“…. of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…..”(1 Chronicles 12:32)
The Body of Christ in Nigeria is faced with the problematic of what is to be done, considering the systematic annihilation of Christian lives, either by supposed herdsmen of Fulani extraction or those described as Islamic terrorists without any intervention by the Apparatus of State. This had been the general experience of Christians in Nigeria, especially in the northern parts where their sufferings because of their faith is compounded by their Ethno-Nationality, which was and is why these atrocities are always limited to geo-political territories largely inhabited by non-Fulani and non-Muslims, thus limiting the narrative to a contrived religious conflict when it is not so.
That certain largely Christian and non-Fulani territories in the North, especially in the Middle Belt axis, had been formally and officially taken over by the Fulani through the creation of new local government areas for them is not a religious phenomenon; that the methodologies employed in these instances followed a similar pattern as being practiced in the Darfur Region of the Sudan where the African populations are being systematically destroyed by the State-supported group known as the “janjaweed” is not a religious affair; so also the nomadic business of cattle rearing almost always leading to destruction of farmlands and murders of farmers, raping of women etc is also not a religious affair; not even when Christian preachers are routinely beheaded by “Islamists” with no consequence on the perpetrators can such be deemed a religious affair.
In all of these, the State Apparatus had always been found wanting, ignoring the atrocities while usually punishing the victims, which point to the reality that what we are faced with is not religious conflict but the utilization of a State Apparatus to perpetuate a pre-arranged political and economic and therefore cultural order for the Peoples inhabiting the Nigerian geo-political space.
The glue holding all of the different cultures, nationalities and lingual groupings together in Nigeria is the State with all of its apparatus with a mandate anchored on a Constitution aimed at protecting the various interests ostensibly for the good of all and with enough criteria for dealing with errant behavior.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian State has failed in this particular instance over a long period of time as there are enough evidence to support the lackadaisical attitude of the State towards these occurrences.
The response of the Nigerian Body of Christ have been lackluster; mainly concerned with praying for the authorities but without specifics as to what is being prayed for, save the usual exhortations of God ministering to the hearts of those in government or authority. At other times, they embark of usually fruitless peace missions alongside those leaders of the Islamic faith into areas of conflict only to be confronted with further attacks thus making nonsense of such peace efforts. Yet, some have also found it necessary to engage the State Apparatus in trying to make it alive to its responsibilities, either by serving in any of the Administrations directly or as advisers, again without any commensurate response from the State in terms of either lessening of tensions or directly neutralizing the causes of these tensions, while others are advocating self-help measures , especially if their places of worship are attacked and which are justified by the State’s non-responsiveness to its own responsibilities.
While all of these may be avenues towards efforts at resolving some of the issues, a basic ingredient is not being taken into consideration, to wit: having an understanding of the times, to know what we ought to do.
As earlier noted, unresponsiveness on the part of the State Apparatus in following through on its expected role of providing for the good of all is self-evident and that is where the approach to the problematic ought to start from.
How then did this failure of the State come about? There were Christian politicians and non-politicians active in the ways and manners by which the State itself came into being and now being run hence we cannot claim that the State is rigged against Christians. Christian leaders played various leadership roles in the emergence or sustenance of any of the administrations that have run Nigeria, civilian or military, including those who served as Heads of State professing to be Christians, yet without any impact as to the State coming alive to its responsibilities.
That means, Christians, in general, have not yet taken time to go to the root of the matter, which is, the Nigerian State(and by the way the African State) is not based on Language, which is the only Godly basis for everything.
There would be no Creation, no social relations and hence no society, without the Spoken Word, for God spoke all that was created into being just as Adam named(that is, spoke) everything created by God. Furthermore, it is written: “in the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1: 1-3); this WORD being Jesus Christ whose manifestation, in the beginning, came about from being Spoken. Speaking out the word is by and through Language as the means of communication.
It is further written, in another place: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, (that is, spoke), saying, “let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1: 1-3). Furthermore, Genesis 11:5-9 says: “But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”
Our Lord’s Prayer says in Mathew 6:10 “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven” where what is done in Heaven is described in Revelation 7:9-17 thus: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”… all of which were previously reflected in Acts 2:5-12 as “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”
From all of these, the centrality of Language in Creation and all of the works of God are very clear, veering away from which will ultimately lead to extinction and continuous conflict with the nature of the society as had happened to several peoples and languages throughout history.
Yet history exist to guide us in avoiding its pitfalls, hence when a Nigerian State Apparatus came into being without this fundamental Language character, what has happened and will continue to happen ought not be surprising. We can only speculate on what could have happened to Christianity in West Africa, had Samuel Ajayi Crowther not translated the Bible into Yoruba and other African Languages.
