Being an address presented by the president of the Ijaw youth council, worldwide, Mr. Roland Oweilaemi Pereotubo, Esq. at the national conference on the future of Nigeria, held in Washington D.C, Usa on the 13th to 18th of November, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please permit me to stand on the existing protocols already established.
I wish to first of all thank the organizers of this program, Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISDS), for creating a platform for Nigerians to discuss the foundational problem of the Country. Your desire to get the views of Nigerians through a forum like this is the reason why we are here. I know with all sincerity that the views shared in this August gathering will create a platform for our international partners and the relevant authorities in the Country to make an informed decision.
The crisis in Nigeria is born out of the structural imbalance of the Country. It is a creation of political manipulation by the British colonial Government who knowingly structured the Country in such a defective form for the purpose of achieving political end.
The clamour for a better and accommodating structure of the Country started immediately after the ill-conceived and self-seeking amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914. That was why in 1946 at the enactment of Arthur Richards' Constitution, the Country was divided into three regions of the North, East and the West.
The plurality and the diversity of the ethnic groups in the Country had instigated yet another agitations for the subdivision of the already created regions. This was the reason why the ethnic minorities in the Eastern and Western parts of the Country vehemently opposed to the Independence of Nigeria from the imperial Government at the Constitutional conferences held in Ibadan and London in 1957/8 respectively.
The Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers people demanded for COR State from the East, while the Bini, Ijaw, Urhobo and other tribes in the West demanded for Midwestern State from the West whose movements started from 1943/8 respectively. These agitations culminated in the setting up of the Henry Willinks Commission of Enquiry by British Government in 1958 whose mandate was to look into the agitations of the minority ethnic groups, especially the people of the Niger Delta area of Nigeria.
In June 1963, the Government of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa created the Midwestern region from the West. The creation of the Midwestern region for the minority ethnic groups in Western region did not still addressed the structural imbalance bequeathed to us by the British government. This sparked off series of agitations in the post Independent era, especially when States were created by the military Governments. Take for instance, when Gen.Yakubu Gowon created 12 States from the four regions in 1967, the Southern part of the Country which was having three regions were divided into five (5) States, while the Northern part with one region was divided into seven (7) States. This marked the beginning of ethnic/regional domination of one or few ethnic groups on the others.
Coming to the theme of the program: "National Conference on the Future of Nigeria - A Country at a Cross Roads: We the People of Nigeria Decide". To begin with the future of Nigeria, to us in the Niger Delta, the future of the Country is bleak due to the structural imbalance. The clamor for restructuring, resource control and true federalism as well as the religious-cum ethnic crisis in the Country are ominous signs that Nigeria is sitting on a time. The solution to the doom days awaiting the Country is restructuring. What this means is that, there is a democratic blunder created by the British government. Nigerians are under colony in the hands of some few ethnic groups.
In February 1966, a university undergraduate from the University of Nigeria, Nsuka by name Maj. Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro declared Niger Delta Republic from Nigeria. The declaration resulted in the famous 12 twelve days revolution. The reason why Boro who later died in action during the civil war in 1968 launched his lethal war of aggression against the Nigerian government was because of the fear of ethnic domination. The same ethnic domination also caused the bloody Nigerian civil war in 1967.
Today few ethnic groups are not only made super powers in the country they are also given constitutional backing to rule over the rest of Nigerians till eternity. A classical example is the perennial oil crisis in the Niger Delta region. While the Oil producing communities in the region are suffering from the environmental degradation, despoliation and oil exploitations, the Northern part of the Country dictates the tune. Everyday Oil is being flared at the detriments of the people's lives, the Northern feudal lords sit at the comfort of their homes to enjoy the bounties from the oil wealth.
To seal their dominance on the vast majority of other ethnic groups, several obnoxious, inimical and anti-peoples laws were enacted by successive governments in order to keep their grip on governance and the economy of the Country. This evil practice has made Nigerians to be divided along ethnic/religious lines thereby engendering sectional patriotism instead of national patriotism.
On the second lap of the topic: "We the People of Nigeria Decide". This caption to the best of my knowledge is taken from our Constitution. The Nigerian Constitution aptly captioned: "We the people of Federal Republic of Nigeria..." This is an aberration, a misrepresentation of facts. There is no consensus about this caption. Nigerians have not at anytime agreed to come together to enact a constitution that tend to colonize us or polarize the people.
For over the years, there have been clamor for the people to come together to enact a law that is compatible to us all. The only Constitution that seemed to have Nigerians made was the Sir John Stuart MacPherson's Constitution of 1951 because it was a product of constitutional conference held in Ibadan on the 9th of January, 1950 which Nigerians in their divides as delegates from the three regions participated to discuss the way forward. The 1957/8 constitutional conferences that gave birth to the Independence and Republican Constitutions were partly home made and partly British made. These were the last Constitutions Nigerians slightly participated in the enactment processes.
The 1979 and 1999 Constitutions are military decrees wearing a constitutional gown. The military rulers enacted them only to satisfy their dictatorial urge. Since after the 1957/8 constitutional conferences, none of the Constitutional conferences held so far by successive governments have produced any Constitution. The 1995 Constitutional conference held by Late Gen. Sani Abacha, the Constitutional Reforms Conference by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005, the Pro-National Conference (PRONACO) by PA Anthony Enaharo and Prof. Woley Soyinka in 2006 as well as the 2014 National Dialogue by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan did not resulted in the enactment of any Constitution. The 1999 Constitution which is a creation of Gen. Abubakar Abdusalami's military junta cannot be said of representing Nigerians interests.
The only way that consensus can come in is when Nigerians sit together to enact law for ourselves. It is my humble view that some of the above mentioned constitutional conferences have wider acceptance by Nigerians. If the Government of the day can implement the recommendations of the PRONACO Constitution or the 2014 National Dialogue, the Constitutional crisis in the Country would be addressed.
My suggestion therefore to the solution of the Nigeria's future is for the Government to address the Constitutional crisis in the Country, vis-avis the popular demands for restructuring, devolution of power to the region/States, resource control and true federalism. To us in the Niger Delta region, our demands are in addition to the above are self-determination and political autonomy. We want to be free citizens in our fatherland. The present political structure of Nigeria treated Niger Deltans as outcasts. We have been enslaved to the majority tribes through legislative processes. These are the reasons why Niger Delta people are angry being called Nigerians. There is need to be national consensus for all Nigerians in all ethnic backgrounds to have a say in the National government. We need to sit together to define an acceptable formula for the future of Nigeria. That is the only panacea to the survival of Nigeria in midst of her challenges.
I cannot end my speech without thanking the ISDS for given me this rare privilege to stand in your midst. IYC is at all times ready to work with you to find solution to the problems in Nigeria. We will continue to be partners in progress for building a virile and united Nigeria. Let this our concern for a new Nigeria that will be built on unity, harmony and ethnic cohesion inspire the powers that be to accept the yearnings of the vast majority of Nigerians for the enthronement of true federalism and resource ownership by the component States.
Thanks and God bless