That the labours of our heroes past shall not be in vain

Being a lecture delivered by Miakpo Emiaso as the Independence Day Lecture of the Ashaka Reading Club to commemorate Nigeria’s 62nd independence anniversary on Monday 3rd October 2022 held at Riverside Hotel, Ashaka, Delta State.

Courtesy demands that I congratulate us on this occasion of Nigeria’s 62nd independence which we celebrate. This is despite the fact that I am not entirely certain what there is to celebrate. Is Nigeria really independent? This country is still heavily dependent on the outside world for its existence. WE can hardly take any political decisions without recourse to external influences. Our military is dependent on foreign sources for materials and weaponry. Nigerians import almost everything they consume. We run an absolute consumption economy. We produce nothing. So what are celebrating?

Let me now open the discussion which brought me here by reference to a poem I was commissioned by the Justice, Development and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church, Warri Diocese about this time last year. Titled Pathfinding, the poem hosts a theme very close to the topic which I have to discuss today with this august gathering:



By Miakpo Emiaso

I woke up this morning

Staring into nothingness

And recalled how

Our founding fathers

Went political pathfinding

To Lancaster House

I woke up this morning

And as I stared

I recalled how they,

Our founding fathers,

Founded a nation

On a federal foundation

A federal foundation

On a solid tripod of equal strength

Of equal membership

In healthy developmental competition

Economically and politically

I woke up this morning

Seeing nothing as I stared

The federal wisdom

Muddled up in clouds

Of insincerity and greed

The federation stagnate

I woke up this morning

Staring hard, I remembered

How it was once said:

“He who knows not where he is going

Ends up somewhere else”!

So I woke up this morning

Staring, I hear so much noise

Of violent motions void of movement

A nation with no defined destination

The blind leading the blind:

The red flag I wave

And so, I wake up this morning

Staring, I see the youth

True owners of the nation

Like sheep without shepherd they drift.

Red flag in hand I scream:

Wake up! Take back your country!

Rediscover the true federal path

Just so, some day, you may wake up

To behold a nation

You can truly call your own

In peace, progress and brotherhood

In unity, love and justice.

The poem recalls at the second stanza how

‘Our founding fathers,

Founded a nation

On a federal foundation’

and proceeded sadly at the fourth stanza to regret how

‘The federal wisdom

(Has been) Muddled up in clouds

Of insincerity and greed

(And) The federation stagnated’

This poem which was written with the Nigerian child of 2021 in mind talks about how Nigeria’s ‘founding fathers’ (not heroes – two terms which this paper will apply interchangeably to mean one and the same thing) founded a nation they called a Federal Republic of Nigeria in their wisdom following numerous soul searching conferences in the United Kingdom – Nigeria’s colonizing empire!

May be the use of ‘founding fathers’ instead of ‘heroes’ in this poem was well advised. Are there persons who qualify as heroes of Nigeria? So, I wonder what those who coined this topic for me to discuss had in mind. Who exactly are ‘our heroes past’ referred to in this topic?

Who or what makes hero a hero? Something I picked on the net attempted an answer and said a hero is someone with courage, bravery, mental fortitude, strength, intelligence, patience, selflessness and honesty. I agree and wish to add that the demonstration of these qualities must be with respect to an attained given objective. 

So, if we are going to locate and identify ‘our heroes’, we must do so first with an identification of what objective such heroes ‘laboured’ for. Very quickly, we could conclude that it is true that this country once had a crop of persons who fought at the risk of their personal freedoms and even of their lives to achieve independence and self-rule for this country who by virtue of their struggle and achievement they have always been rightly or wrongly described as ‘our heroes’.

I do not contest that description. In their individual rights, these persons qualify as heroes. But were they national heroes or regional heroes? This paper recognises that there are heroes at the different levels – national, regional, and local.

I ask Chukudi Azaka and his Ashaka Reading Club: When you invited me to talk about the ‘labours’ of ‘our heroes’, did you have Adaka Boro or Ken Saro Wiwa in mind? I ask this because obviously you are from the Niger Delta of Nigeria. These are regional heroes who paid the supreme price for the course they fought for. They fought for the rights of the Niger Delta peoples to own and possess their God-given benefits of the land of their ancestors! They were oppressed and were officially murdered!

Or were you thinking of such figures as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and those other towering figures whose names cannot be missing in the struggle for Nigeria’s political independence? Did you have in mind such names as Herbert Macaulay, Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Dr. J. C. Vaughan, Chief Bode Thomas, Alhaji Adelabu Adegoke, Mallam Saad Zungur, and many others who died in the course of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence?

Were you thinking of men like Anthony Enahoro, Osita Agwuna, Mokwugo Okoye, Mallam Raji Abdallah, A. Y. S. Tinubu, Fred Anyiam, Oged Macaulay, Ikenna Nzimiro who were members of the Zikist Movement and who dared to attack British rule in Nigeria.

And, of course, there were youths like R. A. Fani-Kayode, N. A. B. Kotoye, Fred McEwen who once voluntarily on the Lagos Prison to protest the official celebration of the Queen of England’s coronation in Nigeria. Did you have these names in mind as heroes?

I have listed these names and history merely as illustration from an article written by Ganiyu Abdullahi and published online on the 2nd of May 2022 with the title The labour of our heroes past! There are other names. I thank him for his industry and sense of history. And I have deliberately gone this route to mock some persons here in this audience who I believe have been victims of the evil cancellation of history as a subject of learning from Nigeria’s educational curriculum. I recommend that you look for that very rich article and read it. It contains a lot of things I would love to talk about here.