The challenge of Restoration is now before the Body of Christ in Nigeria; for the essence of our faith is Restoration, of the individual to God and of the society into which God intended it to be for us to manifest the God-nature in us. This way, all of the contradictions embedded in social life will have a Godly foundation through which they could be resolved.
Thus, the conflicts in the northern parts of Nigeria would be resolved when the Body of Christ make it its duty to address this fundamental language problematic by intervening in the Constitutional foundation of the country from the Language perspective, which, by definition, empowers all of the Lingual groups in the Nigerian geo-political space and which will Restore our Peoples to their God-intended purposes, having been created in His own image.
It is not happenstance that Nigeria(Africa) remain the most underdeveloped section of humanity principally because we have allowed our Languages to be vernacularized and criminalized such that it plays no part in our understanding of phenomena/nature which God has given us the ability to do as it is written in Ecclesiastes 1: 13(And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man by which they may be exercised)
Theories about economic and social development abound, even if anchored on what is good for Euro-America and Nigerian Christians have become experts at some of these Theories and have actually applied some to Nigeria’s developmental efforts.
All floundered on the unresponsiveness of the Nigerian State Apparatus largely due to its separation from its Language sources since a culture of development cannot exist outside the Language of its expression; this is without prejudice to multi-lingual, multi-cultural congregations and assemblies each of whom will have to take responsibility for the cultural/lingual and therefore developmental existentialism of the congregants.
This is also not advocating some form of Christian Theocracy, but a recognition of the centrality of Language in God’s creation as it is written in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit…..” this being the Holy Spirit through whom Creation was spoken into being.
How then do Nigerian Christians become involved in resolving this issue? In 2018, the Nigerian State, through the instrumentality of the Nigerian National Assembly is embarking on yet another Constitutional Jamboree aimed principally at strengthening The Nigerian State’s stranglehold on the Peoples(Languages) of Nigeria; an amendment fraught with violence against history and human thought by denying the centrality of Language in the architectural foundation of human relations.
It is the Constitutional responsibility of Nigerian Christians to use the opportunity to legitimize the Language paradigm by ensuring that each Lingual Nation or Group has control over the outcome of the amendment exercise such that it becomes a Referendum on the Constitutional foundations of Nigeria thus forcing a renegotiation of the country by the Peoples. That is the least Nigerian Christians can do for posterity.
Christian Dialog for Change
Michelle DeMello walked into the clerk’s office in Colorado thinking for sure someone would save her.
She was 16 and pregnant. Her Christian community in Green Mountain Falls was pressuring her family to marry her off to her 19-year-old boyfriend. She didn’t think she had the right to say no to the marriage after the mess she felt she’d made. “I could be the example of the shining whore in town, or I could be what everybody wanted me to be at that moment and save my family a lot of honor,” DeMello said. She assumed that the clerk would refuse to approve the marriage. The law wouldn’t allow a minor to marry, right?
Wrong, as DeMello, now 42, learned.
While most states set 18 as the minimum marriage age, exceptions in every state allow children younger than 18 to marry, typically with parental consent or judicial approval. How much younger? Laws in 27 states do not specify an age below which a child cannot marry.
Unchained At Last, a nonprofit I founded to help women resist or escape forced marriage in the United States, spent the past year collecting marriage license data from 2000 to 2010, the most recent year for which most states were able to provide information. We learned that in 38 states, more than 167,000 children – almost all of them girls, some as young 12 – were married during that period, mostly to men 18 or older. Twelve states and the District of Columbia were unable to provide information on how many children had married there in that decade. Based on the correlation we identified between state population and child marriage, we estimated that the total number of children wed in America between 2000 and 2010 was nearly 248,000.
Despite these alarming numbers, and despite the documented consequences of early marriages, including negative effects on health and education and an increased likelihood of domestic violence, some state lawmakers have resisted passing legislation to end child marriage – because they wrongly fear that such measures might unlawfully stifle religious freedom or because they cling to the notion that marriage is the best solution for a teen pregnancy.
In this way, U.S. lawmakers are strongly at odds with U.S. foreign policy when it comes to child marriage. The U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls , released last year by the State Department, lists reducing child, early and forced marriage as a key goal. The strategy includes harsh words about marriage before 18, declaring it a “human rights abuse” that “produces devastating repercussions for a girl’s life, effectively ending her childhood” by forcing her “into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally mature.” The State Department pointed to the developing world, where 1 in 3 girls is married by age 18, and 1 in 9 is married by 15.
While the numbers at home are nowhere near that dire, they are disturbing. Many of the children married between 2000 and 2010 were wed to adults significantly older than they were, the data shows. At least 31 percent were married to a spouse age 21 or older. (The actual number is probably higher, as some states did not provide spousal ages.) Some children were married at an age, or with a spousal age difference, that constitutes statutory rape under their state’s laws. In Idaho, for example, someone 18 or older who has sex with a child under 16 can be charged with a felony and imprisoned for up to 25 years. Yet data from Idaho – which had the highest rate of child marriage of the states that provided data – shows that some 55 girls under 16 were married to men 18 or older between 2000 and 2010.
