Political Solution for Marginalization, Restructure and Secession Movement

There is unease and a sense that things is out of control in Nigeria today. Some ethnic groups from the southern part of Nigeria wants to secede from the Nigerian federation and the rest wants restructure of Nigerian federation. It is unfortunate that 47 years after the civil war, Nigeria is still grappling with a way to preserve Nigerian unity when the rest of the world are focusing on economic development.

The National Assembly appears to have decided to sit on the sideline and watch the unfolding events instead of doing something about it. The national Assembly is a place where most of these issues should be addressed not the unelected National Sovereign Conference. Recommendation of the Sovereign National Conference should guide the National Assembly in their deliberation but should not be a substitute for a legislative or constitutional amendment solutions. National Assembly is the only body with elected official from all parts of the country and should be in the best position to address all the issues that are causing ethnic division in Nigeria.

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Nigeria and Africa said recently that the reason for the current agitation for secession and re-structure of Nigerian federation is caused by lack of economic opportunity. I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. Dangote and others with similar view. Lack of economic opportunity is a small part of it. The primary reason for the current secessionist movement and clamor for restructure has more to do with political marginalization not lack of economic opportunity. If the primary reason is economic, it will mean that the Northern parts of the country that are more economically depressed will be at the forefront of the agitation for restructure or independence. The National Assembly need to find equitable and fair political solution for the current unrest by instituting constitutional reforms which will make every section of the country feel that they have a stake in the Nigerian federation at all time.

I am convinced that Nigeria will break up at some point in the future if the issue of marginalization of various sections of the country is not addressed. Rotation of the presidency, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representative, Secretary of the Federal Government and President’s Chief of staff among the six geopolitical zones is the only way to ensure fair and equitable distribution of power among all political zones. It will give all geopolitical zones a sense of belonging and a stake in any administration’s tenure.

Each zone should produce presidential candidate for two terms of 4 years each. Instead of the current system of allowing a president to serve two consecutive terms, each zone should produce the president for two consecutive terms. All political parties will be mandated to choose their presidential candidate from a designated zone for two terms. If the rest of the zones are dissatisfied with the party in power due to lack of performance or any other reason, the citizens can vote for another party whose presidential candidate is from the same geopolitical zone since all political parties will be mandated to choose their candidate from that zone to serve out the remaining 4-year term, after which the presidency will move to another zone. Vice president will also be zoned same way and all parties will be mandated to choose their vice-presidential candidate from the designated zone. Any party that won majority in the senate should choose their senate president from the four-remaining zone. The Party that won the majority in the House of Representative should choose the speaker from the three-remaining zone. President must then choose the Secretary of the federal government from the two-remaining zone and chief of staff must come from the last zone. The zones to go first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth must be written into the constitution to ensure certainty. Of course, the zones that have not produced the presidency since the end of the civil war should go first followed by the rest. Luckily for Nigeria, the six geopolitical zones have qualified individuals for any of the above positions.

The 8 years of 4-year term each for the presidency must also rotate between the north and south. For example, if South East zone produces the president for 4-year term of 8 years, Northeast or another northern zone will produce the president for another 8 years of 4-year terms. The presidency will then move to say Southwest for 8 years then back to North West followed by North Central and South South zone and on and on. Vice presidency should be done the same way. The party that won majority in the Senate must be mandated to produce senate president from a zone that did not produce the president and vice president. The president should be mandated to choose his chief of staff and secretary to the federal government from the remaining two zones. This must be done through constitutional amendment.

President Buhari’s Northwest zone should produce president for 4 more years since Mr. Buhari would have been there for 4 years. The presidential candidate could be from the ruling party or from another party but all the presidential candidates must come from the Northwestern zone to serve out the remaining 4 years for the zone. After the remaining 4 years, the presidency should move to Southeast zone that has not produced civilian or military president since the end of the civil war. After Southeastern turn, another northern state that has never produced civilian or military presidency since the end of the civil war should go for 8 years and the position will come back to the south. If the president or vice dies while in office, another election must be held within few months and the same zone should produce the president to finish out the 8 years for the zone.

Each zone should have the burden and responsibility of giving the country good leadership. If the National Assembly do not like the senate president or the speaker and decides to remove him or her, they must choose another senate president and speaker from the same zone. If the president fires the secretary of the federal government or his or her chief of staff, he or she must pick their replacement from the same zone. People from all zones occupying important position in a government at the same time should help unite all Nigerians since they can bring all points of view from different sections of the country to the attention of the ruling party. Current practice of mandating the president to choose minister from each state must continue.

Some may suggest replacement of 8 years two term of 4 years with 5 or 6-years single term. The problem with single year term of 5 or 6 years is that it will encourage impunity and inhibit political competition among political parties. A political leader who will not have to worry about re-election will have little incentive to be fair to all sections of the country. Also, bad leader can be replaced within a shorter period of time instead of leaving that person in office for 5 to 6 years single term.

Rotation of major offices will solve the political side of marginalization and ethnic agitation. The rest of the zone should not be afraid of this arrangement because they will still be check and balances in the National Assembly no matter who the president is or which zone he or she came from.
This arrangement is not perfect but it will be the fairest and most equitable political solution for Nigeria. Charges of marginalization and agitation for independence or breakup of the country or restructure of the federation will lessen or disappear. Again, the primary reason for the agitation is mostly political.

Constitutional amendment will be needed to create fourth tier of government which will consist of Township Chairman and Council for any Town or city that wants to incorporate and run its affairs. Towns that does not want to incorporate will still stay under the Local Government administration. People feel empowered when they can run their affairs and will be unlikely to tolerate waste of their resources. Township governments can survive with small allocations from the federal government and internally generated taxes which should include property taxes. Township and functioning Local Government Area will accelerate development.

Constitutional amendment is also needed to empower the states, Local Government Area and Township governments to establish their own police force. Insecurity will remain a problem in Nigeria without state, local or Township police forces. Centralization of power including police force has not helped Nigeria. It has made Nigerians to depend on the federal government to solve all their problems. Saddle the Township, Local Government Areas and state government with power and responsibilities that will keep them preoccupied.

Education should be moved to the states. Federal government can establish minimum standard for the whole country so state government will know what is expected of them.

Proponent of restructure of Nigeria are advocating control of resources in their area. They are also suggesting that those states or regions should decide how much they will give to the federal government. The idea that regions or geopolitical zones should keep resources in their area is unrealistic and a fantasy. What will most states in Nigeria do if they cannot get federal allocation derived from petroleum resources. People who are advancing resource control idea should stop. Extra allocation to oil producing states and other mineral rich states in form of derivation is the correct and realistic way to compensate those states.

Solution to Nigeria ethnic problem is not insurmountable. It could be solved with a well-thought-out arrangement as outlined above to make all zone feel like they have a stake in the unity of Nigeria. The zone to go first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth must be clearly stated in the constitution so they will be certainty. All groups will know that it is a matter of time before the presidency come their way. The psychological impact of such hope will go a long way in calming people. The constitution could authorize this arrangement for 100 years. It could be reauthorized after 100 years through a referendum or allowed to expire if deemed unecessary. This arrangement may not be necessary after 100 years because democratic norms and ideals will be ingrained in Nigerians and will become an integral part of the country to the point that rotation may no longer be necessary. Nigeria cannot hold together if ethnic and marginalization issue is not addressed.

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