So, we have heroes who fought to achieve independence for Nigeria. We won a free country for ourselves. And, in his inaugural speech as governor-general of the new country, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe recalled that

‘During our protracted battles for independence, some of our heroes and heroines fell by the way side; some were incarcerated; some lost their jobs; some were victimized and made to suffer indignity. Therefore, we must jealously guard our freedom, with our lives, if need be’.

And what happened thereafter? Did we attain independence and self-rule just for its sake? Into what benefits have we put our cherished freedom from colonial rule? We had achieved independence and sovereignty and we had proceeded to give to ourselves an anthem we proudly called Nigeria We Hail Thee whose sweet music and wordings ran thus:

Nigeria we hail thee
Our own dear native land
Though tribe and tongue may differ
In brotherhood we stand
Nigerians all and proud to serve
Our sovereign motherland

Our flag shall be a symbol
That truth and justice reign
In peace or battle honour
And this we count as gain
To pass unto our children
A banner without stain

O God of all creation
Grant this our one request
Help us to build a nation
Where no man is oppressed
And so with peace and plenty
Nigeria may be blessed

‘To pass unto our children A banner without stain’! We had proclaimed!

Question is: How is that banner now? Is it without stain? Are we going to pass it as it now is ‘unto our children’?

‘Help us to build a nation’, we had prayed. Question is: Do we now have a nation?

And we said our nation shall be a nation ‘Where no man is oppressed’!

Question is: Even in the semblance of the nation we now have, can we in true conscience say that ‘no man is oppressed’?

It is obvious that our founding fathers had certain expectations of a great country. I doubt if this country has achieved greatness in the expectation of the founding fathers. As our opening poet proclaimed:

I woke up this morning

Seeing nothing as I stared

The federal wisdom

Muddled up in clouds

Of insincerity and greed

The federation stagnate

I woke up this morning

Staring hard, I remembered

How it was once said:

“He who knows not where he is going

Ends up somewhere else”!

So I woke up this morning

Staring, I hear so much noise

Of violent motions void of movement

A nation with no defined destination

The blind leading the blind:

The red flag I wave

This country called Nigeria is drifting. It is on a swift downward slide! Our leaders have missed the target. They led us into a needless war of attrition for three years. A war which could have been avoided if we had religiously and honestly stuck to the original federal foundation which our founding fathers in their deep wisdom bequeathed to us. Wisdom founded upon a realization that we are not a homogeneous people which is bedrock upon which nations are founded. So they settled for a federal system in which every federating component enjoys relative comparative advantage with a commitment to a central government.

Unfortunately, the military interrupted this arrangement and imposed on our politics a military command unitary structure. Since then, this country missed the way. A fact which is obvious to everyone but which we have lived with in self-denial. AS if the regimental military command structure was not bad enough, in 1979, the military pretended to leave our politics alone and they gave to us an American style of governance – A presidential system. And they tried to beat the Americans when they forced a constitution with an overburdened Exclusive Legislative List which concentrated almost all powers of government on the centre and thereby making no sense of our federal nature.

We have already failed our heroes past today as things stand! But all hope is not lost. We can retrace our steps and salvage this country. And it is very simple. Go back to a truly federal state. Nigeria is a great country no doubt or better still to say that Nigeria WAS a great country!

I have always held the view that the problems which beset Nigeria revolve around one fundamental problem. It is the strange kind of federal system of government Nigeria currently operates. It is not what our heroes past asked us to do. This is NOT a federation but a UNITARY government!

Our heroes past had expected us to grow Nigeria into a stronger federation than they handed it over to us. They had expected us to confront the issues which pull us down and subdue them for the benefit of our children. Have we done so? These issues include:

Amalgamation: Let us start with the dishonest amalgamation by Lord Lugard in 1914. Of course, the gentleman Lord Lugard may have meant well. May be he had his good reasons for doing what he did. And, till today, many Nigerians still share his conviction. But what really was this amalgamation? What were the actual reasons for the amalgamation? In whose interest was the amalgamation? Are those reasons still valid today? Shouldn’t we have revisited those reasons and find out whether the amalgamation still serve any useful purposes? Have we therefore failed our heroes past in this respect?

The answers to these questions have been effectively provided by someone who not only saw the events leading to the amalgamation unfold but participated in the process. He is Chief Richard Akinjide SAN. At a speech he delivered in 2012, this legal icon said:

‘I was in the first cabinet that was overthrown by the military in this country. I entered parliament in December 12, 1959. And I remained in parliament until January 15, 1966 when the government was overthrown. I was the Federal Minister of Education in that cabinet. … So I had the fortune or the misfortune of being a victim of the first coup in this country.

… In Balewa’s government, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the Minister of Works while I was the Minister of Education. When the military handed over to us after about 14 years, Shagari emerged as the President while I became the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Again, Shagari’s government was overthrown just a few months after I left the cabinet.

When I was in Tafawa Balewa’s Cabinet, all Cabinet Ministers had access to written intelligence report every month. That was the practice at that time. But when Shagari came in, for reasons which I cannot explain, that practice was no longer followed. But by virtue of my duties as the Attorney-General and as a member of the National Security Council, I continued to have access to some sensitive matters.

