Thursday, 6 November 2014

DEMOCRACY AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA: THE CHALLENGES OF MAJORITY-MINORITY ETHNIC RELATIONSHIPS

Being a Paper delivered at the Memorial Lecture in Honor of HRH Ogiri Oko, Ochi’ Idoma I at Otukpo, on the 30th May, 2014,

by Prof. Tony Edoh, Department of Political Science, Benue State University, Makurdi.





Introduction

How to develop and manage a nation’s political system democratically has become a major preoccupation of virtually countries in all parts of the globe especially Africa and Asia. The untimely and unexpected disintegration of the alternative Soviet model of governance since the early 1990s has helped to further consolidate the grip and fascination of the former in the world. Today only a handful of countries notably China, North Korea and Cuba have doggedly stuck to the socialist approach to governance and societal transformation.

2. The case of China, the most populous country in the world is both interesting and instructive. While the country has embraced virtually all the key economic elements that go hand in gloves with democratic principles, it has stubbornly clung to the communist approach in the control and management of political power in the society.

3. But what does the compound concept “Democratic Political Development” mean? By what indicators is the phenomenon identified or measured? Relatively how are the values associated with such a process affected by the realities of the pattern of socio ethnic relationships in a country? A brief and preliminary discussion of these issues should be helpful as a backdrop for our examination of the specific Nigerian case which is the focus of our presentation here today.

Democracy and Political Development: Some Notes.

4. As we implied earlier, the pressures on states to develop democratically has gone viral. We do not consider necessary here to delve into the rather copious and often quite controversial literature the key concepts involved here have generated over the years. Suffice it for us to note that genealogically the term derives from a combination of two Greek phrases: “Demo” (people) and “kratios” (Ruling). In its simplest application therefore “Democracy” has been interpreted as “Rule by the people”. It is in this context that Abraham Lincoln the American 16th President coined his now famous albeit simplistic definition of the process as “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

5. The phenomenon of Political Development per se is no less controversial as regards its definitional parameters. A common thread that runs through the legion of definitions that surfeits scholarship on the subject matter is the general acceptance that political development is a positive change oriented process in which citizens and institutions of governance are progressively transformed to a higher and more benign Plateau of existence. Cast in this maild, democracy as a process that empowers citizens to participate and political development that improves their capacity are inextricably intertwined. The nexus between the two was underscored by Ake (2001) when he described such a set up as a
Competitive political system in which competing leaders and organizations define the alternatives of public policy in such a way that the members of the public can participate in (and benefit from) the decision making process.

6. Social scientists identify a number of key issues as critical to the evolution, and sustainability of the democratic creed and political development. Inter alia and selectively these include:

a. Equity: This principle of which is vital to democracy and political development has two dimensions to it. Firstly it connotes the equal rights of all individuals and groups to participate directly (or indirectly) in the political process. In developed democracies the electoral process offers a major opportunity or mechanism for mobilizing and actualizing such participatory inputs. The other important dimension to equity as relevant issue to democracy and political development is its supposition that allocation of societal resources: development projects, programmes etc should reflect the interests of all stakeholders.
Equity is both tricky and troublesome the political history of developing countries not the least of all Nigeria. Doubtlessly the long running political paralysis the country has witnessed is traceable to the feelings of absence of equity in the nation’s formula for deciding “who gets what, when and how”. It is this reality that has elevated lexicons like “Domination”, “marginalisation” and many others of their ilk to the front burner of our national debates and conversations. Shorn of all euphemisms, the protracted altercations among the majority groups in Nigeria on one hand and between them and minority groups on the other comes down to the issue of equity.

b. Popular Sovereignty: This principle which is also central to democracy and any meaningful political development hinges on the belief and acceptance that political power belongs to ultimately to the people. Therefore those who occupy elected public offices are deemed to do so at the beliest and concurrence of the people the de jure owners of that value.

c. Basic Rights and Freedoms: Classically Democracy and political development have always been associated with the establishment, promotion and guaranteeing a list of fundamental rights and freedoms. Indeed as Rogers (1997) such rights which provide nourishment for the developmental phenomenon demarcate democracy from totalitarianism, fascism and other restrictive typology of governance. Summarized these rights include freedoms of conscience, expression, worship, movement, association, etc.

d. Separation of Power: Separation of power is as much the life blood of democratic political development as the guarantee of basic rights and freedoms. Lord Acton’s popular (even if hackneyed) dictum that “Power corrupts and absolute Power corrupts absolutely” provides the wisdom that underscores the consensus on the utility of separation of power in a democratic setting. The universal framework for this is the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Nigerian Constitution provides elaborate details on how this is to achieved in the country.

e. Rule of Law: If separation of power is the life blood of democratic political development, rule of law is its heartbeat. By emphasizing the equality of all –individuals, majority groups, minority groups, etc –before the law, the principle is the armour that protects the society from the rapacious and, quite often, the hedonistic use of power by those who govern. In Nigeria the latter has always been the “majority”.

f. Transparency and Accountability. Democratic political development is clearly related to the level of transparency and accountability in any state. Generally taken for granted in the more developed democracies the importance and relevance of the issues involved here loom large in the political economy of African States generally and Nigeria in particular. The highly respected Democratic Republic of the Congo Political Scientist, Nzongola Ntalaja once quipped that it is really difficult to talk of democracy and political development in many African countries against the background of the massive looting of public treasuries of these states and the cloak and dagger manner in which governance is carried out.

g. Competitive Party System and Conduct of Free, Fair and Credible Elections: The nexus between these variables and the movement of a society to a higher level of democratic and developmental transformations is so obvious and ordinarily should not stand in need of detailed elaboration here.
Contradictorily enough as we further demonstrate below these very issues have for decades turned out to be one of Nigeria’s political Achilles foot. Few analysts would disagree that the highly dwarfed socio-political transformation Nigeria has experienced since 1960 is traceable, at least in part, to its inability to get its electoral politics together.

h. Political Development, Security and Citizens’ Welfare: This is one of the newer areas of interest in the discussions of the synergy between democracy and political development. While the traditional indices outlined above still remain heuristic as indicators, there is growing acceptance that the twin phenomenon should also be assessed in the context of the security and opportunities they provided for individual and group fulfillment in areas like employment, clean and safe environment, gender equality etc it offers. Paul (2008) had this in mind when he posited that democracy is an empty phrase except it generates development which “must be redefined as an attack on the Chief evils of the world today: malnutrition, diseases, illiteracy, slums, unemployment and inequality”.

Aluko (1994) also captured the interface between the two variables when he declared that: “Economic disintegration and stagnation is antithetical to democracy (and political development)…a democratic structure may be foisted on a weak and unstable economy. Such a democracy soon falls like a pack of cards… Democracy cannot survive on empty stomachs”

Even Neo-liberalists like Todaro and David Seers concur that the process assumes validity only in the context of its potentials to record appreciable jerk up in the quality of life of citizens. Seers (1969) posed that
“the questions to ask about a country’s development are… what has been happening to unemployment, what has been happening to poverty, what has been happening to inequality?”

7. The above by no means exhaust the indices or yardsticks by which democratic political development can be assessed. Our aim in tendering the selective roll call is to, hopefully, provide some guide to be used as compass to steer us through the analysis of rather opaque but certainly Kaledeiscopic nature of Nigeria’s development from 1960 to date. The question to be asked at this stage centres on how some of the issues raised above played out in Nigeria generally and with specificity to the Majority-Minority problem. What are the policy options the Nigeria State has adopted to contain and manage the attendant conflicts?

Democracy, Political Development and the Management of Majority–Minority Question in Nigeria: Approaches and Policy Options.

8. To state that democracy and political development in Nigeria have had a checkered and rather melancholic history is to state an obvious albeit painful fact. For decades, at least up till 1999, the country was the butt of numerous cruel jokes in the international arena as a nation incapable of getting its democratic and developmental agenda right.

9. An insightful discussion of Nigeria’s political development and the place or contributions of any of its numerous social aggregates therein must however commence with the appreciation of a number of objective realities that have driven that process.

