By Yinka Odumakin
THE lust for power seems to be bringing out a stupefying unreasonableness in some of our compatriots that is sure to become a source of disequilibrium for the fragile polity.
This seems to confirm the aphorism that history repeats itself twice, first as a tragedy and the next time as a farce. It is already knocking at our political door.
Since the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, in 2015 suddenly became a merit campaigner for 2023 post-eight years of Northern hold on power, there has been a flurry of voices from Arewa on the continuity of that trajectory after the second tenure of the current President.
Let me state that this debate would not have been necessary but for the iniquitous unitary structure of Nigeria which makes the President of the country the most powerful leader in any constitutional arrangement around the world today.
In the years when Nigeria had a federal structure and all sections of the country were allowed to develop at their pace, the foremost political leader from the North of Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello considered it infradig to be prime minister of Nigeria. He stayed in Kaduna to be premier, while dispatching his lieutenant, Sir Tafawa Balewa, to preside over the centre in Lagos.
It is the over-centralisation of power at the centre that has made it the point of command-and-control, conquest politics and holding down of the best for the rest that has been the source of the internecine battle for the suffocating control of the centre.
Voices of reason have argued over the years that we should renegotiate the country so as to fast-track development and lower tension; but greed and avarice have made some of our compatriots to stone-wall that in a dumb belief that the present arrangement is sustainable.
They refused to accept the fact that a constitution that refuses to bend is bound to break at some point. Which is why the bellicosity that is coming from up North over 2023 at this point in history is so appalling as it suggests a deliberate attempt to cremate Nigeria in the ubiquitous desire to lord things over the rest of the country.
Any watcher of history can easily see that events that led to the civil war in Nigeria in 1967 were not as terrible as what we have today. But we are seeing again the kind of impunity of that era in the present dispensation orchestrated by those who would not allow us to revisit our memorandum and article of association. They are only interested in carrying on as things are without caring a hoot that the patience of those at the receiving end is getting worn out.
The reproduced correspondences between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and PM Tafawa Balewa in 1962 are symptomatic of reconstructive minds and destructive ones:
*September 24, 1962
My dear Sir Abubakar,
I shall be grateful if you will be good enough to give me an appointment at your earliest convenience.
When you and I met twice in August, we both agreed that ways and means must be devised to put an end to the existing tension. To your proposal, I made counter-proposals which you said you were going to consider. From reports, it would appear two of my three proposals did not appeal to you. All the same I was waiting to resume discussions with you on your return from the Commonwealth Conference.
Unfortunately, events have taken an ugly turn since your departure to UK. The then existing tension has been aggravated by the alleged discovery of arms and ammunition, and by the allegation of armed insurrection against the Federal Government.
I am deeply grieved at this turn of events, and at the fact that I am at all suspected (however, remotely) of having anything to do with it. As one of the architects of independent Nigeria, I am one with you and other leaders in our ardent desire to foster the liberty, property and happiness of our people. But the longer this tension exists, the greater the danger to the work of nation-building and of rearing a peaceful and harmonious society to which we have all set our hands.
If you grant me the interview I sought, I shall discuss with you the new proposals which I have in mind for easing the present tension and advancing the cause of Nigeria’s welfare and greatness.
With kind regards.
My dear Chief Awolowo,
I was sorry not to have replied earlier to your letter of the 24th.When we met twice in August, I thought both of us were sincerely thinking of finding ways and means to put an end to the tension in the country but I did not know that certain people were then seriously thinking of employing violence with the sole aim of disrupting what remains of the peace and happiness of our people. I am sorry, therefore, that I cannot grant to you the interview which you have requested.
With kind regards.
Yours sincerely ,
*September 30, 1962
My dear Sir Abubakar,
Thank you very much for your letter of September 28, 1962. I do not want to bother you with another letter from me, but there is one passage in your letter which calls for two observations. You said: “When we met twice in August, I thought both of us were sincerely thinking of finding ways and means to put an end to the tension in the country but I did not know that certain people were then seriously thinking of employing violence with the sole aim of disrupting what remains of the peace and happiness of our people”.
In the first place, I want to aver that I was sincere in the approaches and proposals which I made. You will remember that the meetings we had in August took place on my initiative. In the second place, it would appear, at any rate by implication arising from your refusal to grant me an interview, that you have lumped me with those who were “seriously thinking of employing violence with the sole aim of disrupting what remains of the peace and happiness of our people”.
If this inference of mind is correct, then I must strongly disclaim and deny any such charge or insinuation. Because, apart from the fact that violence can never be the means to permanent peace and tranquility anywhere, it has a way of doing outrage to the soul of those who employ it. May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the second anniversary of our country’s independence. I pray and hope that the coming year will bring to every Nigerian, no matter his vocation, political affiliation in life, true freedom and happiness.
With kindest regards.
*October 3, 1962
My dear Chief Awolowo,
I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of September 30, with thanks.
ABUBAKAR T. BALEWA
With the last response from Balewa, Awolowo took an immutable decision not to initiate any peace move again.
Events cascaded and Nigeria careened dangerously to the edge of the precipice till war broke out in 1967-70 and millions of lives perished.
The reason we should be careful at this stage of our national life is that a war at this point of our history will be decisive as the coalition that fought the last war has collapsed irretrievably.
We must, therefore, learn to step back and be more respectful to ourselves and adopt a trustful give-and-take to avoid any calamity.