The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) commenced meetings with political parties in its quest for politics of NATIONALISM instead of the current politics of religion and ethnicity that is threatening to tear the nation asunder. So far, NCEF has met with APDA (Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance) and PDP (People’s Democratic Party). Please find below the paper presented during the visit.
The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) wishes to thank the leadership of your Political Party for granting us the opportunity to meet with you to discuss issues that are critical to the peace, progress, and prosperity of Nigeria. NCEF is made up of distinguished Christian Elders from the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. It is not a political party and NCEF has no intention of transmuting or transforming into a political party, either now, or in the future. NCEF is not holding brief for any political party neither is it on a mission to denigrate or discredit any political organization. The main objectives of the NCEF could be summarized as fostering Unity and Reconciliation in the Body of Christ, advocating for Democracy as the only National Ideology that could sustain a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society like Nigeria, and encouraging Christians to participate actively in providing God-fearing leadership for Nigeria.
As Christian Elders, our worldview is predicated on the commands of the Bible that we should “follow peace with all men”. We encourage all Nigerians to follow peace with one another and as a country we should adopt a cardinal teaching of Christ described as the Golden Rule. Jesus Christ taught us, “do unto others, as you want them to do unto you”. If Nigerians consider the Golden Rule in all that they do, this country shall be paradise on earth for all of us.
Today, we remember with nostalgia the Nigeria handed over to us by the Founding Fathers of this country. It was a country in which, though tribes and tongues differ, we stood in brotherhood. What we see today is a far cry from what we celebrated on 1st October, 1960. As events continue to unravel, we are amazed at the amount of hatred, intolerance, ill-will, discrimination, and contention that has engulfed the country. If the situation is not checked, the youths might be provoked into taking the law into their hands. Already, they are becoming impatient after experiencing unfulfilled promises upon unfulfilled promises by those who are in government while the country keeps stagnating. Unemployment amongst the youths, closure of educational institutions as results of strike actions, unbridled display of wealth by those called to serve the country, inability of government at all levels to meaningfully fight corruption and nepotism, are some of the factors driving youths into despondency. We pray they shall not be driven into desperation before the nation is restructured.
As Elders, we are dismayed that politicians seem only to make promises during elections without any intention of keeping such promises. It is difficult to understand that a country that could successfully prosecute a civil war, and fought for peace in the ECOWAS sub-region and stabilized West Africa cannot contain insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism, ritual killings, militancy, and cyber-crime.
The National Christian Elders Forum has therefore taken it upon itself, to meet with as many political parties as possible, and appeal for a re-think, in the way politicians handle governance in Nigeria. We have observed, rather painfully, that political parties in Nigeria have not evolved to the point of operating based on ideology. Presently, it would appear that people enter politics to share the spoils of war. This may explain why the moment election is over people from the parties that lost election gravitates to the party that won. There is no conviction, no principle, and no political ideology that would make an individual identify with a political party, whether it lost or won elections. These are rather sad observations that should be corrected in our body politic.
THE STATE OF POLITICS IN NIGERIA
Political parties presently in Nigeria are behaving like ‘parastatals’ of Government attached to the Intelligence Service. In the 1930’s political parties in Nigeria promoted by Herbert Macaulay worked very hard for a better Nigeria after amalgamation of 1914.
Their successes include:
1) Preventing the British Government from acquiring/ceding all land in Nigeria to the British Crown. The Nigerians formed an auxiliary of the “Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society” and after a deputation of the Society to London, the decision was reversed.
2) The Famous Thirteen - Thirteen members of the political party Lagos Youth Movement sent a deputation to London over the suspension of the Oba of Lagos for supposedly installing the Chief Imam of Lagos, a function that hitherto was performed by the Governor-General. The Governor General was sued and the case went on to the Privy Council which the Government lost and the deposition of the Oba of Lagos was reversed and he was re-instated.
3) Lagos Youth Movement in Lagos was then transformed to a national political party the Nigerian Youth Movement which fought for self-emancipation and the unity of all Nigeria (North and South)- “The development of a United Nation out of the Conglomeration of the people who inhabit Nigeria”.
4) The National Youth Movement prevented through demonstration and various other means, the transfer of Nigeria from the British to Adolf Hitler’s Germany.
5) The struggle of the National Youth Movement resulted in the admission of Blacks (Nigerians) into European clubs and for Blacks to live in Government reserve areas.
1-5 above took place during the period of nationalism politics before we drifted into ethnic politics.
It must be made clear that at that time, the British Colonial Officers saw educated Nigerians as a threat to their imperialism; as a result they preferred the uneducated Nigerian/African to those who attended Universities. Also the British strategy of divide and rule that has been tested in India was very handy in reducing the pace at which educated Nigerians were demanding for self-governance. It was at this stage that the Sardauna of Sokoto came into the struggle for home rule.