10. Perhaps the most determinant of these facts is that Nigeria is a complex plurality. From the ethnic angle, the country is made up of over 250 ethnic groupings all at various levels of social, political and economic transformations. There are the three largest groups; viz:- the Hausa –Fulanis in the northern parts, the Ibos in the South East and the Yorubas in the South West. Together they have been referred as the Majority groups. The three have traditionally been the tripod on which Nigeria’s politics has stood. The political positions the three have taken, the alliances, compromises and political horse tradings they have made or forged have etched the contours of Nigeria’s political life. It is useful to mention that the cleavages amongst the three manifest in all dimensions: geographical habitat, language, religion and culture. Thus while the Hausa-Fulanis are overwhelmingly Moslems, the Ibos are overwhelmingly Christians; the Yorubas are of both beliefs.

11. Of more direct relevance for us here is the fact that in the years running up to the termination of colonial rule and during the First Republic all of the three created ethnically based political parties which they used to control and dominate the three regional set up along which Nigeria had evolved with the introduction of the Lyttelton Constitution in 1954. In the Northern region the Hausa-Fulanis created the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and used it to dominate and control the political process in the region. The same situation replicated itself in the Eastern Region where the Ibos created and controlled National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (later changed to the National Council of Nigerian Citizens) NCNC held away.

12. In the Western Region the Yorubas had their Action Group (AG) which had metamorphosed from a purely Yoruba cultural organisation. When the Mid West region was created in 1963 the NCNC quickly took control of its political process.

13. Juxtaposed with the majority three big groups were the over 200 minority ethnic formations who taken together constitute approximately 50% of Nigeria’s total population then, and now. The minority groups are mainly scattered in the then Middle Belt (today’s North Central Zone), South Eastern (approximately today’s South –South geopolitical zone) and the Northern-Eastern (mostly part of present day North East geo-political zone) flanks of Nigeria. The major minority groups include the Tivs, Idomas, Jukuns, Igalas, Igbiras, Angas, Bachamas, Biroms and the Nupes in the northern region. In the West were mainly the Benis and the Urobohs while in the Eastern region were the Ijaws, Itsekiris, Ibibios, Efiks, the Yalas among others.

14. Though disperate and separated from each other by wide geographical space, as Nigeria gravitated towards independence in the late 1950s, the minorities perceived the need to organize themselves into political parties and to pressure the British colonial masters to create new regions in their areas to escape marginalization and the hegemony of the majority groups. The most important of the minority controlled political parties was the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) with membership made up mainly of the Tiv ethnic group. Together with other minorities they demanded the creations of the Middle Belt and the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) regions from the Northern and Eastern regions respectively.

15. Even with the hand writings clear on the walls that the Minorities
would be in for a raw political deal should Nigeria emerge to independence with the then existing regional framework the British remained unsympathetic to their demands for a more balanced federal structure for the country. Rejecting the creation of new regions the Willinck Commission set up to look into their demands believed rather naively, that the principles of fundamental human rights enshrined in the new independence constitution were strong enough to ensure equal access to political power by all Nigerians in the post independence era.

16. Shortly after Nigeria toddled to independence on 1st October 1960 the expectations that the country would develop democratically quickly proved chimeric. The ethnic lines of cleavages discussed earlier not only carried over into the immediate post colonial years but sharpened dangerously making governance and political compromises among the ruling elites difficult.

17. At first it was the NPC/NCNC (Hausa/Ibo) coalition that controlled political power at the centre versus the AG (Yoruba). But having quickly decimated the latter, the two majority groups were soon at each other’s throats disagreeing on virtually everything and anything from population census figures to election results and to appointment of Vice Chancellor for the University of Lagos. By late 1965, following the massive killings and anarchy that greeted the attempts by the NPC to rig the elections in the Western Region that year in favour of its ally the NNDC, the signals were clear that the days of the First Republic were numbered. Nigeria had become pushed into a political cul d sac from which a military coup presented itself as a viable exit option.

