• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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BusinessDay

UK, Ukraine and Nigeria

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It is no longer news that the world is a global village or that some countries cling precariously to the village end of the global-village continuum. The key fact of globalization is that whatever happens anywhere affects people everywhere else, for good or bad.  I wish to place on record that the original authority on globalization that has not been acknowledged up to this moment is St Paul. In his first letter  to the Corinthians, he declared that ‘The human body is a unity though it has many parts, all parts of the body, though many, still making up one single body… the eye cannot say to the hand. I have no need of you nor can the head say to the feet, I have no need of you. If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy. (1st Corrinthians; 12:12, 21& 26.)  Just insert world and countries in place of human body and parts and you get a perfect description of the concept of globalization.

The recent developments in UK and Ukraine (sound similar!) are very significant for Nigeria and Nigerians because we are a part of the globe and because we have a large dose of separatist tendencies that even preceded Biafra (though Biafra was the most concrete case). The relationship between Nigeria and UK goes beyond the dictates of globalization. Apart from the hands of God, which is  in everything, Nigeria is indeed, a UK creation (when it was GREAT Britain) and the UK has played several noble and not so noble roles to ensure that its masquerade ‘does not fall’ in the dancing arena. Scotland has been a part of UK since 1707 and as at 18/9/14 when they voted, it has become a largely autonomous geopolitical entity with its own parliament and the power to do a lot of things without orders or interference ‘from above’. But they wanted absolute independence from 10 Downing Street, irrespective of all the things they had in common. This is not the first time and this may not be the last. The campaign lasted for two years during which the Yes group gave every reason why independence is the ultimate while the Better Together Coalition gave 1001 reasons why staying together is the best for now and for tomorrow. They canvassed, applied and misapplied statistics, persuaded, begged and debated. On the eve of the votes, the entire British political establishment in the UK, traditional enemies and all that, went on a whistle-stop campaign, offered DEVOMAX (more power over taxes and spending) and appealed to facts, history, culture and emotions. When the votes were counted (and there were no ballot-box snatching or hooded security men) the ‘nays’ had it, with 1.9m against and 1.45m in favour. As with earlier polls, it was a vote for more autonomy rather than independence.  The process was charged to the end and while the losers were agonizing over their loss, a visibly relieved Cameron declared that the matter is settled for this generation and that the DEVOMAX package would be pursued to its logical conclusion.

While this was going on, another interesting scenario was playing out in Ukrain and as it was in Nigeria of 1967, the problem centered on the East. While Russia is denying vehemently, the whole world knows or believes that the entire crises is powered by Russia which suddenly became aggressively expansionist and have successfully annexed Crimea. In Ukraine, the naysayers are not so refined as to ask for a referendum; they fought! After a lot of do-me-I-do-you skirmishes, including the controversial downing of the Malaysian airlines, the two parties agreed to jaw-jaw and considering the overall circumstances (including the Russian factor), the Government has granted these former ‘enemies’, self-rule and amnesty.

So how do these affect Nigeria and Nigerians? Generally, the fact that those who wished to ‘port’ from UK had their say while those who wanted a united UK had their   way is the beauty of democracy and an attestation of the fact that self-determination has become a political product to be  ‘bought and sold’ in the open market.  It is also an irony of life that UK, which powered the war and frustrated the referendum option in Biafra is now the apostle of referendum. Other parts of Europe are also rooting for independence and these include Venice (Italy), Greenland (Denmark) and Cantolina(Spain). For Nigeria, the lessons and implications are many. Many groups and peoples are still agitating for ‘true federalism’. Some are even declaring an intention to leave. It is obvious that jaw-jaw is better than war-war but the obvious way to prevent things from getting to war-war is to open up the political space. It is also obvious that people demanding for independence may actually desire autonomy and will mellow down their demands when the ‘right things’ are done. Thus, we don’t have to wait for a referendum to do the right things, including dismantling the, anomalous centralized federation.

Akin Osuntokun has gone to the extent of arguing that it is ultimately profitable to subscribe to the principle of voluntary citizenship and that we may, call the bluff of those who say they want to leave Nigeria and call a referendum on the proposal because the presumption that secession will always carry is not always true and that the outcomes lead to a better settled and more resilient society.  Such positive outcome however is contingent upon the willingness to grant more local (regional) autonomy — understood as the moderate version and reconcilable response to agitations for separation. The pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron to support more devolution to the comprising four nationalities of United Kingdom, UK, was the deal that finally sealed the Yes vote.

The UK referendum has also shown that UK is largely in need of reforms. The fact the naysayers won up to 45 percent of the votes spoke volumes. The government has promised DEVOMAX, they are planning to vote about the fate of UK and EU, the extent to which Scots participate in the vote for British affairs, and so on. If UK, as organized and advanced as they are, still have a long way to go, it becomes obvious how far behind we still are. Ultimately, as John Aziz had argued, we shall look forward to a scenario where the different peoples of Nigeria shall control 100 percent of their political space, rule themselves, grow at their own pace, control 100 percent of their resources and even  make the ultimate decision on whether to continue with one-Nigeria or plot a separate and independent path.

We all have to admit that Nigeria is still a work in progress. One area where that work is needed is the relationship between the constituents and the center. What happened in UK and Ukraine have given us workable examples on how to manage these and related challenges…

Ik Muo