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A Writer's Block Review

To tell the Truth:

Something is Wrong with Nigeria, Part II

Mrs. Oyibo E. Odinamadu


This is the conclusion of Mrs. Oyibo E. Odinamadu’s “To tell the Truth: Something is Wrong with Nigeria.”  For part 1 of this piece, please click here.



Calls for a Sovereign National Conference


In the VanguardNigeriaOnline News of Sunday, 29th August, 2004, Jide Ajani writes:


Nigeria may not be a failed State. However, it is performing the ablution of moving into the stage. Between those populating the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration (it’s quite a crowd in there), who see on the firmament a glorious dawn, a land where milk and honey will soon flow, on the one hand, and those calling for a thorough restructuring of the Nigerian nation, who also form a crowd on their own, on the other hand, they see different things. Where the former sees milk and honey at the end of the tunnel, the latter sees chaos, disaster and all the ingredients of melancholy…..The irony in all of these is that whereas Nigeria’s President Obasanjo is the one graciously hosting the negotiation talks on Daffur, the wretched and endangered western part of Sudan, because of its humanitarian catastrophe, Nigeria is herself with such metaphoric expressions of Daffur….There is a sudden resurgence in the call for a Sovereign National Conference…..


A Nationality Issue


The call for a Sovereign National Conference for Nigeria has gone on for quite sometime now. Everyday, more groups and individuals raise their voices and join in the call or request or demand, which has, so far, not received approval from the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Government. For a true perspective on the call for a Sovereign National Conference, and the need to look thoroughly at the nationality issue, it is imperative that all the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria must meet to deliberate. The Conference would be a golden opportunity to take a good look at all the other issues that are pressurizing the people, in order to assuage their desires and the agitation.


As we understand it, the purpose of the Meeting will be, first to re-examine the way the country called Nigeria has been put together. It would also be to determine the best way for the different ethnic nationalities of Nigeria, which seem not to have been compatible, should come together, so as to avoid upsetting the apple-cart that was set up by the colonialists. The Conference will be for the purpose of forming a true federation in which the center could hold satisfactorily.


In order to see some good examples of existing situations, which make such a Conference imperative and imminent, we have to take a good look around the whole world. We need a global view. To focus on Nigeria alone, is like watching a television show and focusing on one square centimeter in one corner of the screen, instead of viewing the full screen. We must see the whole screen to understand the picture.


Nationalities all over the world have been agitating and are now insisting on their freedom and full self-government. It is as if they have woken up from a long and deep sleep to realize what their true situation is. Even if the dialogue of all the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria might not mean full independence for them, it will be worth the while to review how the provisions of the Constitution that unite them are being followed. It will also go to find the ways and means for better sharing of the natural resources to sustain the people. Without a shadow of doubt, the sorting out of these issues will engender good neighborliness, happier and more peaceful co-existence. A few examples will illustrate what has steadily developed into a relentless, unstoppable trend throughout the world.



1.     FRANCE. Brittany, Provence, Corsica, Basque and other regions, which are parts of France, are now striving for their freedom and self-government from France. Each one of the nationalities has its own language (and it is not French), culture, and national expectations. They consider France an oppressive foreign power.



2.     UNITED KINGDOM. Scotland, Wales, Cornwall want to break away from England and become independent nations. Northern Ireland wants to break away and rejoin the Republic of Ireland. Each one of the four nationalities has its own language (and it is not English), culture, and national expectations. In announcing plans for the new parliaments of these various nationalities, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom said, “The hand of history is upon our shoulder”. In other words, the irresistible force of change is compelling the British government to do the right thing.    



3.     SPAIN. The nationalities of Catalonia and Basque are now insisting on breaking away from Spain to become independent nations. These two nationalities have their own language (and it is not Spanish), culture, and national expectations. The Basque region in Northern Spain is using violent means to break away from Spain and join with the Basque region in southern France to become one Basque nation.  