18. What is striking for our purpose here was the clear total neglect and marginalization of the minorities during this phase of Nigeria’s political development or more appropriately existence. Except for a few individuals like Chief Festus Okoti-Eboh (Uroboh) who was the Federal Minister of Finance and in the Northern region, Mr. Abutu Obekpa (Idoma) Mr. Michael Audu Buba (Plateau) Mr. Sunday Awoniyi (Okun) and Mr. Mathew Mbu (Ogoja) in the Eastern Region the levers of political and bureaucratic power at both federal levels were tightly monopolized by the three majority ethnic groups.

19. The same story of marginalization and neglect can also be told in the areas of presence and impacts of developments projects. In this context the Idoma entity, thanks to the well known political sagacity and deftness of the Och’Idoma then, Chief Ogiri Oko, came off a whole lot better than other areas. Utilizing his unusual ability to correctly gauge the pulse of the political powers that be at the time, he succeeded in harvesting appreciable development tokens for his kingdom. These came in the form of Pipe Borne Water, Electricity, a Government General Hospital as well as a Clerical Training Institute at Otukpo. Other minorities got nothing, or, worse still, became the targets of ruthless coercive force by the state for daring to be on the opposite side of the political equation.

20. In January 1966 the First Republic was brought to a premature end through a military coup. Conspicuous among the legion of ills that precipitated the crash was the callous, insensitive and we-don’t –care manner in which the three majority ethnic groups treated the political interests of the minorities with whom they co-habited. Egwu (2014) aptly captured this when he declared that:
“In the first post independence civilian era, the plight of ethnic minorities despite the increased assertion of their demands received little attention. Rather it became part of the political gimmick…”

21. The 1966 overthrow was to turnout to be just one of many such incursions into Nigeria’s politics by the military, occurring on and off till 1999.

22. The long period of military control led to the emergence of new structures, patterns and consciousness for the management of relationships among the various ethnic groupings in the country. Both time and space do not allow us the luxury of roll calling and analyzing all the dimensions involved here. A number of major developments however intrude themselves as particularly relevant not only for Nigeria’s subsequent political transformation generally, but also for the minority cause in the country’s scheme of politics. These include the Civil War, the Balkanization of the regions into smaller geo-political units the reorganization and rejuvenation of the local government system among many others.

23. Viewed from any dimensions the Civil War (1967-70) marked an irreversible turning point in Nigeria inter-ethnic relationships. This assertion is particularly true for the minority ethnic groups. Far more than either of the two majority tribes (the Hausa/Fulanis and the Yorubas) on the Nigerian side of the war, the Idomas, Tivs, Igalas, Angas, the Bachamas and the other numerous minority groupings in the Middle Belt and North Eastern flanks ended up making the greatest sacrifices to keep Nigeria united. Published statistics are not required to demonstrate that these groups overwhelmingly constituted the majority in the frontlines that confronted the seceding Biafrans. It is true concomitantly that they more than any of the two majority paid the ultimate prize for Nigeria’s continued unity.

24. Fortuitously enough the latter’s dominating presence in the rank and file of the Nigerian army emanated indirectly from the marginalization and exclusion they had suffered at the hands of the Hausa/Fulani majority in their bids to gain entrance into the higher rungs of the regional bureaucracy or structures of the cotton/groundnut or tin mining driven economy.

25. Scholars like Jibo (2003) have posited that the enormous contributions made by Middle Belt and other northern minorities to the preservation of the cooperate identity of the Nigerian nation have neither been sufficiently appreciated nor adequately rewarded by the majorities. The latter he argued had only too quickly at the end of the war returned to the status quo ante of consigning the minorities to the positions of political and cultural inferiority once the country returned to a stable political keel. More intriguely when huge funds were released for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation not one kobo was spent in the minority areas of the Middle Belt that had witnessed destruction of properties from Biafran air raids especially during the early stages of the war.

26. The second important development associated with the entrance of the military into politics and that was to drastically alter the structure and pattern of contestation and access to power by various ethnic groups in the country was the break up of Nigeria’s regional structure into states. Commencing with 12 states in 1967 under Gowon, the number was later increased to 19, 21, 27 and finally to the present 36 under Murtala Mohammed, Babangida and Sani Abacha respectively.

