September 16, 2021


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Balance of terror: A case against restructuring? (Going back to the archives)

6 min read

“A second objective factor in the structure of the First Republic which is, this time, a draw-back, was the lack of equity in the delineation of its constituent parts. The North was too large compared to the other regions and it was, in reality as well as perception, preponderant and overbearing”- Former Emir of Kano, Lamido Sule Lamido, in ISSUES IN RESTRUCTURING CORPORATE NIGERIA, a paper delivered when he was Assistant General Manager, Credit Risk Management and Control Division, UBA PLC, September, 1999.


I am currently updating ‘SIMPLY A CITIZEN JOURNALIST’, which, to  the glory of God, shall be published next year, and came across the article you are about to read below, published 7 February, 2010. It caught my fancy because of the continuing obfuscation surrounding restructuring, the epitome of which was a disingenuous Alhaji Buba Galadima saying the following in a recent newspaper interview: “I don’t  understand what restructuring is . If you define restructuring to me, I can give you an answer. Nobody was able to define what restructuring is all about in all the three constitutional conferences I attended. Whoever defines restructuring, defines it from his point of view; from his personal interest, group interest, regional interest; that should not be the case. There must be a universal definition of restructuring so that we can now agree either to work towards it or against it”.

Both calls came in fast, and furious, as early as 7am and were designed to mock me; believing as the callers did, that Sam Omatseye’s article of Monday, February 1, 2010, was a case against restructuring, a subject which has been the focus of this column in the last fortnight.

For those who may not know, Sam is the linguistically resourceful, if combatant, Chairman of The Nation’s Editorial Board, a journalist as good as any you would find anywhere on the face of the earth, and the immediate past ‘Journalist of the Year’ in the country. Sam takes no prisoners; rather he says it as it is, minding not whose ox is gored. He actually is, without a doubt, one of the best in the business.

Not knowing how punishing  my  usual night regimen -which includes: viewing the Ekiti-dissecting, 10pm Galaxy Television newscasts, CNN’s Situation Room at midnight, Anderson Cooper’s 360 degrees at 4 am and reading my mails, especially those from the very robust Ekitipanupo web portal, as well as reading  many of the serious columnists in some newspapers online is, the callers told me that my case for restructuring now stands on nothing, having been dismissed as the fancy of those who ‘do not understand history’ by a journalist of Omatseye’s pedigree.

So what did Sam say in ‘Balance of Terror?’

Obviously an adaptation of the more historically famous ‘Balance of Power’ concept in International Relations, I believe it is more profitable to discuss first, the concept, Sam’s views and then conclude with how it only merely tangentially, if at all, affect my position on restructuring.

While Hans J. Morgenthau in ‘Politics Among Nations’ saw Balance of Power simply as the aspiration for power on the part of several nations, each trying to maintain or overthrow the status quo, Gathorne-Hardy in his ‘Short History of International Affairs’, defined it as the maintenance of a just equilibrium between competing nations which will prevent any one of them being in a position to dominate the rest.

As should naturally be expected, the doyen in these matters, Henry Kissinger, was more explicit in ‘Diplomacy’, his 912 – page Magnum Opus on International Relations. Recalling that Balance of Power dates back to the collapse of Europe’s medieval dream of universal empire and the emergence of a host of states with more or less equal strength, he says it then became necessary that a system be put in place to keep dissatisfaction below the level at which an aggrieved party will seek to overthrow the status quo.

In his view, Balance of Power did not purport to avoid crises or avert wars, concluding that, indeed, while Great Britain elaborated the concept in the eighteenth century, Metternich’s Austria came with the Concert of Europe, while  Bismarch’s Germany dismantled it all, and in its place gifted Europe the k cold-blooded game of power politrics.

What then are Sam’s essential view points?

In an article I see as the product of an agonised mind, and who wouldn’t be, considering our country’s dire straits, Omatseye came to the conclusion that unless the composite ethnicities square it up, bazooka for bazooka, pump action machine gun for another, there was no way Nigeria can achieve any modicum of sustainable peace. I see that really as the cry of an agonising patriot who had waited in vain for this 50 year old wayward ‘toddler’ to grow up

His story, put succinctly was as follows: He recalled a frantic call from one of his editors relating the extreme danger facing some students at the University of Jos in front of whose hostel some Islamic phalanges had massed whilst soldiers drove in and out to pluck out into safety, the children of the rich and mighty,  not paying the slightest attention to the safety of the caged students, nor interceding with the killing mob.

He saw this as a sign of collusion between the killing gangs and the authorities, and surmised that this was why, not only Igbos any longer, but all ethnic groups now routinely flee Northern cities when things go awry, with the Yoruba pointedly saying they will never ever return to Jos again.

Naturally, he adverted to the fate of Youth Corps members who are always caught in between. Personally, as this is one subject about which I have written copiously in the past, I believe the time has come for Southern parents to refuse their children, and wards, honouring any posting to the North. Let government take away its miserable jobs -how many, anyway -but save the lives of these young ones. Only then will our deaf and dumb government do the needful concerning the scheme.

I digress.

It was from this point on that Omatseye came to the meat of his essay and I quote: “When one group tries to exterminate another, the answer is for the others to arm themselves, and return fire for fire… When the aggressor sees the countervailing prowess of the other, they will understand that the meek does not inherit the earth. They can now go to the negotiating table and talk peace. It is then that the meek is blessed”.

He went further to say, and I quote him again: ‘Appealing to dismemberment is a lazy and unthinking short cut…’

This precisely is where my callers missed it. I have never called for the dismemberment of Nigeria. There is no way you can remotely conjure restructuring to mean dismemberment because the truth really is, rather than dismember, restructuring will further cohere the nation since it would guarantee considerable peace during which the new structures would aim at meaningful development. Restructuring was not what happened in the Balkans when NATO had to send thousands of its soldiers and U. S President Bill Clinton had to unilaterally arm the Muslims against the rampaging Serbs.

Indeed, the import of Sam’s prescription of balance of terror with all its bloody possibilities- remember Kissinger said that the more superior Balance of Power did not guarantee against wars- is a recipe for dismemberment and a plus for restructuring.

I made the point here the other day that my idea of restructuring is targeted at strengthening the country as a whole and not an Odua agenda, expected to profit only the Yoruba,  which position drew considerable stricture from some who would rather see me as an ethnic jingoist.

Again, I say this. I am not fighting for Yoruba alone. Rather I am cognizant of the resources and strengths embedded in other ethnic groups which I believe really command more strength than they themselves think or believe.

Can you imagine what big a step we would have taken if the Hausa-Fulani, the Kanuri, the Ijaw etc, would begin to discuss the real and potential strength of their own sovereign region? The greatest obstacle to an intellectual effort of this type is the systemic limitations to discussion in Nigeria which inheres first, in the general feeling amongst us that some things should not be talked about at all ( the future of Nigeria); second, that the government has the right to clamp down on people who say certain things, etc.

All these are mere myths and shibboleths but, of course, the average Nigerian is held back by them and so is our development.

It’s our bounden duty, as patriotic citizens, to blow away these myths.