(1964) Nnamdi Azikiwe, “Tribalism: A Pragmatic Instrument for National Unity”
In 1963 Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was selected as the first President of Nigeria. The following year he gave a public lecture on the benefits of tribalism in forging national unity in the Princess Alexandra Auditorium at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His lecture delivered on May 15, May 1964, under the auspices of the Nigerian Political Science Association, appears below.
Mr. Vice Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen:
From time immemorial, the tendency of human beings is to live together. Very few normal human beings live in isolation from their kind. Therefore, consciousness of kind leads to community living. The community thus develops into a small world with its own ethos and taboos. Each member of that community owes it allegiance and, in return, the community gives security and provides protection to the individual. If the word ‘community’ is substituted for ‘tribe’, then my idea of tribe would have been conveyed to this audience.
How can community—tribe be employed as a pragmatic instrument for national unity? To answer this question intelligently, we must pry into the meaning of the words ‘pragmatic’ and ‘instrument.’ The first terminology is a method in philosophy and a theory of truth. As a method, it resolves metaphysical disputes by requesting for the practical consequences of any suggested idea. As a theory of truth, it maintains that ideas are true, so long as they are satisfactory; they are satisfactory as long as they are consistent with other ideas, can conform to facts, and can be subjected to the tests of practice and experience.
Students of philosophy attribute the origin of pragmatism to Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914) who conceived this idea after having been exposed to the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant, particularly his Metaphysics of Morals. Pierce held that the whole meaning of an idea is determined by its conceivable practical bearings and possible sensible effects. William James (1 842-1910) elaborated on Pierce’s philosophy by emphasizing the reality of particular sensible experience. John Dewey (1859-1952) added a new dimension to this school of thought by postulating that the proper use of intelligence is to liberate and liberalise action for the satisfaction of needs. F. C. S. Schiller (1864-1937) emphasised ‘that philosophy as a theory of life is a practical, and not a speculative affair, and that the philosophical method should be scientific and based on experience.’ So far for the background of the philosophy of pragmatism.
In further expounding his ideas of pragmatism, Dewey regarded concepts and theories as instruments, which he defined as ‘mental modes of adaptation to reality.’ My task in this lecture is to demonstrate how tribalism can become a pragmatic instrument for national unity. In the light of the expositions made above about pragmatism, this, then, is my proposition: ‘If the concept and practice of tribalism would be a mode of adaptation to reality, then tribalism is an instrument for national unity.’
Tribalism is a reality. National unity can be a reality; but at present it is not quite a reality. How this reality of tribalism can be adapted to the unreality of national unity to make it a reality is the problem which I will now proceed to exegete.
Every human being is a member of one particular tribe. Within that tribe, customs and traditions are established to guide, direct and control the beliefs, attitudes, and habits of its individual members. Failure to comply with the collective will tantamount to an act of disloyalty which may be punishable with severe penalties. Obedience to the tribe is thus inculcated in the tribes- folk from childhood.
From our studies in history we learn that many tribes which came into contact with each other had discovered a way of living conterminously. In some cases, they preserved their identity. In other cases, they amalgamated to produce an offspring, which evolved into a new prototype. No matter what may be the nature of the development of these tribes, the aim has been always to create a society where there is a reign of law and order.
Take the tribes of the British Isles, for example. The Angles, Scots, Celts and Irish were different, but after associating with each other for many centuries, a feeling of oneness developed which culminated in the Union Jack. In spite of the fact that the objective was to establish a United Kingdom, the tribal feeling has been so potent that the British Isles is a disunited kingdom today. It is not my intention to involve myself in the tribal politics of the, Scots, the Welsh and the Irish!
Take the tribes of another European country, Switzerland, for example. The Swiss harboured four main tribes: German, French Italian and Romansch. After much bickering and dissipation of national endeavour the Treaty of Westphalia made it possible for a new nation to be created. That was in 1648. One hundred and fifty years later, the Helvetic Republic emerged, until 1874, when its present Constitution was adopted.
Today, Switzerland is a federation of 25 cantons, each of whom ‘is sovereign, so far as its independence and legislative powers not restricted by the federal constitution.’ The population c Switzerland is 5.5 million. The tribal feeling is so great that each tribe retains its language in the cantons in which they live. In 19 69.3% spoke Italian, and 1.4% spoke Romansch. These languages are recognised as official in the cantons in which the are spoken. In fact, the office of President of the Republic rotates every year!
In spite of their tribal differences, the Swiss have preserved their identity as a nation. The perpetual neutrality of Switzerland and the inviolability of its territory were guaranteed by the Great Powers in 1815, at the Congress of Vienna. The remarkable feature of the Swiss experience is that its federal system has emerged as a practicable model.
Take the tribes of the United States of America, as our second last example. Apart from the American Indians, that country is a melting pot of most races and tribes. Representatives of the Dutch and British tribes landed there early in the seventeenth century to escape from religious persecution. Then came waves of Nordis, Alpines and Mediterraneans, to be followed by Africans, Asians and national destiny. Let them save this nation from what have you, each with its distinctive language and culture.
By the time of the war of American independence in l776, had become obvious to the founding fathers that only a federal constitution could preserve the identities of each of the tribes making up the thirteen colonies whilst, at the same time, building national unity which was to be christened the United States of America.
Today, the American Union is a federation of fifty states with a population of 180 million. Each state has its own constitution, deriving its powers, not from Congress, but from the people of the state concerned. In order to preserve national unity, the United State Supreme Court ruled in the Texas V. White case that no state can secede from the Union and that the American federation is indivisible, indissoluble, and perpetual. We now know that from its humble beginnings, the United States has evolved into one of the mightiest republics on earth.
My last example is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Until the October Revolution in 1917, it was known as the Russian Empire. Afterwards, it transformed itself into a federation of fifteen republics with a population of 208.8 million people who spoke about 100 different languages. There are 15 Union Republics, each inhabited by a major tribe, whose name is used to identify the particular republic. In addition to these, there are also 20 autonomous republics, eight autonomous regions and ten national areas, each peopled by tribes with different languages, traditions and customs.
