Foundational restructuring of the Nigerian state – Punch Newspapers

The defects in the foundation of the Nigerian state can hardly be disputed. There would be a need for this foundation to be properly looked into so that an edifice of great promise and potential does not collapse, with regrettable consequences, on its inhabitants.

It would be naive to assume that the British colonisers constructed Nigeria to serve any purposes other than their own imperialistic motive and agenda. They did not come over to build a nation that would outclass theirs in terms of development and stability. However, we can turn their motive or agenda into an advantage by taking a realistic view at how to improve on the skeletal framework we were presented with.

The components of societal greatness, if properly harnessed, suggest that Nigeria can be one of the truly great nations of the world. The great nations of the world, among other components, boast of size and population, economic resources, adequate food, military preparedness, good leadership and organisation, as well as industrial development. These are the factors that make the United States of America, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, the truly great nations of the world that they are. These important nations should be the focus of our collective aspiration as a people.

Nigerians are quite an intelligent and hard working people who can hold their own anywhere in a competitive world. Their nation, more than most in the world, is endowed with the attributes of greatness. The drawback to the greatness and unity of Nigeria, if one must be brutally honest, has been the historical imbalance between the North and the South. This social and economic imbalance was brought about by the dual approach to education in the former British colony. The advancement of education in the South can be credited to the Christian missionaries who established various schools, while their activities were proscribed in the North for understandable religious and opportunistic reasons.

By opportunistic reasons, one refers to the indirect rule system which had served the purposes of the colonisers who were short in supply of staff for the administration of their vast colony. The then Emirs of the North were useful instruments in manifesting this approach to governance. There was this view by the colonial masters that the advancement of Western education could undermine the influence and authority which these Emirs had on their people. Because of this, and the more important reason of not undermining the Islamic religion, the Christian missionaries were restricted to the so-called pagan areas of the region.

Be that as it may, the policy of free and compulsory primary education, especially in the defunct Western Region, under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, complemented the historic foundation already laid by these missionaries. Were education not to have been made free and compulsory, there were quite many homes that could not have been able to provide education for their children who later went on to become important citizens of our society. There were not a few who could have been dexterous palm wine tappers who went on to become lawyers and lecturers.

Our political leaders in the North can contribute to the unity and progress of Nigeria by approaching the issue of education with determination and missionary zeal. It should be saddening to any genuinely-patriotic Nigerian what has become the plight of those neglected children, the almajiris, in the face of the current coronavirus pandemic. These unfortunate children are being forced to relocate from states where they had lived their lives of begging for food and money. They suddenly became like lepers to those who had used them in the past.

The issue of education for young children should top the agenda of our northern state governments, far more than their waste of resources on mass marriages and religious pilgrimages. The visionary ones among them would want to bridge that gap between their region and the South. The deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, was vocal about the plight of the North and might have got his crown taken off by those who resented his honest truth.

The almajiri dilemma could be likened to the case of the chicken have come home to roost. Their compatriots in the South are apprehensive of them, not least because of the unpalatable experiences with dangerous herdsmen and the belief that these almajiris are potential recruits for Boko Haram and other fanatical activists of the religious persuasion. The Nigerian political and religious leaderships have a lot of work and persuasion to do, if Nigerians are to be emotionally and psychologically reconciled in their perceptions of one another.

Finally, if I may restate an idea I have highlighted a few times in the past, it is time we started taking our statistics seriously. In a world where policymakers are doing their best to reduce population via birth control, the politics of my-region-is-more-populated-than-yours should no longer prevail. We should start to think of how to manage our population growth to avert explosion. We should also put in place a mechanism whereby every birth and death in our society is documented .The long term advantages of such a documentation cannot be overemphasised.

Anthony Akinola, Oxford, United Kingdom


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