BEING TEXT OF A SPEECH DELIVERED BY MAL. ISA MOHAMMED AS THE GUEST SPEAKER DURING THE OCCASION OF THE NIGERIA’S 61ST INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION ORGANIZED BY THE MINISTRY OF YOUTH AND SPORTS DEVELOPMENT, TARABA STATE HELD AT GYM HALL OF JOLLY NYAME STADIUM JALINGO ON 1ST OCTOBER, 2021
“The labor of our heroes past shall never be in vain” (Nigerian National Anthem, 1978).
It is my singular honor and privilege to welcome you all to yet another historic event marking the 61st Anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. I am glad for the invitation extended to me to be the Guest Speaker for the year 2021 Independence Day Celebration with a theme: “Come Let us Build”. The theme is carefully chosen to capture the challenges of Nigeria’s journey to nationhood after attainment of independence on 1st October 1960 from Great Britain.
First and foremost, let me commend the organizers of this occasion the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Taraba State, for finding me worthy to be the Guest Speaker. This I would not take for granted. It is a mark of confidence attached with burden of expectation to deliver by doing justice to the topic or theme of the event.
I love Nigeria and I love Taraba State. I believe in a workable, indivisible, greater and powerful Nigeria. Hence, whatever I would say should be seen from the prism or viewpoint of patriotism expected of good citizen of Nigeria.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, the story of how Nigeria got its name was documented and the politics that follows. The name Nigeria was coined and suggested by Flora Shaw (1852-1929), a British journalist in an article/letter she wrote for the Times of London. Shaw was the highest paid woman journalist of her time who specialized in writing on politics and economics apart from writing books for children.
On 8th January, 1897 Miss Shaw suggested the name “Nigeria” for the British protectorate as a shorter term instead of “Royal Niger Company Territories”. Then, what is today referred to as Nigeria is called “Central Sudan” or “Sudan”. Hence, “Nigeria” is coined from the term “Niger River” according to Miss Shaw it is more easier, shorter and more preferable to be used (Omoruyi, 2002; Shaw, 1897; Usman & Abba, 2005).
To understand colonial rule in Nigeria the background to it is the Berlin Conference of 1844/45. It is otherwise referred to as scramble or partition of Africa. The arrival of the British was through the “Gun-Boat Diplomacy” in 1861 when Lagos was bombarded and captured. Subsequently, the British took over despite the resistance of the Oba Kosoko of Lagos.
The name Nigeria got official recognition on 1st January 1900 by the Order of the Royal Colonial Council of the Great Britain. Consequently, the amalgamation was achieved on 1st January 1914, the three separate entities of (Lagos Colony, Northern and Southern Protectorates) would have become three different countries (Mohammed, 2018).
At this juncture, we must pay tribute to our founding fathers as falling and living heroes who fought and gave their all for the Nigeria of today. The falling heroes; Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Governor-General/President), Alhaji Sir. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (First Prime Minister), Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (Premier Northern Nigeria), Chief. Jeremiah Awolowo, Sir. Herbert Macaulay, Sir. Samuel Ladoke Akintola (Premier Western Region) Sir. Alvan Ikoku, Malam Aminu Kano, and Sir Anthony Enahoro, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua (former President), former Head of States; General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, General Murtala Muhammed and General Sani Abacha all of blessed memory. Our living heroes; Sir. Taiwo Akinkumi, Prof. Wole Soyinka, General Yakubu Gowon, General Olushegun Obasanjo, General Babangida, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, General TY Danjuma, and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan etc.
Nigeria has remain the Giant and largest economy in Africa and has produced great men in all walks of life; Professor Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate, Rashidi Yekini, Nwankwo Kanu, Mikel Obi, African footballers of the year at different times, Professor Chinua Achebe international literary icon, late MKO Abiola and Aliko Dangote business tycoons, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO Director-General, Hajiya Amina Mohammed DS-UN, Jelani Aliyu and Innoson Chukwuma automobile wizards, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Shina Peter, Alhaji Mamman Shata, Onyeka Onwenu, Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy global music icons, late General Murtala Mohammed former Head of State, Nigeria has won the under 17 World Cup Japan 1993, African Cup of Nations in Algeria 1980, Zambia 1994, Burkina Fasso 2013, and won the great Olympics Football Cup tagged Atlanta 1996 among others. These are some of the greater memories of Nigeria.