It was left to Lenin and Stalin to find a solution to the tribal question, in so far as the building of a united nation was concerned in the Soviet Union. In a book he wrote some years ago, Stalin defined nation as ‘a historically evolved stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.’ In this context, he defined nationality as a member of a community. Thus the word tribe was jettisoned in favour of the more dignified, all-embracing and acceptable terminology, namely, nationality. This solution so pleased Nikita Krushchev that, during a speech he made at Kiev, on 26th April 1958, he said elatedly:
‘Everything must be done, comrades, so that the multi-national family of the Soviet Union will remain a friendly and united one. We are proud that the national question in our country has been solved once and for all on the basis of Lenin’s nationalities policy all the peoples of the Soviet Union are equal, and every one of them, within the limits of his possibilities, advances to the common cause…’
It is significant to note that since the U.S.S.R. became organised as a modern state, after the revolution, it replaced the word tribe for nationality and proceeded to build a united nation which has developed to be one of the mightiest on earth.
Towards the end of the World War I, there were agitations for the protection of minorities in Europe. President Woodrow Wilson, in his ‘Fourteen Points,’ emphasised the need for negotiating a just and lasting peace on the basis of self-determination for minorities. This led to the emergence of new European nations, based on realignment of European tribes, after the Treaty of Versailles had been signed in 1919. New nations, like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, etc. were born in order to safeguard the rights of the following tribes, among others Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Magyars, Poles and many other Teutonic, Slav, Turkish and Indo-European linguistic groups.
It is now obvious why I used the terminology ‘tribe’ to identify the peoples of the British Isles, Switzerland, the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and certain Europeans It is a well-known principle in teaching that the taught can grasp more easily what is being taught, if the teaching is simplified by illustrations from the known to the unknown. I not the slightest intention to assume the role of a school r but I thought that since tribalism is a popular and localised word with its peculiar local denotation and connotation. I should use it as a means of familiarizing the audience with the ideas at the back of my mind.
The word tribe is employed currently in a derogatory manner to identify the peoples of Africa and Asia, who are invariably described as ‘primitive’ or ‘under-developed’ or ‘developing’ 0r ‘backward,’ or what most writers in the nineteenth century used to identify as ‘barbarian societies.’ It is unfortunate that the academic disciplines have, to an extent, popularised this group libel. Of course, they acted in good faith, but the harm has been done by this prostitution of scholarship for pseudo- ends. I hope that the new generation of students of anthropology and history will put things right. Henceforth, in this lecture, I shall use the words ‘tribe’ and ‘nationality’ synonymously. This should avoid any ambiguities.
‘Some people seem to think that tribalism is an unmitigated evil, but it is not.’ That is how Chief Simeon O. Adebo, Nigeria’s Head of Mission in the United Nations, sees the problem of tribalism in Africa. He developed this theme by saying that every linguistic group has its own cultural features which can have something of value to contribute to the way of life of its country or unit thereof.
I am in agreement with the above sentiments because tribalism, as an anthropological phenomenon, is a universal fact. The conventions of society may disguise the terminology but they cannot obscure its universal application. When we speak of the English, French, Dutch, German, Russian, Czech, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and other linguistic groups in Europe, we seem to overlook the fact that, by implication, our remarks apply equally to the Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba, Efik, Kanuri, Ijaw, Edo, Tiv, Idoma, Gwari, Urhobo and other linguistic groups in Africa.
In the words of Mr. Adebo, ‘Whereas the citizens of a European country are referred to as “nationals” of that country, the citizens of Africa are generally described as “natives,”’ I would say ‘tribes.’ This confusion of terminology in describing ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups makes it necessary for me to examine the problem of tribalism in modern times with scientific objectivity in so far as it affects the development of Nigeria as a nation.
The dictionary meaning of the word ‘tribe’ is most fascinating. Take the first one; a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, defenders, or adopted strangers. Let us try a second definition: an endogamous social group held to be descended from a common ancestor and composed of numerous families, exogamous clans, bands, or villages that occupies a specific geographic territory, possesses cultural, religious and linguistic homogeneity, and is commonly united politically under one head or chief.
The third definition is pertinent to the usual connotation of this word when used by Europeans and Americans especially: a primitive group acting under a chief, a large family group distinguished by close-knit ties, unusually well-marked family traits, or a number of eminent, talented or successful members.
In its Nigerian context, our tribes which number about 400, in a population said to be fifty-five million, are really different nationalities, who united and established a political union in the form of a federation, as a result of historical circumstances. Being human, they have developed their means of communication and a way of life. So that factors of race, language and culture responsible for the existence of tribes or nationalities.
Since tribes are so linked with human society, their existence constitutes in Nigeria, an anthropological phenomenon, and they cannot be exterminated without committing wholesale genocide to a section of the human race.
In examining this issue of tribe, from an anthropological point of view, we discover the following facts: as members of a particular race, tribes exist all over the world as individual members of the human race. They communicate with each other by speaking a common language; and they settle permanently any particular environment through the means of their culture.
We do know from anthropology that human beings with similar morphological characteristics can intermingle to produce sustain a primary race. We know also that language can be t the off-spring of such human beings to constitute a part language. It is also a fact that culture can be developed as a so or material tool to enable members of such a race, who speak particular language, to settle permanently on a geographically demarcated area and adapt themselves to such an environment. Therefore, race, language and culture constitute the essential anthropological elements which make up a tribe.
If such a tribe remains isolated it would confine itself to a primary group that would be virtually homogeneous. But if it comes into contact with another tribe or tribes then sociological problems are bound to rise, especially in respect of intermixture of races, conflict of languages and clash of cultures. It is this aspect of inter-tribal relations that I would like examine a little closer.
Races do mingle and produce a miscegenated offspring. Language can be infused so as to enrich or replace or efface the original mother tongue. Culture can be diffused so as to produce a permeated complex. When a tribe is subjected to an impact of another race, language or culture, the tendency is to produce a crisis of existence, depending upon several sociological factors. I will refer to eight situations to illustrate this point.
