AVERTING THE APPROACHING GALES
By Professor Sola Adeyeye
Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
I stand before you today fully cognizant, as are many of you in this audience, that these days are not the best for Nigeria. At the risk of being called prophets of doom, we really have no choice than to admit that our country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lies in the paths of sundry tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, storms, superstorms, whirlwinds, and typhoons all of which are rushing towards our Republic with deadly speeds and their concomitant devastating momentum.
We all know that humans cannot perfectly predict what the future holds. But they can examine, assess and calibrate past and present events so as to reasonably forecast events of the future, thereby preparing against and averting preventable disasters and crisis. In particular, patriots are duty-bound to seek and say the truth about their country even if doing so results in being perceived, rightly or wrongly, either as the apostles of hope or as the harbingers of doom.
Fortunately as well as unfortunately for Nigerians, we no longer need to predict the approach of any gales for our republic. The gales of doom have not only approached our doors, they gustily and ferociously bang on them!
In any case, were we to be totally oblivious to these gales, we got good help over twelve years ago, when American Intelligence apparatchiks predicted that Nigeria would disintegrate before or not too long after 2015. Within Nigeria, the responses to that prediction were largely knee-jerk reactions as if Nigeria was about to become the first country in the world to disintegrate along ethnic and sectarian fissures. Never mind that in the two decades preceding that prediction by the CIA, numerous countries of the world had failed, crumbled and disintegrated under the crushing weight of their own internal contradictions!
Croatia which just gave a superlative performance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia did not participate in the 1994 World Cup hosted in the USA where Nigeria dazzled the world and came extremely close to beating Argentina and the mesmerizing Diego Maradona. Croatia could not have been at the 1994 World Cup or the preceding one-1990 in Italy simply because the Republic of Croatia was not in existence until 1991 when it emerged from Yugoslavia. Other countries that were formed from the breakup of Yugoslavia include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia. Likewise, Russia, the home team at this year’s World Cup, appeared in the World Cup for the first time in 1994 because the Russia we know today emerged after Russia, Belarus and Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union after the Belavezha Accords of December 1991.
Decades earlier, in 1937 to be precise, Burma (now called Myanmar) was separated from British India. Eleven years later (1948), Ceylon now called Sri Lanka became independent of British India. Of course, Pakistan was separated from India in 1947, while Eastern Pakistan broke away from Pakistan in 1971 to give rise to Bangladesh. In other words, during the lifetime of the oldest members of this audience, a sequential breakup of India had occurred yielding five sovereign countries all of which have taken their rightful seats as chartered members of the United Nations, namely: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Much earlier in Western Europe, the Sweden-Norway union broke in 1814 from the long-lasting (for 293 years from 1523 to 1814) Kalmar Union in Scandinavia that included Denmark. Ninety-one years later, the Sweden-Norway Union separated in 1905 into Sweden and Norway.
In briefly reminding us about the breakup of what were four countries (Yugoslavia, the USSR, India and the Scandinavian Kalmar Union) into what are 26 sovereign countries of our contemporary world, my point is not to glamorize the disintegration of sovereign countries as if disintegration is a never-failing solution to the conflicts that are all too common in the political enterprises of multi-ethnic and multi-national countries.
Rather, I have refreshed our minds with empirical case notes that robustly countermand and debunk the fallacy that the disintegration of countries, is intrinsically pernicious and innately injurious. On the contrary, for example, rather than remaining together in a commonwealth of internecine conflicts and obligate mutual destruction, India and Pakistan have been far better off by parting ways into separate republics, each choosing its own substantially different courses of national actualization and development. Let us do a cursory comparison of the paths that India and Pakistan took.
First, Pakistan was the first country in modern era to be formed on the basis of religion. No wonder, that at its Independence, the official name of Pakistan was constitutionally proclaimed as Islamic Republic of Pakistan. India, despite its overwhelmingly Hindu population remained a secular state.
Second, two years after Independence, India announced a fifteen year transition in its official language from English to Hindi. Because Hindi is not the mother tongue in the southern states of India, the attempt to impose it as the only official language was fiercely resisted in the southern states. Consequently, amendments were made in favor of continuing English as the official language.
