Cells of Nation builders as panacea to nationality question raised by Femi Fani-Kayode - Kelechi Jeff Eme

It never occurred to me that the Freedom Avenue (FA), a group I identify with on facebook was a cell of NATION BUILDERS in concept and practice until Mr. Remi Adeseun pointed that out to me in a comment on my piece titled, “Nigeria: Desecrated from Infancy and Bedridden at 52.” 
This consciousness sent a cold shiver down my entire metabolic system considering my long residence on the avenue. The lesson learnt from this discovery metamorphosed my appreciation of the perceived pedestrianism of the profiled plebian from laterality to complexity. 
I posit that most Nigerians have been enveloped by this scenario without an iota of clue on their transitional route to self-realization. How many of us in this exquisite hall can boldly declare our thorough allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and subject our nation building credentials to public scrutiny? 

A nation builder is simply a believer in the geographical entity called Nigeria in words and deed. He is that individual though an Igbo, Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Ijaw, Efik/Ibibio, among other tribes who will not pander to tribal sentiments that are laden with capacity to destroy the fabrics of the Federal Republic. The entrapment of an individual by ethnic and religious ethos are not necessarily an anathema in designing an egalitarian and united society bereft of nepotism, bigotry and corruption. In progressive societies founded by statesmen, these dual centrifugal forces are mutually soldered to enhance perpetual nationhood. In essence they transform to centripetal forces in practice since membership of a diverse country is functioned on the nativity of the individual from a kindred, hamlet, village, town, local government and a state which in reality are components of a tribe. 

Having established that identification with one’s ethnic nationality is not a wedge on the ability of the same individual to contribute in the building of his country, why then is Nigeria entrapped by ethnic and religious demagogues? In attempting to provide an answer to this, a revisit of our political development as a nation will probably collate our perspectives in a manner that will engender our full appreciation on where we are today. We need to note the following political milestones in our history which our political historians have failed to highlight: 

-The Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe though an Igbo man, was in absolute control of Lagos politics and parts of Yorubaland prior to 1951 carpet crossing that ensued on the floor of Western House in Ibadan. 

-The late Prof. Eyo Ita though a minority Efik/Ibiobio man, was made the leader of NCNC in Eastern Nigeria and became the first premier of the region. 

-The late Umaru Altine though a Hausa/Fulani, was the first elected Mayor of Enugu municipality in a contest with established indigenes of the city. 

The question then is where did we derail and dressed in this infamous garb we are now wearing? We cannot clearly address this without mentioning a few instances that probably transformed our minds from nationalists to bigots. These are: 

-The acquiescence of pre independence southern leaders under the prodding of the British colonial authorities to accept the condition of their northern counterparts to have at least 50% of legislative seats in a future Federal parliament prior to their joining the Federal Republic. 

-The infamous carpet crossing that took place in Western House in 1951 which denied the Azikiwe led NCNC and its alliance partners of the leadership of Western Nigeria. 

-The thoughtless removal of Prof. Eyo Ita as Premier of the Eastern region irrespective of his established anti party activities and the subsequent takeover by Azikiwe. 

These scenarios navigated us away from national politics and fast forwarded our transition to ethnic and inward looking politics. Our retrogression was not helped by the perceived policy of the colonial authorities to ensure our disunity which enabled their control of our resources. I must arguably state that the orientation to ethnic politics at the time was not apparently anchored on the need to appropriate undeserved resources from other federating regions of the country. It was more or less an identity and cultural consolidation exercise. 

The ultimate descent into abyss was the later deployment of tribal and religious supremacy as tool of appropriation of our commonwealth in total disregard of our historic revenue allocation formula. This firmly laid the foundation of corruption in our beloved country. National resources now became an instrument of patronage availed to unproductive and nation ruining characters all over the country. A glance at our self-inflicted revenue allocation mess will succinctly open our eyes to the damage greed and bigotry has subjected our country to. The below excerpt on history of revenue allocation by Mobolaji Aluko will serve as a guide: 

-Phillipson Report of 1946: Largely by derivation, resulting in Northern Region- 46% Western Region – 30% and Eastern Region- 24% 

-Hicks-Phillipson Report of 1951: By derivation (for taxes that can be regionally identified), need (eg by population) and national interest. 

-Chick Commission of 1953: Regions - 50% on general import duty on derivation basis; Regions: - 50% of import and excise duty on tobacco based on derivation; Regions: - 100% of the import duty on motor spirit -100% of the mining rent and royalty should go to the regions, Regions: 50%-50% share basis on export duty on hides and skins. 

-Raisman Commission of 1958: Sales produce and motor vehicle tax - 100% From DPA: 50% of mining rent and royalty returned to region of derivation From DPA: 30% of mining rent and royalty to all other regions. 

-Binns Commission of 1964: proceeds of the excise duty imposed on locally produced motor spirit and diesel oil, the revenue shall be paid to the regions based on their consumptions. 

-Federal Military Decree 15 of 1967: DPA divided equally among 6 Northern states; by population among Southern states. 

-Dina CommissionDina Commission of 1969 (rejected): Offshore operations revenues shared: Federal Government, 60%; SJA, 30%; and SGA, 10%. Onshore Royalties shared: Federal Government, 15%; State of derivation, 10%; SJA, 70% and SGA, 5%. Revenue from Excise Duty shared: Federal Government, 60%; SJA, 30%; and SGA, 10% Revenue from Import Duty shared: Federal Government, 50% and SJA, 50%. Revenue from Export Duty shared: Federal Government, 15%; State of Derivation, 10%; SJA, 70%; and SGA, 5%. 

