20 September 2018
Don't let the title mislead you, this is not a long thesis. It is going to be brief. I could write a whole book, propound countless theories and cite several studies with a topic like this. But I will resist such a temptation. Because in the end, the real issues will get drown in the massive volume of intelligence and sentiments such write-ups usually contain.
I'm not here to even argue with anyone's intelligence or sentiments. I respect it, but let me just stick with sharing my thoughts about the simple things on this issue we always choose to ignore:
1. I think it's wrong and immoral, especially in a multifaceted country like Nigeria, for our leaders, especially at the national level, to be drawn, elected, selected or appointed from one particular ethnic group, one tribe, one religion or one section of the country.
2. I believe that, for instance, if you choose all the ministers from one tribe or state, no matter are effective they are, it will still be wrong. This is 2018, in the 21st Century, and no one can confidently tell me that he cannot find at least one person from every religion, every state and every tribe, competent enough to be appointed or selected to be part of the policy makers in the center. It will be unjust to leave out other competent people from other states, tribe and religion simply because all those you have appointed from one section are all competent.
3. This position is strongly supported by the Constitution as encapsulated in the Federal Character Principle. The main thrust or idea that underpins this principle is that we all deserve to participate. This idea has been adopted by even political parties in what they call "Zoning". Federal Character, Zoning or whatever name you call it, is simply an arrangement designed to give everyone a chance to participate as it were.
4. People who kick against this principle under the pretext that merit is usually sacrificed on the altar of zoning or federal character are missing the point. They say this just to sound intelligent and look like advocates of merits. But most times, it's just a strategy to get their way or defend their own parochial interests. These guys usually shout about Federal Character and Zoning more when their own tribe, state or religion is being denied a place on the table.
5. As I said earlier, this argument of merit over Federal Character can only succeed if the proponents can point to one state, tribe, ethnic group or religion that is lacking competent people and don't deserve a place on the table in this 2018. So, you see, the idea of federal character, the idea that every section of the country should be equally represented on the table does not in itself promotes mediocrity. You can select 100 Nigerians from the 36 States based on merit and have all of them to be very competent and you can also select 100 Nigerians from one state and all of them will be grossly incompetent, vice versa. It is about who is doing the selection. I hope you get my point.
6. Having said this, I will proceed to state that, the federal government as it is today and even as it was in the very recent past, can safely be said to have every tribe, ethnic group, state and/or religion in this country adequately represented. Whether you pretend not to know this or yes, somebody who prays to your God, somebody from your state or tribe is part of those in the center calling the shots in one way or the other. They are there or have been there but Nigeria is still a backward country in the comity of nations. We are still living a substandard life.
7. A Christian has been the Chief of Army Staff, a Muslim has been the Chief of Army Staff, a northerner and southerner have occupied that position from 1999-date but how effective is our army? Have we been able to defeat Boko Haram? If war breaks out between Nigeria and the US today can our Armed Forces defend us beyond 3 months? But when an appointment is made all you are concerned about is where the COAS is from and whether he is a Muslim or Christian. You talk as if someone from your section of the country has never been there. You talk as if someone from your part of the country took us to eldorado when he was there. What about your other "brothers and sisters" who are still ministers, directors, etc, how successful are they?
8. A Muslim and a Christian, a northerner and a Southerner have been Minister of Petroleum and Head of NNPC from 1999-date, but we are still importing fuel, our refineries are still not working.
9. Is there a sector in this country that both a Muslim and Christian, northener and Southerner have not headed from 1999-date? How has their tribe or religion changed our sorry lot?
10. We are where we are because we don't know that our problems don't belong to any tribe, any state or any religion. The day we realise this, we will start making substantial progress.
– Firsts Baba Isa (FBI)
Is a legal luminary