By contrast, English remained the official language of Pakistan but in 1973 Pakistan adopted Urdu as its national language. It is noteworthy that whereas 46% of Pakistanis speak Punjab as its first language, only 8% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as their first language.
Third, one very substantial difference in the post-independence history of India versus Pakistan is the fact that beginning from 1958, Pakistan has had several coup d’etat resulting in decades of military rule. By contrast, India has always been ruled by democratically elected Governments. This is not to say that democratic rule in India has always been smooth and peaceful. Political assassinations were relatively common experience in India. Examples of assassinated Indian leaders include Mahatma Ghandi, Indira Ghandi, Rajiv Ghandi, and Phoolan Devi. Even their women were not exempted from being assassinated. But unlike what have occurred in many parts of the world, the assassination of political leaders in India has never resulted in military rule.
Despite the divergent paths taken by India and Pakistan, they are today very powerful countries; both are nuclear powers. India tested its first nuclear explosion in 1974 by which time Ali Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, announced that Pakistan would be a nuclear power in 1976. You might recall that on May 27, 1998, India tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile. But guess what? While the world was still musing and rumbling about the global significance of India as a nuclear power, Pakistan tested its own intercontinental ballistic missile the very next day after the Indian test!
Furthermore, the stupendous leaps in progress by India and Pakistan have not been limited to military technology and hardware; both countries have made tremendous progress in other spheres such as education, agriculture, transportation and health care delivery. It is an irony of history that although this lecture is being delivered on the campus of what was once ranked as the fourth best hospital in the British Commonwealth, Nigerians now embark on regular medical trips to India. Despite its stepwise dismemberment into many smaller countries, what remains as contemporary India has marched forward. By contrast, our so-called “united” Nigeria steadily marches in relative retrogression. Our own republic is like the proverbial chicken that precariously dangles on a rope; neither the chicken nor the rope is at rest!
History has shown that whether the disintegration of a country results in beneficial or harmful outcomes depends largely on the process and mechanisms that lead to disintegration. For example, whereas the disintegration that yielded Denmark, Sweden and Norway was largely peaceful and mutually negotiated, the world is replete with tragic examples of how the disintegration of a country led to prolonged wars with the attendant calamities. Think of Sudan and South Sudan. Also think of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
For example, splitting Vietnam in 1954 into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, each backed by external foreign interests engendered a harrowing vortex of hostilities, war and widespread destruction that lasted 21 years. The tragic consequences of the Vietnam war extended far beyond the boundaries of that southeastern Asian country. Likewise, the split of Korea into North Korea and South Korea, degenerated into proxy wars between the two superpowers of the time (the USA and the USSR), with China also intervening at some point.
We all are living witnesses that more than 60 years after the split of Korea and the ensuing war, the Korea peninsula has remained a flashpoint of the world where scepters of war perennially dangle as eerie reminders of possible nuclear holocaust. We need not inundate you with the list of numerous separatist wars in parts of China, Burma, Iraq, Sudan and Ethiopia all of which yielded enormous casualties. Some of these wars continue as we speak having already lasted more than five decades.
As for Nigeria, if the truth be told, our republic creaks and moans from the battering gales that precariously dangle us on the precipice of disintegration. The American prediction has not come true. But we would be suffering from delusion-induced astigmatism, cataracts, myopia, glaucoma and macula degeneration if we fail to see that it is not too late for the prediction to be fulfilled.
Problems are not solved by denying that they exist. Even so, what is most important is not our recognition that Nigeria is buffeted by ferocious problems. Rather, it is our willingness to stem and avert these gales and their centrifugal forces that perennially jolt and weaken the threads holding the seams of Nigeria.
For a start, perhaps we should first convince ourselves that keeping Nigeria from disintegration is a worthwhile goal.