4.     BELGIUM. The nationalities of Flanders and Walloonia make up the country of Belgium, a country with a total population of just 10 million. Only the king, who does not belong to any of the two nationalities, considers himself Belgian. Everybody else is either Flemish or Walloon and would gladly become a national of a separate nation.  



5.     THE BALKANS. Marxist Concepts of Nationality: The Comintern and the Balkans. Traditional Marxism holds that the capitalist system is the source of conflict between and among nationalities. Consequently, once a communist system was established, national animosities and hatreds would disappear. Peace and harmony would reign. Over the past several decades, however, this philosophical formulation has been the source of trouble and bitter controversy, especially among Balkan communists and their mentor, Josef Stalin. 


In the Balkans, discussion of nationality problems from the Marxist point of view took place even before Stalin was born. With respect to the nationality question in the Balkans, Markovich believed that he had found the "master key" in the formation of a Balkan federation of South Slavs, where the peoples could live together on the basis of equality and self-government. He was interested in the liberation of South Slavs living under foreign rule. To that end he wanted to see the destruction of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. He believed that his native Serbia could help in the liberation of brother Slavs, but he wanted to be sure that Serbia retained the image of "liberator" and not become an "oppressor."  


Tutsovich was critical of Serbia's desire to get an outlet to the Adriatic across Albanian territory, although if done by mutual agreement, he said, there could be benefits both to Serbia and Albania. He and his fellow Social Democrats believed, however, that Albania should be an "autonomous member of a democratic Balkan federation. "


The Yugoslav communists went through some bitter controversies over the nationality question. Their mentor, Stalin, as commissar of nationalities under Lenin, produced a brief book entitled Marxism and the National Question. The book's essential message is that national hostilities are the result of the conflicts of capitalist classes. If applied to Yugoslav-Albanian relations, for example, the Serbs and Albanians were at each other's throats because their respective "bourgeoisie" were in conflict. Unless totally blind, they should have known that Serbo-Albanian disputes were not based on class struggle. (It was based on genuine desire to be free, united, and independent of their oppressors).


It is estimated that in today’s Europe, there are 50 nationalities that are striving to re-establish their freedom and self-government as independent nations. 



6.     RUSSIA. The nationality of Chechnya in Russia has been engaged in an armed struggle for the last one thousand years, to gain its independence from Russia. No matter how much violence Russia uses against them, the Chechnyans are not now about to give up after fighting for one thousand years. See what happened in Russia in September 2004, when some thousands of Russian school children and some of their parents and teachers were held hostage by a group of Chechnyans, who demanded the release of their people held prisoners by Russia. At the end of about fifty-eight hours, without food and water, Russian soldiers made an effort  to force their way into the Gymnasium, where the hostages were held. The bombs, which the captors had hung and wired all over the ceiling, detonated and caused the roof and ceiling to cave in. Thereby, killing more than 700 people including the Chechnyans, some of the parents and teachers and children.     



7.     IRAQ. Many people think that Iraq consists of only the Kurdish nationality, the Sunni Muslims, and the Shiite Muslims. Nothing is farther from the truth. There are no less than 20 nationalities in Iraq, within the Sunni, Shiite, Christian, and other religious groups. The nationalities are entirely different from their religious affiliations. Experts on Iraq have stated that one of the main possibilities after the war is that Iraq will break up into nationalities. The nationalities in Iraq are now so awake that none of them is willing to be ruled by another.  



8.     INDIA. There are about one thousand nationalities in India. If you read international newspapers carefully, you will see items about what the press and the government of India call ‘separatist groups’ that are engaged in violent fighting against the government. The separatist groups are various nationalities using violent means to win their freedom and self-government from India. The numbers of the separatist groups are increasing. There is a Report On the International Seminar on the Indian Nationality Question, which states as follows: 



The nationalities in India developed in the medieval period based on the development of the vernacular languages. The diverse conditions of the agrarian economy and trade meant that there was great diversity amongst the different regions of India. The British conquest stifled the emergence of nationalities and set off a chain of tribal and peasant rebellions. The rise of the anti-colonial movement stimulated the various national languages. (So is the case in Nigeria). The National Congress was compelled to take this into account and at its Nagpur Congress in 1920 it accepted the need to restructure its organization on the basis of linguistic provinces. After 1947, the Congress did not fulfill its promise to establish linguistic provinces. Only after the agitation for the formation of the Andhra Province was the Government compelled - despite the opposition of big capital based in Bombay - to establish the reorganization of the states on the basis of linguistic affinity, which led to a partial resolution of the national question.