(1) Human beings who belong to the same race and speak a common language and acquire a common culture are homogeneous as a tribe and can be assimilated in a new society of their own make. For example, the English tribe belong to the Caucasoid race; they speak English as a common language, and acquired an Anglo-Saxon culture in the course of the centuries. Among themselves, they are homogeneous and can be easily assimilated in a new society of their making, but not in others. The same holds true for the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots.
In Nigeria, the Ibo, Yoruba, Edo, Efik, Ijaw, Gwari, Tiv, Idoma, Jukun, Nupe, Urhobo, etc. fall in this first category in that, individually, they belong to the Negroid race, speak a common language individually, and acquired a common culture from time immemorial.
(2) Human beings who belong to the same race, speak a common language and acquire a different culture, tend to guard jealously their homogeneity and, therefore, are not easily assimilable with other human beings in a new society. For example, the French belong to the Caucasoid race, they speak French as a common language, and acquired Gallic as a different culture. Among themselves, they can be homogeneous, but among other tribes they are not easily assimilable.
In Nigeria, the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri are in this second category, in that, individually, they belong to the Negroid race, speak a common language and acquired Arabic culture, in exchange for their own indigenous culture. Being homogeneous in respect of their race and language, but being heterogeneous in respect of their culture, they can individually assimilate easily among their kind, but are not easily assimilable with other cultural groups.
(3) Human beings who belong to the same race and speak a different language and acquired a common culture are assimilable among their kind, but not easily assimilable among others. For example, until Israel was established in 1948, the Jews of the world were members of the Caucasoid race, they spoke different languages, but had acquired a common culture. They assimilated easily among their kind, but were not so assimilable with other distinct groups.
I cannot fit any Nigerian tribe into this pattern.
(4) Human beings who belong to the same race, speak a different language, and acquired a different culture are assimilable among their kind but not in others. For example, citizens of Switzerland belong to the Caucasoid race; they speak four distinct languages, and acquired a different culture.
(5) Human beings who do not belong to the same race, but speak a different language, and the same culture are assimilable among their kind but not in others. For example, Arabs are multiracial, but they speak Semitic language and have an Arabic culture. Another example: Peoples of African descent, who are citizens of the United States.
Some Nigerian nationals by birth or residence or naturalization are multi-racial; some of them, like the Shuwab Arabs, speak Semitic language and have an Arabic culture.
(6) Human beings who do not belong to the same race, speak the same language, and have acquired a common cult are easily assimilable among themselves but not in others.
Some Nigerian nationals are multi-racial; some of them speak different languages, and some of them acquired a different culture by becoming Christians or Muslims. They assimilate among themselves but not among others.
(7) Human beings who do not belong to the same race, but speak the same language, and acquired a different culture are also assimilable among themselves. For example, American citizen are multi-racial; they speak English (in some cases in addition to
their mother tongue), and have different cultures, depending upon their places of origin, in case they are immigrants. They assimilate easily among themselves but not among others.
8) Human beings who do not belong to the same race, but speak a different language and acquired a different culture are not easily assimilable. For example, Afro-Americans are partly Negroid and Caucasoid, but they speak English and have acquired Anglo-Saxon culture. Latin-American Negroes are identically situated but they speak French or Spanish or Portuguese, and have acquired Gallic or Iberian culture. Canadians are multiracial: some of them speak English or French, and they have acquired Anglo-Saxon or Gallic culture. These three groups assimilate easily among themselves but not among others.
What interpretation can we give to the data yielded by these eight categories of human beings, who constitute tribes, primordially, and developed to become nationalities, subsequently? We should be careful not to jump to conclusions, since not all the factors responsible for human behaviour are either known or are at our disposal when studying the social consequences of tribalism.
It would appear though that where there is complete homogeneity, in respect of these three factors of race, language and culture—as in the case with most of the Nigerian and other African tribes the degree of assimilability of each linguistic or cultural group depends upon the degree of its aloofness from its primary group. Thus, tribalism would be intensified among this group unless agreeable external factors modify it. This same line of reasoning would seem to hold good where there is a marked degree of homogeneity or heterogeneity in respect of any two of the three factors cited. But the degree of tribalism would be less marked if the uniting factors are language and culture. This is not to imply that racial factors are unimportant, in view of the United States experience, nor to overlook what is happening today in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.
The conclusion I make from the data yielded and interpretations made on the eight specific situations of inter-racial, inter-linguistic and inter-cultural relations, is that human beings, irrespective of their racial affinity, language classification or cultural identity, tend to be more homogeneous in simple societies and to be more heterogeneous in complex societies, although in case of the latter the heterogeneity can undergo a social metamorphosis to become transformed into a homogeneity.
Simply stated, my thesis is to the effect that when numbers of the human race congregate in an environment to build a community, they tend to be parochial at the initial stage only to become cosmopolitan later. The factors responsible for their parochialism are mainly ethnic but those responsible for their cosmopolitanism are ethical and sociological.
I deduce from this the following position: that human beings, will attach less importance to their racial, linguistic and cultural origins, so long as their individual liberties are insulated from tyranny and their group attachment is insured from want, pro vided that the environment in which they live is conducive to human happiness.
By individual liberties, I should be understood to mean the fundamental rights of man, to wit: the right to life, freedom from torture, right to liberty and security of person, the right to a fair trial, guarantee against retroactivity of the law, the right to privacy and to family life, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, the right to marry and found a family, the right of property, the right to education, and the right to free elections. They represent the embodiment of man’s quest for freedom from the earliest times to September 3, 1953, when the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms became operative. The Protocol to this Convention incorporated the right to education and to free elections. These came into force on May 18, 1954. In the light of our experience in Nigeria, we should include also freedom from discrimination.
Human happiness is an abstraction which can equally be concrete. It is abstract in the sense of the psychological, but concrete in its relation to satisfying the material needs of economic man. In case of the latter, two systems have been tried in the world, the capitalist and the socialist. Of late, a third force has emerged; it is, the welfarist.