Many of the states that provided data included categories such as “14 and younger,” without specifying exactly how much younger some brides and grooms were. Thus, the 12-year-olds we found in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina’s data might not have been the youngest children wed in America between 2000 and 2010. Also, the data we collected did not account for children wed in religious-only ceremonies or taken overseas to be married, situations that we at Unchained often see.
Most states did not provide identifying information about the children, but Unchained has seen child marriage in nearly every American culture and religion, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and secular communities. We have seen it in families who have been in America for generations and immigrant families from all over the world. In my experience, parents who marry off their minor children often are motivated by cultural or religious traditions; a desire to control their child’s behavior or sexuality; money (a bride price or dowry); or immigration-related reasons (for instance, when a child sponsors a foreign spouse). And of course, many minors marry of their own volition – even though in most realms of life, our laws do not allow children to make such high-stakes adult decisions.
Parental control over her sexuality was why Sara Siddiqui, 36, was married at 15. Her father discovered that she had a boyfriend from a different cultural background and told her she’d be “damned forever” if she lost her virginity outside of marriage, even though she was still a virgin. He arranged her Islamic wedding to a stranger, 13 years her senior, in less than one day; her civil marriage in Nevada followed when she was 16 and six months pregnant. “I couldn’t even drive yet when I was handed over to this man,” said Siddiqui, who was trapped in her marriage for 10 years. “I wasn’t ready to take care of myself, and I was thrown into taking care of a husband and being a mother.”
Minors such as Siddiqui can easily be forced into marriage or forced to stay in a marriage. Adults being pressured in this way have options, including access to domestic-violence shelters. But a child who leaves home is considered a runaway; the police try to return her to her family and could even charge our organization criminally if we were to get involved. Most domestic-violence shelters do not accept minors, and youth shelters typically notify parents that their children are there. Child-protective services are usually not a solution, either: Caseworkers point out that preventing legal marriages is not in their mandate.
Those fleeing a forced marriage often have complex legal needs, but for children, obtaining legal representation is extremely difficult. Even if they can afford to pay attorney’s fees, contracts with children, including retainer agreements, generally can be voided by the child, making them undesirable clients to lawyers. Further, children typically are not allowed to file legal actions in their own names.
Regardless of whether the union was the child’s or the parents’ idea, marriage before 18 has catastrophic, lifelong effects on a girl, undermining her health, education and economic opportunities while increasing her risk of experiencing violence.
Women who marry at 18 or younger face a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack, diabetes, cancer and stroke than do women who marry between ages 19 and 25, partly because early marriage can lead to added stress and forfeited education. Women who wed before 18 also are at increased risk of developing various psychiatric disorders, even when controlling for socio-demographic factors.
American girls who marry before 19 are 50 percent more likely than their unmarried peers to drop out of high school and four times less likely to graduate from college. A girl who marries young is 31 percentage points more likely to live in poverty when she is older, a striking figure that appears to be unrelated to preexisting differences in such girls. And, according to a global study, women who marry before 18 are three times more likely to be beaten by their spouses than women who wed at 21 or older.
Ending child marriage should be simple. Every state can pass the legislation I’ve helped write to eliminate exceptions that allow marriage before age 18 – or set the marriage age higher than 18, in states where the age of majority is higher. New Jersey is the closest state to doing this, with a bill advancing in the legislature that would end all marriage before 18. Massachusetts recently introduced a similar bill.
But when Virginia passed a bill last year to end child marriage, legislators added an exception for emancipated minors as young as 16, even though the devastating effects of marriage before 18 do not disappear when a girl is emancipated. Bills introduced last year in New York and Maryland languished and eventually died, though Maryland’s was just reintroduced. Other states have not acted at all. “Some of my colleagues were stuck in an old-school way of thinking: A girl gets pregnant, she needs to get married,” said Maryland Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, who introduced the bill to end child marriage in her state.
Only nine states still allow pregnancy exceptions to the marriage age, as such exceptions have been used to cover up rape and to force girls to marry their rapists. Consider Sherry Johnson of Florida, who said she was raped repeatedly as a child and was pregnant by 11, at which time her mother forced her to marry her 20-year-old rapist under Florida’s pregnancy exception in the 1970s.
Additionally, teenage mothers who marry and divorce are more likely to experience economic deprivation and instability than those who do not. If the father wants to co-parent, he can establish paternity and provide insurance and other benefits to the baby without getting married.
