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Nigeria @60: The Right Time To Break Up Or Adopt Swiss Style Of Govt



Jumu'ah Abiodun

By Jumu’ah Abiodun
As some Nigerian leaders and Nigerians home and abroad celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of the country Thursday, October 1st, 2020, I think this is the right time for the country to ‘Break Up’ or the Swiss style of governance should be adopted.

For those who are not students of history, let me give you a brief background of how the country called Nigeria was formed. In 1851, the British government forcefully invaded Lagos and by 1865 they formally annexed it. On September 25th, 1912, the British government returned former Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Frederick John Lugard back to Lagos with the aim of amalgamating the people of Lagos Colony and Protectorate of Northern Nigeria.

In 1914, Southern Nigeria was joined with Northern Nigeria Protectorate to form the single colony of Nigeria by John Lugard a British soldier. The unification was done for economic reasons rather than political—Northern Nigeria Protectorate had continuous budget deficit; and the colonial administration sought to use the budget surpluses in Southern Nigeria to offset this deficit. However, we gained our independence on October 1st, 1960, and eventually became a ‘Republic’ in 1963.

In July 6, 1967, after a peace conference hosted in Ghana by General Joseph Ankrah, Nigerian military leadership came back, late Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, then declared Eastern Nigeria as a sovereign state of Biafra from Nigeria which led to the three years of civil war.

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In January 1969, during this war, the two factions agreed to a 48-hour ceasefire to watch Brazilian legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé) play an exhibition game in Lagos. The match between Santos of Brazil ended in 2-2 draw with Lagos based Stationery Stores FC and Pelé scored both goals of his team. The war continue barely 24hrs after the match. Indeed, football unites the world. After the civil war ended in January 15, 1970, it is on record that this war was one of the most bloody in Africa.

Between then and up till when General Sani Abacha died in 1998, the country struggled with Coup due tats, seizure of power by military regimes, annulment of an election (June 12, 1993), among many other challenges.

By and large, looking at the whole scenario, Nigerians have only been recycling the same set of leaders we have had between 1979 till we grabbed ‘Democracy’ due to the death of Abacha.

After good twenty years of ‘Democracy’, ‘Freedom of the Press’ is still nowhere to be found; what you see in Nigeria today is, police or military brutalizing journalists, the kidnapping of journalists, killing of journalists. In Nigeria, journalists cannot even cover protests peacefully due to security agencies’ brutalization. When you expose a public officeholder of their corrupt act then that becomes a problem, because you start running helter-skelter for your life.

What a shameless country we are? Some people will start defending the government or the say of ‘Do you know where the US and the rest were during their sixty anniversaries? That’s a wrong notion, this is the 21st century for God’s sake, we need to move forward with time and don’t need to re-invent the wheel. This is a century of artificial intelligence(AI), countries are developing at a very fast pace due to technology.

Let us take a look at our contemporary in terms of Independence, at sixty, Nigeria does not have a single national carrier despite this present administration spending over N1 billion on ‘Business Plan, Design Logo and London Launch of a new airline. Coincidentally, this writer was in the UK during the launching in 2018, where I told my friends categorically that the funds for the project would be diverted and shared among Government officials. This eventually happened.

The then Minister of State Transportation (Aviation) now Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, was allegedly accused of siphoning over N1.2 billion on a phoney Nigeria Air project which was eventually suspended by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Today, South Africa Airways waxing stronger with 16 fleet size, 10, 071 employees; Kenya got independence three years after Nigeria, December 12, 1963, the East African country is enjoying her 40 fleet size that’s flying to over 50 destinations in the world.

Another East African country, Ethiopia is doing fantastically well with her Ethiopian Airlines of 125 fleet size and flies to 125 destinations (passenger); 44 (cargo). Ditto for Rwanda Air a company owned by the government commenced operation April 27, 2003, now expanding it’s business base with 12 fleet size and flying to 29 destinations in the world, also sponsors Arsenal FC of England. Rwanda gained independence July 1, 1962.