Nigeria is a very complex country. Our problems did not start yesterday. It started about 1894. Lord Lugard came here about 1894 and many people did not know that Major Lugard was not originally employed by the British government. He was employed by companies.…

Unless you know this background, you will not know the root causes of our problems. The interest of the Europeans in Africa and indeed in Nigeria was economic and it’s still economic…. Nigeria was created as British sphere of interests for business.

In 1898, Lugard formed the West African Frontier Force initially with 2,000 soldiers and that was the beginning of our problems. Anybody that wants to know the root cause of all the coups … and our present problems and who does not know the evolution of Nigeria would just be looking at the matter superficially. Our problems started from that time….

When Lugard formed the West African Frontier Force with 2,000 troops, about 90 percent of them were from the North mainly from the middle belt. And his dispatches to London between that time and January 1914 was extremely interesting. Lugard came here for a purpose and that purpose was British interest.

Between 1898 and 1914, he sent a number of dispatches to London which led to the Amalgamation of 1914. The Order-in-Council was drawn up in November 1913, signed and came into force in January 1914. In those dispatches, Lugard said a number of things which are the root causes of yesterday and today’s problems. The British needed the Railway from the North to the Coast in the interest of British business. Amalgamation of the South (not of the people) became of crucial importance to British business interest.

What is critical and important are the reasons Lugard gave in his dispatches. They are as follows:

He said the North is poor and they have no resources to run the protectorate of the North. That they have no access to the sea; that the South has resources and that they have educated people.

The first Yoruba Lawyer was called to the Bar in 1861. Therefore, because it was not the policy of the British Government to bring (their) tax-payers money to run the protectorate, it was in the interest of the British tax payer that there should be Amalgamation. But what the British Amalgamated was the Administration of the North and South. That is one of the root causes of the problems of Nigeria and the Nigerians.

When the amalgamation took effect, the British government sealed off the South from the North. And between 1914 and 1960, that’s a period of 46 years, the British allowed minimum contact between the North and South because it was not in the British interest that the North be allowed to be ‘polluted’ by the educated South. That was the basis on which we got our independence in 1960 when I was in the parliament. I entered parliament on December 12, 1959.

When the North formed a political party, the Northern leaders called it Northern People’s Congress (NPC). They didn’t call it Nigeria’s people Congress. That was in accordance with the dictum and policies of Lugard.

When Aminu Kano formed his own party, it was called Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) not Nigerian Elements Progressive Union.

It was only Awolowo and Zik who were mistaken that there was anything called Nigeria. In fact, the so-called Nigeria created in 1914 was a complete fraud. It was created not in the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians but in the interest of the British. …

The population figure is also a fraud. In fact, a British Colonial Civil Servant who was involved in the fraud was trying to expose it but he was never allowed to publish it.

The analysis is as follows: If you look at the map of West Africa, starting from Mauritania to Cameroun and take a population of each country as you move from the Coast to Savannah, the population decreases. Or conversely, as you come from the Desert to the Coast, right from Mauritania to Cameroun, the population increases.

The only exception throughout the zone is Nigeria. Nigeria is the only Zone whereby you go from the Coast to the North, the population increases and you come from the North to the Coast, the population decreases’.

(See the speech of Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) at the public presentation of the book Fellow Country Men – the story of Coup d’etats in Nigeria by Richard Akinnola)..

So, clearly, the amalgamation was by the fiat of an individual white man who came, saw, and conquered. The views of the people were not sought as it would have happened in his native country where they recently held a referendum over an issue very similar. The people of the United Kingdom were called upon to vote whether they wanted to remain in the European Union or not!

In Nigeria, the people are forced into a marriage by reason of a supposed ‘superior’ logic of a few who insist till tomorrow that Nigeria’s elusive unity is not negotiable! No reason is given for this lazy view. At least the proponents should be charitable in advancing some convincing arguments why this has to remain so. Let the advantages and benefits of never renegotiating the amalgamation be laid bare for all to appreciate.

There are people who are convinced that the unity of the amalgamation is a forced unity and is not real. I am one! Some persons held this view all their lives till death.  Chief Obafemi Awolowo is known to have described the result of that amalgamation thus:

‘Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. The word Nigerian is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not’. (See his Path to Nigerian Freedom of 1947).

As at the 3rd of August 1966, Yakubu Gowon was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Nigerian Army and was Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. On that day, he declared that:

‘there is no basis for Nigerian unity, which has been so badly rocked, not only once but several times’.

Yakubu Gowon is from Plateau State in the Middle Belt of Nigeria. But before Gowon spoke, Sir Ahmadu Bello as the Sardauna of Sokoto of the Nigerian core North had declared publicly as reported by the Parrot Newspaper on October the 12th 1960 that:

“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future.”

Sir Ahmadu Bello was then the Premier of Northern Nigeria (the only one) who is also on record as stating that in running Nigeria, a northerner comes first and if a northerner cannot be got, then an expatriate will do. He was a person with the unfortunate mindset that other Nigerians, especially the Ibos of the East, were inferior humans with whom you cannot do things in common. This mindset still persists with some Northerners till today. Unfortunately!

More recently, some northern politicians have boasted of having conquered part of the south and yet others have claimed by reference to some international conventions that the on shore crude oil found and lying on the beds of the Atlantic Ocean belongs to the north. According to one of these northern leaders, Alhaji Usman Bugaje, at a Northern Elders Conference and aired by Channels Television,

‘It is wrong for any state to claim that it is oil producing because 72% of the total land mass in the country belonged to the North and that by the United Nation’s law; it is only the North that actually has the right to claim ownership and that there are no oil producing states except the Nigerian state itself’.