Legislators should remember that pregnant teenage girls are at increased risk of forced marriage. They need more protection, not less.
Nor does ending child marriage illegally infringe on religious rights. The Supreme Court has upheld laws that incidentally forbid an act required by religion, if the laws do not specifically target religious practice. Besides, most religions tend to describe marriage as an important union between two willing partners. That sounds nothing like child marriage, which often is forced and which has close to a 70 percent chance of ending in divorce. “There was a concern that we would be offending certain cultures within our society,” said New York Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who introduced the unsuccessful bill last year to end child marriage in her state. “So instead of seeing this as an abuse of young women, [some legislators] were seeing this as something we needed to protect for certain cultures.”
Betsy Layman, 37, shares Paulin’s goal. Layman was 27 when she escaped the marriage that had been arranged for her in her Orthodox Jewish community in New York when she was 17, to a man she had known for 45 minutes. Even after she fled with her three children, the repercussions of her marriage continued to plague her. She was a single mother with a high school equivalency certificate, no work experience and no money for child care. The temporary and part-time jobs she managed to get couldn’t cover the bills.
“I was on Section 8, Medicaid and food stamps,” Layman said. “There were times there just was not enough food for dinner.” When the electric company shut off her power for nonpayment, she would light candles around the house and tell her children there was a blackout. Only when her youngest child reached school age was she able to find full-time employment and gain some stability.
“Legislators have the power to prevent what happened to me from happening to another 17-year-old girl,” Layman said. “I beg you to end child marriage.”
Fraidy Reiss is founder and executive director of Unchained At Last, a nonprofit that helps women and girls escape arranged and forced marriages and works to end child marriage in the United States
Statement from Sudan Democracy First Group: Nirtiti massacre in Central Darfur exposes the criminal nature of Bashir’s regime
On the first day of 2016, and only one day after President Bashir’s announcement of a one-month cease fire in the three conflict zones, the Sudanese Army and its allied militias attacked the area of Nirtiti in Central Darfur state. Wearing the uniform of the Sudanese Army, the attackers took over the area for several hours, assaulting people in their homes and neighborhoods, killing and wounding tens of civilians with the death toll continuing to climb.
The raid on Nirtiti took place within the area of operation of United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) forces: UNAMID did nothing to stop the attack or protect civilians as per their mandate.
The raid on Nirtiti is understood to be a reprisal by the army for the killing a solider whose body was found in the outskirts of the city the previous day.
This latest massacre confirms several important facts about the conflict in Darfur.
First, the war in Darfur is still ongoing. The government’s discourse about the “end of conflict” in Darfur is a baseless assertion which the international community has swallowed, allowing a blind eye to be turned to the crimes and victims in Darfur.
Second, there is a complete lack of genuine political will on the part of the government to achieve peace. The attack on Niriti took place one day after the announcement of a cease fire by the Head of Sate. That announcement had no meaning for the Army and pro government militias which have had a constant license from the government to commit atrocities and crimes as part of the conflict strategy, regardless of the political situation.
Third, the event confirmed that despite the political rhetoric of the national dialogue, the real government policy is that declared by President Bashir in his speech to the army on 25 December in which he pledged to continue to pursue a military “solution” to the crisis in the three areas.
Fourth, this massacre exposed once again the infectiveness of UNAMID in exercising its mandate to protect civilians. Not only are bureaucratic procedures impeding its ability to act decisively, but it has repeatedly shown that it cannot act without the consent of Khartoum, most recently reflected in the Mission’s cowardly response to the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Mara.
The army’s criminal offensive on the citizens of Nirtiti is not a standalone incident: it is part of the norm in Darfur. Similar raids took place on several cities last year and before. No political solution can be achieved in the conflict without addressing this practice of government sanctioned attacks on civilians and looting cities and villages. Sudanese citizens in the conflict zones deserve justice and protection. Accountability (both political and legal) for these crimes must be at the top of the agenda of any attempt to achieve a lasting peace in Darfur and the rest of Sudan.
International mediators and actors in the Sudanese crisis must not ignore the spilled blood of Sudanese citizens. It is insulting, cruel and inhumane to ignore the realities of such crimes while proposing Pro forma deals that ultimately help no one but the criminals to escape accountability and reap the benefits of the cycle of impunity.
Sudan Democracy First Group
|The Question Before the Yoruba Nation
Recent events arising from the Ondo Governorship primaries have thrown into the fore, once again, the fundamental question of political alignments within Yorubaland and its implications not only for the Yoruba Nation and People but also for Nigeria itself.
Assuming, but not conceding, for this purpose that all of ONAC’s claims about the Asiwaju Tendency are correct, it will be valid only if the Fulani, by virtue of their own wiles and cunning are able to pull through their domination agenda all on their own, especially by virtue of their having executive power under their wings. We know this not to be so.