27. To fully appreciate the importance of state creation as a stratagem for accommodating the political interests of various Nigerian ethnic groups (majority and minority alike) the key issues involved must be put in their proper context.

28. Although the Midwest region had been created out of the Western Region in 1963 by the NPC/NCNC Federal Coalition Government, the overriding objective was to politically castrate the AG the recalcitrant opposition party towards which the NPC had developed phobic dislike. The new region was also a “Thank you” gift to the NCNC for its support for the NPC’s political offensives against Chief Obafemi Awolowo the leader of the Yorubas.

29. The 1967 state creation exercise (and to a lesser degree, subsequent ones) therefore represented the first conscious and deliberate public policy aimed at reducing the regional base of majority groups while providing geo-political platforms for minorities who had for years complained about the injustice and inferiority status the regional structure had conferred on them. This philosophy and logic to which was grafted the need to bring governance closer and enhance the participatory inputs of citizens underscored the replications that has brought the number of states to 36 today.

30. While the value of state creation as an instrument for promotion of inter ethnic harmony and national development cannot be questioned, the potential dysfunctionality of a situation whereby every nationality (no matter how small) is today mounting pressure on the system to have its own state must also be appreciated. Already the growing weakness of many of the states vis-à-vis a powerful central government is jolting the existing federal set up more and more towards unitarism. A more worrisome downside to the utility of further balkanization as a viable recipe for balance and equity in Nigeria is the emergence of new patterns of domination and marginalization in various parts of the country. New dimensions of political tyranny and subservience have metamorphosed among groups that hitherto fore were all minorities loosely united against a common enemy. This re-invention has, for the new minority made the burden of marginalization and the sting of exclusion all the more painfully intolerable as it is much closer than the situation during regional emasculation. In Benue, Kogi and Delta states for example, the Tivs, the Igalas and the Urobohs, erstwhile minorities are now new majorities vis-à-vis the Idomas, the Igbirras and the Ka Ibos respectively. More galling to the re-designated minorities is the perception that the nouveau majority appear to have conveniently suffered some collective amnesia completely forgetting the throes associated with being a minority.

31. Closely related to state creation as a remedial tool for the management of Nigeria’s ethnic pluralism is the subdivision of the states into over 770 Local Government Councils. Generally created world wide on the principles of decentralization, deconcentration and or delegation local governments are expected to bring the process of governance closer to the people. This wise the apparatus carries the potentials of a bulwark against marginalization by higher levels of governance which could well be pursuit of a majority ethnic agenda. Since the democratization of the system kicked off with the reforms of 1976, the local administration has become integrated into the laws of Nigeria albeit that a number of contradictions centering on its control and finance management have strightjacketed the system’s ability to function as an alternative safeguard against domination by a majority controlled federal or state government. The postscript here is that the contributions and achievements of His Royal Highness Agabaidu Ogiri Oko which we celebrate today were recorded primarily through though not restricted to, the ambiance of the local government structure viz:- the Idoma Native Authority.

32. There are many other critical issue areas in Nigeria where public policy have been crafted aimed at promoting the country’s socio-political development national cohesion, integration, and inter ethnic power balance. Selectively these include policy interventions touching on:

Structure, memberships and campaign guidelines of political parties;
Composition of the Electoral body-the Independent National Electoral Commission;
Composition and structure of Federal and State Governments;
Composition and membership of key government Commissions, Agencies, Embassies, etc;
Creation of a more representative legislative structure based (at the federal level) on the principle of proportional representation in the House of Representative and equality of all states in the Senate;
Recruitment into the Armed Forces and the Police based on equal slots for all federating units;
Creation of a special ministry of Niger Delta and other institutions like OMPADEC to address particularistic concerns and fears of minorities;
Setting up of the Federal Character Commission to constantly monitor the process of governance to ensure it is in tune with the broader national objectives of equity for all Nigerians; and,
An elaborate and independent judiciary system made up at its upper levels of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Courts, States High Courts, and Election Tribunals among others.