9.     CHINA. Most people are not aware of it, but there are about seven hundred nationalities in China. Each of these nationalities has its own language, culture, and national expectations. Many of the nationalities, such as the Uygurs in western China, are struggling with the government of China for their freedom and self-government.  



10.   INDONESIA. With its population of 220 million scattered on more than one thousand islands, Indonesia consists of hundreds of nationalities. Many of the nationalities are struggling for their freedom and self-government from the government of Indonesia. Some of the nationalities are using violent means to make their case, and the government of Indonesia has resorted to violent repression to keep them down. The nationalities are determined to succeed.   



11.   NIGERIA. With its population of 130 million, Nigeria is made up of some 522  nationalities. Some are less than half a million in population, others are tens of millions. Each nationality has its own language (which are not the dialects), it’s own culture, and its own national expectations. There are now frequently and more eruptions of violence between one ethnic group and the other. These the Government tries to quell and control by force. The wars may have been contained once they are open, but have they been controlled and stopped?   



12.   THE CONGO, ETHIOPIA, SUDAN, SOMALIA, RWANDA, BURUNDI, LIBERIA, SIERRA LEONE. Nationality issues have torn, or are tearing, these African countries apart. Bloodshed and poverty have become the hallmark of their unresolved nationality question.  


As these examples show, the nationality issue is not limited to Nigeria. It is a dramatic worldwide development. If we keep running away from it, there is great danger that the gathering storm will outrun and overtake us ever before we are ready. It would be wiser to be proactive and, thereby, ensure lasting success for ourselves and for our future generations. Let us do the right thing. Does any Nigerian want to be forced into a tragic situation of bloody violence and repressive coercion? We are not Prophets of Doom. Nigeria has had one Civil War. Let us hope that she will not be drawn into another one.  A Sovereign National Conference 


India called its own A National Congress. They first met in 1920 and again after their Independence in 1947. What matters is actually the agreement amicably reached at the Meeting to realign the groups that make up Nigeria, and set out how they could co-exist peacefully.  Our suggestions are that: the Congress should be a completely new body of representatives, comprising men and women, selected and mandated by every ethnic nationality in each State. It should not be any of the elected National Legislative Houses or a combination of them. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should take full responsibility for summoning the conference, funding it and presiding over it. The Conference should assemble with immediate effect. 



Back To Square One


When I forget something, I usually go back to where I was when the thought came to me. Invariably, the matter comes back to me at that spot. I must say that I am not alone in the application of this method as some of my friends have expressed the same idea. Therefore, I strongly suggest that Nigeria should borrow a leaf from this system of recollecting and go back to square one to refresh her memories.  I support the rest of Nigerians who are saying: Let us go back to the drawing board to fashion out the best system of federation for Nigeria. Let us go back to square one. Let us go back to where the colonialists started, retrace their steps, and see whether we could find the error and the missing link by doing those things they omitted doing, and leaving off those things they did, which they should not have done. I should think that by so doing, we should succeed!  



The Fear Factor for the Sovereign National Conference


One can understand the fear of President Obasanjo not to be the one that will convene or preside over what would appear to be the dismantling or disintegration of Nigeria. We do not blame him one bit. However, we suggest that he should dismiss any such fears that he might have, as they could be very counter-productive. He is a Nigerian and he should know, fully well, what the situation is and what has been happening. A look at what has been happening around the world might not really be pointing at an outcome of disintegration or dismantling of Nigeria. The Conference could result just in measures that would make Nigeria stand on firmer grounds and to prosper as a united, ethnic-friendly, solid and patriotic nation. Take a look at the countries of Europe and see how small and self-contained they are. Also see how restive some of them are with their neighbours for the reasons of not being self-contained, geographically contiguous and compatible. It would be very interesting to observe the reasons why some of them have refused to join the European Economic Union or to have full membership and participation, and how others are being rejected from joining. The same reasons of incompatibility, which apply to some Middle-Eastern countries are making them very restiveness. Probably, it is about time to try other systems of Government different from what has been on since the ages. 