The quoted reasoning is lackadaisical in its approach to the question of “surrogates”. By making hay of northern penchant for using surrogates( who are really collaborators) the question as to the responsibility of the Yoruba Nation itself is left hanging. For this has always been our historical experience. Either ONAC is saying the Yoruba Nation is composed of hopeless and hapless people where surrogates abound or it is saying that these surrogates do not know what they are doing, which will be wrong; for they anchor their activities on their own political expectations. The answer must therefore lie somewhere else.
This is thus not about any Fulani or northern ambitions but any existing environment for Yoruba “surrogacy” in pursuit of any Fulani or northern aims and aspirations as well as the ambitions of the surrogates. That there is a historical trajectory shows that the problem is not with any political impatience or shortsightedness by anyone but the existence of a political environment without which the north is powerless.
The real question then is how these collaborators emerge within this environment. Egbe Omo Oduduwa posits that reducing our response to Nigeria’s problematic, itself a function of the Ethno-National/Regional contradiction, to pure electoralism aimed at securing dominance of this environment allow the emergence of all sorts of Yoruba collaborators against the Yoruba People and utilizing all sorts of perfidy where the center becomes the arbiter.
In contrast, the Yoruba resistance in 1965 showed that the Yoruba people had something to fight for; their autonomy, at the time. That was why no one really bothered about the then massively rigged 1964 Federal elections by the north and their collaborators but quite the opposite was the case once such a rigging by the collaborators was carried out in the 1965 Regional elections.
ONAC fell short of addressing this issue by blaming Asiwaju Tinubu for being “naïve and lacking a deep sense of history”. Nigeria’s political firmament is built around Ethno-National or Regional power plays and by definition, electoral alliances will have to be operational for any meaningful electoral influences.
In 2015, the only credible and viable option was/is the APC. Prior to 2015, we also have certain Yoruba who acted as surrogates to Goodluck Jonathan who never hid his anti-Yoruba positions, up to the point of saying we are minorities in our own land. Throughout his rule, there were Yoruba surrogates who clamored for and obtained appointments and encouraged him to try to impose himself electorally on Yorubaland. Dasukigate revelations showed the extent to which these surrogates went.
Meanwhile, calling on us to work for a new party will only achieve the northern Fulani aims ONAC claims to oppose as such a new party will also have to form alliances, including the north, especially when, in our attempts to create a “ southern front” we always fail to define this “south”, whether it is geographical or geo-political, for the Yoruba can be said to occupy the south, geographically, while the Yoruba in Kwara and Kogi are already classified as the “north” thus making nonsense of a “southern” alliance.
Moreover, working for a new political party, aside from all the legal intricacies it involves, will create a distraction and diversion from the way of our stated goals, to wit: Autonomy or True Federalism. Furthermore, those forces, that is the north and their collaborators, will utilize their perfidy to even ensure that such a party is denied its legitimacy.
Therefore, since it is being said that the Buhari administration is pursuing northern hegemony though absolute control of the APC machinery, it can only follow that the subordination of the SWAPC to the national organs will be a priority and this can only be achieved through neutralizing the Asiwaju Tendency in the SW APC.
Since the SW APC is yet to be totally compromised, it is our belief that its mechanism should be used to begin a process towards True Federalism by its embarking on a Yoruba Constitutional procedure to produce the Yoruba Regional Constitution to be ratified in a Yoruba-Region Referendum as the Yoruba answer to the APC Manifesto on True Federalism and which, at this point of our history, is the only way out. Consequent interaction and political realities will determine the necessity or otherwise of a new party, which, if necessary, will be anchored on the Yoruba Regional Constitution and nothing else.
Shenge Rahman Akanbi, Femi Odedeyi
For and on behalf of Egbe Omo Oduduwa
The Yoruba, Ijaw and Federalism
The recent meeting between some Yoruba politicians in old and new Afenifere and some leaders of the Ijaw Nation has once again brought to the fore the limitations of the strategies being deployed in the quest for True Federalism in Nigeria; a major consequence of which is the reduction of the pursuit to what was known as a “southern alliance” and now a Yoruba-Ijaw Alliance as if conspiracy/alliance of two or more against one or more of the Constituent Nationalities is the talisman that will conjure a new union into being.
The Yoruba politicians who attended this meeting once threatened to secede from Nigeria if the atrocities committed by Fulani herdsmen are not curtailed, when one of their own was attacked. Yet, this meeting with the Ijaw Nation treated the attacks carried out on Yorubaland by Ijaw terrorists with levity, as if the Yoruba lives lost to Ijaw terrorists are inferior to those lost to Fulani terrorists. The best the Yoruba at the meeting could say about this horrific event is to call the murders unfortunate.