33. The identification and analysis of the legion of legal and constitutional intervention policies and programmes to strengthen Nigeria’s political development and accelerate the pace of its inter-ethnic trust, harmony and tolerance is only one face of the task. The second and, some would argue more important, is the assessment or evaluation of the extent to which these policies and programmes have impacted positively on the dilemmas that necessitated their enunciations and adoption in the first place. Such assignment assumes a special value and imperativeness in an environment like Nigeria’s where, consistently, wide chasms demarcate “what really is” and “what should be”.

34. A fundamental problem with the effectiveness of some of the key solutions provided or implemented is they end up generating contradictions that end up adding complications to the original problem. We noted earlier how creation of states has led to the evolution of new patterns of marginalization and exclusion in Benue and Kogi States. Alubo has also noted that the implementation of the Federal character principle has stoked and further soured the no-love relationship between indigenes and settlers in Plateau State. It can similarly be argued that the usefulness of the local government set as instrument of political empowerment of minorities has been blunted by the hijacking of the councils by state governments, which more often than not are controlled by national or local majority groupings.
Provisions, Policies and Strategies: Effects on National Unity and Inter-Ethnic Relationships: Reflections.

35. The 1999 Constitution where most of the provisions aimed at guaranteeing equality of access to state power and resources are enshrined has been in operation now for a decade and half. Prior to that we had the 1979 Constitution (where similar provisions had been accepted) for four years. These facts notwithstanding it is the considered opinion of most observers that little progress has indeed been made either in accelerating national development or in the enterprise of attenuating ethnic mistrust and the pervasive feeling of relative feeling of relative deprivation among minorities (Alubo 2011, Egwu 2014, Jibo 2003) Consensus exists among these observers and many others that it is not just that the situation is not improving, it is infact witnessing rapid deterioration with potential consequences for the nation.

36. Clearly the din of complaints, lamentations, neglect and exclusions, especially from minority quarters, has grown louder and more cacophonous. But it is no longer a straight forward animosity of majority versus minorities but also elements among majorities blaming other majorities for not getting bigger slices of the proverbial National Cake. For those Nigerians old enough to remember the parallels between extant levels of antipathy and struggles for control of the various apparatus of the Nigerian state evokes a strong and unmistakable sense of déjà vu. Jibo captured the essence of the decay and deterioration when talking specifically on the souring relationship between the minorities of the Middle Belt and the Hausa-Fulanis declared that
“The chasm between the majority ethnic groups and the Middle Belt minority groups has recently been widened. The damage in relations has been so extensive that several leading Middle Belt leaders have thrown all caution to the dogs and are now prepared to part ways with the Hausa-Fulani and to have very little to do with the north.”

37. The scenario depicted in the quotation above have been corroborated by Alubo in his detailed studies on ethnic conflicts and citizenship crises in central Nigeria especially those between Biroms and other minorities in Plateau State on one hand and the settler Hausa communities on the other. Alubo’s work also provides rid insights on the growing decay in the relationships among minorities themselves e.g. Tiv, Jukuns and Kutebs in Taraba State, Tiv and others in Nasarawa State.

38. The findings of these studies and several others confirm “beyond all reasonable doubts” as legal experts will put it the lines of fissures and cleavages between and among all the ethnic stakeholders in the Nigerian Enterprise have become wider, more elongated and obviously much more debilitating for the country’s political development than ever before.

39. If nothing else the Federal Government’s recent capitulation and subsequent agreement to convene a National Conference (shorn of the prefix “Sovereign”!) is open admission that the various policy options and strategies buoyed in some cases by constitutional provisions have either not worked, or at best, yielded only infinitesimal dividends. In his address to inaugurate the National Conference, President Goodluck Jonathan openly admitted that Nigeria’s unity and the quality and nature of ethnic relationships was a cause of grave concern. He declared that the National Conference is “being convened to engage in intense introspection about the political and socio-economic challenges [still] confronting our nation and to chart the best and most acceptable way for the resolution of such challenges in the collective interest of all the constituent parts of our fatherland.”

