HISTORY, CULTURAL VALUES AND JUSTICE
History and cultural values and justice matter in nation building especially in the introduction of change. But during the last primaries in Nigeria, these were were side – lined. Basically history is the “study of past events particularly in human affairs” and it affords us the opportunity to learn useful lessons from past experience. It has been observed that those who failed to learn useful lessons of history are bound to repeat its mistakes.
Cultural values can be understood as “the value which people have given to items through their association with those items”. It is “about shared perception of how people routinely behave in a culture” – their “shared ideals” Cultural values can be “aesthetic, social, symbolic, spiritual and educational”. Violated cultural values can lead to injured feeling and crisis in the polity. Justice can be simply taken to mean “just behavior” or just treatment”. History shows that injustice has been a major cause of most disagreements disaffections and social and political crisis in the world. In the interest of peace, harmony, Justice and unity, it is always good to respect shared cultural values, practice, convention and to guided by history.
There is a legal doctrine that is relevant here to show why history, cultural values and Justice should be respected in nation building. It is what the lawyers call “Stare -decisis”. Stare -decisis is a Latin word which means:” to stand by things decided”. In. Law, it is about making reference to precedents in delivering judgements. According to legal sources, it is following “the precedent set by previous cases with similar circumstances in deciding current cases in order to ensure continuity and uniformity in the law”. The purpose of ” standing by things decided is to ensure that justice is served equally (https://legal, job>blog>stare- decisis). It is to prevent arbitrary actions such as changing the rule of the game midway after the game has taken off.
It is true the Political parties are charged with the constitutional responsibility of organizing primaries and of presenting candidates for the general election. Did the primaries meet the demands of history, Justice , conventional practice, precedent etc.? Our answer is No. As we observed in the first part of this exercise, the 2022 primaries produced candidates for the 2023 general elections quite alright but parties especially the major ones fell short of public expectations. For instance, they failed to show moral sense and patriotism in some critical areas of general concern such as power shift. In other words, on the surface, there was attempt at power shift, zoning of offices but it was done in a haphazard, half hearted manner.
Thus as typified by the two leading parties, it ended wrong place. The wrong power shift took place. Narrow individual and party interest held sway over national interest especially the need for equitable Justice, fair play and assured opportunity for maximum participation and inclusion by all sections of the country. Rather than power shift in the national interest as was understood before the primaries, parties’ Winn ability became the dominant values.
Consequently the PDP shifted base from the north west to North East thereby re-igniting the fear of perpetual northern domination, re-awaking and deepening the hostility and heightening the north /south tensions. The APC turned to the South West for its presidential candidate thereby worsening the age long distrust between the South West and South East.
We are worried because we know that injustice including a strong feeling of exclusion, marginalization without hope of positive change in the horizon has been the major cause of crisis leading at times to disintegration. The political parties ought to be more futuristic, patriotic, morally conscious and to appreciate the fact that there is life after the primaries. Nigeria deserves to live as one country in unity, peace and harmony after the 2023 elections. To this extent the primaries failed the moral test of rightness as opposed to wrongness.
This point is important to note because the fear of domination and perpetual, anger with injustice, exclusion and wanton corruption led to the cancerous crisis of the 1960s in one of the regions that would spread across the country to end the first republic. History also shows that when a zone which was once denied the presidency won by Chief MKO Abiola was later pacified through political solution deliberately worked by military and political elite to redress the injustice of exclusion associated with the annulment of the June12. The solution ensured that the presidency was zoned to the South West geo political. General O Obasanjo is a product of that negotiated solution. He was released from the prisons unconditionally, contested for the presidency against another Yoruba – Chief Olu Falae and won. The group was pacified and Nigeria moved on.
Ever since power rotation, power shift and zoning of political offices power, and federal character became part of our political cultural lexicon and cherished shared values. Over time, these measures have become strong part of our shared values that had kept our collective hope for national unity and development alive through anticipated citizenry maximum participation and equal access to political power in the country. They have been accepted as part of our democratic practice and cultural values. Even one of the conditions for registering a political party in Nigeria are national spread, the federal character of structure etc.