This self-immolating indulgence of Afenifere amounts to making peace with Ijaw murderers on the graves of fellow Yoruba. An alliance that is not on the basis of equality and mutuality of interest is perfidy of the first waters! The meeting’s communique made it clear that Afenifere wants to drag the Yoruba into an alliance that presses our people into service as cannon fodder in the struggle for power and influence by leaders of another Nationality.
In our view, the call by this alliance on the Buhari Administration to implement what they described as “relevant recommendations of the Jonathan Conference” is an attempt at dressing a sell-out in the attractive garb of high minded advocacy for True Federalism. A genuine quest for Federalism and/or Restructuring will only be meaningful when it is driven by the determination of each and every one to “develop at their own pace” and not by an unequal yoking of one’s interests in a grand conspiracy with others, especially when the conference recommendations they are gustily promoting are arguably the most anti-Federalist in the recent history of constitutional parleys and initiatives in Nigeria.
The outcomes of a conference that did not involve constituent nationalities beyond a few hours of town meetings in six geopolitical centers cannot be promoted as an inevitable document to get Nigeria out of the mess it has been put by military dictators that de-federalized Nigeria for their own reasons and in the belief that Nigeria’s petroleum was capable of funding states without internally generated revenue to meet their obligations to their citizens.
Their Conference recommendations which parried resource control to technical committees of the government, the increase in the number of States to 54, their perfunctory review of a judicial system that has been denuded of state jurisdictional autonomy in respect of state crimes as well as optionality of state police and subjection of all functions on the concurrent list to federal legislative supremacy in total disregard of full fiscal autonomy of the states all speak eloquently to their surrender to the military-induced de-Federalization of Nigeria.
Real and aspiring Awoists should feel embarrassed to conspire with any nationality to promote a conference of handpicked delegates as the best Nigeria can have, after several decades of failed governance in the country on account of a flawed political structure.
To all intents and purposes therefore, an alliance between the Ijaw and the Yoruba and /or another favorite of theirs, a “southern alliance”, is a continuation of their previous capitulation to Ijaws’ desperate bid to retain control of the center – a bid which if successful would have been more beneficial to the Ijaw elites who saw nothing wrong with the structure of Nigeria while the Jonathan party lasted.
For Nigerian Nationalities in general, advancing the quest for True Federalism demands a simultaneous engagement with the centralized post-colonial State structure as well as paying greater attention to the internal political trajectory of each Nationality. This is what we commend to the Yoruba Nation at this historical juncture.
We have been there before. Since the realization that Federalism is the necessary form of State for a multi-lingual, multi-national and multi-cultural society, its political expression in Yorubaland was found through the Action Group which made it the platform for its anti-colonial advocacy.
When President Buhari alluded to the progress achieved during the First Republic in his Inaugural Speech and indeed mentioned those responsible for the progress, the question that needs to be asked is how Nigeria derailed and deviated from that path of progress into this deep pit of underdevelopment. The obvious answer to the question is the gradual efforts of the central government of the time to negate the Federalism that ushered in Nigeria’s Independence, up to the point of not only taking over the process for its own purposes but also trying to destroy the Action Group which ultimately led to the collapse of the Republic. Since then, all efforts to be liberated from this centralization has become the central focus of political praxis in the country.
Challenges to this centralization had almost always been based on the good intentions of whoever is in power which has led to various outcomes largely determined by the preferences or idiosyncrasies of the central power structure, resulting in yet more demands for Restructuring and True Federalism, which, for Afenifere, also became an after-thought to be pressed into service whenever they are out of political relevance only to be jettisoned the moment some semblance of relevance appeared in the horizon for their principal members. This tendency was demonstrated clearly during the Jonathan years where the organization was favored with some appointments after some loud noises about “marginalization” of Yorubaland.
Yet, the Yoruba Nation had never lacked participation at the highest levels of Nigeria’s centralist administration; a situation which saw to the emergence of not only a Yoruba as President, but also having some Yoruba in important political positions which made nonsense of the cries of “marginalization” and which was the reason why these Yoruba were unable to push the quest for Federalism to any appreciable extent while also demonstrating, in a clear manner, the fundamental limitations inherent in Afenifere’s supplications for crumbs from the power that be at the center.
This is further exhibited in very recent times, when Dr. Femi Okuorunmu, acting a script written by Afenifere, publicly proposed lining up behind Abubakar Atiku simply on account of Atiku’s well-advertised conversion to the Federalist mantra even when the latter has no roadmap towards accomplishing it, beyond preparing for the 2019 presidential elections with the hope of having the same Yoruba people who supported Jonathan behind his own presidential ambition.
All these, alongside the move towards an alliance with the Ijaw show a deliberate disempowerment of the People in the sense that True Federalism, as an existential imperative, is now being taken away from the People and reduced to elite negotiations with the Ijaw without any reference to the generality of Yoruba people.