Egypt (EgyptAir), Morocco (Royal Air Maroc), Algeria (Air Algerie) and Qatar (Qatar Airways) are expanding their business coast with 69 fleet size and 9,000 employees, 60 fleet size to 103 destinations, 56 fleet size to 75 destinations and 237 fleet size to 172 destinations of the world respectively.

Nigeria as a nation, we still has a long, long way to go. Agreed that Rome was not built in a day, but our twenty years of ‘Democracy’ was spent on religious sentiments, tribalism, nepotism, hypocrisy, votes buying, looting and looting and more looting by public officeholders. Instead of facing the work of governance, the leaders continue to blame previous administrations for cheap political discussion.

Comparing fuel price in Nigeria to other parts of the world is a ‘wrong shot’ by the Presidency, standard of living in Saudi Arabia is far better than the one of Nigeria, their minimum wage is 10x of Nigeria’s N30,000.

During the global lockdown effected by the novel Coronavirus pandemic, a pastor whose Church is not up to two plots of land in Ikeja bought a house of over N300 million at around Agege, a suburb area of Lagos state. The man of God (like religious believers call them) bought another land beside the house at about N30 million. These are the people that preach to their congregations that this life is “vanity upon vanity”.

The pastor has a white ‘Limousine’ he has parked in his compound for more than four months, has a ‘Rolls Royce’ which he barely use, a ‘Hummer H2’ with bad tyres, brand new Toyota Land Cruiser and other exotic cars. Yet their congregations continue to suffer throughout the global lockdown.

We have seen so many cases which include the story of ‘The Man Killed Himself And Ran Away’ an ex-Governor story, hundreds of public officeholders who stole billions of dollars still walking freely and enjoying protection in Nigeria. One ex-Senator just recently bought a $1 million ‘Lamborghini Aventador Roadster’.

During the lockdown that I wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to provide a sincere and genuine palliative for Nigerians, I stated it then clearly that the school feeding program embarked upon by the Minister is a way of siphoning public funds but Mr President did not listen to my advice. A few days ago, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) discovered over N2.67 billion school feeding funds diverted to several personal accounts.

We all have seen where very few people from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) shared a whopping N1.32 billion among themselves as COVID-19 palliative when a common man cannot even afford a daily meal during the lockdown.

As an oil-producing state with over 2.5 million per barrels of crude oil on a daily basis, Nigeria ranks as Africa’s largest producer of oil and sixth in the world. The country has the largest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world. Statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently show that over 83 million Nigerians endure extreme poverty. In fact, this is increasing on a daily basis, the unemployment rate stands at around 27.1%, and a significant portion of Nigerians lack basic education.

The inflation rate jumps to 13.39% as border closure bites harder, bank interest rate now vary between 11.5% to 12.5%.

In the 21st century, you hardly see a government owned unrestricted wifi to connect to at Nigeria International airports when the telecommunications companies can’t even make an N5,000 plan for national calls with 500 free SMS per month. Even when you buy big data, the network melts it off like oil inside fire.

If we really want to be one, my advice will be good for the peace of the country, there’s an urgent need for any government who want peace and want to end corruption to stop ‘Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF)’ with immediate effect because those in the West don’t buy ‘Yam, Onions and Pepper’ same price as they sell in the North, so why paying for PEF. PEF is just a fraudulent policy with which public office holders are using to siphon public funds.

Another loophole left open for the stealing of funds is the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). In the first place, for whatever reason NDDC might have been created, it’s clearly unnecessary. Construction or rehabilitation of Roads in the region, ministry of Works should do that. Cleaning of the Ogoni oil spill, the ministry of Environment fits in.

Should we still have PEF and NDDC in this country, then this is the best time we should break up. Over the years, different lawmakers from Lagos have pushed on the floor of the national assembly for a ‘Special Status’ for the state, the selfish lawmakers refused to let that sail through. To make it clear, PEF is an avenue of generating funds for the political class in the North and NDDC is purely directed at Southern Nigeria for their own share of the national cake, the government doesn’t have any agenda for the West.