Capitalism is an economic system characterised by private ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by State control. It is also an instrument of private enterprise through which prices, production and the distribution of goods are determined mainly in a free market. An essential feature of capitalism is the profit motive or individual welfare.
Socialism, on the other hand, is a political and economic theory characterised by public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Its main feature is the emphasis on public welfare and its objective is that everyone should be given an equal opportunity to develop his talents, and that the wealth of the community should be fairly distributed.
Welfarism is another name for the welfare state. This is a system based upon the assumption, by a political State, of primary responsibility and for the individual social welfare of its citizens, usually by the enactment of specific policies, such as education, health, unemployment insurance, old age benefits, control of prices and rents, minimum wages, family assistance, subsidies to agriculture, housing and other segments of the economy. It is particularly concerned with their implementation directly by Government agencies.
The means of attaining human happiness and guaranteeing same for the Nigerians, who are to be insulated from tyranny and want, can be through a capitalist or socialist or welfarist framework. Whether that will be sufficient inducement to attract the allegiance of the racial, linguistic and cultural groups we are discussing will depend upon the rigidity or flexibility of such guarantees, the temperament of the people concerned, and the calibre of leadership in the country.
It is anomalous that human beings who belong to the same race, speak the same language and acquired a common culture, or those who belong to the same race and speak the same language but acquired a different culture, do not readily mix, unless circumstances force them to do so, and unless such circumstances can be made desirable and permanent.
Therefore, the key to the solution of the problem of tribalism in Nigeria is to discover the circumstances which can be superimposed on the natural chains of language and culture, which have linked the human beings who inhabit Nigeria, to enable them to develop a feeling of personal security and group preservation under changed but permanent circumstances.
The solution is purely political since the main factor in contemporary Nigerian life is based on the building of a stable nation that is founded on a common nationality. However, if loyalty to the nation must replace loyalty to the tribe, in letter and spirit, then the aim of the Nigerian nation should be to provide the diverse peoples of Nigeria with certain permanent guarantees of a constitutional, political and economic nature.
INCENTIVE FOR HIGHER LOYALTY
It is imperative that these must have both intrinsic and extrinsic values so as to modify radically, if not completely efface, the tendency to regard one’s mother tongue as the only magic wand which can provide human beings with an environment where, by intermingling in their closed circle, they can obtain spiritual happiness and material prosperity under the protective umbrella of the tribal leviathan.
To me, the complete answer is the creation of a federal system of government which will concede the existence of all linguistic groups and accord them the right to co-exist, on the basis of equality, within a framework of political and constitutional warranties, that would protect their individual freedom under the rule of law and thus preserve and sustain the particular linguistic group from extinction.
Indeed, John Stuart Mill did proclaim that ‘The sole aim for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is Self protection.’ After all, self-preservation is said to be the first law of nature. By preserving the linguistic groups of Nigeria and conceding to the local autonomy of some satisfy.
This simple admission of the potency of language as a vinculum of familism is a portent for preserving the corporate Nigeria as one political entity that can be worthy of I admiration and respect of the world. We cannot afford to ignore this vital force in the building of our nation.
Therefore, I suggest the ultimate revision of our Republican Constitution so as to effect two changes, among others: first, to entrench adequate safeguards to buttress fundamental rights; secondly, to provide citizens of Nigeria with plentiful avenues for
obtaining a balanced diet and wholesome food, a comfortable and economic shelter, a reasonable and frugal ward-robe, in addition to easy access to the necessities and amenities of contemporary life, above the minimum subsistence level.
If these constitutional and political guarantees can be underwritten in a Government-directed welfare system, such evidence of humanitarianism will work wonders in Nigerian society. The wants of human beings are few and if they are satisfied they become an insulation from subversion. History has shown that the main cause why some societies became unstable is because those who ruled failed to discover this secret yearning of humanity.
By adapting the best elements so far experienced by human beings all over the world, in the practice of capitalism or socialism or welfarism, it is my honest conviction that a Nigerian ideology, based on the eclecticism now universally appreciated as the welfare state, is the right incentive to inspire the genius that is latent in us to build an affluent society where there will be full employment for healthy, well-educated and prosperous citizens, who should be loyal and patriotic to their country.
All we need now is to produce the leaders with vision and courage to build this new society. If the leadership would be forthcoming, there can be no doubt that the followership will respond. I can see in the distant horizon a transformation of Nigeria from a developing country to a land of plenty, whose agriculture and industry are so diversified in multilateral sectors that Nigeria can literally become a world force overnight!
How can these lofty aims be realised within the context of the Nigerian situation? Are they the dreams of a visionary which exist in his fertile imagination? Are they capable of being translated to action in the foreseeable future? Are they practicable in view of our diversities of language and culture coupled with our being a developing country which depends on economic aid from external sources?
My reaction to all the above questions is that, other things being equal, dreams of a kind can come true. In this respect I find consolation in Carl Sandburg who reminisced that it was the dream of the founders of America that created it as a world’s model republican state. ‘The republic is a dream,’ he asserted, but ‘nothing happens unless first a dream.’ I agree.
EMERGENCE OF NIGERIAN IDEOLOGIES
I am a realist but I can dream dreams as well. I have a deep and abiding faith in pragmatism as a safe and useful philosophy to guide the individuals of any nation to accomplish their aims Reason, experience, and practice demonstrate the verdict of history, if we bear in mind the experiences of older countries in Europe, America and Asia.
Surely, our ancestors have survived the struggle for existence in what is now geographically identified as Nigeria. It is true that they were racially homogeneous, since they belonged to the Negroid race, on account of their skin colour, hair texture, nose structure, lip formation, facial angle, and other morphological characteristics. As a matter of fact, they were identical in appearance, and were distinct from the white and yellow races.
However, we have observed that some individual indigenes of Nigeria speak a common language and acquired a common culture. Also, we have discovered a bitter truth that many individual Nigerian indigenes speak a common language and acquired a different culture, or speak different languages and acquired a common culture.