What then is left for the Yoruba Nation and People in this circumstance? It is imperative for Yoruba People to utilize the opportunity provided by the commitment of the APC to True Federalism in its Manifesto by engaging APC on its own self-declared terms by ensuring that the SW(Yoruba) APC becomes faithful to Yoruba philosophical/ideological praxis developed in the course of our historical journey all through the pre-colonial era to the anti-colonial activism and the post-colonial phase. That way the generality of our People and not just a few members of the elite will take ownership of the struggle for True Federalism through a process of self-activity that will ensure its attainment. Above all, this will also ensure that the struggle for True Federalism becomes a key component of our electoral engagement as is being done in Scotland and Catalonia.
Shenge Rahman Akanbi, Femi Odedeyi
For and on behalf of Egbe Omo Oduduwa
Jonathan’s Conference and Federalism—The True Position
A recent statement of Dr. Femi Okunrounmu (a leading member of Afenifere) to the effect that “If Buhari had embarked on the process of implementing the report of the 2014 National Conference, a lot of the present agitation would not have arisen” was an attempt at neutralizing the long-standing Yoruba quest for Federalism, our foundational developmental paradigm, and must not be allowed to stand; all the more so when his call was anchored on some of the resolutions which he would have us believe are indeed in tandem with Federalism.
A closer look at the relevant recommendations confirms that his call is not only misplaced, it arguably indicates a mischievous attempt at a retrospective defense and justification of the political misadventure of his group and fellow travelers among our people in their campaign for the reelection of Goodluck Jonathan at the 2015 polls as a necessary first step towards the next one in 2019 as evidenced by his making Atiku Abubakar their 2019 arrowhead based on Atiku’s recent clamor for Federalism, even when this new found Federalist did not state the way forward to the promised land.
Now, it is the content of a report, material or body of materials and documents rather than their mere existence that should be accorded relevance in any rational inquiry/discourse of its efficacy and value. Our interrogation of the substance/content of the Report together with Dr. Okurounmu’s promotional remarks strongly indicates that the former does not and cannot facilitate or enhance our quest for Federalism while the latter clearly represents a daring attempt to misrepresent and distort the contents of the former in order to hoodwink the unsuspecting public into buying an utterly defective commodity as will now be shown. His remarks in italics and our responses backed with references to the actual recommendations of the Conference where necessary are stated as follows.
(1) Dr. Okurounmu says “Even though the conference did not approve the present six geo-political zones as the federating units, the Confab strengthens the autonomy of the existing states. For example, it gave each state the power to mobilize and develop its own mineral and other resources. Under this arrangement, oil producing states will be responsible for the exploration of their oil – no external persons will come and pollute their land, but they may work with technical partners on this. States will only pay a fraction of their earnings to the Federal Government. That is how it is done all over the world. If the Niger Delta people are in charge of their oil, they will protect their environment.”
Dr Okunrounmu’s afore-quoted remarks are quite unfaithful to the actual recommendation of the Conference . Below is the actual recommendation on this matter as contained in the Conference Report:
“ Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas should be retained in the Exclusive Legislative List but amended to read:- “mines and all minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas provided that: (a) the governments of states where the mining activities take place shall be involved in matters relating thereto; (b) the government of the federation shall create a special fund to develop mines and minerals in states where such resources are undeveloped.”
The proviso is neither here nor there as not only would the Center retain control through the Exclusive List, it would also provide “special funding” while the “governments of the states shall only be involved” without specifying the type or form of involvement.
Moreover, to expect a Conference to “approve the present six geo-political zones as the federating units” shows a gross misunderstanding of Federalism, in spite of the considerable time and energy Dr. Okurounmu is thought to have spent in advancing the quest, especially within the Yoruba historico-political space that had clearly spelt out over the time our Federalist perspective, which is at par with what is universally agreed to as its defining essence, local variations and peculiarities notwithstanding, that is, it is Peoples that Federate, not territories.
The Egbe Omo Oduduwa, in 1945 did categorically define its pursuit of “True Federalism” as “the propagation of the ideal of a modern Yoruba state and Federal state of Nigeria through the agency of reliable persons who share our ideals.” This notion of “a modern Yoruba State” is socio-culturally specific and not simply territorial; for a ” modern Yoruba State” is essentially existential-cultural albeit without prejudice to non-Yoruba living in Yorubaland. The Yoruba Agenda (1994) defined its pursuit of “True Federalism” as, among others: “the right of the Yoruba of Nigeria (living in Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states) to live under a Regional government within the Federation of Nigeria. The Yoruba Region shall have the right to negotiate with other Nationalities of Nigeria along the laid down principles of True Federalism, justice and equity”. The Draft Yoruba Constitution (2002) says “Yorubaland, existing as an Autonomous nation in a Union of Nigerian Constituent Nationalities, shall be known and styled as “Oduduwa Region”. These are just snippets of what the Yoruba have historically adjudged to be their understanding and pursuit of True Federalism.
