Of "Dangerously Brilliant' Minds Working For a Better Union

An exchange between me and a truly brilliant and well respected Buhari supporter who would remain anonymous.

Dear ***** *****,

Even though I have been a bit wary about visiting saharareporters ever since Pius Adesanmi described me as "dangerously brilliant" ( see One Shior, One Prayer, by Pius Adesanmi), I did go there on your say so and read ElNathan John's piece (see Buhari, The Many North's and Justice ). In fact I absorbed it. I agree with most of what he wrote. However, let me now respond to you without using politically correct language.

The Nigerian state is called a Federal Government, but this is a misnomer. It is also wishful thinking for ElNathan to expect World Class good government in Nigeria as long as we remain in our current unitary state. For Nigeria to operate at her best capacity, there needs to be structural changes and those changes can only be delayed they cannot be resisted.

For instance, no one pays taxes in Nigeria. Only corporations do and even at that there are major loopholes in tax collections. You cannot have good government without people demanding good government and as long as Nigerians do not pay taxes and Nigeria is run from the proceeds of oil rents Nigerians will not be moved enough to demand good government because no one looks a gift horse in the mouth and oil money is a gift horse. The only people who may really be moved to anger at the misuse of oil rents are those from the Niger Delta because they are the only ones paying a price (destruction of their environment) for it.

Nigeria is a unitary state with too much power concentrated at the center. The structure on which Nigeria is built is very defective. Because Nigeria is a unitary state, every ethnic group wants their son desperately in charge at the center so that they can have access to the fabled National cake.

Because of this mentality, you cannot use the law successfully to punish those who loot or misuse power because such attempts even if they are genuine (and in many cases they are not) will be politicized and ethnicized until very soon the innocent bystander is so confused he is unable to unravel where good starts and evil begins.

So what is the key? We really have to go back to that peculiar form of Federalism called Regionalism that our fore fathers negotiated with the British and which was in existence until the "class of 1966" struck.

No state will be sufficiently motivated to be self sufficient if they know that with or without effort on their part, they will get a monthly cheque from the Federation account, so why even try? Newton's First Law of Motion (Every body remains in a state of constant velocity unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force. This means that in the absence of a non-zero net force, the center of mass of a body either remains at rest, or moves at a constant velocity) proves this.

As such our population is growing at a geometric progression and we are totally dependent on exports for our food security.

No one pays taxes (some may claim that they do but they invariably are those who want something from the system e.g. politicians wanting to contest for public office, others in such fields as the banking or telecoms sector under report their income in connivance with their employers and pay only a trifle) so we see ourselves as onlookers in a welfare state controlled by a 'father Christmas' Federal Government.

But if we go back to pre 1966 Nigeria, all that will change.

Each state has to be the direct beneficiary of its own resources like it is in any truly Federal system. This means True and Fiscal Federalism. You should not take tax money from Lagos state and share it amongst 36 states. Lagos should ideally keep the bulk and pay a tax to the Federal Government or the FG collects for Lagos, takes her percentage and remits the bulk back to Lagos. Also you should not take electricity from Niger state and run it through the National Grid and all the proceeds go to the Federal Government. Ideally, the Federal Government should buy it from Niger state or it may even be a Private Firm tapping the resource and paying Niger state.

The same goes for oil, Cocoa and cash crops.

If we do not let Nigerians via their states take possession of their God given resources, Nigeria's story may keep being the story of ÔÇśAnybody'. You may know it, but I will repeat it below;

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody
wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked

It was competition between the pre-1966 regions that saw the North building universities to catch up with Awolowo's West. That saw Zik building Industrial Centers to catch up with what Awolowo did in Ikeja. And it was the fear of being left behind that made Balewa's government in the Center come up with and implement ambitious National Development Plans that saw Nigeria build Kainji Dam and expand her country wide road network.

Nigerians see the Federal Government as a cow that everyone is free to milk and no one is obliged to feed. If you place Europeans, Americans and the Japanese under the same conditions as Nigerians you will in my view have the same result. We need a better union and we will keep facing all these symptoms of a bad marriage (religious/ethnic clashes, corruption, electoral disputes etc) if we do not fix the union.

We must find a way to return Nigeria to her pre-1966 state which was what our fore fathers agreed with the British and which was encapsulated in our own unique form of Federalism called Regionalism and allow all her component parts make progress at their own pace because we are not all at the same level in our social, economic and cultural evolution which explains why ethnic/religious clashes thrive in one area while trickery and what we call 419 thrives in another and in yet another part kidnapping and militancy is their anti social devices because we each have different ways of reacting to the stress that we have been subjected to since barely literate soldiers intervened in our body politics and upset a system that was put together by visionaries like Obafemi Awolowo who himself was some sort of genius and Ahmadu Bello, who was more tolerant of other ethnic and religious groups than any of his successors and Nnamdi Azikiwe who even dreamt that Pan Nigerianism will grow and eventually encapsulate Pan Africanism.

If we do not fix these structural defects in Nigeria, we will keep staring at a mirror and try to alter the image we see without altering ourselves first. As Elbert Einstein said, madness is not just walking the streets naked and talking to oneself, it also involves doing the same things and expecting a different result.

So, you, ElNathan and I may write about these past elections until we are red in the face, but it will not change anything if we do not return to a system that creates a level playing field for all Nigerians i.e. True Federalism, Fiscal Federalism, Resource Control and the Freedom of all Nigerians to pursue their own aspirations in a level playing field without feeling that they are being prevented from reaching any goal because of their ethnicity and religion.

In conclusion, what Buhari is feeling today is that people did not vote for him not because he is not a good and honest man with a strong moral foundation because I believe that he is and I suspect that most people who did not vote for him likewise believe this. But it is now becoming obvious especially when you look at the now famous electoral map that people refrained from voting for him because the CPC dangerously used ethnicity and religion to project its presidential candidate pre and post election.

What goes around seems to have come around. This feeling of Buhari that he lost an election because people focused not on him but on his ethnicity is not some new feeling that Buhari alone feels. It has been felt by others before him. Awolowo, Aminu Kano, Joseph Tarka, Shehu Yar'adua (not Umaru, but his elder brother) Abiola, Olu Falae, Pat Utomi and recently Nuhu Ribadu have at one time or the other had this feeling and rued their fate. And if you, ElNathan and I do not find a way, a peaceful way of leveling the playing fields and opening the floodgates that all may go in then the same thing will keep happening because as Einstein proved, nothing changes if we do not first be the change we want to see in our immediate environment.

This means that had Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) and others like him stood up to be counted on the side of justice on June 12, 1993 and insisted that Abacha not act the usurper and trample on the rights of another good man in the person of Chief M.K.O. Abiola and allow him to implement his vision for Nigeria that was termed ÔÇśFarewell to Poverty', we will be talking of a very different Nigeria today in which a man like Buhari can be electable.

But if memory serves us well, rather than do that, Buhari chose to frolic with the usurper of Abiola's mandate as Abacha's head of the PTF.

Taken together, all these opened the eyes of most Nigerians to the fact that while they wanted change they did not want the type of change that Buhari represented.