A more recent statement reflective of this unfortunate mindset of Northern leaders is from the vice presidential candidate of one of the major political parties in the 2023 elections who arrogantly boasted that the agitation of the south and middle belt for a political and fiscal restructuring as ‘restructuring my foot’! I am yet to read any reaction from the South telling the vice presidential candidate that, whether he likes it or not, this country shall be restructured and even his foot will be restructured in the process!

These statements by northern leaders have been as provocative as they are most unfortunate. But there is a thread common to all the statements. It is the fact that they all agree that the geographical expression known as Nigeria is composed of a diverse grouping of persons whose ways of life are so incurably different that not even a four-decades old National Youth Service Scheme and a century old amalgamation have succeeded in stemming a fundamentally disuniting mindset.

Southerners are usually infuriated at the arrogance and superior feeling of some of these Northerners which is very real. Unfortunately, all the Southerners do is lament loudly in heavy sounding English words but do nothing. It is as if the Southerners have surrendered to their fate and accepted that they are indeed inferior Nigerians to the Northerners. Southern leaders have over the years woefully failed in effectively asserting their equal status with their Northern counterparts. This is obvious even today in their politicking!

And I say: Unless and until the fundamentally lopsided federalism is cured, Nigeria’s progress will remain stagnated in utter disappointment to our founding fathers. To cure it, Nigerians must talk. The Nigerian state must be renegotiated. The amalgamation document itself had a life span of a hundred years which expired in 2014. It has lapsed and it must be revisited.

A renegotiation does not necessarily lead to a disintegration of the country. It only leads to a spelling out of agreed terms under which the various nations which constitute the country are willing to remain together under one flag as a nation. This is an imperative.

Such talking, dialogue or renegotiation is to be preferred to the continued mutual suspicion pervading the present forced amalgamated arrangement where no one section is satisfied that it is not being marginalized. As a country, all the nations constituting same must walk together. The various nations in Nigeria are not now walking together. They are not agreed on any point.

And how can they be agreed if they do not talk to each other? They can only be agreed from negotiating since an agreement is always a product of a negotiated arrangement which starts with talking to each other.

Under Yakubu Gowon and especially during the civil war, it was common to hear that keeping Nigeria as one indivisible entity was a task that must be done. Nigerians keep hearing this chorus again and again especially from Northern elements who seem to believe that they have conquered the South of Nigeria and one Nigeria is not negotiable and everyone had better accept this. Containing a veiled threat as it does, this is violent talking. It is hate speech! And it is not what Nigeria needs.

Such threats from leaders, with the greatest respects, do not and cannot engender unity. They, instead, stoke the fires of disunity. Retaining Nigeria’s unity or improving on it is achievable but certainly never by force of arms. Never by intimidation or threats.

Economy: Has Nigeria an economy in the real technical sense of the word? A country which produces nothing and consumes anything and everything which it imports? Is the production of oil handled by foreigners and its sale alone an economy? This country does not even know how much oil is actually produced is known! Most of it is illegally taken out without records. Stolen! And we are just content to accept whatever these foreigners with a handful of unpatriotic Nigerian colluders tell us they have produced.

Meanwhile, in the course of the production, they mess up our environment by unmitigated spilling of highly corrosive crude oil onto our land surfaces and by a ceaseless flaring of noxious gas into the air. They kill our vegetation and destroy the land and seas so that our people are unable to farm or fish any more.

And can we say in this respect that we have done anything to ensure that the labours of our heroes past are not in vain?

A huge chunk of the little money declared by the foreigners which ought to come into the ‘economy’ for sharing from Abuja is then first waylaid at a point referred to as a tower! NNPC if you like. The remnant is then placed on a huge dinner table at the centre of the country where 36 super guys assemble, cap in hand, to collect their share. This ‘share’ is then promptly waylaid again before it is distributed to the people. And that is what we call an economy! The whole country depends on this for survival. Of course, this is a major rendering of our heroes’ labours in vain!

Our founding fathers bequeathed to us an agricultural economy in which the North was known for its groundnut pyramids, the West for it cocoa and the East and South for their palm oil. What have we done with these inheritance? And you think our founding fathers are happy with us?

As a primary school child, one of the books we read was called ‘Atlas’! In it were political and economic maps of Nigeria showing what economic product each region of the country was good at producing. I wonder if that book still exists and if our children are exposed to it. My primary school Atlas showed then that the North had a lot of mineral deposits including gold, diamond, columbite, bauxite etc. What has happened? These minerals are still there. Why is Nigeria no longer exploiting them?

Of course there are indications that some of these are being unofficially exploited with state government collusions to avoid their proceeds from getting to the common pool of federally generated revenue for national sharing as with oil. And Southern leaders are doing nothing about it!

This country must return to the original conception of our federal system as conceived by our founding fathers or something very close to it whereby the federating units get a sense of pride, greater dignity and develop healthy competition among them in which one unit tries to out-do the others in developing its own God-given and other generated resources in concentrating on those economic areas where they have comparative advantages.

For reasons of fairness and equity, this country must return to the like arrangement of revenue distribution in a truly federal manner as provided at Section 104 of the 1963 Constitution to the effect that

‘(1) There shall be paid by the Federation to each Region a sum equal to fifty per cent of –

(a) the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of any minerals extracted in that Region; and

(b) any mining rents derived by the Federation during that year from within that Region.

