Nigerian Citizens and the State of the Federation, By Ebere Onwudiwe

Nigeria’s global image is taking an international beating. From its elevation to the top rank of the world’s poverty capital, the repressive knockout delivered to the unarmed #EndSARS protesting Nigerian youths, and now the latest dreadful international standing as the third most terrorised country in the world.

But all is not lost. All is seemingly never lost in Nigeria, although that the country is becoming ungovernable is staring us in the face, given the random killings that are mostly going unpunished. The latest indication is the news on the ruthless massacre of 110 citizens, with many others wounded in an attack on a village in North-East Nigeria.

Every Nigerian read the gory news. No sweat. Nothing to it. These days, too many unsolved killings all over the place suggest that Nigerian lives don’t matter. So everyone goes back to dinner, and the government moves on.

Our federation’s current state is no longer the usual dance on the brink, where one frequently finds the Nigerian house during presidential elections, for example. By being on the edge, of course, suggests that the country is about to disintegrate; that the house is about to tip over. Still, Nigeria always survives brinkmanship.

But this time around looks a bit different because the problem is rooted in style and structure. Not surprisingly, many concerned citizens call for changing the type of governance and the country’s design.

The reason is that the country’s stability has never been so endangered since the Civil War when the politicians and the people in power then messed up all opportunities for compromise and peace. Today, there seems to be a genuine division built on a dangerous kind of sectionalism that is persistently driving every group to its tent.


It seems that it is only Nigerian citizens outside government that can save the day. And some are already taking actions here and there to do so. And that’s not surprising because when governments fail to meet felt needs, be they severe insecurity or economic downturn that we now face in Nigeria, citizens respond to save their persons and property from the chaos of bad governance. And they do this in various ways of increasing sophistication.

Dr. Munzali Dantata, the founder of Zuma Institute, is one such citizen. I recently attended his Webinar and Virtual Arts Exhibition to commemorate Nigeria’s Diamond Jubilee, with the Theme: “Green Fields, Blue Skies.” I am glad that I accepted the invitation to attend. The webinar, which claims to create an awareness of Nigeria’s “glorious past,” was a coming out of sorts of the Zuma Institute as a national development think-tank. I have always believed that Nigeria needs more private-sector think tanks.

Dantata’s Institute argues that Nigeria should be competitive in this era of globalisation of the world economy, given its productive past. Had the past excellent governance in which the regions competed to maximise their natural endowments continued to this day, Nigerian companies would have developed enough international influence to start operating on a global scale. This position is mostly reflective of today’s export-driven international economy powered by technology.


The Institute believes that to benefit from it, we need to understand globalisation to protect us from its harmful effects such as dumping. As I zoomed into the webinar, it did not take me long to see the wisdom in the logic. But whether this is not too late in the day is another matter. Nigeria failed to take advantage of globalisation.

There is much evidence of this failure that predates the Buhari administration. The much-desired structural transformation of the national economy has not happened. As a result, we remain a primary commodity-dependent economy, a lingering characteristic of our colonial pattern of international trade. So, while the reminiscence of our glorious past of palm oil and kernel, cocoa, and groundnuts is a worthy tribute to our founding fathers’ energetic leadership, we still have much work to do.

All said and done; something unites about a shared awareness of a country’s ‘glorious past.’ Some countries go out of their way to create national anecdotes and even myths and narratives to join its diverse peoples into one nation. Among other offerings, Dr. Dantata’s clourful webinar emphasised joint ownership of all Nigerian peoples of a grand past of good and productive governance of a country that is generally, if unnecessarily, derided as an artificial creation. That’s a crucial contribution by one citizen.

About the Author: Ebere Onwudiwe is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja. Please send your comments to this number on WhatsApp: +234 (0)701 625 8025; messages only, no calls.

Source: Premium Times

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