For example, the Ibo and Yoruba-speaking peoples, as well as other linguistic groups in Nigeria, usually identified as Sudanic-speaking or Semi-Bantu-speaking, respectively, fall in the first category. But the Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri and other linguistic groups in Nigeria usually classified as Hamitic-speaking people fall in other categories. Yet all of them have settled permanently in Nigeria and have become citizens of one country as a result 0f the interplay of social and economic forces.
Since only the factor of race unites the great majority of indigenous Nigerians, and the factor of language unites or disunites them only to be united or disunited further by the factor of culture, we can take comfort in knowing that, in spite of the vagaries of anthropology, our ancestors did settle permanently in certain definitely demarcated language and culture areas. They conquered the elements in the process and asserted dominance in their different environments.
The tool which enabled them to accomplish this task was a accumulation of their wisdom, proverbs, folklore and traditions. These evolved into systems of knowledge and values. As they settled permanently in their various places, after migrating from one area to another, they devised methods for maintaining law and order in their societies and they also invented ways and means for satisfying their spiritual and material needs.
My point is that our ancestors, in spite of their heterogeneous languages and cultures, have bequeathed to us a legacy of political and economic ideologies which sustained them and enabled them to survive. Now that we are confronted with welfare system, such evidence of humanitarianism problems of co-existence and we are ensconced in a wilderness of alien ideologies, which are making a terrific impact on our ways of life, the obvious move is for us, like a seaman who has drifted from salt to fresh water, without knowing it, to cast down our bucket where we are and draw fresh water to assuage our thirst. Yes, we must dig deep from our roots to discover this secret of successful co-existence.
Ethnographers who studied our social and political institutions have left a catalogue of written literature of a magnitude beyond the comprehension of a single person. According to them and from what was handed to us by oral traditions, although our ancestors were non-literate nevertheless, they left a wealth of folkloristic literature and traditional history which are easily accessible. A fusion of these two sources is ample authority for postulating Nigerian ideologies.
From the internal and external evidence available, Nigerian political institutions in the hoary past were essentially democratic. Public opinion usually crystallised after public discussion during which exercise minority opinions were tolerated. Usually, majority opinion formed the basis of the custom, law and sanctions of the community. Indeed, this is a scaffolding with which Nigerians can build a modern system of democratic government because it is native.
Similarly, we have discovered that the economy of our ancestors was communal in nature and was based on a landed peasantry. Each person had his private property and his share of the land. They traded by barter or by means of some form of exchange. This shows that they believed in private enterprise as well. They lived to co-operate with the other members of the community as their brother’s keeper.
Here, we have the genesis of a socialist society in structure but capitalist in content. Might we not use this heritage to prepare a socio-economic matrix with which we can harmonise capitalism and socialism together with the paraphernalia of a welfare state?
Out of the amalgam of Nigerian social institutions delineated above I have forged what can be called Nigerian Democracy and Nigerian Welfarism. In doing so I have not divorced them from the universal roots of democracy, capitalism and socialism. But I am not being dogmatic necessarily about Nigerian ideologies. I am merely trying to create a healthy atmosphere which would facilitate their emergence as Nigerian epistemology and ethics in so far as they are applicable to contemporary Nigerian politics and economics.
The emergence of Nigerian ideologies is bound to insulate Nigerians from the shock of certain political and economic doçtrines which are alien to our way of life For example if we knew that our indigenous political institutions were essentially democratic, to the extent of harbouring minority opposition views, how can we reconcile same with the loose talks about on party states being African in nature and content?
Again, if we understood that our ancestors were not a landless peasantry and that they established what tantamount to a socialist society which approved the ownership of private property and encouraged individual private enterprise, why should we swallow wholesale any doctrines which purport to indoctrinate us with ideas which are definitely contradictory to our own philosophy of life?
I know that my premises are concerned with primitive simple societies; but assuming that we are honest in solutions to the problems raised in twentieth century Nigeria by the dilemmas of Western and Oriental civilizations then it obligatory for us to adopt a tolerant scepticism in respect of ideologies and then examine impartially our aboriginal lore good living. If we reacted otherwise, then we would be desecrating the legacy which our forbears had bequeathed to us from past generations.
It is against this background that I have come into the picture to offer solutions and thus help in salvaging this generation from a justifiable accusation of dereliction of duty, by default and by culpable negligence, by our posterity. It is said that drastic and severe remedies are imperative treatments for chronic and protracted diseases and I propose to attack these problems radically, because I conceive that to make Nigeria stable we must adopt a pragmatic policy that has concrete meaning to the average Nigerian.
In expounding his philosophy of pragmatism, William James urged that logic should be relegated to the background in favour of ‘reality, life, experience, concreteness and immediacy.’ He explained that any idea which is found to be worth-while takes on a character of truth in so far as it bears a direct relation to the fact experiences of daily living.
Acting on this premise, I believe that the trouble with us in Nigeria is due to the fact that apart from very few diehards and inspired leaders, most of our people are politically servile, economically subservient and socially effete. This makes them to play a questionable role as political leaders who are honest and reliable. Thus most of our people are becoming frustrated if not disillusioned as to the wisdom of ever struggling for national freedom.
My answer is to insulate every citizen of Nigeria from doubts and apprehensions by impregnating them positively with faith for tomorrow and hope for the future. I honestly believe that the effect would be miraculous. The impregnation, I suggest, must come from the Federal Government. Then, by its bold and demonstrable acts, it must specifically guarantee to every man and woman in Nigeria the ten fundamental freedoms already mentioned. These basic rights must not be trammelled on any account and they should not be violated, excepting under the due process of written law which can be subjected to interpretation by an independent and impartial judiciary.
As I see it, the answers to the political, economic and social problems posed above are soluble, provided the fundamental freedoms mentioned are entrenched in our Constitution, after completely eradicating the provisos which, at present, make them innocuous as part of our organic law. This done, the Solutions I now offer are capable of guaranteeing permanent stability for our federation and preserving the unity of our country.
Viewed pragmatically, it is obvious that our people will cease to harbour grievances about political iniquities, economic inequities and social inequality when they have rulers who are dedicated to the amelioration of the above disabilities. Here, it must be made clear that I impugn the integrity of none and I do not expect our rulers to be angels since they are human beings; but my point is that when a team of dedicated leaders with a sense of mission, patriotic vision and inspired imagination assume the reins of Government, they cannot fail to read the handwriting on the wall of Nigeria’s destiny.
The first thing to do is to ensure all Regional Governments, as well as all Local Governments, equality of treatment in distributing revenue allocation for local development purposes on the basis of even development. Any Federal Government which will have the courage and statesmanship to do this will stymie all the loose talks about alleged policy of drift; and much of the cant of the past will be arrested if not completely obliterated.
The only effective way to maintain the unity of this country is to concede to each Region, each Province, ‘and each Local Authority, throughout the whole country, de jure equality and dc facto inequality. By de jure equality I mean that every Province and every Local Authority in each Region in the Federal Republic of Nigeria are legally equal to the extent that it becomes a categorical imperative for the Federal Government to provide each of them, on a clearly defined basis, with the basic necessities and amenities of modern life in their respective areas of authority irrespective of the federal nature of our country. By de facto inequality, I mean the acceptance of the obvious fact that not all the Regions, Provinces, and Local authorities are equal either in their area or population or natural resources or financial means.
My stability formula is that each Region, each Province, an each Local Authority should be entitled, as of right, and co-ordinate or sub-co-ordinate of the Federation to a basic subvention specifically indicated, of an irreducible minimum, incorporated in the annual estimates and payable by the Federal Government, for the activities of each Federal Ministry in each Region, each Province, and each Local Authority area. This will be more than sufficient proof of the legal equality of the constituent elements of our Federal Republic. On the other hand, additional grants must be guaranteed each Region, on the basis of revenue allocation to be agreed upon, jointly and severally, by all Regions continually on the principle of needs and principle of derivation.
In other words grants allocated on a basis of de jure equality will be distributed on the principles of national interest and even development whilst those allocated on basis of de facto inequality will be distributed on the principles of needs and derivation.
I feel that the theory and practice of federalism need some reorientation in order to make the federal system adaptable and workable to people who live in underdeveloped economies. Apart from the natural fear of tyranny, if adequate safeguards are not made in a written constitution rigidly guaranteeing the citizen freedom from fear, there is also the natural apprehension that a federal system might restrict movements, discriminate against certain linguistic groups, and concentrate power in such a way as to make federalism a curse and not the blessing that it is expected to bring. Where there is goodwill, there is no reason why our Constitution cannot be so framed as to make every citizen of Nigeria enjoy the fundamental rights, without any inhibitions whatsoever.
In the case of economic development, with all that it connotes, there are certain imponderables that must be contained; and it is only by a policy of confrontation that our leaders can have an upper hand. In a paper which he presented at the first International congress of Africanists, which was held at the University of Ghana, Accra, from 11th to 18th December 1962, Professor I. Potekhin of the U.S.S.R., explained that the poverty of the African lay in the fact that he was unskilled, his productivity was low and he lacked capital. The solution to the problem, he adduced, was to close all the channels through which national income leaked out of Africa.
He said that this leakage was identified by the Ivory Coast Minister of Information, Mr. Mathieu Ekra, as ‘financial haemorrhage,’ and he thought that certain specific measures boldly taken by the African governments could restore a healthy economy from its present anemic position. Among his suggestions are compulsory investment of a part of the profits, higher taxation of individual incomes and corporation profits, establishment of national banking and insurance concerns, setting up of autonomous shipping and air fleets, and tool manufacturing industries, stricter control over exports and imports and foreign exchange transactions, etc.
We, in Nigeria, have tried some of these suggestions and modified them to suit our national temperament; but the measures introduced by us would be useless, unless we carried our – people in the rural areas with us. Hence, I have thought it wise to widen the periphery of Nigerian federalism to include the Local Authorities as well, so that the villagers will enjoy with the town and city folks the amenities of modern life. It will not be difficult to find the means, so long as we have the men and women with courage and vision to dare and plan to salvage their brothers and sisters from poverty and penury.
It is true that a lot of money would be needed to provide for all these necessities; but that is why we have experts and leaders. Let those concerned get together and make positive plans so as to provide for the establishment (where they do not exist), and for the maintenance, of these services. As politicians, they formulate policies; as administrators, the experts implement policies. If the politicians are incapable of planning competently, then they should give way to those who can do so. If the experts are incapable of implementing the plans efficiently, then they should give way to those who can. It will be indefensible for this Republic to drift planlessly, without any attempt to ensure that all the citizens of this country are guaranteed freedom from want. It ma not be difficult to guarantee freedom from fear, but with the increased number of Nigerian men and women becoming educated, it is only a matter of time, when the new generation will come into their heritage.
A close and objective study of my concept of the new federal ism in Nigeria should convince one that, if policy is clearly formulated, and an efficacious programme is devised and efficiently implemented it will not be long when accusations of partiality, necessitating demands for the creation of more States, or for a fairer slice of the national cake, by representatives of so- called neglected areas, will be a thing of the past in our body politic.
ENTITLEMENTS OF EACH LOCAL AUTHORITY
On the basis of de jure equality, each Local Authority in the Federal Republic should be entitled to the following establishments at its headquarters, under the auspices, support and control of the Federal Government:
Defence and Security: A brigade or a naval unit (if the area is riverine); a military bugle and flute corps; a Police detachment; a Police band.
Economics: 33 1/3% of all Federal investment holdings to be distributed equally to all Local Authorities for retention as uncommitted reserves, to be re-invested in Federal Treasury Bills, the income of which shall be credited to the Treasury of each Local Authority, as current revenue, for exclusive use on Federally-approved projects.
Communications: Post Office with central automatic telephone exchange service; postal agency and limited telephone service in addition to a rediffusion station, in each village or Local Council area of authority.
Judiciary: A magistrate court building.
Labour: An employment exchange.
Mines and Power: A co-operative fuel shop for local distribution of coal or gas oil, and for the sale or hire of electrical goods and associated appliances.
Economic Development: Federal forest reserve of one thousand acres.
Transport: Co-operative bus transport services (with taxicab terminal) for inter-State road traffic; wharf or jetty to be constructed on a selected site on the bank of any town (with population of 2,500) in each riverine Local Authority area. On the same basis of de jure equality, each Province in the Federal Republic should be entitled to the following establishments at its headquarters, under the auspices, support, and control of the Federal Government:
Defence and Security: A battalion (or a naval base in each riverine Province); a military band; a Provincial Police Office; a Police band.
Economics: A secondary and tertiary industry; a co-operative shop and super-market for retailing capital goods and provisions; a second class hotel (25-50 rooms); a weekly periodical.
Communications: Five post offices, each with central automatic telephone exchanges, situated in the northern, southern, eastern, western, and central sectors of the town.
Judiciary: A High Court building.
Internal Affairs: A reformatory prison; a Federal agency for issuing passports and travel documents.
Labour: A co-ordinating office for employment exchanges throughout the Province.
Mines and Power: A co-operative quarry (where rock abounds); a power station.
Economic Development: Five co-operative farm plantations, of five thousand acres each, for the production of food crops; five co-operative food exchange depots, for the storage and distribution of foodstuffs; five co-operative fish farms, of twenty acres. each, for the production and distribution of fish; five co-operative livestock farms, of one hundred acres each, for the breeding and distribution of livestock and meat. The figure five implies siting establishments in the northern, southern, eastern, western, and central sectors of each Province.
Social Services: Five parks of fifty acres each; playground ai sports centre (fifty acres); co-operative low cost housing (five hundred acres); a cinema theatre (to seat 500).
Transport: Airstrip and helicopter landing stage; co-opt bus and taxicab service for inter-State road traffic.
Works: Water supply system; main boulevard (four lane street of not less than one mile.
On the same basis of de jure equality, each Region of the Federal Republic should be entitled to the following establishments, at its capital, or elsewhere, under the auspices, support control of the Federal Government:
Defence and Security: A regiment or an army command massed bands; in case of riverine state a naval command; a Regional Police headquarters with massed band.
Economics: Five basic or heavy industries; ten light industries; a first class hotel (50-100 rooms); a co-operative printing works and bindery; a co-operative daily and Sunday newspaper; a monthly magazine; a co-operative bank; a co-operative insurance company; a co-operative building society.
Finance: 33 1/3% of all Federal investment holdings to be distributed equally to all Regions for retention as uncommitted reserves, to be re-invested in Federal Treasury Bills, the income of which shall be credited to the Regional Treasury, as current revenue, for exclusive use on Federally-approved projects.
Internal Affairs: Five fire fighting stations; a federal penitentiary; a broadcasting central station; a television central station; a branch of the Federal information service.
Justice: A building for the Regional Court of Appeal.
Mines and Power: Mining and ancillary manufacturing activities in respect of the mineral resources in each Region.
Social Services: A university for 2,500 or more students (two thousand acres for use as campus, and eight thousand acres for use as agricultural and commercial estates); five secondary polytechnics for 1,000 students each (one thousand acres each) in or near the capital of each Region; a specialist and teaching hospital, preferably at or near a university town; a mental hospital; a rehabilitation centre for the handicapped (the blind, deaf, dumb, lame, waif, old); a Borstal institution; a library; a museum; a stadium; a natatorium; a gymnasium; an auditorium; a cinema theatre (to seat 1,000); a zoological garden; a wild life sanctuary; a botanical garden.
Transport: International airports to be built or maintained in Lagos, Kano, Calabar, Port Harcourt and Jos; a regular airport; railway stations (with bus and taxicab terminals); the development of Abonnema, Akassa, Bonny, Brass, Burutu, Eket, Forcados, Opobo and Oron to be full-fledged ports of entry.
WORKS: A quadrangular building (four storeys) to house all Federal Ministries; a boulevard of four lanes of not less than five miles; a toll highway (four lane roads) for all inter-Regional trunk roads; toll bridges (two lanes) either permanent or Bailey or pontoons to ford the following river banks: Argungu, Atimbo, Adah, Ikom, Itigidi, Lagos (an additional bridge with four lanes), Human, Obubra, Sapele, Yola, etc., in order to connect them with their opposite banks.
If these necessities and amenities of modern community living are guaranteed the various nationalities who live in each of the Local Authorities, Provinces, and Regions—and they comprise the great majority of the inhabitants of this great country, the federal nature of our existence will have real meaning to the man and woman in the village. Regional Governments are incapable of satisfying the basic needs of our people, because their revenue potentials are restricted. The Federal Government can give leadership by bringing home to the doors of the people of Nigeria the blessings of twentieth century civilisation. This done, the urge to make an exodus from the rural to the urban areas would recede and, since there would be even development of all areas, the agitation for separate states, or the accusations of partiality in the distribution of amenities, would cease.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
This brings me to the end of this lecture. Let me summarise. I started by explaining how the gregarious instinct compels human beings to live together and develop consciousness of kind. In their community life, they were able to employ their intelligence for purpose of adaptation to reality. I cited examples to show that in respect of the British, Swiss, Americans, and Russians, they were able to discard their individual chauvinistic ideas and practices in order to develop a common nationality.
The Nigerian experience shows that our many nationalities have succeeded in adapting themselves to homogeneous situations, but not quite satisfactorily under heterogeneous conditions as we have today In the light of the experience of other nations, I submitted that, other things being equal, the Nigerian nationalities would soon shed their parochialism for a higher loyalty to the new nation of their own creation.
To facilitate the transfer of this lower loyalty to a higher loyalty, I have sought to add a new dimension to the concept and practice of federalism so as to include not only the major cor ordinate units, like the Regions or the States, but also the minor co-ordinate units, like the Local Authorities and the Provinces.
Today, there are in Nigeria four Regions, and approximately 80 provinces and 400 Local Authorities.
With intelligence, knowledge and conviction, those who are vested with the power to rule Nigeria, be they political parties or what not, should be able to devise plans in quinquennial or decennial sequences, when each of the various units of our federal republic would enjoy their own share of the benefits of modern community living. It need not be done overnight, but that is not to say that it cannot be done.
I feel that if proper planning machinery is created, and personnelled with competent men and women, it should be possible for any government of the day to give hope to the people of Nigeria by indicating which of the 400 Local Authorities, 80 Provinces and four Regions, at five points of the compass, would receive part of their entitlements, either this year, or the next, or that after, or during the first or the second five year plans. Assurance that some changes in the status quo would be forthcoming in the immediate or remote future, will more than satisfy the yearnings of our people, provided the assurance is definite, specific, and the amenities are to be equitably distributed without discrimination or chauvinism.
Why am I so optimistic about the future of our federal republic and its survival as a multi-partisan democracy, under the rule of law? Let me make an excursion into the archives of our constitutional history. It is on record that on 4th March 1948 the Legislative Council of Nigeria unanimously adopted a motion standing in my name, to the effect that what Nigeria needed uppermost was national unity. On that occasion, I ended my opening debate with these words:
‘It is essential that ill-will be not created in order to encourage a sort of Pakistan in this country. The North and the South are one, whether we wish it or not. The forces of history have made it so. We have a common destiny; so too, the East and the West.
Any attempt from any source to create dissension and make the North feel that it is different from the South, and the West from the East, or to make any particular nationality or tribe in Nigeria feel it is different from the others, should be deprecated.’
During the Constitutional Conference at Ibadan, in 1949, the Honourable Iro Katsina, a member of the Legislative Council and one of the foundation members of the Northern House of Assembly, said:
‘I would like to inform the House frankly and honestly that the North does not like to separate from the South and at the same time does not like the South to dominate her. They should both go together as equal partners. In this way, I am sure, we can build a good constitution for, Nigeria.
In this, the honourable gentleman was supported by another, legislator, Honourable Turaki M. Ali, who added: ‘Wherever Nigerian is, North, West or East, he should try to work soleheartedly for the interest of his “One Nigeria”.’
Professor Eyo Ita also emphasised the idea of national unity when the architects of our constitution were hard at work Ibadan, in December 1949. He cautioned:
‘Unity is certainly our best policy; but we must seek quite since to secure genuine and durable unity. I am sure inequality of status and inequality of opportunity will not secure it to us.’
In this connection he received a staunch support from the Hon. S. O. Awokaya, who added almost prophetically: ‘Any regional autonomy we may desire must be such as is compatible with overall Nigerian interest.’
Emboldened by the faith of the leaders of this country mi ultimate unity, and bearing in mind that the quotations I made above were uttered fifteen years ago, when there was doubt about Nigerians to live together like one nation, and efforts were made to sow seeds of dissension among our various nationalities, I am bound to be hopeful. Today, the pattern has changed and although the events of the past weeks would indicate a sort of recrudescence of jingoism, I have strong reasons to advocate this new synthesis that should culminate in a new type of federalism keep this country together permanently.
It is true that tribalism will continue to thrive temporarily until the transfer of allegiance from it to the nation is completed. It may take a generation or more to turn the trick. But we can now to divest our political parties of the trappings of tribalism and regionalism. After the London Constitutional Conference of 1953, Dr. T. O. Elias, who was then a Research Fellow in Law, at Oxford University, made some cogent observations and suggestions regarding the organisation of political parties in Nigeria, when he asserted:
‘Political parties would have to cut across the artificial barriers of tribe and region, and social and political convictions of party members would replace the present tribal and regional affiliations. National loyalties must supercede sectional claims; only this way could National leaders, acceptable to the majority of Nigerians, be produced to tackle the exacting demands of a modern constitution.’
No political party in Nigeria can escape from the above strictures. According to the latest scholarly study on Nigerian political parties, which Professor Coleman described as ‘the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the party system of a new out any exception, are involved in associating themselves with tribal unions. This is inevitable bearing state,’ all the political parties of this country, within mind our sociological background. To that extent, therefore, it is a moral obligation for all political parties to heed the advice of Dr. Elias and see whether it would not be possible to draw peoples who hold identical views together to represent their political parties, only on the basis of their political principles and convictions and not necessarily on any other extraneous factors.
We, all, realise that the emergence of Nigeria as a federal republic is fraught with problems of a social, economic and political nature. These have been intensified by factors of tribalism with their divisive effect on the body politic. The existence of these problems offer a challenge to Nigerian leaders to contain them and thereby facilitate the emergence of Nigeria as a nation of plenty, which respects the dignity of man and builds a welfare state, ‘where no man is oppressed.’
Whilst tribalism is capable of delaying national homogeneity, it is only a matter of time, when sociological factors would compel all the various streams of tribalism to converge through the channel of constitutional government, and flow into the river of national unity. Thus, in spite of diversities of language and culture, the racially homogeneous, but linguistically and culturally heterogeneous, tribes of Nigeria can coalesce into a Nigerian nation.
To attain this goal, incentives in the form of assurance of individual freedom, respect for human dignity, and freedom from war and penury, must be guaranteed to all the language and cultural groups of Nigeria, on the basis of de jure equality, at the Provincial and Local Authority levels, and de facto inequality, & the Regional level. That done, the egg of Nigerian nationality should be hatched.
In short, so long as those who form the individual tribes Nigeria are guaranteed, under a rigid and written Cons that they would enjoy freedom from fear and freedom from want, in addition to the other fundamental rights of man, which now universally recognised and practised in certain European countries, and that the rule of law will continue to feature our parliamentary government, under a republican system of representative democracy, and that our rulers would eschew all temptations towards the one-party system of authoritarian regime, that would be a countervailing factor to induce transference of allegiance from the tribe to the nation.
I set out to demonstrate that tribalism can become a pragmatic instrument for national unity. Without an individual, there can be no community; without communities, there can be no tribe: without tenance of law, order and good government, and tribes, there can be no nations. It takes individuals to form a community; it takes communities to form a tribe; it takes tribes to form a nation. Let us hope tribalism will be harnessed to become an instrument for forging our national unity