Now that foremost Emirs have formally made themselves known as Patrons of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), and with their concerns having more to do with the fate of the Fulani herders rather than addressing the threats they pose to lives and properties of other Nigerians, the National Question becomes the primary contradiction to be resolved by the 2019 elections.
Citing climatic changes as a cause of herders’ migration is not appropriate since the herders themselves claim it as a cultural practice; trying to change this cultural practice into a ‘modern’ economy must transform the culture itself. This transformation cannot be achieved by policy initiatives of the central government but must proceed from the internal dynamics of the culture itself. Suggestions as to ranching or grazing reserves or cattle colonies and any such policy formulations are therefore missing the point and will not serve its intended ‘modernizing’ mission as the foundational cultural imperative fuelling their migration will find other outlets of expression whose effects will be more devastating than herdsmen terrorism.
What is necessary is the Autonomy of action for the Fulani to address their cultural issues in their own way; and within the Nigerian context, through a Collegiate Presidency. A Collegiate Presidency, among others, transforms central leadership in Nigeria into a representation of the Ethno-National Federating Units as a matter of course, guarantees their presence in federal matters while leaving the units the ability to address their internal matters as they deem fit, reduces the quest for absolute control of the Nigerian State, which, in the Fulani herdsmen case, has aided and abetted their terrorism over a long period of time.
Since 1979, when the military formally redefined the concept of Federalism according to its own internal unitarist dynamics, the Nigerian presidency had become the personalization of the office, whereby the president sees himself as the embodiment of the State and therefore above all of the institutions of State which itself reflects the weakness of the State and its institutions relative to the person of the President.
This was why president Buhari would ‘order’ the relocation of the Inspector-General of Police to Benue State in the wake of Fulani herdsmen terrorist activities in the State, and the question begging for answers is whether such a directive is needed if the Police are alive to their functions in the first instance further questioning the existence of the force since it becomes alive to its supposed statutory responsibility only because the president says so. More so when the President cannot obviously continually order such relocation any time such occurrence comes into play unless the president ‘is the state’.
It is noted that this is not peculiar to the Buhari presidency as it is embedded in the nature of Nigeria’s system of governance anchored on a foundation created by Nigeria’s military and enhanced by the Unitary system which made it possible to have a single policing system for the country.
Ordinarily, any countrywide election ought to signify a deepening and improvement of the developmental paradigms of the State, manifesting in the economic, political and social expectations not only of the State but also of the citizenry. An election is therefore not expected to be a recycling of the same forces carrying out and relishing in the stagnation of the country, which had been the lot of Nigeria since the introduction and enforcement of the Presidential system of government in 1979.
Every election cycle since then presented opportunities for not only challenging that paradigm but also creating an alternative but which opportunities were denied by outright manipulation of the electoral votes, first through the infamous twelve-two-thirds in 1979, (which its chief promoter, Richard Akinjide publicly admitted as being a function of subterfuge on their part), to the ‘1983 moon-slide’ specifically designed to truncate the challenge to the economic depression the country had been thrown into, to the ‘little to the left and a little to the right’ attempt at imposing a two-party system culminating in the annulment of the June 12 1993 elections which had already upended the traditional expectations of the Unitary State all the way to the current dispensation which almost everyone expected to produce a change in every sphere but which had been turned into a ‘last stand’ for Unitarism by the Buhari presidency, thumbing its nose on the Yoruba, and therefore their existential demand for True Federalism.
But 2019 elections, especially its presidential component, creates yet another moment and opportunity to address Unitarism and actually providing its death-knell. This requires a complete change in strategy. The various ways at sustaining the Unitarist structure enunciated above were predicated on making the State secure, be it by the military or the civilian, whose manipulation of electoral votes were often deemed as efforts to maintain a status quo in favour of Unitarism. And now, the resurgence of security-related issues, occurring within the context of electoral aspirations means those of us intent on challenging and changing this status quo must be prepared to readjust our strategies accordingly.
The Niger Delta Avengers have once again threatened to visit their fury on Nigeria’s oil installations, anticipating the government acceding to their demand for Restructuring. The nature of the confrontation will pit a Legitimate administration against a Legitimate demand, whose strategy of blowing up oil installations will not be deemed Legitimate but challenged as a security measure by the administration which will throw the entire demand into a tailspin as security of the State becomes the focus of attention rather than the demand itself.
The Niger Delta Avengers owe it a duty to the Peoples of the Niger Delta to transform the Legitimacy of their demand into a contest for the Legitimacy of the Nigerian State, already assumed as a consequence of the 2015 elections. This will be achieved by denying Muhammadu Buhari a 2019 electoral victory in the Niger Delta in favor of one of their own to be voted for, on the platform of Autonomy for the Niger Delta. The same scenario, that is, transformation of their demands into the 2019 electoral platform through the instrumentality of their representation by one of their own, goes for other sections of the South and the Middle Belt whose demands are not in any way too different from those of the Niger Delta; all of which, combined, will create room for a Collegiate Presidency.