Restructuring Nigeria: Humble lessons from apartheid South Africa, By Osmund Agbo




The difference between fifty and a hundred and ninety (thats if you believe that number to be true as Nigeria’s current population) is humongous and Nigeria certainly is no South Africa. But like Nigeria, this southernmost country on the mainland of the Eastern hemisphere is a truly multi-ethnic and pleuralistic society populated by people with wide varieties of culture, religion and languages. There is also the eerie similarities between this time in our nation’s history and events leading up to the birth of a new South Africa.

South Africa is a country famous for her rich deposits of gold and others solid minerals. Little wonder it got the attention of colonial powers and became a victim of humiliating conquests not unlike most Africa nations. As in all cases, the imperial powers helped themselves with all they could and left the land owners with nothing other than a destroyed habitat, hopelessness and desperation. In fact,the occupation forces got so addicted to the spoils that they decided to stay forever and make slaves out of the Bantu-speaking and predominantly Xhosa and Zulu people. Apartheid was born.
And so for decades upon decades of white minority rule in South Africa, blacks were subjected to all kinds of exploitation. Thd inhumane treatment gave rise to the birth of different freedom movements and proliferation in armed struggles.

With the passage of time and as more gory pictures of man’s inhumanity to man started to emerge, apartheid became increasingly controversial. International sanctions were imposed and foreign investors started to divest their holdings. The Boer government however, would not budge and continued to push forward with their nefarious agenda. By the late 1970s, South Africa government had started on the path of nuclear weapon development, an effort that culminated in producing six deliverable nuclear warheads. All these as part of an attempt to prop up the unjust system, unpopular throughout the world. But did that really help?.

One cannot help but draw a parallel with what obtains in Nigeria of today. Substitute the Boers with the federal government of Nigeria and Xhosa/Zulus with Niger Delta and you will not be too far from the truth. It was JF Kennedy that once said, ”Those who make peaceful changes impossible will make violent changes inevitable”.

On March 24th, 2018, Leaders of the Niger Delta under the umbrella of PANDEF were joined by both political and cultural leaders from the Middle-Belt, South-West, South-East regions of the country in a heavily attended rally held in Yenagoa. It was yet another clarion call for the restructuring of this entity called Nigerian in the interest of justice and equity. Represented by Senator Nimi Barigha Amange, former President Jonathan harped on the need for the Buhari Government to revisit the 2014 Confab. He believed that if the report is implemented, we could go a long way in resolving the festering socio-political crisis plaguing our nation.

Every passing day, as the country continues on the downward spiral into chaos, the agitation for restructuring keeps getting louder. Many have even called Nigeria a failed State, a conclusion one personally feel is self-defeatist and preposterous. Truth is that everyday with news headlines depicting rising insecurity resulting in wanton killings, the onward movement towards a stronger tribal and ethnic alliances, birth of regional security outfits under all kinds of arrangements, Nigeria is progressively checking off most of the boxes. We are yet to see any strong commitment on the part of the present government toward addressing this big Elephant in the room.

In the ugly days of Apartheid, White South Africans were constantly fed with the fears of an apocalypse. The idea that a post-apartheid South Africa with black rule would have them marched into the gas chamber similar to the fate of Jews during the holocaust. That was part of the self-preserving false narrative perpetuated by successive apartheid regimes in their quest to cling to power. But those were the handiwork of depraved men who had no love for South Africa and her people. Sharks that only cared about profits and return on investments. Today despite all the economic and socio-political challenges, the country is more racially accommodating and integrated than ever. A post-apartheid South Africa is no more a pariah State. Black South Africans can at least dare to dream and no white has been sent to the guillotine yet . Most importantly the white minority was relieved of the huge burden of trying to sustain a system that was unsustainable. It’s a win-win for all.

For quite a long time now, Politicians, Statesmen, Technocrats and everyday people, all citizens of Nigeria have felt the urgency to reappraise, reform and restructure our federation in such a way that it could work for all Nigerians.

The options are crystal clear for all to see and history to judge. Our government can play the Ostrich and continue to kick the can down the road or like FW de Klerk take the bull by the horns and confront changes we all know are inevitable. The hefty price of continuing to wait is waking up to find that our dear country now belongs in the history books. It’s not in the best interest of any president or political party to preside over such.

•Dr. Agbo is the President /CEO of African Centre for Transparency

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