Nigeria Must Restructure Now Or Face Disintegration Soon, Says Opadokun

In this interview, political activist, Chief Ayo Opadokun, who as a chieftain of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), was one of the compatriots that fought the military to a standstill to restore democratic rule in Nigeria, told Niyi Bello (Political Editor) and Seye Olumide, that a new battle to right the wrongs of military incursion in politics which has reduced Nigeria to a unitary state, may soon be fought to bring the country back to the path of development envisaged by the founding fathers. Excerpts:
As an elder statesman and one of those who fought for the restoration of democracy, what do you think should be the focus now as Nigerians prepare for the next general election?
Before we talk about elections or how to go about it, I must say that I have great fears about the way this country is being run and how, if we do not change our ways, the country is gradually becoming a disaster waiting to happen.
My fear is becoming more traumatic because of the prolonged and ruthless actions of those who had had undue advantages over the skewed, lopsided and warped national structure of the geographical expression called Nigeria.
And they have used that to lord it over the others who are now getting themselves determined vigorously for a reversal of their misfortune. I mean those who have been marginalised, discriminated against, sidelined and even minoritised in a setting where all citizens are supposed to be equal.
The two forces are at work now, sizing up each other and willing to do battles. I am afraid if care is not taken and concrete steps taken by those who have had this undue advantage to recognize the fact of the 21st century that self-determination is the anthem of this millennium, the corporate existence of the country is in jeopardy and we may not have any country to call Nigeria again.
Could you be specific about those who have benefited from the lopsided structure and those that are being trampled upon?
The British colonial masters deliberately foisted a skewed, warped and lopsided national structure in a manner of what they had in their own country on Nigeria. That is they gave the northern part of the country over 60 percent of the total landmass of the Nigerian setting.
In the United Kingdom, England has the largest population of the membership of the House of Commons but Scotland, Wales and Ireland are also there.
Britain can only allow a Welsh, a Scot or an Irish to become Prime Minister because the greatest majority of House members are Londoners and would always have their ways.
That was what the British set down here. In the process they allocated a totally disproportionate national endowment, facilities to the northern part of the country.
They did more than that, when they suspected what was possible; there were some documentary evidences as to how they invested the northern part of the country, particularly the far northern part with ownership and control over Nigerian security and intelligence agencies.
In fact, the Ministers of Defence and Education of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), had to visit the colleges in the northern part of the country to recruit young men into the Nigerian Army so that the north would continue to have control in terms of numerical strength and other advantages permanently.
But has that turned to the development of the northern region?
You are talking about a different thing. It is important for me to say from the onset that as we discussed before the commencement of this interview, when and where did we get it wrong?
Nigerians secured its independence on a federal constitutional arrangement by the leadership of ethnic nationalities and political parties, which presupposes the admission that the geographical expression called Nigeria is composed of heterogeneous people with different cultures, traditions, artifacts, religions, languages and the likes.
So within a federal constitutional arrangement all these varieties were given free reign but we were united at the centre, which was allocated space of authority by the components unit. That is what obtained in a federal system.
But when and how did the country get it wrong?
The rain started beating Nigeria when politicians in the military overthrew the regime of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa on January 15, 1966.
The revenge coup of July 1966, which eventually led to the avoidable bloody three-year civil war culminated in the emergence of preponderance of northerners as military, security and intelligence authorities. And these they have used to dominate the country. That was when the rain started beating Nigeria.
You would remember that as soon as the military staged the insurrection, they suspended and abrogated that federal constitution and arrangement upon which Nigeria secured its independence.
But they still referred to Nigeria as a federation.
That was a lie. A big lie, and Nigeria had been living a lie since then. We have been running a centrist unitary government since then but we are lying to the country and everything about federal arrangement have been sabotaged, subverted and manipulated to make up for the centrists and unitary decrees, which the Nigerian Army imposed on the Nigerian nation.
The consequence is that the usual equity, justice, fairness, oneness that were secured under federal constitution arrangements gave way to inequities, unfairness and injustice in the distribution of both economic and political powers to the extent that since then, those who have captured the Nigerian state through military arrangement and the avoidable war turned everything into a spoil of war.
You and I have been captured and we have become part of the spoil of war. They remained in control since then. That is why all the agitations that started in 1990 were given very huge coloration with the annulment of MKO Abiola’s presidential election victory.
