Who Owns This Country?
By Ezugwu Benson Whyte
"The multitude which is not brought to act as a unity, is confusion. But unity which has not its origin in multitude is tyranny." ---Blaise Pascal.
Prior to the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorate in 1914 which gave birth to the modern Nigeria, the different nations and kingdoms were existing in their different ways according to the culture and traditions of the people. The Hausa, Igbo, Benin, Yoruba and other ancient people have their mode of selecting who leads them.
When the colonialists succeeded in bringing together the different tribes into one nation they first attempted to foist their own constitution to the country. Unfortunately this did not go down well with the leaders of that time who resisted such imposition albeit through constitutional means. The British imperialists continued changing the constitution based on the resentment of the people until 1960 when the country was finally granted independence and subsequently in 1963, it became a republic.
However, even though there was no serious functional democratic institution at the time, one striking feature then was the method leaders of the time employed which made them the true and adored leaders of the people. Such Leaders as Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello (Saduana of Sokoto), and others always resort to consulting their people whenever they set to meet with the imperialists on issues of governance. They never took unilateral decisions without the input of their people. Infact history has it that whenever discussions got to a head members of the parliament from a particular region would rise enmass and return to their region to consult their people before taking a position on such matter. Such was the unity of purpose exhibited by the nationalists of that time which made the British respect them and their views and which culminated into granting of independence to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, when the first military insurrection in Nigeria occurred in 1965, it was as if a new and different country with different leaders emerged. Leaders who feel the survival of the country and her people are in their hands. Leaders who need no input or contribution of anyone to move the country forward. After the failure of the Nzogwu revolution, representative governance failed in Nigeria. When General J T. U. Aguiyi-ironsi was murdered some Soldiers from the barracks decided to divide the country among themselves, struggling for who and which tribe would control the apparatus of government. That led to the 30-months fratricidal war that almost tored the country into shreds.
After the declaration of no victor, no vanquished, the government of Nigeria fell in the hands of friends and cronies. Since then the neo-colonialists have refused to give a breathing space to the emergence of true representative government. When Murtala died, Obasanjo was selected to head the government. In 1979, he handed over to Shehu Shagari in what political pundits have described as ¡arrangee¢ handover. It was alleged that Obasanjo handed over to Shagari in order to appease the northern oligarchy. When Buhari ousted Shagari in 1983, it was not long before Babangida came up with friends to outstage Buhari. In 1993, Nigerians demonstrated for the first time that they were tired of the system and voted massively for late MKO Abiola during the general election. During the 1993, general elections, Nigerians reacted as never before. It was a clarion call and every Nigerian, the young and the old, black and blue, red and white answered the call. From Sokoto to Lagos, to Port Harcourt and to Maiduguri the queue was endless. People voted with cheers and optimism with the hope that we were returning to representative democracy. They craved for a change in the status quo. They needed a respite. Unfortunately, their hopes and aspirations were dashed yet again by another arranged system. Although IBB, has all these years refused to open up, those who have spoken on his behalf have attributed the misery inflicted on Nigerians to some cabals who were bent on continuing the government of the few and the few by the few.
We have been told that it was in the interest of the country and Abiola himself that the election was annulled. Well, they no better but if what they tell us was the truth it then boils down to the fact that few friends could just wake up and throw overboard the wishes of millions of Nigerians claiming to be protecting our interest when in actual fact they were protecting their own selfish interests. They arranged to install Shonekan in order to placate the Yoruba nation. At the end Shonekan was asked to return the power back to the owners which he did fearing the barrel of the gun.
In 1999, when the country attempted a return to true representative government, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. But their hope was short-lived as the same cabals met again and resolved to continue their recycling representation rather than democratic representation which the people were itching for. Several meetings were held in Abeokuta, Lagos, Abuja and finally at Hill station Hotel Jos, by these friends and cronies where they selected who would rule us. One thing going for this tiny few is the enormous wealth at their disposal, which often left the impoverished masses and the middle class falling over themselves. And so at the end they had their way. As soon as the democratic government was instituted, it did not take long before Nigerians began to notice that it was ¡the hand of Esaw and the Voice of Jacob.¢¢
During the first four years of the immediate past administration, Nigerians were most eager to vote that government out of power, owing to the fact that it was a direct opposite of the type of democracy that the people yearned for. But the people were not allowed to freely exercise their franchise. The government used state apparatus to suppress the voters and returned itself to power. Even among themselves there were serious frictions, arising from sharing of national wealth. During the last administration we were witnesses to bitter rivalry between two good friends President Obasanjo and his Vice Atiku Abubakar, which almost stalled government activities.
The two leaders and long time allies portrayed Nigeria in bad light not only as a highly corrupt country but a country that lacks conscientious leaders. The former vice president was haunted even to far away United States where his house was searched. The accusations by the two former leaders over the handling of the PDTF funds prompted the senate to set up a probe panel where the two washed their dirty linen in public in apparent disregard of their exalted offices. The quarrel led to Atiku boycotting his official residence and state functions three months before the expiration of their tenure. Atiku also left the Peoples Democratic Party where he was a founding member along with other founding members, to form the Action Congress. By so doing Obasanjo made sure the former vice president lost in the general election after failing to bare him from contesting the presidential election.
With Atiku out of the way the PDP, presidential candidacy was thrown open. Several party members were thrown up to carry the party¢s flag. Many former governors campaigned vigorously crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country. But at the last count the same friends met again and decided on who would become the president and behold they had their way as usual. At the end of the 2007 presidential election Atiku was left to rue his misfortune. Reports say before joining Obasanjo had been promised to take over when Baba leaves. Atiku is an ally of the ruling oligarchy in the country. Since he left the Nigeria Customs Service, and joined the Shehu Yar¢Adua¢s Peoples Democratic Movement where he rose to the second in command, in the early 90s he has been a member of the ruling class. He knew what happened both in 1999, 2003 and obviously knew in 2007 that he was fighting a lost battle. He knew how powerful they are and quite frankly he knew he could not outwit them. But he kept fighting, probably to deceive Nigerians into believing that he is a democrat. We the common masses knew Atiku was not on our side. He was not fighting for us. He belongs to the bourgeoisie class and has no tribal mark of poverty like the rest of us.
After the ex-vice president lost his battle to nullify the presidency of Umar Musa Yar¢Adua who, incidentally was his candidate in 1999, and who was a member of the PDM, which was bequeathed to Atiku at the demise of Umar¢s elder brother, Shehu, Atiku retreated. And like Alhaji Maitama Sule, did say ¡that Harlots are more stable than Nigerian Politicians¢, he paid a controversial visit to Obasanjo at his Otta farm. Although some people have claimed to have arranged such visit, I think the truth is that Atiku needs power to complement his stupendous wealth. And he knows that it is only by reconciling with the perceived owners of power in the country that he can get that power. He has tried fighting them by falsely using the people as a shield but discovered that we, the people does not have power to make him president, even the courts to whom he thought could help him were helpless.
And here lies the crux of the matter. It appears that this country is destined in the hands of a few who have lived to dictate who rules this country. What these people should understand is that the only thing that does not change in this terrestrial earth is change. They should take a queue from the just concluded election in US and the emergence of the first black president in the history of America. This country belongs to all of us and time is coming when the people will stand to ask; Who owns this country.
Ezugwu Benson Whyte, is the Coordinator Movement Against Second Slavery