accords, a new structure for Nigeria was brokered. It was discussed and agreed that:
The Army is to be governed by the Supreme Military Council the Chairman of which will be known as Commander-in-Chief and Head of the Federal Military Government.
There will be a Military Headquarters on which the Regions will be equally represented and which will be headed by a Chief of Staff.
In each Region there shall be an Area Command under the charge of an Area Commander (Military governor) and corresponding with the existing Regions.
All matters of policy including appointments and promotions of persons in executive posts in the Armed Forces and Police shall be
dealt with by the Supreme Military Council.
During the period of the Military Government, Military Governors will have control over their Area Commands in matters of internal security.
The following appointments must be approved by the Supreme Military Council
Diplomatic and Consular posts
Senior posts in the Armed Forces and the Police
Super-scale Federal Civil Service and Federal Corporation posts
Any decision affecting the whole country must be determined by the
Supreme Military Council. Where a meeting is not possible such a
matter must be referred to Military Governors for comment and
“We the members of the Supreme Military Council of Nigeria meeting at Accra on 4th day of January, 1967, hereby solemnly and unequivocally:
DECLARE that we renounce the use of force as a means of settling the
present crisis in Nigeria, and hold ourselves in honor bound by this
REAFFIRM our faith in discussions and negotiation as the only
peaceful way of resolving the Nigerian crisis.
AGREE to exchange information on the quantity of arms and ammunition
in each unit of the Army in each Region, and also on the quantity of
new arms and ammunition in stock.”
All seemed to have been resolved, and spirits were so high that Gowon and Ojukwu rode together in the same vehicle to the airport with Joe Ankrah of Ghana. But when they returned to Nigeria something strange happened. Ojukwu discusses this in an exclusive interview. Gowon, on the 5th of May 1967, reneged on the Aburi Accords and declared the division of Nigeria into 12 states. This was an egregious violation of the Aburi Accords as all decisions affecting the whole country must be determined by Supreme Military Council and not just one person. It was as though Gowon had been advised against upholding the agreement that he himself brokered. On 6th of July 1967, days after Biafra’s Declaration of Independence, Nigeria attacked Biafra. Pertinent questions to ask in this instance are: Why did Gowon not follow the Aburi Accords agreement? On what grounds was it acceptable for Gowon to unilaterally declare the creation of 12 states?
Gowon violated the agreement in the interest of Northern Nigeria maintaining its advantage over the rest of the country.
In a more recent example of restructuring, under the Jonathan administration, a national conference was convened to find a more constructive way forward (the latest of its kind). A major issue with these conferences is that participation in them requires, as a precondition, acceptance of Nigeria’s unity as unquestionable. This is an obvious problem, given the history of Nigeria, that limits ability of any real outcomes to take place from the conference. Some of the key recommendations of the conference attendees were:
Creation of 18 new states (with added provision for merging of states in appropriate conditions)
Reversion to 3 geopolitical zone structure
Changes to revenue sharing formula for Federal revenue
Rotation of presidential power between North and South
Removal of immunity clause for political office holders
Changes to the Land Tenure Act allowing land owners to determine price of their land based on market value
What has become of these recommendations? The administration that initiated this conference was replaced in 2015, and it is clear that the Buhari administration does not view the implementation of these recommendations as a priority even though the committee agreed on it as a path forward.
Atiku presented himself as the front-runner against Buhari by saying that he will restructure Nigeria with a fresh vision, but a necessary question to ask is, has Nigeria implemented the restructuring that it envisioned and planned 4 years ago? Why not? Before that attempt there were other such conferences such as National Political Reform Conference of 2005 which was initiated under the Obasanjo/Atiku administration. What became of those? Were they effective at addressing the Nigeria’s fundamental problems?
Perhaps the problem is not merely the structure of Nigeria but also allowing the total involvement of the people in the country. There is no band of slaves that will ever out-perform free people that love their country, are building it from the ground-up, and have a stake in it because it reflects their innovation and imagination. A major challenge to Nigeria’s success is that the country is a chain-gang of slaves rather than a coalition of free-willing people. There is no alternative to seeking the consent of the people to join Nigeria and for Biafrans the answer is an unequivocal “NO”.