The need for Nigeria to remain one country, despite agitations for self-determination by some aggrieved sections of the country, was once again on the front burner as Ekiti State governor, and chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi, on Thursday presented the 60th anniversary Distinguished Lecture of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, at the institute in Victoria Island, Lagos. Governor Fayemi, at the event chaired by one-time foreign affairs minister, and former chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, Bolaji Akinyemi, a professor, said Nigeria, Africa, and the world cannot afford to have “a fragmented Nigeria”. He therefore expressed urgent need for Nigeria to be restructured before it gets too late.
Speaking on the topic ‘Fixing Nigeria For a Better World’, Governor Fayemi noted that “The discontent and agitations currently being felt in parts of the country are symptomatic of structural challenges that can be discussed and amicably agreed upon when all constituent units of the federation discuss and agree on what the Nigeria of their dream means”.
He said the work of national rebirth that is called for must proceed on two important assumptions. “The first is that … the unity and territorial integrity of Nigeria will need to be upheld as an overarching framework for the reforms that need to be carried out or accelerated. Nigerians cannot afford to have a country broken into pieces just as Africa and the world cannot afford to have a fragmented Nigeria. No break-up ever occurs without being messy as the mess that will flow from a Nigeria that is broken into smaller bits is simply too horrendous for anyone of us to contemplate. The second assumption, which in my view, must under-guard our process of national rebound, centres on the imperative of anchoring the process on justice, on equity, and fair play in a manner that is inclusive and all-encompassing; into ethnic, into regional, into social, into gender, into religion; into the generational, and not to forget those living with disabilities”.
Fayemi insisted that “Partial, incoherent, piece-meal, and scattered efforts at reforms built on the foundation of injustice and inequity will buy time, but they will not provide the durable solution we need as to be able to say to ourselves and to the world in full confidence that we are back as one united, indivisible and strong country”.
Appraising the arguments by international scholars about whether Nigeria is a failed or failing State, Fayemi noted that “whether one agrees with this external judgments or not, and whether we arrive at consensus on the state of the nation or not, what is obvious is that if Nigeria is not relevant in the global context, the world will not be concerned about the health of the nation”. According to him, “Our response as a nation, in my humble opinion, should not be an engagement in superfluous arguments but to upgrade our country within the framework of the two assumptions I have outlined above”. He said some of the most immediate tasks that we needed to urgently address collectively included “the restructuring of the national political administrative system to allow for a greater degree of decentralized and devolved powers that can make for a more updated federal arrangement”.
He said “connected to this, is the most equally urgent task of updating the rules, policies, and institutions for the effective and equitable management of our diversity.