Nigeria’s 4th Republic @ 25: Context, Stakes and Promises of Nationhood

By Abdulwarees Solanke

Unfortunately, we have not often been very ingenious at cooperation, collaboration or even compromise in the Project Nigeria when it matters most to resolve our conflict or complexity of identity, break any deadlock in leadership choice or save the nation from bloodshed.
We indeed were almost at the precipice over resource distribution or control.

Rather, we have always been very competitive in the pursuit of our diverse ethnic, political and religious interests which make up our national fabric, when this diversity should have been harnessed to make the country enviable in the committee of nations.

After all,Nigeria is not the only heterogeneous country in the world as there are more diverse, complex and large nations who are successfully managing or negotiating their complexities to give their citizens better life, including sojourners that have naturalized or integrated in such countries.

The United States is a fine example of diversity management and promotion of socio-political pluralism in the world just as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Brazil, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia that are generally tolerant, even of foreigners to produce a multi-floral fabric of their nations in tongues, creed, class and culture of their citizens.

Through affirmative actions and policies, they have ingrained systems of distributive justice and equity that make diversity a blessing, inclusiveness a way of life and multiple cultural identities a virtue such that the questions of minority or marginalization in the public sphere are only discussed in how they are being successfully managed to be models for other problematic countries.

So, such diversity models become haven to our best sons and daughters, drained out of our land to nurture the culture and economies of other climes.

Using 1959 as the baseline or starting point of the interrogation of our national evolution or historical analysis of Nigeria, the questions that confront any discerning citizen and interested foreigners are as follows: Are we good students of history as stakeholders in the Nigerian polity? Are we sufficiently smart in the science of political cooperation, collaboration and compromise? Are our political engagements based on private interest or are they oriented towards national interest?

We may follow these questions with another set of questions: What values underpin or shape and who defines Nigeria’s national interest? How do we aggregate on a national culture built on integrity such that we recruit leaders purely on who best embodies the virtues or indices of merit, service experience and knowledge of Nigeria such that such leaders are nationalistic in all considerable parameters?

We cannot faithfully declare that we have outlived the context or circumstances of the emergence of the first set of rulers in Nigeria when at the general election of 1959, there was no clear winner, nor did it produce a national leader as each party was dominant in the own origin or ethnic base of its leaders, regardless of efforts at national penetration.

We had the Gamji-led Northern Peoples Congress sweeping polls in the North because of Sardauna, the Action Group was very active in the West because of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens led by the Great Zik of Africa, which pretended to be national in outlook, was being seen more as an Igbo party.

Without a clear majority, but with a requirement that the best performing of the political parties must form a government, NPC went into a tenuous coalition with NCNC, leaving AG in opposition.

The immediate post-independence Nigerian government was erected on a shaky structure or foundation and so soon in five years, it collapsed as the military struck in January 1966 to stop a political experimentation that was just in its fifth year. For the next 13 years that the military ruled, we cannot say they prepared the ground for the emergence of national leaders because those to whom they handed power in the second republic were old wine in new bottles and the pattern of voting in the general election of 1979 were the same players of the first republic who did not seem to unlearn the past.

Again, the military intervened just four years into the second republic. The third republic that was being crafted from 1990 became ill-fated in less than three years with the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election adjudged freest and fairest in the country giving the military enough time to paint the nation a dull and pejorative political identity of militocracy for the next six years.

From 1999 till now , the Nigeria polity is still fragile. We still think and talk as if election is war. We conduct ourselves in a manner that suggests that if my man is not in power, any other person in power does not and cannot represent my interest.

In over 63 years of nationhood, many still believe that Nigeria is failed project and that the solution to a national challenges is dissolution. But nations are not built on mutual distrust, antagonism, ethnic arrogance and pursuit of selfish interests. Nations are built on recognition of differences, altruistic management of diversity, inclusiveness, fairness and equity, distributive justice, protection of the disadvantaged, representation of the minorities and agreement and choice or leadership that best represents the collective aspiration of the nation.

These are the indices that must guide us always in our consideration for the Nigeria of our dream.

As Nigeria inches towards 25 years of the Fourth Republic. we must begin to think of the ideal national construction process and not dissolution. We must think of New Nationalism and begin the recognition of True Patriots and nation builders. We must prove that the 2023 general election was good laboratory of this patriotic and constructive conviction.

In its peaceful conduct and credible choice, the 2023 election was indeed confirmatory of our country as coming of age and our capacity to manage conflict.

As we wait to celebrate the auspiciousness of 25 years of our expetiment in sustainablr democracy without resort to blackmail, belligerence or bloodshed, we must disgrace cynics who see Nigeria as incapable of redeeming her political sociology and democrayic practices.

We must silence those who preach that politics is a do or die matter in Nigeria, a winner takes all context or a zero sum game but commit ourselves to sustaining the spirit to build a New Nigeria based on a shared vision and collective national interest, prospects and promises of greatness as we also pray for the peace, development and sustainability of the country.

Solanke is a Deputy Director/Head, Strategic Planning & Corporate Development Department, Voice of Nigeria.