-Federal Military Decree 6 of 1975: DPA be divided among the states on the following basis: 50% based on equality of states- 50% based on population.
(DPA-Distributable Pool Account, SJA-States Joint Account, SGA-Special Grants Account). 

The Aboyade Commission of 1977 consolidated 57% of national revenue for the Federal Government, 30% for states, 10% for local governments and 3% for special funds. Note however that the 30% allocation to states was shared based on the military decree of 1975. 

We can deduce that beyond the civil war of 1967-1970, the greatest threat to our nationhood has been the recklessness of nation wreckers who presided over the affairs of Nigeria between 1967 and 1979. Granted that succeeding regimes have made corruption a national religion, the foundation stone of this national shame was laid by the whimsical approach to governance by political leaders and technocrats of that era. The logic that money was needed to prosecute the civil war no longer suffices because the war ended forty Two years ago and nine years before the inauguration of the second republic. I am firmly entrenched in my view that had the Raisman Commission of 1958 and Binns Commission of 1964 been reverted to immediately after the civil war, Nigeria could have reached unprecedented heights in economic development today. There could have been peace, harmony and better political accountability beyond the prevailing sham that has made us the laughing stock of the international community. The antonym of a nation wrecker is a nation builder and it is within this context that we must situate our individual and group actions towards the existence of Nigeria. 

Having identified tribal and religious bigotry on one hand and structural imbalance that manifested in the deprivation of sections of the country of their entitled revenues as militating against our march to greatness, a NATION BUILDER must seek for ways of working with Nigerians of like minds to permanently move the country away from the malaise. It is based on this appreciation that it has become extremely imperative to institute “Cells of Nation Builders” all over the country. Apart from having men and women that are willing to adjust their ethnic and religious orientations to key into core national development, the cells should embrace but not restricted to citizens with the following beliefs and understanding: 

-That tribe and religion are only relevant in national development when they are in tandem with national aspirations. 

-That the structural imbalances with regards to revenue allocation must be addressed in a manner as demonstrated in the Raisman and Binns Commissions. 

-That the corporate existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity must be cherished and sustained. 

-As a prelude to the reversion to the Raisman and Binns Commissions model of revenue allocation, the federating states of the federal republic shall be compelled to sign an article of perpetual union as in the case of membership of the United States of America. 

-That the local government administration is thoroughly defined in a manner that will advance its delivery of governance to the ordinary citizen. In this regard, a return to pre 1967 structure in which local authorities are strictly funded and administered through the instrumentality of the regional governments. This shall go a long way in bringing governance closer to the people than the quasi arrangement we have presently. 

-That the abolition of the divisive state of origin in determining the bona fide citizenship of a geographical area shall be a nationhood solidifier. 

-That adherence to due process and respect for statutory institutions is supreme in engendering the changes we desire. 

-That notwithstanding the imperfections of our present democratic development, Nigerians must be encouraged to take the positives and use same as a spring board to attain the zenith of positive democratic governance. 

The above are suggested criteria that will help in identifying potential nation builders. We must ensure flexibility in encouraging the creation of these cells since a citizen could be uncomfortable with section(s) of the recommended criteria. A proper engagement aimed at educating a potential nation builder to accept agreed defined norms will go a long way in achieving result. We must understand that people must not accept a concept in its totality prior to signing on to it. 

The greatest danger to our quest for a united, indivisible and progressive country is the dominance of pseudo nationalists in our national discourse. They have hijacked the airwaves, the print media and recruited a strong army of social media tigers to propagate a poisonous solution to our myriad of problems. These individuals are custodians of the negative ethnic and religious orientations that have rendered our country prostrate. They are presently garbed in a deceptive apparel of restructuring the country along obtuse and illogical lines. Majority of them have found solace in the agitation for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) thereby polluting the noble intentions of eminent and selfless Nigerians who desired a restructured country that is hinged on equity and justice.

Majority of the “born again” agitators of the SNC are politicians of dubious pedigree who are simply seeking for a cheap access to relevance in order to partake in the consumption of the peoples’ cake. These are anarchists who have failed to answer basic questions such as: 

-How do we vacate the sovereignty the “people” handed over to the president and the National Assembly during the last elections? 

-If the National Assembly is expected to enact the enabling laws that will set up the SNC, how logical is it to expect the members to legislate themselves out of jobs and relevance? 

-Who shall constitute the SNC when congregated? 

-How will the congregants be elected? 

-Based on our history of flawed national elections, what is the guarantee that such election will not go the way of previously held elections? 

It is in this context that the establishment of “Cells of Nation Builders” becomes extremely important in countering the propaganda of those who want to pull us apart for nepotistic and bigoted reasons. We must take leading roles in this onerous task and point the way forward for docile individuals with same positive attitude and aspiration to be awakened to join the glorious mission. We must essentially be conscious that we have different political leanings and must endeavor that such will not be a clog in the progressive wheel to liberate our nation. Partisanship is not a negative virtue to the extent that it is geared towards achieving national cohesion and development. The level of tolerance we exhibit in our different cells will dovetail into national understanding when collated. 

It is my hope that we shall commence the establishment of nation building cells on zonal, state and local government basis to help in the consolidation of our democracy, financial accountability, indivisibility, religious tolerance, tribal tolerance and political accountability. 

I therefore declare conclusively that the problem of Nigeria is bad leadership which trickled down to corrupt the masses. We must note that the citizens have been pauperized to the point of extinction. The ordinary Nigerian will work hard in a level playing field when it is availed to him. Get the leadership right, and the people shall joyfully align themselves with positive national development. 

Kelechi Jeff Eme
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