The measures might not have been the best approach but they received general acceptance as insurance against perpetual exclusion from power and marginalization , offered great prospect of breaking the monopoly of power by some ethnic groups and hope of effective citizenry participation. Above all, they have remained in our collective consciousness as solution to some of our problems that threaten our collective existence. And they have helped in keeping the faith strong in fatherland in the belief that no matter how long it takes, political power will go round every zone of the country. This culture of hope, this progressive march towards national unity, stability, and these cherished shared values for positive nation building are what the 2022 primaries disrupted to our collective disadvantage and dismay.
Thus from the point of view of historical experiences, cultural value perspective and Justice angle, the 2022 primaries were a disappointment to many citizens largely because because Justice was not well served and cherished values and shared beliefs and conventions were violated or set aside without due consideration of the future well being of the country. They did not make due reference to History which helps in pointing out issues that had been settled or not and how things were done or could be done. They did not respect commonly shared values and conventional practice. And they did not address the question of historical injustice done to some some ethnic groups as implied in cries of marginalization, exclusion and ineffective participation. They were not truly concerned about the future of the country- her fate after the 2023 elections.
Rather ,the political leaders were at their best doing dirty, anti national unity work including shifting the goal post to suit their whims and caprices. By their unwise action of setting aside traditions, breaking with convention, shattering of shared values, halting a progressive historical trend of significant proportion towards national unity and by thwarting collective aspiration for selfish reasons, the 2022 primaries laid very poor foundation for the unity and greatness of the country after 2023. In other words, by not zoning their presidential ticket to the South East Geo-political Zone, the political elite especially of the two big political parties – the ruling party and the leading opposition party raised serious moral question and laid a dangerous trap for our collective future.
Unwittingly perhaps, the political elite through the presidential primaries returned the country to its darker, cantankerous, hateful and hurtful era that was characterized by inter ethnic treachery, high inter regional tensions, inter religious animosity, acute state of disunity, political domination by a region and the big tribe, cries of marginalization and neglect, wrong visioning and general mismanagement of diversity which saw the emergence of three countries in one country in the name of regionalism. It is needless to remind us that such Negative developments gave rise to military intervention and the subsequent death of the first republic. It is important to draw attention to the lapses in order to check or avoid them in the future.
AGELESS STRONG DESIRE
Apart from the fact that it is wise and helpful to do postmortem examination of a project, either in stages or as a whole, we undertake this exercise to identify gaps to be filled in future. For instance there are unmet ageless strong desires, frustrations and complaints to address. There is the fear of the negative effect of injured feeling and disappointed expectation to deal to tackle. Generally, the willful violation of a people’s culture, commonly shared values and cherished culture and beliefs had been known to cause crisis of serious proportion- at times war, sharp divisions and disintegration. The concern here is significant in the face of some shared strong desire for peace, harmony, unity development, collective aspiration for greatness, maximum citizenry participation, respect for the rule of the game, conventions.
Are the cries about injustice, exclusion, arbitrary change of the rule of the game justified today? The answer is yes. History shows that the the three regional structure created was largely unjust because of its lopsided nature in which one region – the north was bigger than the other two- eastern and western regions combined. This created earliest fear of domination, exclusion and inter- regional tensions and the need for opportunity for maximum participation in the national development process by all members of the Union. This is one of the justifications for the creation of more regions but called states in 1967. Among others it was to promote citizenry participation and correct some historical structural. Injustice.
Though the creation of more states had some salutary effect on the polity, yet it did not eliminate the need for Justice, Fair Play and the feeling of exclusion and marginalization. The search for better way to address these issues in nation building thus continued. Consequently many more efforts had been made ever since in response to complaints of injustice, marginalization etc. History shows that for a long time since independence – more so since 1999 leading to immediate time before the 2022 presidential primaries, there had been sustained complain of exclusion and extreme marginalization from across both at the national and state levels. The most persistent complaints with compelling and convincing evidence had come from the South East Geo-Political zone. For instance, based on recent historical development, they say none of their own members has been president of Nigeria since 1999. It would be helpful to recall that the group was one of the three legs upon which Nigeria reportedly stood in the first republic.