40. In what amounts to a true confession on the ineffectiveness of existing remedial measures the President admitted further that
“We cannot continue to fold our arms and assume that things will straighten themselves out in due course, instead of taking practical steps to overcome impediments on our path to true nationhood, rapid development and national prosperity”

41. His expectations are that the Conference will come out with solutions “for a stronger, more united, peaceful and politically stable Nigeria”.
42. It is almost impossible to provide a neat categorization or schema of the variety of social economic problems that have gnawed at Nigeria’s virility leading to the national paralysis alluded to in Goodluck Jonathan’s speech. He listed the pertinent issues as ranging from “form of government, structures of government, devolution of powers, revenue sharing, resource control, fiscal federalism, indigeneship, gender equality…”

43. More specifically for our topic here we present the following taxonomy of manifest Nigeria’s socio-economic with both obvious and non-obvious ethnic dimensions.

Indigenes Vs Citizens
Majority Ethnic Groups Vs Majority Ethnic Group or Groups (e.g Yorubas Vs Ibos, Ibos Vs Hausa/Fulanis, Hausa/Fulanis Vs Ibos, etc).
Majority (Majorities) Vs National Minorities.
New Majorities Vs Minorities (Tivs Vs Idomas, Igalas Vs Igbirras, etc)
Fulani herdsmen Vs Peasant Farmers (be they Minorities or Majorities).
Subsections of majority Vs other subsection of the same majority (Ife Vs Modakeke, Aguleri Vs Omuleri).
Minorities Vs Minorities (Tiv Vs Jukuns and Kutebs).
Pervasive insecurity- insecurity relating to kidnappers, militias and more recently, Boko Haram.

44. Crude and unrefined, the above is put forward only to serve as an indicator of the complexity that surrounds the whole issue of minority and majority and the role of each in Nigeria quest for political development as the country moves into the second decade of the 21st Century.

Concluding Remarks.

45. Since its emergence as a modern sovereign nation state, Nigeria like most other African countries has been expected to develop its political, social and economic environment guided by the principles of a democratic order. Unfortunately objective realities deriving from its colonial history, its socio-ethnic mix as well as the pattern of relationship that evolved among the latter have over the years posed serious challenges.

46. At the core of the problem have been two closely interrelated obstacles. The first of these is the protracted wranglings, jostlings, suspicions and occasional blood letting contestations among the three majority ethnic formations for the control and monopoly of the levers of social, economic and political power in the country. The second challenge touches on the equally long lasting and uncompromising marginalization and exclusion from access to the same critical values of the over 200 minority ethnic formations in the country.

47. The relationships spurned by this unsalutary reality has since 1960 shackled and stunted the development of the country even as it has on a number of occasions pushed it perilously to the precipice of anarchy and disintegration.

48. The variety of corrective and curative measures adopted by the state-creation of states, local governments, constitutional provisions, etc – have not worked. Rather than attenuate, the ills associated with ethnic antipathy have festered and become more pernicious to the survival and preservation of the country. The major culprit for this calamity, reading between the lines of President Jonathan’s inaugural speech to the ongoing National Conference, is the political elite who through a combination of fear and greed have not only stoked the embers of ethnic distrust but have been bereft of the political will needed to break the deadlock. Finding an effective formula for this is the task before the on going National Conference.

49. As for the Idomas and other minorities who for decades have been the target of many years of marginalization, exclusions and other forms of political short changing and subterfuge from the majority groups, a number of strategies suggest themselves no matter the outcome of the Conference. Primarily there is the imperativeness of forging closer and stronger ties among themselves so as to strengthen their bargaining powers no matter the contours of any new political topography the Conference sketches for Nigeria. At no time in their struggle for political power relevance is the adage “United we stand, Divided we Fall” more apt than. The cold truth is that the Idomas and indeed other minorities have been found easy prey to the devouring and insatiable power appetites of the majority groups because they have failed to convert their numerical inferiority to a superiority of unity. For the Idomas, smithing the nucleus of such a Pan Minority group should come relatively easy given the genealogical affinity they share with other minorities notably in Cross-River, Nasarawa and Taraba States among others.

