A professor of jurisprudence and international law, Akin Oyebode, has said that unless the “forces of reaction and ethnocentricity are deemphasised”, Nigeria will not make progress in her efforts towards nationhood.
Mr. Oyebode was the guest speaker at the first year anniversary lecture of the Rotimi Akeredolu administration held in Akure, the Ondo State capital on Monday.
In his lecture, titled, Re-thinking the Nigerian Nation: Issues and Challenges, he noted that the situation in Nigeria seemed to have been complicated by a dearth of patriotic and insightful leaders, possessing a well thought-out strategic plan to change the nation for the better.
“The multiplicity of ethnic nationalities, numbering over 400, it must be conceded, makes the task of governance a forbidden one,” he submitted.
“Yet, ways need to be devised and necessary adjustments made to infuse the people with a sense of belonging and collective stake in Nigeria Incorporated.”
Mr. Oyebode, who traced the problems of Nigeria to the amalgamation of 1914, stated thst the “yoking together” of the various people inhabiting Nigeria had continued to pose serious challenges to all the groups making up the component, adding that the conglomeration is now “at war with itself in the quixotic and frenetic quest for nationhood.”
“Whereas there ought to have been strength in diversity, the removal of the scaffolding that held the people together during colonial rule merely accentuated fissiparous, centrifugal and dysfunctional tendencies which colonialism had generally masked,” he said.
“The militariat which had dismantled the federal arrangement of our founding fathers and foisted a quasi-unitary constitutional framework on the people ensured that Nigeria remained a work in progress so much so that the component units of our unique federation are compelled to go cap in hand to Abuja every month for their sustenance.
“The ‘feeding bottle’ federalism has effectively stunted Nigeria’s growth and development as the country nudges more and more toward perdition.”
He recommended that government seeking to move the country beyond its current woes must “blunt the rough edges of ethnic and religious idiosyncracies “ by putting in place policies based on equality of status and opportunity in furtherance of self-actualisation of every citizen.
“But what do we see toaday? Increasing emphasis is being placed on ethnic origin, native language and religious persuasions which is not only dysfunctional and counter-productive, but also seriously flawed and inimical to the corporate needs and interests of the country as well as national unity, social wellbeing and collective progress,” Mr. Oyebode said.
“Until and unless the forces of reaction and ethnocentricity are effectively combated, the country would continue to make progress only in a negative and reverse direction.”
The UNILAG professor recommended that to achieve development, players in the Nigerian political chessboard should deemphasise individual differences in the overall interest of the collective need and national progress.
“Undue emphasis on ethnicity and religion should be seen as an unnecessary and avoidable hindrance to achieving the utilitarian hopes and aspirations of our people,” he said.
He also recommended that as a way forward, credible protagonists who believe in the Nigerian project should be enlisted to be in the vanguard of the crusade for a rekindling of confidence in the Nigerian dream.
He also advocated moral “re-ornament to highlight the benefits of one nation and one people.”
Mr. Oyebode however, said in addressing the problem of leadership and good governance, the people must ensure that only the right people are brought to power.
In his remarks, the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said he was committed to the idea of a united Nigeria.
“Nigeria should stay together as one, as least, for my sake, because I am married to an Ibo lady, and if the country splits, which party would my children belong,” he said.
Mr. Akeredolu noted that the benefits of staying united as a country were far better and desirable than when it is split.
He also said the achievements of his government in the last one year had been enabled by God who had ensured a focused leadership in the interest of the people.