(2) Also, the Confab gave neighboring states who feel inclined to merge to do so to form a larger unit and such merger is only subject to the condition that each of the states wants to merge. Such merger must be approved in a referendum by 75 per cent majority and the Houses of Assembly too in the states must also approve the merger by a two-third majority.
Now, merger of States has absolutely nothing to do with Federalism. Federalism is also not a matter of “inclination” but an existential reality for Peoples in a multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-lingual environment. Even if we are to consider mergers, Oyo and Osun States may agree to “merge” while Ogun may distance itself from such a plan which means Federalism in Nigeria will depend on the whims of current but antagonistic hegemonic political forces in those States. This will be making nonsense of Federalism as it will mean the merged States are Federating with Nigeria when a Federal Nigeria should ordinarily result from the Federating peoples that make up Nigeria.
This acceptance of the “merger” principle presupposes the negation of the concept of the Nationality, which is substituted with the factor of territory. The danger inherent in this is that any antagonistic political force could attain power in any State and create unfavorable circumstances against the people’s social and cultural experience in that territory just as we have experienced in Ilorin and are still experiencing now. Federalism is thus not about states agreeing to merge, but PEOPLES as social and cultural constructs, as occupiers of specific geo-political spaces, who may now organize themselves into States or Regions or Zones for administrative purposes.
(3) The Confab further gave each state the right to have its own police to take care of its security, including having lower level of police even at the local government level.
This is a complete distortion of Federalism. That a state will have its own police has nothing to do with Federalism. The UK has a decentralized police force, almost akin to what Dr. Okurounmu referred to as state police, yet the UK is a unitary State. State Police is a consequence and not the cause of Federalism as Dr. Okurounmu would want us to believe. Right now, States depend almost entirely on federal allocations or loans to pay their workers’ salaries; and it is this allocation that will be saddled with funding state police which translates into such state police being underfunded and unable to achieve its maximum potential in terms of training and professional advancement.
Once a state police is under the control of the sole Inspector-General who is responsible only to the President or the central authority, such arrangement will not be different from the one that says that the federal government should fund exploitation of mineral resources in states. So having a state police, by itself, does not translate to Federalism. What matters most is the ability of each Component to, among others, establish its own existential paradigms.
(4) We also changed the allocation formula. We reduced the Federal Government’s allocation and gave more to the states and LGs. Those are the aspects that will strengthen fiscal federalism, even with the existing structure.
This is NOT true. Here are the Conference Resolutions:
Revenue Sharing (Vertical Allocation): Review of the sharing of the funds accruing to the Federation Account among the tiers of government. Conference resolved that Government should set up a Technical Committee to determine the appropriate percentages on all matters relating to revenue sharing.
Sharing Formula (Horizontal Allocation): Review of the sharing formula on the basis of allocation of revenue to States using some principles of equality of states, population, land mass and terrain, social development factors (i.e. education, health, and water supply), and Internally Generated Revenue. Conference recommends that Government should set up a Technical Committee to determine the appropriate percentages on all matters relating to revenue sharing.
Resource Control: Conference recognized the need to review the percentage of revenue allocation to States producing oil (and other resources). Conference noted that assigning percentages for the increase in derivation principle require some technical details and considerations and therefore recommends that Government should set up a Technical Committee to determine the appropriate percentage on the issue and advise government accordingly.)
What is common to the three recommendations under this head is a recommendation to the government to set up a “Technical Committee” to work out the details and one wonders why a Conference set up to address an important political matter ended up passing the buck to the same government that established it. No wonder Sir Olaniwun Ajayi dismissed the entire Conference business by remarking that they merely went there to play.
Having said all these, what next for the Yoruba Nation? Egbe Omo Oduduwa proposes, in the first instance, that Yoruba People worldwide should reject any call for the implementation of the 2014 Jonathan Conference Report as it is patently anti-Federalist in its spirit and letters. Secondly, the Yoruba Nation(and we recommend this to other Nationalities) should be looking more inwardly and put their acts together in the quest for Re-Formation of Nigeria. Egbe Omo Oduduwa is firmly convinced that the way to go in the historical task of Constitutional Re-Formation of Nigeria is for each Nationality to embark on its own political and Constitutional self-definition to be validated through or at its own Referendum as the basis for a new Nigerian Union. This will enable us to successfully discharge the burden of history rather than fall prey to opportunistic schemes of emergency Federalists.
Shenge Rahman Akanbi, Femi Odedeyi
For and on behalf of Egbe Omo Oduduwa