Between presidential tribunal verdict and Lugard’s ‘mistake’




Atiku and Buhari

Going by the counter, cross and to some extent intercalary conversations from the court of public opinion over the simple verdict rendered recently by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja, it appears the judgement will linger on the mental sheets of future generations.

To supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, the verdict has fundamentally provided answers to the thorny electoral questions and laid to rest the controversy surrounding the 2019 presidential election in the country. But to his opponents, the judgement has raised more questions than answers – a state of affairs that qualifies it for further legal scrutiny.

Without going into specific approaches, definitions and interpretations contained in the verdict, it will not be wrong to conclude that instead of the judgement getting us united as a people and promoting a renewed emphasis on contemporary political discussions, it has succeeded in separating neighbour from neighbour, and brought back primordial political conversations to the nation’s political wavelength.

The most frightening paradox about the verdict is that while it, in the estimation of some Nigerians, announced the arrival of a new opportunity for Mr. President and his team to build a better Nigeria, to others, the judgement particularly the tribunal’s pronouncement on academic qualification marks the departure from our shores; values for hard work and quest for academic excellence; and made nonsense of the time-honoured belief that education is the bedrock of development. The verdict, to this group, remains a palliative that relieved emotional distress, but left the disease and its ravages unaffected

Also, from all that I heard and observed during this period, it is obvious that the people’s frustration was not only nourished by the ‘seeming timidity’ of the judgement but was fed by other worries.

First, is the belief that the marriage of two unwilling brides, who had no say in their forceful amalgamation – northern and the southern protectorates – on February 14, 1914, by Sir Fredrick Lugard set the stage for this appalling situation in the country. He has been at the receiving end of all the evil that has happened to the country from independence. Some Nigerians heap the country’s real and imagined woes in the political, socioeconomic, security and cultural spheres on him.

This notion is further fueled by the inability of successive administrations to recognise that public order, personal security, economic and social progress, and prosperity is not the natural order of things; that they depend on ceaseless effort and attention from an honest and effective government that the people must elect.

While the second point, in my opinion, is acceptable, the uncalculated blame on Lugard may not represent the whole truth.

Admittedly, honouring the memory of Lugard and making his contribution real may seem like an impossible task and effort bigger than we can imagine. It’s also true that sometimes we get discouraged and disappointed with the slow pace of development in the country. At times we begin to talk about how the amalgamation of the North and south has badly impacted us. In all these arguments, my only answer is that Lord Lugard’s ‘mistake’ may not be the only challenge confronting our nation. As his mistakes may have existed in ‘overt and glaring forms but something worse exists currently in hidden and subtle forms.

He was not a perfect man, but today, something greater than his mistake is here. With our failure to learn from the so-called disappointments, and creatively destroy the reign of bad leadership in the country and have it substituted with good leadership, we have all been caught up in the cobweb of national wrongdoing.

To understand in a few more details, we need to first, study the theory of why some nations are prosperous while others fail and are poor. Why this is important is that it is factually supported that Nigeria was not the only nation where Sir Lugard/British overlord’s amalgamated people with historical, ethnic and religious differences. India and Sudan are two separate but similar examples of such countries colonised by the British and administered using the same model.

The difference is that every nation or institution develops a culture of their own. And the success or failure of such an institution is closely tied to that culture. India upon attainment of independence inadvertently or advertently discovered that such an arrangement maybe more of a burden than goodwill looking at the cultural and particularly religious differences of the amalgams, and unbundled the union. Today, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are three separate countries.

On our part, the British colonial overlords probably intended the protectorates to operate in a symmetrical manner with no part of the amalgam claiming superiority over the other. This arrangement conferred on the fledgling country the form of the Biblical trinity explained above. And at independence in 1960, Nigeria became a federation, resting firmly on a tripod of three federating regions-Northern, Eastern and Western Regions. Each of the regions was economically and politically viable to steer its own ship, yet mutual suspicion among them was rife. In fact, regional loyalty surpassed nationalistic fervour with each of the three regions at a juncture threatening secession.

While those of us who believe in the unity of Nigeria may not agree with the campaign of any group or ethnic nationality to dismember Nigeria like India or Sudan, the truth must be told to the effect that neither Lugard nor presidential election petition tribunal’s verdict is our problem. The gamut of youth restiveness and separatist movements stems from exclusion, injustice and economic deprivations?

Even as it’s certain that ‘things are falling apart’ with the country now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war, the leaders have refused to muster the courage to lead our great people toward a better future by studying the present state of the nation or use the opportunity provided by different voices calling for the restructuring of the nation, to adopt the already existing template for solving these problems-the report of the 2014 National Conference. 

The masses on their part appear unaware of the pressing need of the hour – the demand for all to speed up the coming of a new age through ‘the creation of intelligent, courageous and dedicated leaders who are not in love with money, but in love with justice; leaders not in love with publicity but in love with humanity; leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of their nation’.

Utomi, a Lagos-based journalist, writes via [email protected]




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