This is a more equitable approach to doing business between and among federating nations where each nation is entitled to a fixed percentage of what it generates instead of the current system where the federal government first pools all resources before distributing same downwards by reference to some illogical revenue sharing calculations as provided for at Section 162 of the 1999 constitution to the effect that

(1) The Federation shall maintain a special account to be called “the Federation Account” into which shall be paid all revenues collected by the Government of the Federation, except the proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, the Ministry or department of government charged with responsibility for Foreign Affairs and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. 

The Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, recently made bold in telling the Federal Government that the mining of gold in Zamfara by the Zamfara State government which it sells to Nigeria is illegal, discriminatory and unconstitutional and it must be halted otherwise Delta State shall also feel free to exploit its oil for itself.

This is how it should be! Our leaders down South should wake up from their timid shells and courageously challenge these blatant injustices.

It is not just gold alone. Up there in the North and especially in the Middle Belt, there are other plentiful minerals which have for years been and are being privately mined and the proceeds lodged in private accounts unaccounted for. Meanwhile, the peoples of the Niger Delta are criminally denied access to the crude oil which flows under their native soil. And when they attempt to do so in hiding deep into the inaccessible creeks of the Niger Delta, the Federal military might is deployed and these youths are haunted down as illegal bunkerers. Their refineries, locally fabricated out of sheer technological ingenuity, are incinerated together with their refined products, and they are hand-cuffed and paraded on national television as economic saboteurs!

Na wetin! What is good for the goose ought to be good for the gander in this contraption known as Nigeria and which we pretend belong to us all in equal moiety. Imagine how beautiful it would have been if Isoko, for instance, had direct control over the oil which flows in the bowels of its soil.

The Nigerian Constitution must be Reworked! Item 39 in the Exclusive Legislative List cannot stand because it is in conflict with the provisions of the Land Use Act which is also part of the constitution by virtue of Section 315 thereof.  Section 1 of the Land Use Act provides that

‘Subject to the provisions of this Act, all land comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation are hereby vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act’.

By definition land includes the surface of the earth, everything beneath it and above it and includes water.

M.G. Yakubu in his book Land Law in Nigeria (1985) Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London states at page 2 relying on the United Nations Conference on the Political Economy of Rural and Urban Land Use held in 1958 that

‘The term ‘land’ in its legal context is usually taken to indicate not only the land surface but also the minerals found in and below, the flora and fauna that subsists upon it, the water supplies it carries and the atmospheric advantages it enjoys …’.

The learned author proceeds further into page 3 of his work that

‘Perhaps the best way to define land may be by its functions in the society. Land contains all the necessities for life to exist. People live on the land, food upon which life depends is produced from the land and water comes from it. The most valuable treasures or wealth are found in the land. Gold, diamonds, oil, bauxite, iron, silver, tin etc are all found in the land….

He who owns land may use it for subsistence farming or for the production of cash crops while being free at the same time to enjoy some of the benefits derived from the treasures buried under it …. It is a productive economic factor almost everywhere in agriculture, forestry, grazing, mining and even in fishing’.

The point being made here is that if ‘all land comprised in the territory of each state in the Federation … (are) vested in the governor of that state’ and ‘land’ refers to

‘not only the land surface but also the minerals found in and below, the flora and fauna that subsists upon it, the water supplies it carries’,

then it is illogical and unlawful for the federal government to be able to legislate exclusively on

‘Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas’

by virtue of an Item 39 since these are part of the land comprised in the territory of a state constitutionally vested in the state governor.

Water Bill Unlawful – Similarly, Item 64 of the exclusive legislative list which makes water a subject matter for the National Assembly to legislate upon must also be deleted from the exclusive legislative list because water is part of land and land in every state is vested in the state governor. This is in saying that the Water Bill currently before the National Assembly must be seen as dead on take-off as the National Assembly cannot be said to really have legislative powers to legislate on water which is comprised in a state.

Education: It is common knowledge that Nigeria’s educational system has woefully failed! We build and establish universities daily but our streets are filled with educated illiterates! An educational system which denies its youths knowledge of their history.

Nigeria behaves like it is doing its children an undeserved favour by providing them with education. A country which does not pay its teachers for months on-end and yet expect that these teachers will turn out knowledgeable students!

A country where children must write the School Certificate examinations commonly known as WAEC with trepidation and multiple times paying exorbitant fees therefor. Where children are brought up thinking and believing that passing WAEC and indeed any examination is a matter of luck and, perhaps, also through some ‘magic centre’ manipulations and other forms of malpractice.

And when he manages to scale through WAEC, his ordeal would have just begun as now he must contend with another monstrosity known as JAMB. He pays through the nose to enroll for the Almighty JAMB! Writes the JAMB multiple times paying each time through the nose.

After managing to eventually pass JAMB with an acceptable ‘cut off mark’, the university of his choice tells him it does not have confidence in the JAMB result and he must again pay for a Post UTME drill. Here again he is further subjected to a procedure he cannot appreciate as the rules are never clear. There is a merit rule. Then there is a catchment rule. And there is a rule about some educationally disadvantaged zones! And, of course, there is a further rule which is unwritten but generally referred to as the ‘Nigerian factor’.

All of these just so that a Nigerian child can get education! And these are in spite of the fact that Chapter II of the 1999 constitution provides that

‘Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels’

and that government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy and provide free, compulsory and universal primary education, free secondary and free university education as well as free adult literacy programmes.