My fellow Nigerians, our system is already collapsing, our economy is retrogressing, corruption is taking center stage in the country. In fact, I’m more than surprise, despite hundreds of professors of economics in Nigeria, our government still don’t know the true meaning of the devaluation of currency. Maybe they need a layman’s definition of devaluation of currency to be able to understand the term.

For me, there’s no sense in Nigeria’s constitution that asserts that there must be at least a Cabinet member from each of the 36 states, though, the ministries are 28 but now to create space for more political loyalists and those who lose during their various elections are considered too. As at the time of writing this article, Nigeria has over 40 ministers.

There’s nothing wrong if the Minister of Justice & Attorney General manage or oversees ministries of Defence and Police Affairs, the ministry of Foreign Affairs can be merged with Special Duties & International Affairs.

What sense does it make when we have ministries of Science and Technology; Mines and Steel Development; Education. Merging these ministries together will go a long way in reducing the cost of governance, Science & Technology and Mines & Technology should be under Education.

There’s nothing wrong if we can merge ministries of Environment, Water Resources and Health. The combination of these three into one entity would be fantastic.

Ministry of Labour & Employment can be merged with Agriculture & Rural Development. Communication and Information can be together while Culture goes to Education.

Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning can be merged with Humanitarian, Disaster Management and Social Development. While the ministries of Women Affairs and Niger Delta should be scrap.

Ministries of Petroleum, Aviation and Transportation can be one, there’s no sense in separating these three while Power, Works and Housing should be returned as one. Ministry of Federal Capital Territory can as well be integrated into the ministry of Interior.

Breaking up of Nigeria should be an easy transition of government because each region knows where it belongs.

Let me take you on a tour of how few world powerful countries broke up without war:

For instance, the Communist structures in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the big brother, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), all collapsed, while the two Germanys that are ethnically the same but split by communism vs capitalism were reunited October 3, 1990. Such is the power of ethnic nationalism.

According to my investigations, the former Central European country, Czechoslovakia was made up of ten ethnic groups, the two major are the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both separated peacefully on January 1st, 1993. The former is today 10.69 million people and the latter 5.458 million. Added together, they’re not up to Lagos. Other ethnic groups include Hungarians 3.8%, Romani people 0.7%, Silesians 0.3% while Ruthenes, Ukrainians, Germans, Poles and Jews made up the remainder of the population. Yet, they split for peace. The country called Czechoslovakia was then dissolved on January 1, 1993, after 75 years of existence, just 15 years older than Nigeria.

To break up should be as easy as ‘ABC’ because, In 1991, the Yugoslavia, a country with predominantly Muslims alongside Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Protestantism, as well as various Eastern Orthodox faith population then was 23.23 million, not up to Lagos population. It broke into six countries same year – all along ethnic lines, namely: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia there was no war.

This happened along with two autonomous provinces within Serbia which are Vojvodina and Kosovo. The country called the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dissolved in 1992 after 47 years of existence which means Nigeria is currently 13 years older than that.

The Switzerland style of government:
Switzerland has four major political parties since 1959, these parties will form cantons, Federal Council which will consist of German: Bundesrat, French: Conseil federal, Italian: Consiglio federal and Romansh: Cussegl federal who has just a few thousands of speakers. The seven-member executive council that constitutes the federal government of the Confederation and serves as the collective head of states and government.

Should we still decide to live together as one Nigeria, the only way forward to peaceful and united Nigeria is to adopt Switzerland’s style of government where each of the seven major ethnic groups rotates the position of ‘President’ annually.

The position of President of Switzerland rotates among the seven councillors on a yearly basis, with one year’s Vice President of the Federal Council becoming the next year’s President.

By adopting this, Nigeria as a nation will then become a decent society where we can spend less on governance. Each President knowss his tenure ends every December 31st of every year.

Jumu’ah Abiodun, a Social Commentator, Dedicated Activist on Govt Accountability & Justice and Columnist writes in from Earth.


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