Your Excellency Sir, permit me to go back to the theme of this event “Come Let us Build” to share my view with you on the journey so far after Nigeria’s 61 years of independence. Where are we as nation and where do we go from here? In this part I want talk about what makes Nigeria great by destiny. There are four things that if God Almighty gives a country, these make the country great. These four things are; access to the ocean not a landlocked country, oil/natural resources, land and a useful or productive population. Nigeria has more than that with the water bodies, sunlight and good climatic condition. These are tangible elements of national power, what is lacking is the intangible element driving by bad leadership.
I want to at this point address the issue of nation and state building in Nigeria. Immediately after the attainment of independence the problem of ethnicity, regionalism and competition for power set-in that undermines national unity and cohesion. On 15th January 1966, the first military coup set in motion tribal and regional competition and hatred that precipitated the civil war 1967-1970.
Hippler (1990) argues that successful nation – building must result in a triangle; state – building, social integration and ideological legitimacy. Similarly, Brubaker (1996) posits that there is a tripartite typology of Nation-Building.
1) the model of the civic state, the state for its citizens irrespective of ethnicity.
2) the model of the bi-or more ethno – cultural core nations.
3) the hybrid model of minority rights in which the states understood as a national, but not a nationalizing state.
As it stands for Nigeria, we talk of state-building forgetting that we need to have a nation first. Even though, Nigeria is a nation-state, a nation without a nation but a political entity with plural and a consociational democracy (Otakpor, 1981). The political order in Nigeria is threatened from insecurity, institutional weaknesses and cultural and ideological clashes (Fukuyama, 2011; Huntington, 1996).
My major contribution today would be on the present debate on the problems bedeviling Nigeria which I categorized into four areas.
First is the lack of elite consensus which will be the solution to the many challenges facing Nigeria today. Honestly speaking, what account for having Nigerians more divided than before is the type of politics, governance, utterances and political mobilization exhibited by the Nigerian power elites.
According to Jega (2021), what account for the differences in the Nigeria federal system are the intervening variables of elite consensus and good governance. This is why there are persistence calls and agitations for restructuring. He advocated for incremental positive changes in Nigeria from 2021 to 2023, 2023 to 2027 and 2027 and beyond for the short, medium and long term respectively.
In Nigeria today, the Council of State, National Assembly, State Assemblies, Governors’ Forum, Council of Traditional Rulers and tripartite socio-cultural groups (Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere and Ohanaeze Indigbo), and major political parties represents a body that can initiate an elite consensus for Nigeria.
On the lack of elite consensus over one Nigeria I did a survey on the position and views of prominent Nigerians and I categorized them into three groups;
1) Progressive elite: This group of the elite who wants Nigeria to be restructured for political stability, workable unity and development of the country. Most of them are academics and few politicians. For example, Prof. Jega, Prof. Utomi, Falana (SAN), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former military President General Ibrahim Babangida etc.
2)Conservative Elite: These groups of elites who do not want Nigeria to be restructured. Most of them are former military Head of States and regional leaders. For example, President Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of State Yakubu Gowon, former President Olushegun Obasanjo, most Northern governors and Prof. Ango Abdullahi etc.
3) Divisive Elite: This group of elites who wants Nigeria divided or dismembered. Most of them are regional leaders, warlords, ethnic leaders and opinion leaders. For instance; Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Adeyemo, militant leaders etc.
Therefore, there is no need to fight; restructuring is the answer to happiness. The pro cess of restructuring is simple; we look at our constitution, agree on what we do not like in it and replace it with what we like (Ibrahim, 2017; 2020). The Governor El-Rufa’I Committee has done excellent job for the ruling party the All Progressive Congress on the issue of restructuring Nigeria but to implement the recommendations since 2017 it has remain problematic and it is two years left for the ruling party.