All the agitations for national restructuring, true federalism be it in form of resource control, MASSOB; IPOB; Niger Delta Avengers, OPC, Middle Belt Youth Movement and the likes are there to return Nigeria to the federal arrangement upon which we secured independence.
But those who have seized opportunity of this undue advantage would have nothing of it. They are ready to kill, to eliminate and dispossess and even wipe out anyone standing on their way. They are ready to blackmail anyone who explains the truth to Nigerians as to the undoing of the Nigerian state.
They balkanized the Nigerian state according to their selfish interests and created spheres of influence to suit their preferences, satisfy their friends, their civilian collaborators, surrogates, their wives and concubines; so much that the Nigeria state of four regions we had in 1966 is now 36 states, many of which are not viable.
In the last 20 years it is a fact that can be verified that the country has been spending almost 80 percent of its total earnings to service these bureaucracies created by this balkanization that cannot fund itself.
And you remember that a major matter of worry for us is the fact that when they took over power the first decree was the Suspension and Modification Decree 1 of January 17, 1966.
There were several other exercises to consolidate their positions. For instance there were Suspension and Modification Decree; Decrees 5, 9 and 34 of 1966 and the State Creation and Transitional Provision Decree 34 of 1967, that was enacted just before the civil war which was aimed to do damage to the ambition of late Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu.
But these were not limited to regional ambitions, or were they?
I will tell you why they were limited to regional ambitions and parts of the earlier designs by the north to subjugate the rest of the country. The military may look like a national institution but they were actually carrying out a northern regional agenda.
Because the preponderance of these military rulers was from the north, what they did was to create 19 states out of the northern region and 17 states from the south, which in itself is an imbalance. But that is not as worrisome as the number of local governments they have created.
Let me give you one instance to see how they manipulated the system. In 1960 there were four political divisions in Lagos and two in Kano. From that Kano, a Jigawa State has been created and it now has 27 local governments while old Kano has 44 local governments.
Lagos, which was doubled the size of Kano has 20 local governments. And local government is one of the parameters of distributing wealth.
Remember again the Financial Provision Decree 15 of 1967; the Federal Military Government appropriated to itself, over 66 percent of all the powers and authorities that ordinarily belong to the regions.
In the process also they appropriated to the central government all the major means of raising resources from the regions. All the states have now to go cap in hand to Abuja for federal allocation.
Could the military have created all these problems for the country without involvement of civilians?
I spoke about their civilian surrogates and loyalists who they always use to achieve their devilish and selfish agenda.
Of course there are civilian collaborators who are themselves, creations of the military. Even they recruited from the academia, those who were never outstanding in anyway but were ready to be used as veritable instruments to propagate the demands of the military authority.
They also had public servants who are willing to be veritable instruments who in turn utilized the military to their own selfish ends. You know most of these soldiers don’t know anything about governance, these public servants teach them how to steal public funds and in doing these, they too steal from the purse.
Go and verify from the EFCC, you would be shocked to discover that most of the big houses in the Federal Capital Territory belong to public servants.
The other group that the military always use is the traditional rulers and religious leaders. They use them to test the waters and twist public opinion in favour of their selfish agenda, of course with a cut of the action for their collaborators.
That is the reason Nigeria has no more national ethos and value system because these people who are supposed to be the moral, cultural and religious compass of the people have been shamelessly bought over.
Look at the role of many of the so-called religious leaders. They are the ones you find at the forefront of campaigns for thieves who will now pay them huge tithes and get prayers from the pulpit.
But the thing is that while many collaborators supported them, the final authority belongs to the military authorities, all the other ones are appendages that were only used for the agenda of the soldiers.
You didn’t talk about politicians; didn’t they play any role in all these?
There were no more politicians whenever the military took over. You know they always ban political activities. But more than 91 percent of the current political operators were made by the military. When Buhari came in 1984 he called everybody discredited politicians and put people in jail without trial.
It was when Babangida, the gap-toothed one, who had his eyes on self-succession came in 1985 that he set up tribunals that were banning and unbanning politicians, so much that the credible politicians became totally useless to themselves and the society.
The new breed Babangida politicians, who I call new greed politicians, are the ones in power today and they do not understand where the shoe is pinching Nigerians.
My fear for Nigeria is that the legislative and the executive are misusing the space that some of us laid our lives to create. Some of these characters are part of the five fingers of a leprous hand that was created by Gen. Sani Abacha, the goggled one, apology to Bola Ige.