(See Chapter II – Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy – Section 18 of the Constitution).

This is a major disappointment to our heroes past!

I believe every Nigerian child has a fundamental right to education. It is a minimum that a country can give to its children. It is a natural right! And the child need not be subjected to impossible hurdles before he gets educated. Educating the Nigerian child is not a favour to the child but a duty owed him by the state in whose ultimate interest the child is educated.

This country must put in place systems that enable the Nigerian child to discover himself in whatever area of learning he naturally has a comparative advantage and he should be allowed to go through it without all the cruel hurdles to which he is currently subjected.

I really do not see the usefulness of all the entrance and admission examinations. They should and must be abolished. A child that has gone through a six-year primary education should be seen to be fit to directly move to a secondary school. That is if his teachers who are paid from public treasury have done their jobs well!

And when he has gone through another six years of secondary education, he should be ripe without question to directly proceed to a tertiary institution without ridiculing him with all manner of tainted admission procedures that are in dire want of integrity.

History: Another crucial area where we have disappointed our heroes past is the sad reality that today’s Nigerian youth knows nothing about the history of his own country!? He knows nothing about his own history. Beyond knowing that Nigerian attained independence in October 1960, he knows nothing about the founding fathers, or heroes if you like, of his country and their struggles which led to that independence.

He is not told the details about the war which his country once fought between 1967 and 1970 and the reasons for it. Least of it is the roles played by Nigerians in the infamous World Wars I and II and whatever concerned them in those wars. They are not told that brave and courageous Nigerians got involved in these wars in far-away lands such as the Congo and Burma. And the some never returned to their homelands as they paid the supreme price in those far-away lands unsung

The Nigerian child is no longer taught about the Mansa Musas; about the great tribal wars between the great kingdoms of the Binis and of the Yorubas. The Queen Aminas, the Aba women’s riots, the exploits of Madam Tinubu of Lagos, the struggles of Mrs. Ransome Kuti. Nothing is taught to our children any more. How can they know who they are? How can they prepare for tomorrow? How can they become effective leaders?

This country has so undeveloped her children that today they do not know when to be angry or enraged. They have been undeveloped with the mentality of ‘nothing spoil’!

Security: What has led to the rise in the number of such groups IPOB, MASSOB, Boko Haram, Niger Delta Avengers and the new one in the Cross River axis? Is it that these persons love to wear masks and live in the creeks crawling with dangerous animals and mosquitoes? Where do they get those weapons they intimidate the rest of us from? Only if Nigeria’s leaders will appreciate the benefits of true federalism!

Religion and Morality: The degree of moral decadence of the Nigerian society especially among the youths most be making the peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah envious. A generation of youths where girls give themselves out in marriage to equally unscrupulous young men who ‘marry’ the girls on credit without even knowing who the girls’ parents are? A generation of young ones who no longer respect age and the elderly?

Talk of towns and cities riddled churches and mosques yet the people have become more distant from God and churches have become profit-making businesses where stealing in the name of God is glamourized.

Churches and mosques where fornication and adultery are played down as sin and the preachers do no longer consider them as appropriate homily topics! Where even celibate priests and pastors have a personal mastery of the use of condoms!

Churches that have become grounds for entertainment, where a music minister competes and compares himself with secular musicians. Where the altar of God is now a ground for comedy and where a successful minister of the Gospel is measured not by his closeness to the doing of the will of the Almighty but by how rich he is and how much influence he wields in the society!

And you still think that we have not all failed our heroes?

Corruption: Corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria. Even those employed to fight corruption are themselves masters of corruption. This is so huge a disappointment to our heroes. Corruption is another major cause of Nigeria’s problems. It seats everything else on its head including logic. Corruption blurs the vision. Kills reason. Creates so much motion but results in no movement. Our heroes past must be in severe pains!

Examination Malpractice: Examinations in Nigeria are openly riddled with malpractice. Parents shamelessly pay invigilators to look the other way while students cheat! A country where lecturers distribute marks and grades for sexual gratification and in exchange for such vain things as money! A school environment where teachers and lecturers to whom we sent our children to be tutored and mentored into responsible citizens are the very ones who without shame sleep with our innocent daughters on the threat of failure should they be stupid enough not to succumb! Such lecturers carry with them a curse. A curse I have long pronounced on them. Unless they change their evil ways, their daughters will pass the path they have paved and they will leave this earth unfulfilled.

Self-serving Politics: Almost every politician in Nigeria today is gravely deficient in nationalism. The country does not mean much to them. They are self-serving individuals who have turned politics into a profit-making business instead of service to the nation for the general improvement and good of humanity. Nigeria is a country where political campaigns are entirely on how to distribute money freely received from the centre in a fraudulent federal arrangement with no ideas as to how first to make the money. That certainly was not how our founding fathers ran things!

Even an imbecile can distribute money! How can you describe yourself as a federal republic whereas everything that matters including finance is centralized? A lazy practice which kills intellect and initiative.

All a state governor does is wear big flowing robes and wait in luxurious government houses doing nothing until collection date. Then they zoom off to Abuja most times in chartered aircraft or even private jets to collect monthly financial allocation for onward distribution back home.

The Nigerian politician of today is more concerned with his personal interests than the common good of the people. They serve only for four years and insist to be entitled to a juicy gratuity and a life pension including luxurious houses in choice locations and brand new cars that are changed every four years and the payment for which enjoys a priority over the payment of the monthly emoluments of the serving civil servant who, even after serving his country and state for 35 years only enjoys a hope for a pittance as pension that is never paid!