The situation would have been different “Had Lugard, without sacrificing his belief in the oil-and-water incompatibility of the two (North and South), gone further by refining Morel’s scheme for dividing the country into four geographical groups of provinces, or had he looked sympathetically on his Lieutenant-Governor Temple’s proposal for splitting Nigeria into seven provinces, or had the Willink Commission of 1958 recommended the immediate creation of more states and damn the consequences of delayed independence, it is open to question whether the bloody events that have determined the need for this book would ever have come to pass” Kirk Greene, Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria, (Vol 1, pg 7). The above sentiment has to be re-examined for the purpose of Restructuring.
The causes of the Civil war 1967-1970 can be traced to the Western Region Emergency Act of 1962 which from facts available to NCEF suggests that the emergency in the Western Region was contrived. From the events in the country from 1966 to 1999 it has become very clear to NCEF that the narrative has shifted from Ethnicity to Religion especially in the Islamic North, while the South and Christians rely on Ethnicity which is no match for Islam. Events that unfolded from 1986, from the surreptitious membership of Nigeria in OIC, gave credence to the belief that Nigeria has entered into a dangerous era of politics of religion.
The events that led to the Civil War as enumerated above by Kirk Greene are still being repeated and the solution is a platform (Restructuring) where these issues will be discussed. Those who are opposed to Restructuring must appreciate that no Nation survives two Civil Wars. This explains why we are calling for Politics of Nationalism and not politics of ethnicity or religion.
As stated earlier the political parties operate like ‘Parastatals’ of the government, parroting programs of whichever government is in power without any outstanding ideological driving force and seemingly dependent on Government favour and patronage. Nigeria is ripe for Political Parties that are driven by qualitative political ideology, manifesto, high moral standard, leadership by men and women of proven integrity and good reputation and a clear program of action that would build Nigeria. It is very sad that Governors who have mismanaged their States and looted the State Treasury dry now find retirement space in the National Assembly. Why can we not have political parties that will say “NO” to such wasteful managers of State Resources? Why do political parties keep recycling for the country discredited and out rightly incompetent persons as leaders of the country? Why do incompetent and wasteful individuals who mismanaged the common wealth of the people still find abode in political parties as “power brokers”?
Recently, there was an unfortunate quit notice given to Ndigbo living in the Northern parts of the Country by Arewa Youths. What is perhaps more unfortunate is the information that the Governors of the North announced that the quit notice has been “suspended”. This implies that it can be resumed at a later date? This is very unfortunate. If Governors are now seen to condone such unlawful and ill-motivated statements, then how shall the Youths be contained? We wish to stress that the conduct of these Governors is subversive of their Oath of Office wherein they swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Law.
We have all decided in our old age to state as follows:
1. That politics of religion must be dismantled in Nigeria. It has never helped any nation and it would not help Nigeria. If Nigeria is going to unite and progress, the State must be neutral on the issues of Religion. Therefore...Democracy and Sharia are incompatible and the conflict between and within these ideologies are responsible for Nigeria’s perpetual stealth wars, North v South, Christians v Muslims, Igbo v Yoruba, Igbo v Hausa Fulani, Yoruba v Hausa Fulani and among various ethnic nationalities scattered around Nigeria. These stealth wars, which in some cases are fanned by the Intelligence Service, require solution.
2. That God has blessed Nigeria with abundant human and material wealth; unfortunately we are not able to manage properly this God-Given gift. Therefore, Political Parties should only field individuals of proven integrity, good reputation, fully rounded intelligence and skilful managerial acumen to contest political offices
3. That colonialism has reduced us mentally to a perpetual state of conflict and religion and ethnicity provide the modus operandi for the war. Therefore, politics must be based on political ideologies and not on ethnicity or religion.
4. It is clear from the above that “Every situation has its roots in the past…the past survives into the present; the present is indeed the past undergoing modification” S.O. Adebo, The Nigerianization of the Civil Service (Lagos, 1904) pg. 49
1. We recommend immediate Government response to the yearning of majority of Nigerians for Restructuring. As an immediate step, a return to the Republican Constitution of 1963 would be a good starting point. After all, the Republican Constitution of 1963 was unilaterally abrogated by the Military and not by a National Referendum. Subsequently, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be appropriate to heal wounds of the past and set the country on the foundation of Truth.
2. We are watching events in the country and we intend to identify a God-fearing, morally upright, and solution oriented Party or Parties and advice that Christians should take advantage of section 40 of the 1999 Constitution granting them freedom of association which provides that every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests.
We want a Nigeria where Justice, Equity, and Fairness reign supreme.
God Bless Nigeria.
Solomon Asemota, SAN
7th Sept. 2017