They are the ones dominating the country’s political space now. The good ones that have the interest of the people at heart have been forced to leave the scene.
These “new greed” politicians were in the NCP, UNCP and others. They were also professional politicians that must play politics no matter what happens.
The totality of what I am saying is that if the current political operators and their mentors, collaborators in civilian uniforms refused to let go the undue advantages they have, which had sidelined the greatest majority of Nigerians, the chances are the corporate existence of Nigeria that have been endangered for a while now will turn to something else.
From your postulations, Nigeria is on the edge of the precipice, how then can the country avoid falling over?
The only way I see in this mater is for President Buhari to withdraw his untenable arguments against national restructuring. Nigeria must return to federal constitutional arrangement.
Whenever and in any given state across the world, where the component units of a nation state are agitating for a reversal to the federal constitutional arrangements from which they started and it is being accompanied with some elements of force as it were with MASSOB, IPOB, OPC, Niger Delta Avengers and the likes; it suggested a time for those people to sit down and renegotiate their mutual co-existence.
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria Dairu Mustapha, when he gave a lecture at Abeokuta at the birthday ceremony of Chief Alani Bankole, said Nigeria is more divided today than in 1960 when it got her independence.
He said this is the time for the country to renegotiate its co-existence to avoid the total collapse of the country. To avoid this Buhari must lead the vanguard for restoration to Nigeria’s true federalism.
I have total contempt for the one that is being done by the ruling APC. The National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun by asking Governor Nasir El-Rufai to go and preside over a committee on restructuring, was an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians. It must have been assumed by Nigerians that in the APC manifesto, there was an arrangement to return Nigeria to true federalism.
So it couldn’t have been that they never knew what federalism means. But the recommendations the committee is talking about do not go down to the roots of true federalism. Whatever is happening to the country today was because of the unitary system that we are subjected to.
You are putting the burden of responsibility on President Buhari but he is not the only elected official in Nigeria. What about the direct representatives of the people at the National and State Assemblies?
I must confess to you that I committed the mistake of the head and not of the heart in the choice of Buhari because I was one of his principal promoters.
In his outing in 1984 to 1985 when he was overthrown, he exhibited great commitment towards fighting corruption and that was what endeared him to me. He is doing some good job on that, I mean the fight against corruption even though it has been tainted with some things that he himself cannot defend.
Buhari cannot defend the reemergence of Maina, the Police Pension Commission boss who returned to the Ministry of Internal Affairs as Director after he had been gingered in graft charges.
His Attorney General’s meeting with Maina in Dubai was an indictment of the administration. The fact that the same Attorney General is still is in office is another indictment.
It appeared to some of us that Buhari without late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon is a different ball game. Otherwise what we are witnessing is that Buhari is presiding over a divided presidency without an Idiagbon, as a military officer to stand firm unlike the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who is a civilian and would keep to his constitutional role.
How do you explain the situation where the presidency sent the name of Magu for confirmation as head of EFCC but another agency of the presidency, DSS wrote a damming report over Magu to the Senate, which the National Assembly is now using as excuse to reject Magu?
From what I have seen and witnessed, almost four zones in the country are totally ready to enforce a restoration to federalism. The four regions are not excited about any election. How many elections have we had since 1999 and what positive effects have those elections had on Nigeria?
The South-South, Southeast, Southwest and a larger part of the Middle Belt are not enthusiasm about another election; their concern is how to bring the country back to the old days of true federalism.
Can’t these regions speak with one voice through their elected representatives in Abuja?
The preponderance of military authority in the country has totally rubbished equal representation to the advantage of the north. The number of the Southern representation in the National Assembly cannot be compared with those of the far northern states.
I have tried to investigate the issue of lobbying as a legislative instrument among the lawmakers and what I found out was shocking. The issue is that those who fought to achieve the present democratic system are not the ones in the National Assembly. The powers that are granted the presiding officers are too overwhelming. That is the reason anyone who says anything contrary to what they desire would be suspended.
But I know that the ethnic nationalists are not resting on their oars. Anyone who will represent any area in any of the zones would have to be those who will fight the causes of the people. They must be ready to give adequate representation and protect the interests of their people in a way to ensure development.
Regrettably those that are ready to fight the cause of their people have been reduced to minorities in the National Assembly. And those who may want to say anything against the status quo become victims of gang-up to the extent that they are rendered powerless.
Source: The Guardian, March 6, 2018

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