On Nigeria, restructuring and the renaissance of Sardaunaism

 “Not everything past is simply nostalgia.”- Ibraheem A. Waziri

In an with Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of state, he asked, “Was Nigeria designed to fail?” I answered in the affirmative, stating how the sections of the country were initially kept separate from each other consciously, considering stark differences in almost everything. But later by virtue of economic considerations and administrative efficiency were welded together in an unconsensual manner. 

Amalgamation was first discussed in 1898 by the Selborne . The suggested that amalgamation should be a goal achievement of which should be an aim for the nearest future. The cited reasons for not pursuing the goal with immediacy major among which was the that merging the sections into one would produce a very huge territory which did not have the necessary communication and transportation infrastructure to make possible efficient administration from a center. The then suggested that there should be protectorates (Northern and Southern) which would be administered separately until some of the impediments get curtailed. 16 years after, in 1914, an amalgam called Nigeria was born. 

However, having submitted that we were indeed designed to fail, we had the opportunity of mending this design and transforming it into something that could work between the periods of 1951 to 1966.  At least within this period, we had a time where Nigeria was indeed a “federalism” characterized by tri-regional federating units. 

Within the period, all other regions were biased towards expedient Nigerianization and ‘forgetting of our differences’ except the North which stood for ‘Understanding of our differences instead of forgetting them’, ‘autonomy of our cultural spaces’ and ‘inward reflection in leveraging of our various advantages to mend our disadvantages’ while we meet at the center to pursue a national front. We had a philosophy in the North; one stepped-down to us by the ‘embodiment of the soul of the North and all what it stands for’ – Sardauna, which could be deciphered from the famous “Nigeria qasa daya ce, amma kowa yasan gidan ubansa” slogan.  Their leaders were tagged as “progressives” and “nationalist” and the likes of Sardauna were said to be just ‘reactionary’, ‘regionalists,’ they say! 

They fought our philosophy in 1953 when they suggested self-rule by 1956 and we declined on the bases that ‘self-government would mean government by southerners unless postponed until the north ‘caught up’ in education, training and political expertise, and freed itself from southern control of its bureaucracy, commerce and transportation system’ as reported by Larry Diamond. This was a region which within that period constituted less than 10% of the nation’s primary school enrolments, less than 5% of secondary school enrolment and in 1960 accounted for only 57 students out of more than 1000 students studying at the University College Ibadan. Why insist even with such glaring disadvantages that needed correction? 

They finally killed and buried our philosophy of governance for Nigeria in 1966. We did not have time to fully experiment our proposed make-up and that, I think is still the missing link. 

I always wonder, people like Awolowo and Azikwe, “The Progressives” were never after Nigerianization for Nigerianization sake, we all know it was a scheme towards systematic domination especially through the central bureaucratic structure. They had both at one time or the other voiced out how they truly felt either about the make-up of Nigeria or their tribes. They all were “Regionalists” but not in the same way Sardauna was. While Sardauna advocated for looking inward, they prioritized looking outward for where to strike considering their comparative advantage. While Sardauna was never equivocal about our differences and the need to understand them, they were mostly found talking about expedited national integration and the forgetting of differences except in few cases where they made statements that defined them; 

For example, Awo once said “Nigeria is not a nation; it is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are English or Welsh or French. The word Nigeria is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those do not have.” And ZIK once said, “The God of has specially created the Igbo nation to lead the children of from the bondage of the ages”. The question about the legitimacy of Nigeria’s ‘artificial’ make-up has rejuvenated yet again with for restructuring mostly coming from the eastern and western axis of the country. One could decipher how passionate these regions are in this regard from their representatives’ recent submissions on the subject matter most recently in the Daily Trust Dialogue on Restructuring where Chief Nwodo of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Chief Adenanjo of the Afenifere unequivocally spoke in favour of exigent restructuring of the country’s polity and economy. 

We are also currently suffering from a very harsh experience where stereotyping of a particular ethnic group from the North because of crimes which have no ethnic monopoly has led to killings of innocent members of that ethnic group and even others that are historically associated with them in more than one incidence and quarters. All these are pointers towards the need for national reassessment, realignment and restructuring. 

The situation however is quite interesting as we are experiencing today a cross-inheritance of ideology, where descendants of Chiefs Azikiwe and Awolowo are now the proponents of Sardauna’s preferred system of governance while descendants of Sardauna are now skeptical of his most preferred ways in governance and are more comfortable with the product of the unitary system that was ushered sequel to 15th January 1966 and Decree 34 of Ironsi’s military administration. 

It keeps me wondering, “what are we afraid of(The North) and why the sudden (The South)?”

The missing link is “Sardauna”; his dream of a system that would guarantee “‘Understanding of our differences instead of forgetting them’, ‘autonomy of our cultural spaces’ and ‘inward reflection in leveraging of our various advantages to mend our disadvantages’ while we meet at the center to pursue a national front.”. It turns out Sardauna at the time was “pragmatism” and not “reactionism”, it was indeed “nationalism”! And in “Sardaunaism”, we might find our answer. 

 Ringim writes from Zaria via [email protected]

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