Judiciary: I hear that the judge is as good as the society which produces him? The Judiciary! Last hope of the common man! Is it correct that in our dear country Nigeria court judgements have a price in cash?

Electricity: Over 200 million people in Nigeria struggle to access a generation of public electricity less than what is required to cater for a million people? Thermal generators make public electricity supply a stand-by source! Almost every household generates its own electricity using all sorts of generating set which emit dangerous fumes affecting the quality of air Nigerians breathe and thus endanger health.

The Police: Nigeria has a police force that is ill-trained, ill-provided for, poorly motivated and whose morale is embarrassingly low. A police force whose leadership mouths what it calls ‘community policing’ but denies the place of state police even when the country’s constitution provides that the governor of a state is the ‘chief security officer’ of the state!

How can any serious country with a land mass as large as Nigeria and a population of over 200 million people some of whom are located in very remote inaccessible rural areas and creeks expect to be able to run an effective police force centrally controlled from Louis Edet House?

We run a police force which necessarily must be corrupt as the personnel provide for themselves those basic essentials for performing police duties and this has come to be accepted as normal.

Health: A country with a crisis of basic medical care that even its president’s health needs foreign expert re-evaluation. We have a country where medical personnel spend more time in strikes within the year than they spend in the hospitals which, by the way, are poorly provided with working tools. Hospitals where there are no syringes, no electricity supply, and no water supply. Let’s not bother about medications and drugs.

A Basket Full of Crises: The sad truth is that Nigeria is beset with a myriad of crises and each and every one of them including those mentioned above deserves to be talked about. There is none that is too trivial to be ignored. The crisis of Nigeria is a combination of all the above crises. And the time to talk about them is now. Now is the right time to talk about these issues.

Let no one group in Nigeria feel superior to another. Hitler led the Germans to think and behave this way. The history of the World Wars as a result are there to remind everyone of the outcome.

The Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda are still telling their stories and licking their wounds.

If the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia could survive their splits, then it is evident that no force of arms or threats and intimidation can keep an unwilling people together in an unjust and inequitable union. It is only a matter of time.

What will keep the people together is justice, equity and fair play which are currently missing in Nigeria but can be freely and willingly negotiated into being.

A forced union is bound to implode no matter how long it takes to happen. Today’s leaders in Nigeria must do nothing to bequeath to children yet unborn a country pregnant with an implosion. No one section should arrogate exclusive ownership of Nigeria to itself and attempt to lord it over the rest of the country.

There was a time when the rest of the country caught cold and shivered when what was then known as the ‘Kaduna Mafia’ sneezed. Not anymore. Time was when the fear of the Caliphate as embodied and personified in the Sultan was the beginning of wisdom in Nigeria. Not anymore!

The Izons are wiser. The Urhobos are on alert. So also are the Isokos and the Christian minorities in the far North. The Igbos of the East are already violently restive. The fear of rampaging gun-toting herdsmen believed (wrongly or rightly) to be of Fulani extraction has made the people of the Middle Belt and from Southern Kaduna become alert.

Times have indeed changed! Every people of the world have a fundamental right to self-determination through peaceful means, which if denied, only begets destructive violence. To keep Nigeria one is an ideal. It is a welcome ideal whose content must be satisfactory to all involved. The contents must be negotiated.

There once was a Soviet Union. Today it is no more. Negotiated into smaller viable independent units. The heavens have not come down notwithstanding the Putin’s war in Ukraine.

There once was a Sudan. Today it is no more. From it has sprung a South Sudan. Again the heavens have not fallen.

There once was a Yugoslavia officially then known as The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). It consisted of six nations namely (a) Bosnia and Herzegovina, (b) Croatia, (c) Macedonia, (d) Montenegro, (e) Serbia which included the regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina), and (g) Slovenia.

On the 25th of June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from The Socialist Federal Republic Yugoslavia. No single gunshot was fired.

In April 1992, Macedonia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina declared their independence without firing gun shots. This left Serbia and Montenegro within The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but with Montenegro formally declaring its own independence on the 3rd of June 2006.

These break away independent nations are doing well and are good neighbours with each other. The heavens have not fallen

The idea of an independent Scotland was once an unspeakable taboo. It is now freely discussed and a referendum held in respect thereof. With Brexit, there is renewed talk of a second referendum that would very likely give birth to an entirely independent Scotland.

At the commencement of the crisis which led to the unfortunate Biafran civil war of 1967 to 1970, the gladiators of that time convened at a place called Aburi in Ghana and talked. This was because they knew that talking was more beneficial than warring. They talked and arrived at conclusions suggestive of a confederal system of governance for Nigeria which would entitle each federating unit greater autonomy. Somehow, because of external interference, this arrangement never took off.

As I researched for this paper and rummaged through the internet, I stumbled on to this piece about the last speech of General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu – one who also qualifies as one of our heroes past – as Biafran Head-of-State before leaving for Côte d’Ivoire. It is a speech which illustrates the advantages of a true federal system which challenges each constituent to strive for the best for its people in healthy competition with its sister constituents. He is reported to have said:

‘In the three years of the war, necessity gave birth to invention. During those three years of heroic bound, we leapt across the great chasm that separates knowledge from know-how. We built rockets, and we designed and built our own delivery systems. We guided our rockets. We guided them far, we guided them accurately.