SERIOUS VALUE CONFLICT
There was serious value conflict during the primaries. The overall picture of the exercise is a mixed – grill of hope and eagerness for a limited few and hopelessness, disappointment and bewilderment for the vast majority of well informed Nigerians. It shows too the perfidy, hypocrisy and unreliability of the Nigerian political elite and the un readiness of the political elite to make sacrifice in the national interest. The Nigerian political elite are still dominated by selfish greed -what Senator Oyofo calls the” me, me and only me or nobody else syndrome. They are very ready to sacrifice national interest for a mess of pottage.
It was clear that values such as Nationalism, patriotism, altruism, power shift, zoning, morality and national survival do not mean anything much to the Nigerian political elite. During the primaries these core values took the back stage while their personal and party interests occupied the front row. We witnessed the crash of common hope and aspiration, and the promotion of party interest above national interest in order to accommodate some individual interests. The exercise revealed the political elite as unwilling to do the needful such as correcting historical injustice as exemplified by marginalization of some groups in the national interest.
POWER SHIFT, ROTATION, ZONING,FEDERAL CHARACTER AS PRODUCTS OF NECESSITY
Every nation must find solution to her peculiar problems. Nigeria is multi-cultural country that must ensure equitable Justice and fair treatment of her citizens before the law. Thus power shift, power rotation zoning , federal character etc are products of necessity created to promote Justice, equity, participation, inclusiveness, national unity and development. As already indicated ,the strong desire for national unity and equitable Justice has been with the country since its cradle. Political power is so vital and critical to successful nation building or human existence that it should not allowed to be monopolized by one family, community, ethnic group or region in a multi cultural country such as Nigeria.
The rotation of power is the beginning of wisdom in Nigeria. Among others it would serve as the basis of equitable Justice, national unity, stability and reduction of ethnic tensions and agitations. It will give lasting assurance for citizenry participation, inclusion and equal treatment of all before the law at the highest level. We know the benefits of power shift power rotation but we have been most reluctant to do the needful for purely selfish reasons. However, it was only around 1999 that a more positive attitude was developed in this direction. A generally accepted formulae could be said to have been reached on how best to achieve the nation objective of unity, peaceful coexistence and development for a better country. Power shift, rotation and zoning of political offices were placed on the table for experiment. And they were deployed by the military and civilian leaders alike and found worthwhile.
Within the present democratic dispensation, power shift had been in full force since 1999 when General Abdul Sallam Abubakar- a Muslim Northerner handed power over to General Olusegun Obasanjo — Southerner from the South West. A careful review of presidential succession since then will show the injustice and unfairness unfairness of the U- turn made by by the major political parties during the last primaries. Take a uncle look: General Olusegun Obasanjo( SW) who took over power from General AbdulSallam handed power over to President Yar’Adua, a Fulani – Hausa from the North .Dr Jonathan from the South – South who was a Vice President to president Yar’Adua became president upon the death of Yar’Adua in office and he handed power over to President Buhari -a Fulani Hausa from the North. . So far, only two zones – the North East and South East had not produced a president since 1999. But because the out going president is from the North, the general expectation before the 2022 primaries was that the next president would come from the South East zone. The failure by the two big political parties thus smacks of injustice and unfairness.
The Primaries endorsed and entrenched age long injustice in the country understood in terms of low or inequitable citizenry participation, exclusion from power and marginalization of some groups of Nigerians from the development and political process. You do not do the wrong thing and expect the right outcome. It is against the law of nature which expects one to reap what one has sowed. Why change the rule of the game in the middle of play especially when the existing rules were serving the cause of the majority citizens and national interest? This is one of the questions on the lips of many concerned citizens. Dr Onu a former Minister of Technology spoke to this problem at the 2022 APC presidential primary election where asked the members of his political party: where is the Justice in not zoning the presidency to the South East Zone being the only geo- political zone in the south that had not produced a president since 1999 when democracy was restored especially when the party zoned it to the Southern states? It is a simple question that raises deeper question of Justice, fair- play and the collective good of the country. And this is one of the avoidable burdens which will weigh down the country severely and precipitate series of crisis after the general elections next year. To this extent, the 2022 primaries serve as poor foundation for the unity, peaceful coexistence and greatness of the country after 2023.