50. The good news is that there is now a growing appreciation of the value of unity and close cooperation among minorities. At a recent and an apparently well attended meeting at Abuja on May 21, 2014, the Nigeria Ethnic Minorities Movement was launched (Vanguard, May 26, 2014). The Movement has come up with a number of suggestions that carry great potentials for impacts on the Majority-Minority debacle in Nigeria. Among the suggestions presented in a memorandum to the National Conference are demands for:

The insertion of provisions to protect minorities in the 1999 Constitution;
The Nigerian Constitution should define, defend and criminalize acts of marginalization and discrimination against the minorities; and,
A Nigerian Commission on the Rights of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples to be created and enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and empowered to protect, promote, advance and enforce the rights of minorities.

51. We started this presentation with discussions on democracy and political development. In this concluding sections of the exercise let us now briefly look at the nexus between that phenomenon and the issues touching on Minority marginalization, exclusion and deprivations.

52. Development as we articulated earlier is primarily about human empowerment and improvement. The Kernel of democracy and development is concern for Equity, Justice and Fair Play. The principle of equity encapsulated in the democratic creed is all encompassing: equal participation in governance, in access to decision making on who gets what, when and how, and to resources needed for transformation of the human environment of the individual, the group or the society at large.

53. As is commonplace in third world states where private capital and financial initiatives remain highly underdeveloped and inchoate, the state presents itself as the critical source of resources required for transformation of the society at large and of the individuals and the socio-ethnic aggregates that make up that society at the micro level. In Nigeria minorities like the Idomas, Angas, Igbirras among others who quite often find themselves excluded, locked out or distanced from arenas where vital decisions on the allocation and or distributions of such resources are taken, do not only feel acute sense of injustice and relative deprivation, they are also likely to be stuck in the quagmire of poverty and misery as the development train passes them by.

54. If indeed the current debacle between Majority and Minority formations in Nigeria is a fight or struggle for democracy and political development by the latter as we implied in the preceding, the prolonged failure of the state to unshackle and tame that shrew is a sad reflection of the incompetence and myopic capacity of those who govern. The late Chinua Achebe in his short but highly insightful work The Problem with Nigeria argued that the problem is not with the Nigerian air, water, weather or its peoples but with the character of those who occupy leadership positions. Egwu, (2014) captured the poignancy of the Nigerian situation when he posited that since independence the country has witnessed a drought of leadership capable of personifying the nation in words and deeds and promoting inclusive growth and distribution of resources in a manner that elicits the applause and satisfaction of all. In other words Nigeria has for decades been plagued by leaders who in the daytime masquerade as “Nationalists” but change to “ethnic ideologues” as the sun sets.

55. The noted Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah once quipped that in most of Africa, the Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born. Unless and until that happens the ethnic question with all its deleterious and corrosive effects on the state is likely to enjoy a long, albeit unwelcome tenancy in this territorial demarcation called Nigeria.

56. In some respects, His Royal Highness Agabaidu Ogiri Oko in his lifetime manifested copious attributes of the Beautiful Ones. Here was a man who placed the interest of the community he served well above his personal ones. He was a man who turned the numerical disability of his people to assets which he mobilized and harnessed to move them to levels of transformation that was the envy of their neighbours. Here was a man who had access to all the resources that accrued to a big Native Authority like his but drew a strict red line between his private pockets and the public purse. A perfect model for the midwifying of the Beautiful Ones of our times.


References
Alubo O. (2006) Ethnic Conflicts and Citizenship Crises in the Central Region: Nigeria, Ibadan PEFS

Egwu, S. (2014) “Minority Rights and The Challenges of Development in Nigeria”. Paper Presented at International Conference on Minority Rights, Benue State University, Makurdi 25th March 2014.

Jibo, M. (2003) “Northern Nigerian Minorities and Socio-Economic Marginalisation” in Jibo M. and Simbine A. (ed) Contemporary Issues in Nigerian Politics Ibadan, Jodad Publishers.

No comments:

Post a Comment