The Wind of Change is Blowing all over the World


If the Sovereign National Conference has to be held, as it should be, it had better be now than later. A matter could go on deteriorating until it gets to a point where it can no longer be repaired or salvaged. Sustaining an error for a protracted period can never make it right. Therefore, a better piece of advice would be to Go Back To Square One Now. That would be by retracing the steps to where the colonial imperialists started now, rather than leave it to our children and grandchildren for later. The Government should not continue to cling to power and refusal by adhering to Harold Lasky’s dictum of “Absolute power that corrupts absolutely”; or to Winston Churchill’s policy of “What we have we hold”. The Government should listen to Tony Blair’s utterance that “The hand of history is on our shoulder”, and then reflect for a while and, inevitably, heed Harold Macmillan’s prophetic observation of “The wind of change that is blowing over Africa”. It was since that Harold Wilson’s speech in Zimbabwe that the wind of change, desirable changes of the independence of the nations, has swept through Africa.  


This time around, the wind of change is blowing all over the world. It shows that the very foundation on which most of the old countries of the world were founded was faulty and is finding it very, very difficult to hold. Colonialism, imperialism, and domination have never been a credible basis for ruling over peoples. Only a free association of willing states, on the basis of equality, justice and equity is justifiable and could withstand the test of time.  Let the Government not resist the agitation and demands any further. In this case, the Government should see and feel the wind of change that is blowing over Nigeria, and acquiesce. Let the situation not get to the position of the fly that did not accept better advice and got buried with the corpse (Ijiji n’enwero ndumodu ka an’eni nya na ozu). Nigeria should get on with the Sovereign National Conference because the prognosis is very good - very promising! Empowerment Of Women By A Sovereign National Conference  


A Sovereign National Conference for Nigeria will be very good for women. It will empower women the more as women will have the chance of being elected as part of the representation of their ethnic groups. They will also participate fully in its deliberations, decision-making to fashion out a new Nigeria. Women will also be fully involved in the execution of its decisions. Women will, nevertheless, bask in the sunshine of the glorious dawn of the new Nigeria.  Change Of Direction: It Pays To Be The Pioneer!  It is very disconcerting to know that most Nigerians feel that not much is being done by the present Administration to ameliorate the country’s social, political and economic problems. It is very discouraging to know that they feel that rather than get better, the situation is fast deteriorating. It is also pertinent to note that the worst scenario is that the people at the helm of the affairs of Government continue to claim and to tell the people and the world that things are going well. It is a great pity that after all these years of performance, they have not learned that claiming that things are going well does not make them really go well. Also that continuing in the path of wrong decisions and performance only makes things continue to go wrong. To effect a change in the right direction, there must be a change of mind, attitude, policy and direction. It would be much to the credit of Nigeria to make haste and be the first - the pioneer - in Africa to hold a Sovereign National  Conference. After all, she has been claiming to be in the position of leadership in Africa for being the biggest and the most populous country in Africa.



Continued from “To tell the Truth: Something is Wrong with Nigeria, Part I.”




Mrs. Oyibo E. Odinamadu, M.O.N., BA, MA
Garner, NC, USA

Oyibo Odinamadu an activist for Fundamental Human Rights for Women is the former Naional Vice President of the Unity Party of Nigeria, an Inductee into the National Nigerian Women Hall of Fame, a Retired Public Servant, a Knight of St. Christopher (KSC), Anglican Church of Nigeria, as well as a Life Member of the National Council of Women's Societies. Mrs. Odinamadu is currently visiting the City of Garner in North Carolina

To tell the Truth: Something is Wrong with Nigeria, Part II


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