“People and government never have learned anything from history, or acted on the principles deduced from it”.
~ G.F.W Hegel, Philosophy of History, (1832)

There are important lessons that can be learnt in a troubled nation like Nigeria, ranging from security, economy, judiciary, constitutional reforms, etc. We should use the crisis to examine how we fashion opinions on public matters. I raise this issue because of comments received from some readers.

Some may oppose to the position that I have staked on this piece but that does not trouble me. My monthly expositions are not draft that you might agree with them. Their greater utility is in offering an alternative, progressive viewpoint. My perspective differs from mainstream media but it is equally valid. I like the back-and-forth of keen discourse. Sharp debate adds more than it ever subtracts.

There is a very definite undercurrent of dissatisfaction and frustration among most in the South, including the South – west which voted for President Buhari, at the nature of our federalism and the way the country has been governed since independence.

The general cry across the South – particularly in South – East and South – South, where the people, stirred by ethnic pride are very bitter that an overbearing federal government has ridden roughshod over their legitimate aspirations – is for devolution of a greater share of governmental powers and authority to the component units of federation in order to end the encroachment of a marauding federal government that neither shares their values nor recognises their aspirations, and thereby, once again, take control of their own destinies.

This struggle for devolution of power and authority is unlikely to abate, it can only escalate, as it is simply in the natural order of things for man to aspire to ever greater freedoms. Neither is the struggle for a greater devolution of powers and authority of government new in Nigeria: Northern Nigeria, amidst unprecedented violence, demanded an end to the centralizing policies of the Ironsi administration in May 1966.

The Constitutional question that need to be resolved are of political character, and for that a political vision is needed to give direction. Continued visceral opposition to the legitimate aspirations of large, important sections of the country will prove, not just ultimately futile, but it may, in fact, provoke the very same fissiparous tendencies long feared by many.

It was unto this smouldering ground that President Buhari, a disciplined, professional solider with a distinguished career in the Nigeria army, ascetic lifestyle and some degree of integrity, assumed office in 2015.

Unfortunately, he entered into the presidency with his mind made up and a scheme in his pocket for addressing the increasingly strident calls in the South for a renegotiation of the terms of association of the Nigerian union, the defining issue of the times on which the future of the country turns.

The President’s response is to ignore all such calls, place the report of the last National Conference in the icebox; address the herdsmen menace which has become a nightmare in his administration, beef up the security challenges, cleaning up the environmental pollution in the Niger Delta; and , as the ultimate sanction, crush by the application of military force the restive communities who are fighting for nothing more than the adherence to the letter and spirit of the constitutional arrangements that were the basis upon which Nigeria was granted independence as one united country, but which tragically was unilaterally abrogated.

John Dryden, the 17th century English poet, dramatist, and critic, wrote in prologue to All for love ( 1678 ) that ” Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow. He who would search for pearls must dive below “.

The threat posed to the country by this dangerous divergence of opinion on the question of constitutional reforms does not readily lend itself to any facile solutions. Yet, much could have been achieved had the president only tried first to ascertain what was wrong by enquiry from those who are qualified to enlighten him; co- opted those who truly represent the wishes of their peoples as partners in working out reform scheme ; diligently prepare himself for a constitutional reform by studying the great principles on which other successful multi – ethnic entities and federations had been founded; familiarise himself with the works of previous Nigerian constitutional reform proposals.

Such an approach, of course demands a statesmanship that recognises the multiplicity of interests and respects the diversity of perspectives,inherent in a multi – ethnic country such as Nigeria is. It calls for a profundity of thought, objectivity and sincerity. Anthonio Machado ( 1875 – 1939 ), the Spanish poet, put it rather well in his book. ” There is no way of seeing things without first taking leave of them”. One can only hope that President Buhari too, like President Lyndon Johnson ( who, in spite of being a Southern, achieved truly revolutionary breakthroughs with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, which have improved the lives of African- American), will take leave of the old, settled complex of predilections,prejudices, instincts, emotions, habits, and convictions, many of which have never served Nigeria well, and, instead, ” learn from history and act on the principles deduced from it.”

One of the great ” principle to be deduced from history,” which is particular relevant to the emerging crisis in Nigeria, is that the constitutional arrangements of a country must continue to evolve to keep abreast of the felt necessities of the time, as the past contains no permanent wisdom.

According to Hegel: “To him who looks upon the world rationally, the world in turn presents a rational aspect”. I believe that if the Buhari administration learns the lesson of history, and acts on the principles to be deduced from them, ” the smouldering ground in Nigeria today will not become a raging hell tomorrow.

…Williams Ifidon writes from Edo