For three years, blockaded without hope of import, we maintained all our vehicles. The state extracted and refined petrol, individuals refined petrol in their back gardens. We built and maintained our airports, maintained them under heavy bombardment.

Despite the heavy bombardment, we recovered so quickly after each raid that we were able to maintain the record for the busiest airport in the continent of Africa. We spoke to the world through telecommunication system engineered by local ingenuity; the world heard us and spoke back to us! We built armoured car tanks. We modified aircraft from trainer to fighters, from passenger aircraft to bombers. In the three years of freedom we had broken the technological barrier’.

What has happened to the broken technological barrier?

Nigeria must do what it has to do while it is still possible to do it peacefully. It is my fervent belief that if the problems of Nigeria are ever to be effectively addressed and resolved, we must first grow Nigeria to become a nation. If we cannot do that, then we must grow nations out of Nigeria in such a way that there will always be Nigeria!

If Nigeria must bleed like Shakespeare’s Caesar, let it not be dismembered and hew it like a carcass fit for hounds but let it be nicely carved as a dish fit for the gods not by conspirators but by true purgers who must come together at a round table to discuss Nigeria with a sincere view to purging it of all the negative weights which prevent it from ascending onto being the glorious nation which it deserves to be, given all the natural blessings God has endowed it with.

Whenever some of our leaders declare that Nigeria’s unity is ‘not negotiable’, what exactly do they mean? Do they realize that such statements are provocative and do not represent the path to peace but contain veiled threats? Do they mean that the present phony federal system of governance which is more unitary than federal is serving Nigeria’s purpose and must be left the way it is? Do they mean that the various cries of ‘marginalization’ by different sections of the country are not loud enough so that there is no need to pay heed?

Do they mean that we are going to continue to give persons seeking to Avenge their grievances reasons to continue to blow up the pipelines to our mono economy? Do they mean that they do not see any issues being raised by those who regard themselves as Indigenous Peoples? Do they mean that they do not hear the voices who claim they are the owners of all on-shore oil and not to those whose lands abut the ocean shores? Do they mean that they are not at all disturbed by the killing of hundreds of farmers by gun-toting herdsmen from within and without Nigerian shores?

To all those groups which have already taken to some form of violence, I think they have made their points. They must now cease their hostilities and tread the path of dialogue and negotiations. Violence does no one any good. War is not what anyone should contemplate. The effects and consequences of war should never even be imagined. Nigeria already saw and experienced a gruesome civil war. We cannot afford another war.

The time is NOW for Nigeria to embark on a frank, honest and holistic discussion of the various issues which constitute crisis for the country. Nigerians must talk to each other. Nigerians must avoid violence of all sorts including violent language. This is the only way to carve Nigeria fit for the gods.

NIGERIA OF MY DREAM: I want to remain a Nigerian. But not this Nigeria. This Nigeria has got to its wit’s end and it is going nowhere further like this. I want to remain a Nigerian truly. But not this Nigeria where the youths of today lack true role models. Not this Nigeria where dishonesty is rewarded and superficial role models are celebrated, impunity celebrated, where injustice is seen as being smart since the most corrupt is the most successful. Not this Nigeria where hardworking and honest persons find it difficult to eke out a living for reasons of pervading corruption and injustice.

I want to remain a Nigerian in a Nigeria where I can conveniently afford food to eat to bed, where my refrigerator is capable of freezing my food and the fan in my bedroom helps to serenade me to sleep because there is uninterrupted power supply round the clock. A Nigeria where the policeman is truly my friend because he is under no pressure to survive and prone to bribery and corruption; a Nigeria where there are strong institutions and not powerful individuals, where the rule of law is applied across board and not selectively, where my children as a poor man has no need to feel inferior to the child of the governor and both of them can attend the same schools and write the same examinations without any favouritism.

I want to remain a Nigerian in a Nigeria where there is
(a) equal opportunity for all irrespective of gender, tribe or religion; where the son of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody
(b) economic justice for all deserving persons – for there can be no food for the lazy
(c) social justice for all irrespective of one’s station in life
(d) transparency and accountability in all facets of life
(e) integrity in public and private life
(f) civic responsibility for and by all
(g) respect for the rights of the individual to self-determination

(h) respect for the individual rights of fellow men and women.

I want to remain a Nigerian in a Nigeria where I can become the governor of Sokoto State without anyone reminding me that I am but a proud Isoko man and where an Alhaji Usman Danfulani can become chairman of Isoko local government area or the governor of Lagos State without somebody reminding him that he is but a muslim and a northerner. I want to remain a Nigerian in a Nigeria where I can sing and dance to the more convincing music of

Nigeria we hail thee
Our own dear native land
Though tribe and tongue may differ
In brotherhood we stand
Nigerians all and proud to serve
Our sovereign motherland

Our flag shall be a symbol
That truth and justice reign
In peace or battle honour
And this we count as gain
To pass unto our children
A banner without stain

O God of all creation
Grant this our one request
Help us to build a nation
Where no man is oppressed
And so with peace and plenty
Nigeria may be blessed

That way, I can proudly look any of our heroes past in the eyes and say: I NEVER LET YOUR LABOUR PASS IN VAIN!

2023 is around the corner. We must get it right this time. All hope is not lost. Nigeria can be great again!

I thank the Ashaka Reading Club for honouring me with the opportunity to talk to you.

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