Look at our contemporary world. The continent of North America comprises twenty three countries plus nine dependent territories none of which is land locked. The continent of South America comprises 14 countries, of which only two (Bolivia and Paraguay) are land locked. In fact, Bolivia became landlocked only after losing its eastern border to Chile during the Pacific war of 1879-1883. The continent of Asia comprises 44 countries of which only 12 (27%) are land locked. The continent of Europe has 50 countries out of which 17 (34%) are land locked. Four of the landlocked European countries (i.e., Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Switzerland) participate in the European Common Market thus minimizing the disadvantages of being landlocked. In effect, only 13 European countries (26%) suffer the consequences of their lack of access to the sea. The smallest continent, Oceania, comprises 14 countries none of which is landlocked. The continent of Africa has 54 countries, of which 16 (30%) are landlocked. Because the two Island countries in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius and Seychelles) plus the (five) North African countries are not landlocked, it means that all the landlocked countries of Africa are in Sub-Sahara Africa. This means that 34% of Sub-Saharan Africa is landlocked. Why should we care?
It turns out that the cost of transportation in any country is directly correlated with whether the country is landlocked or not. Specifically, transportation costs in landlocked countries are 50% higher than in countries that are not landlocked. As such, being landlocked retards international trades because of the time spent at the ports of their maritime neighbors plus having to transport goods through their territories. Sundry tariffs and bribes are paid during trans-border freighting of goods to and from landlocked countries.
It is noteworthy that some of the states that constitute the USA are economically so strong that they can exist very comfortably as sovereign countries were they to separate from the union of the American Republic. If the State of California were an independent country, it would be the 6th largest economy of the world. Likewise, if Texas were an independent country, it would be the 8th richest economy of the world. Mississippi with a GDP per capita of over $32,000 is the poorest state in the USA. However, Mississippi is significantly richer than Chile and Brazil that have GDP per capital of $15,000 and $11,000 respectively. I chose to compare Mississippi with these two countries because one of them (Brazil) is the largest in South America while the other (Chile) is the richest on the basis of GDP per capital.
If we were to consider territorial size, only Niger, Mali and Nigeria are geographically bigger than Texas among the fifteen nations that constitute ECOWAS. Matter of fact, Texas is geographically more than double the size of each of the remaining 12 members of ECOWAS. As if its technological, economic and geographical advantages were not enough, the USA went to great lengths to ensure NAFTA- the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico with the clear purpose of fostering a trade bloc with advantages similar to those that are enjoyed by the industrial giants of the European Union and its unified market.
Alas, unlike North America, Africa is fragmented into disparate geopolitical entities that are buffeted by the vagaries of nature and the environment. Because of the abundance of its natural resources, Nigeria is one country that should have long emerged as the true giant of Africa. If only it were prudently administered! The Republic of Nigeria should have been so prosperous that every country from Cameroon to Senegal pleads to be amalgamated with it. Yes, the potential of Nigeria is so enormous that everything should be done to avert the disintegration of Nigeria. However, if Nigerians are not willing to do all that ought to be done to prevent disintegration, then we should summon the honesty, commonsense and enlightened self-interest to meet around a well-furnished mahogany table to negotiate the conditions and terms for the peaceful dissolution of Nigeria. Rather than keep transmuting the promises of Nigeria into nightmares and horrors, let a Boris Yeltsin arise and break up our “burdensome” Republic into as many as
are peacefully negotiated.
Although I am an incorrigible believer in the unity of Nigeria, I have taken extensive time to discuss the pros and cons of Nigerian unity so as to debunk the oft-repeated fallacy that Nigerian Unity is non-negotiable. Those who tout this arrant superstition do so because of their mistaken ideology that the greatest purpose of nationhood is unity.
The truth, of course, is that whenever being “united” becomes inimical to the peace and progress of a country, its citizens should summon the wisdom and courage to peacefully disunite. The Unity of any country must never be an end unto itself. Rather, it should be a tool for strength through dynamic synergism, peace through necessary accommodations and progress through voluntary cooperation. In a multi-national enterprise such as the Nigerian Republic, unity must not be canonized as an end unto itself. Rather, it is a means to an end.
Therefore, for us to properly contemplate and solve Nigeria’s seemingly intractable problems, we must first overcome the Gale of False Assumptions about National Unity.
In this regard, let us consider one immutable and inexorable principle that unifies life. I am referring here to the very strict relationship between structure and function such that function is dependent on and dictated by structure. At all levels of biological existence, from the sub-cellular levels of macromolecules and their atomic components through increasing complexities of cells, tissues, organs, organ-systems, individual organisms, populations, communities and ultimately ecosystems, a deviation from proper structure results in the perturbations and defects of function.