One of the most fundamental reasons for Nigeria’s failure is the opportunism of the leadership who most often put their personal interest above the common good. This phenomenon has been evident from the 1st republic when some national and regional leaders were so intent on furthering their personal and sometimes regional interests that they were willing to incite carpet crossing, rig census results, rig elections, arm thugs and unleash violence on the citizenry without minding the short and long term implications of their actions. When lawlessness, election rigging and violence led to a coup and pushed the nation to the brink of war; again opportunism and self interest pushed some of the regional and national leaders to opt for an unnecessary war that could easily have been avoided without reflecting on the future implications of such needless conflict.
Nigeria has since remained in dire straits as a direct consequence of the shenanigans that truncated the first republic and the avoidable war it occasioned, particularly the unresolved and worsening contradictions that led to the conflict. In light of this reality; President Goodluck Jonathan bowed to a longstanding pressure to convene a sovereign national conference (SNC) which is anticipated to be an opportunity to hold exhaustive dialogue among Nigeria’s various ethnic nations in view of seeking permanent solutions to the issues of nationhood, true federalism and self determination. But yet again, crass opportunism by the likes of Chief Bola Tinubu who having gone into a political alliance with the conservative North, whose unhidden interests lie in maintaining the status quo and all its inherent injustices is now doing everything to sabotage the SNC in the calculation/hope that his alliance with and support for the North will escalate him to power.
In choosing to take sides with the conservative North and their intent to maintain a status quo that has engendered misrule, ethno-religious conflicts, apartheid/marginalisation, corruption, tribal domination and all facets of social injustice, Bola Tinubu like the erstwhile selfish leadership is not thinking of the common good, nor the implication his actions would have for the nation’s future. He is thinking only of himself and how his self interest will be served by scuttling the genuine aspirations of the people for dialogue. What is most surprising is how Bola Tinubu himself has found it convenient to change his principles and political direction to suit his self interest. This is after all the same Bola Tinubu who twenty years ago, following the cancellation of the June 12 1993 elections practically became a militant. He was amongst the founders of the NADECO pro-democracy movement that campaigned ceaselessly for the validation of the June 12 elections and for convening a sovereign national conference.
When the heat of General Sanni Abacha’s clampdown on the opposition became too much, Bola Tinubu went on exile where he continued his advocacy both for the validation of the June 12 elections and for hosting a sovereign national conference. Indeed, Bola Tinubu was one of the pioneers of the campaign for an SNC and until recently one of its most vocal advocates. Even after the return to democracy and his emergence as a governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu remained for all intents and purposes a militant, thus when in 2003 the national assembly bandied the idea of impeaching the then president Olusegun Obasanjo, Tinubu threatened that the Southwest would secede from Nigeria if Obasanjo was impeached. The question that many must ponder is; why has a man who militated against Nigeria’s ethnic contradictions and injustices now turned around to back the status quo? Why has a man who was one of the earliest advocates of a sovereign national conference now turned against it?
What if anything has changed in Nigeria? Has the fundamental character of the North and their hegemonic penchant to internally colonise and oppress others under their “born to rule mantra changed”? Has Nigeria become a harmonious nation free of prejudice, conflicts and hate? Has the North learnt the importance of nation building and to treat other Nigerians as equals in a federation premised on mutual consent, justice, respect and progress? Have the various ethnic nations so described as Nigerians in any forum free of coercion decided to mutually consent to being Nigerians under a negotiated arrangement that will guarantee harmony, peace and progress? Has the killings and intolerance of other ethno-religious groups which has been a permanent fixture of the North since 1945 ended? Has the blatant segregation of Northerners from Southerners in the North and South (Sabon gari in the north and Hausa quaters in the south) as organised by Northerners who loath mixing with southerners ended? Can a so called Nigerian live in other parts of the country different from his ethnic origin and feel free or be part of that community?
Since none of these fundamental questions can be answered in the affirmative, it is obvious that Bola Tinubu’s decision to align with the status quo he once maligned and rejected is driven by calculated self interest and not any change in circumstances. Nothing has changed from when he became a NADECO militant and advocate of SNC. If anything, Nigeria’s ethno-religious contradictions have gotten worse with ethnic militias such as OPC, MASSOB, MEND and Boko Haram terrorists holding the nation hostage. The decision by Tinubu to sabotage the SNC for personal gain is eerily reminiscent of the Nigeria-Biafra war and the opportunistic politics played by some leaders particularly in the South who felt they had a lot to gain from the demise of the East, the end of the war proved them wrong as the North in the aftermath of the war created a Nigeria that practically became the “federal republic of the North” in which they were absolutely dominant while the rest of the country were consigned to 2nd class citizenry.
A culmination of such post war Northern excesses led to the brazen cancellation of the June 12 elections and the unconscionable slaying of Chief MKO Abiola which turned Bola Tinubu into a militant. Nothing in the character of the North has changed from the past. By sabotaging the SNC, Bola Tinubu will only help the North maintain the lopsided status quo that helped them foster internal colonialism, injustice and oppression into the future. The North is not interested in a restructured Nigeria that will bring equity, justice, fair-play and prosperity; they simply prefer to maintain the status quo that gives them undue leverage at the expense of others. Once they succeed in scuttling the SNC, their excesses in no time will be unleashed all over again. It happened after the Nigeria-Biafra war and it will happen again. Bola Tinubu should be wise enough to realise that the North will only use him to achieve their aim and dump him afterwards. History books are there to testify to such scenarios in the past. His motivation and decision should at all times be driven by the common good rather than short term parochial interests.
The nation has suffered incalculably from the personal choices and opportunism of some of the 1st republic civilian and military leaders who put their self/regional interest above the common good. We need not travel through that tragic route again. Nigeria needs the SNC to finally determine her future to live in harmony or separate in peace. This is a duty that we owe the next generation. Dialogue is the best way to bring peace and progress and Nigeria urgently needs it. Anyone who acts against the SNC is a selfish sell out and an ultimate enemy of the people. Bola Tinubu should not be that person.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu