By Leonard Karshima Shilgba –
The concepts of “Topology” and “System” have been accorded considerable discussion and research in mathematics. While a “Topology of a non-empty set” is a structure which consists of the set itself, the null set, and selected subsets such that the union of any number of the subsets yields a member in the structure, and the intersection of a finite number thereof is contained in the structure, a “System” is a structure which consists of a non-empty set and a binary operation (or binary systems) defined on the set. Stretching the mathematical concepts, Topology is concerned with properties of a geometric object which are unchanged or preserved under continuous deformations such as bending, stretching, twisting, or crumpling, without tearing, opening holes, gluing, closing holes, or passing through itself (self-piercing); and a System is concerned with the combinatorial rules imposed upon a class of objects or elements which yield an element within the class when applied on any pair of elements in the class.
My focus is to investigate Nigeria as a Topology and as a System. As a Topology, I focus on how best to structure Nigeria in a way that could facilitate harmony among its subnationalities and preserve certain “good” properties, identities, or cultures that are universally associated with the country; as a System, what are the basic rules of engagement, values, and ethical boundaries that are required to build a society of civil and enlightened citizens.
First, let me address six errors of perception, assumptions, and expectations that I have observed among certain elements that are associated with Nigeria:
Democracy is not perfect, and neither is it a magic wand of socioeconomic development: Democracy is a rule of selection by the people of their representatives at the negotiations of distribution of resources and opportunities for the wellbeing and safety of the people. Without democracy, laws can yet be made to govern the conduct of members of a society; even without democracy, the judicial system still works. In fact, that the judicial system still works in the absence of democracy presupposes the existence of a body of laws which are the basis of litigation and adjudication in the society. But without democracy, the people are never involved in the selection of their representatives. Hence, a rational enquiry is: How reflective of the wishes of the preponderance of the people or electorate is the electoral outcome? It is impossible for every member of the society to be satisfied with a decision made by the majority or the highest proportion of the people who freely choose to participate. But democracy is partly about the electoral outcomes determined by numerical strength, not the strength of our arguments. The majority may make its electoral choices out of an abundance of ignorance, mischief, sectarian considerations, or foolishness; yet, we must all live with their consequences for a while until the next electoral opportunity is presented to us. It is true that quite often the “representatives of the people” become so by the will of just a tiny percentage of the people, because the majority of the people were simply not interested to go out and register an opinion on the Election Day. This is an imperfection of democracy. But should the majority of the people be denied the right to choose their representatives just because the minority are aggrieved by their loss?
Socioeconomic development is not a “dividend of democracy”. Nations have experienced significant economic development and improvement in social welfare under dictatorships. The only “dividend of democracy” is the unbridled rights of the people to hire and fire their representatives. The people are thereby responsible for the performance of their representatives. Once the electoral process is primed to reflect the choices of the people, they must be held accountable for those choices.
Nigeria’s democracy is not accountable to any other sovereign nation: Some of Nigeria’s sons and daughters behave as though Nigeria is subject to some other countries. They pretend to report Nigeria to certain foreign states. This conduct is born either out of ignorance or mischief. I should propose that a law that would criminalize such shameful conduct be crafted and passed. Our education should not make us more foolish, nor should our international exposure make us more ignorant, self-immolating, and grounded in genuflecting diffidence. Within Nigeria’s electoral process is a system of arbitration over election disputes. If those Nigerians, who carry their nation’s electoral matters to foreign states for adjudication, validation, foreign orders, or sanctions, knew about this and yet indulged in their exhibition of shame, Nigerians who have some pride of nationhood in them must agree to frown at, or upbraid this display of ignominy.
Re-structuring of Nigeria is not a silver bullet: Some Nigerians hold the opinion that “re-structuring Nigeria would solve the country’s problems”. This is an errant assumption. Ask any 10 Nigerians their understanding and expectation of “Re-structuring of Nigeria”, and you would certainly get variegated and maybe contradictory answers. Every generation of any society would always find some “imperfections” in their constitution, laws, or union that they would desire to fix. This is a fact about life. No generation can see far into the future, prejudge the peculiarities and tastes of future generations, and then make a perfect, unalterable, and inviolate constitution for them.
It is presumptuous to arrogate to yourself the role of an advocate for your ethnic group without documented mandate by them to represent them: Every so often certain persons emerge out of the blues to appropriate the role of representatives of their ethnic groups in Nigeria, and begin to make trouble—posting provocative, incendiary, and outlandish statements, and claiming that, “our people have been marginalized for too long in Nigeria. We want their freedom.” Although their ethnic groups have elected representatives in government at all levels, they disregard this fact, and contest the “patriotism” of those elected representatives toward their ethnic groups, whom they even accuse of “betrayal of the ethnic cause”. It is common that those presumptuous usurpers of ethnic leadership in Nigeria use the instruments of violence to intimidate and browbeat even the very people on whose behalf they claim to “fight”. In the end, “their people” dare not speak up against their excesses for fear of attacks, destruction, and even death. Eventually, the reign of terror, which those usurpers epitomize, is accepted as a normal to be endured, a symbol of the struggle, and a rule to be complied with by “their people”. And should the Nigerian State lift a finger to challenge the legitimacy of the usurpers, “their people”, who have become victims of the usurpers, cry out that their ethnic group is being “oppressed by the Nigerian State”; even their elected representatives, who have been disregarded by the usurpers, often turn into intercessors on behalf of the usurpers when they end up in the custody of the Nigerian State, pleading that either the judicial process should be abandoned and the usurpers “released to” them, or that a “presidential pardon” should be granted those usurpers whom they eulogize as “heroes” of their group. Thus, violence has been accorded a veneer of legitimacy, oppression is normalized, and the instigators have been venerated to sainthood within a number of ethnic groups in Nigeria.
For fear of the accusation of “marginalization of ethnic groups”, the Nigerian State has often let go criminals with only a slap on the wrist, thereby destroying the tool of deterrence. No nation survives where illicit appropriators of ethno-political powers always win in the end this way. If patriots become convinced that violence pays, even achieving quick stardom, the motivation to remain patriotic and law-abiding wanes. Why use the long route of the lawful process when shortcuts offer quicker and greater dividends? If Nigeria continues rewarding ethnic criminals with fame, influence, and material riches at the conference of compromise, I fear violence shall become too attractive to be tamed even as it will attract more justifiers, at least from the ethnic groups of its purveyors.
Crime has no ethnicity or religion: It is common in Nigeria to distract from fighting crime with our proclivities towards associating crime with the ethnicities and religions of the criminals. Moreover, when criminals are arrested by the Nigerian State, questions such as, “Are they the only criminals; is it not because they come from this religion or that ethnic group?” are often asked. Consequently, “selective treatment” is another accusation levelled against the Nigerian State.
Nigerians must choose between elective democracy and selective donation of political power:
Political power is not a donation to one ethnic group by the rest. In a country with more than 200 ethnic groups, how do Nigerians expect to achieve harmony through pleasing one ethnic group with, for instance, “donation of the office of President of Nigeria” by ignoring the equally important other ethnic groups, who have never had any person from their group occupy any of the top three positions of leadership in the Nigerian State? Is it because those “other ethnic groups” are not remonstrating so loudly, or they don’t matter; must they also demonstrate their “nuisance value” to be heard? Why do we twist our reward system—appeasing those with a more grotesque exhibition of nuisance or violence, while ignoring others who are more reasonable, patient, and peaceful? Politics of appeasement never grows countries into nations. And we should not encourage contradictions in practice while encouraging economic competition on the one hand and discouraging political competition on the other. It is time to throw open our political field in the same way we are progressively liberalizing our economy. The incremental political development of the Nigerian electorate should be our goal, which shall be achieved through equally incremental socialization. But we must not force political maturity by fiat of imposition of “ethnic inclusivity”, blackmail of moral kidnapping, or a decree for the electorate to vote in a certain way to achieve “ethnic inclusion”, all being crass abnegation of democracy.
Secondly, I interrogate the following, which relate to citizenship sacrifice, responsibility, and accountability:
If the Nigerian State has invested resources to educate and train Citizen Nigerian, doesn’t the State deserve the appreciation of preference from Citizen Nigerian?
Citizen Nigerian may have many plausible reasons for preferring another State instead of Nigeria, among which may be “insecurity in the Nigerian State”. However, was this state of “insecurity in the Nigerian State” absent during the period of his education and training within the subsidized institutions of the Nigerian State?
If a nation state can make laws and enforce them, it would be negligent of its political leaders to let citizens, who are trained at great cost to the nation, whose services are required by the nation, and for whom stations of service are ready, to migrate out of the nation to serve other nations on the flimsy excuse that there is insecurity in their home nation state. Citizens who could endure the alleged state of insecurity during their training days in the home nation state should also endure a legislated period of home service before migrating out. The Benefactor State deserves the appreciation of preference; and if citizens would not offer it willingly, the law must compel them to.
The Nigerian State must boldly start demanding of her citizens the services she deserves. This State offers heavily subsidized education to her citizens who choose to attend her public education institutions, but allows them the liberty to choose whether their acquired skills should be placed at her disposal. If the beneficiaries wouldn’t appreciate this national sacrifice and investment, the Nigerian State is just to make them to. There are needs sectors of the Nigerian socioeconomic life where certain scarce skills are required. If Citizen Nigerian has acquired those needed skills during training at a public Nigerian education institution, those skills must be put at Nigeria’s disposal first. The Nigerian State owns the Right of First Refusal (RFR).
Too many Citizen Nigerians are too religious without desire to sacrifice; and Worship without Sacrifice (WWS) is one of the social sins in human societies, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends”. Citizen Nigerians do not love Nigeria if sacrifice for the nation is not part of their credentials.
The liberty granted Citizen Nigerian (by birth) under Section 28 of the Nigerian Constitution to acquire the citizenship of another country and still keep the Nigerian citizenship is a privilege, which should not be abused, for instance, by such citizen going to war against Nigeria in any manner, form, or guise. It is more honorable if Citizen Nigerian renounces the Nigerian citizenship if he or she is ashamed to be associated with Nigeria, dissatisfied with Nigeria, or views the citizenship as a burden or an obstacle to be put away or laid aside. And it should be noted that the Nigerian Constitution (under Section 29) makes provision for any citizen of Nigeria, howsoever recognized, to renounce their citizenship, and for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to cause such renunciation declaration to be registered, except for certain circumstantial exceptions when the President shall withhold the registration. I cite Section 29 below:
Section 29 (1) Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.
(2) The President shall cause the declaration made under subsection (1) of this section to be registered and upon such registration, the person who made the declaration shall cease to be a citizen of Nigeria.
(3) The President may withhold the registration of any declaration made under subsection (1) of this section if—
(a) the declaration is made during any war in which Nigeria is physically involved; or
(b) in his opinion, it is otherwise contrary to public policy.
Citizen Nigerian must be made by the Nigerian State to appreciate the value and stakes of his citizenship. It is public knowledge that banishment is coterminal with some communities in Nigeria, which signifies loss of privileges and the right to enjoy the benefits of belonging. If a nation state fails to enforce discipline, it shall soon descend into an anarchical state, as the citizens believe they can get away with any egregious displays. Why would a Nigerian citizen shred a Nigerian passport (a property of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) in a trending video, and there are no serious consequences against him from the State? Citizen Nigerian may renounce his citizenship as provided by the Nigerian Constitution, but he must be sanctioned for desecrating his citizenship or the Nigerian symbols of sovereignty.
Certain Citizen Nigerians have refused to renounce their citizenship while also refusing to accept the demands of national sacrifice made of their citizenship. It is evident under the Nigerian Constitution that even rights of Citizen Nigerian could be denied in favor of “public policy” [See, for instance, Section 29 (3) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria]. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Nigerian State to hold forth the doctrine of the supremacy of public policy, and impress this upon even the impressionable minds of the State.
Thirdly, I would turn my attention to the optimal structure of the Nigerian union. My approach is to propose a set of irreducible principles that should guide any form, appearance, or stature of restructuring of the Nigerian State:
S: Any structure for the Nigerian State must make Nigeria stronger, not weaker, and safer, not more insecure or unsafe. It must not make any subnational government stronger, richer (however defined), or more attractive than the whole.
T: The Nigerian State under an appropriate structure should not instigate transfer of the commonwealth to a few new local lords, or trigger a replication at a local level of the present obnoxious traits at the national level, which are so distasteful. The bodily ailments must be cured by restructuring instead of enforcing their recession to just a part of the body.
R: A suitable restructuring of the Nigerian State must be the one that revives the things that are dying in the nation. Dying love of citizens for the State, dying patriotism among citizens, dying trust between ethnicities or religions, and dying hope of the people must be revived by such restructuring.
U: Optimal restructuring must upgrade the Nigerian State: The security, economy, quality of life, social services, infrastructure, and regional relations must all be upgraded or improved thereby.
C: Consensus must be sought and won among the nationalities of Nigeria, which are the informal federating units, on the new charter of relationships between them, and new distribution of burdens, resources, and risks among them.
T: Right timing for restructuring is very important, appropriate tactics matter, and significant trust must be built first. Haste toward restructuring must be avoided. Nation-building is a relay race—one generation passes on the unfinished business to the next. No generation is ordained to solve all the problems of future generations whose priorities, perception, and values it cannot prejudge today.
U: Unimpeachable understanding of the status quo must precede its evaluation before a verdict on restructuring of the Nigerian State is made. “Restructuring” shouldn’t be simply a fad word to be dropped by those who are frustrated with life, disappointed in their paltry fruits of existence, and angry that society doesn’t offer freebies.
R: Reconstruction of incorruptible national values of work before wealth, responsibility before privilege, sacrifice in love, generosity with even little, national repentance from greed, and contentment with aspirations is the best form of national restructuring.
E: Restructuring of the Nigerian State should not be an escape from reality by those who assume “resource control” is an ineluctable consequence. How safe are the boundaries of control of those resources; what guarantees exist that the communities laying claim to the resources will not turn against themselves in the future? The question shouldn’t be “who owns the resources”, but rather who owns pretenders to the resource-rich domains? He who owns the mind owns the heritage.
The Nigerian topology and system should be the STRUCTURE acronym above.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is a mathematics professor, writer, author, Bible teacher and pastor.