A few weeks ago, President Ibrahim Babangida proposed the “Doctrine of Nigeria’s Settled Issues” as the basis of our country’s unity. For him, the elements of this doctrine are: a republican constitution; states as federating units of Nigeria, and an enduring Nigerian capitalist economy.
Femi Fani-Kayode disagrees with the Babangida prescription from the standpoint of history. With the Boko Haram terrorism at the background of his discourse, he argues that ‘if Nigeria is not a place that every ethnic nationality and every religious faith is regarded being equal, and is treated as such, then let there be no more Nigeria…” Mr. Fani-Kayode’s final premise is “difference.” In other words, given that other multinational states such as India and Sudan have broken up, what is special about Nigeria?
To my mind, Mr. Babangida and Mr. Fani-Kayode’s positions are closer in ways that, ultimately, they indirectly give ammunition to terror organizations like Boko Haram. Thus, Mr. Babangida misses the point when he fails to acknowledge the place of ethics, and Nigerian citizenship, as part of what ought to be the fundamental elements in his “Doctrine of Nigeria’s Settled Issues”. Given that Mr. Babangida’s regime fundamentally inaugurated corruption and political assassination in Nigeria, his failure to embed ethics and morality into the foundation of the “Doctrine of Nigeria’s Settled Issues” is negatively instructive. The ethical failure of the Nigerian state in a historical sense has produced evil organizations such as Boko Haram, and Mr. Babangida’s regime is no stranger to the inauguration of that ethical failure.
On the other hand, though Mr. Fani-Kayode may not intend this, his position unwittingly legitimizes Boko Haram’s agenda of dissolution in a way that makes Fani-Kayode and Boko Haram uncomfortable bedfellows. He compounds the problem with an a-historical and a-moral draining of all ethical content from the veins of living history. In other words, countries implode precisely at the point when moral bonds are not the foundation of existence or when, if they are, made foundations, they are whimsically defied by ruling elites.
The question therefore is what constitutes the ethical foundation, which gives meaning to the “Doctrine of Nigeria’s Settled Issues?”. They are: the formal nature of law as a vehicle of values in Nigeria; and the primacy of Nigerian citizenship which ought to negate the notion of a so-called indigenship. Where the nature of law as a vehicle of values is made formal, the question will always be: what law is violated and not who is involved as we often ask in Nigeria. Where this happens, we are appealing topersons as the basis of our existence and not law and its process.
Thus, while IBB privileges federating states, Fani-Kayode alludes to ethnic and religious groups. Yet if we look into our history such frames did not help nip in the bud crisis such as the Ife-Modakeke crisis and others prior to the Boko Haram menace. At the core of such crisis is the question of: who is a citizen? When the primary unit is the “ethnic” and the “religious” subject and not the citizen, the inescapable outcome is infinite crisis.
In other words, both Mr. Babangida and Mr. Fanikayode fail to demonstrate that there are Nigerian citizens. If there were Nigerian citizens, hell would have let loose when Boko Haram asked so-called “southerners” to leave the so-called “North” a declaration which appears to be heeded. If there were Nigerian citizens, a Mr. Babangida would be able to campaign and be governor of Osun state if he lives and pays his tax in there, while Mr. Fani-Kayode would have been able to campaign and be governor of Niger state if he lives and pays his tax in Niger state.
I would be interested in knowing what these two gentlemen think of this proposition. If there are indeed Nigerian citizens, hell would have let loose when the Coordinating Council of Oodua Groups openly said they would attack “Northern” interest if Boko Haram attacks Wole Soyinka. Curiously this is even when Soyinka had strongly and openly campaigned against non-retaliation on the basis of the neighborliness of Nigerian Citizenship. So what sense lies in Oodua’s infantile threat based on the notion of indigenship? Yet as we speak, nobody has asked the Oodua group to withdraw such silly threat. To ignore all these is to conclude unwittingly that there are no Nigerian Citizens and that we are condemned to being merely “ethnics” and religious subjects.
Based on these gaps in Mr. Babangida’s “doctrine” and Mr. Fani-Kayode’s “historical” analysis, I think both are two sides of the same coin in view of their failure to acknowledge the formal nature of a moral law and moral citizenship as the foundation of our country. The perpetuity of a country rests on its moral foundation. -the elements of which are the moral law and the moral citizen. Those ethical principles are the settled foundation that we ought to work for and not Mr. Fani-Kayode’s “history” or Mr. Babangida’s “rhetoric”.
Adeolu Ademoyo: aaa54@Cornell.edu, Africana Department, Cornell University. Ithaca, New York