The second point is the leadership question after the return to civil rule in 1999. Nigeria after 21 years of democratic experiment and successful single power alternation at the center in 2015 has the problem of bad leadership. The reasons for this are many; lack of ideologically driven political parties as elite recruitment platform, godfather and money politics, zoning, ethnic and religious politics that influences political and electoral outcomes in Nigeria as contending issues.
The third argument is on the economy. Despite, the recession and high poverty level in Nigeria, there is remarkable progress in the areas of telecommunications and creative industry films. Nigeria is highly indebted. The economy suffers from over reliance on oil which is affected by OPEC and international economic interest of Great Powers. Whilst the world is going into digital and knowledge-based economy Nigeria is still using and relying on resource-based, underground and religious based economy. Even though, Nigeria’s Human Development Index was 161 out of 189 with over 40 percent of the population representing 83 million Nigerians living below poverty line (NBS, 2020). Nigerian elites are concern with sharing than production of wealth especially governors.
The last but not the least is the insecurity and insurgency. Fighting criminals might be simple but for the insurgents driven by ideology is difficult. Today, there are uncountable number of ungovernable spaces in Nigeria occupied by bandits, kidnappers and cattle-rustlers.
The growing insecurity has produce Armed Non-State Actors (ANSA) operating with impunity. It is an asymmetrical warfare that weakens the morale of the security forces. Nigeria ranks 3rd in the Global Terrorism Index with 8.3 score only below Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, what is affecting the success against the criminals and insurgents are; lack of intelligence gathering and sharing, inter-agency rivalry, welfare, corruption, and lack of arms and ammunitions to execute the war.
The Federal Government has continued its offensive against the Boko Haram insurgents which has led to the death of its factional notorious leader Abubakar Shekau. In another similar development the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was arrested and is standing trial of treasonable felony.
Presently, the emerging dimension of the insecurity is complex where drawing a line of distinction is blurred between bandits, kidnappers, cattle-rustlers, farmer-herder conflict, armed robbers, ethnic conflicts and insurents. The reason is that they negotiate, adopt and adapt similar strategies in carrying-out organized crime in the country. This challenges the political legitimacy of the Nigerian state that is more concern with regime security than national security.
The forthcoming 2023 general election will definitely be a test to the democratic experiment in terms of alternation. Nigeria is ranked 110th out of the 165 countries by The Economist and classified as a hybrid regime (third-class democracy). If the government fails to organize a free, fair and credible election, there will be a return of similar #EndSARS protest or another movement that would not accept bogus or inconclusive election in Nigeria. Nigerian democracy has been described in different ways; garrison democracy, democracy by the courts, and civil rule not democratic rule (Bako, 2001; 2008; Jega, 2007; Ibrahim, 2011).
Your Excellency Sir, recently on 27th August 2021 Taraba State celebrated its 30 years of statehood in the federation of Nigeria. This has call for retrospection on the challenges of state-building and the promise of greater state in the very near future.
As a Taraban, I have identified 30 most interesting facts on Taraba State that has made it stand different. The State produced prominent individuals and was blessed with abundant natural potentials untapped. Some of the major physical projects in Taraba are as follows; The Specialist Hospital Jalingo, Taraba State University and Kpantinapu-Jauro Yinu 18 kilometer dualization road project with Flyover Bridge. These are legacy projects of former Governor Rev. Jolly Nyame, late former Governor Pharm. Danbaba Suntai and His Excellency Governor Arch. Darius Dickson Ishaku respectively.
The way forward for Nigeria is to have crop of new Nigerians for greater New Nigeriana. These citizens must possess certain qualities of; patriotism, detribalize, promote unity and tolerance and selflessness. Secondly, visionary leaders, ideologically-grounded political parties, vibrant civil society and self-sustaining knowledge-based economy for the growing population and total overhaul of security sector with capable hands and use of 21st century technological gadgets to overcome insecurity in the nation.
Thank you for listening. God Bless Nigeria and Taraba State.
Mal. Isa Mohammed,
Department of Political Science and International Relations,