GHADDAFI WANTS NIGERIA DIVIDED TO STOP BLOODSHED
Libyan President Muammar Ghadaffi has voiced his opinion on ways the conflict between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria could be solved: the division of the country into two nations.
But a controversial Ugandan scholar, Professor Mahmoud Mamdani of Columbia University, United States, has said the federal character principle enshrined in the Nigerian constitution is responsible for the conflicts.
Ghadaffi cited the example of India and Pakistan, where according to him, partition saved many lives.
The Libyan leader was speaking to students in his country, while Mamdani spoke at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos, during an event marking the birthday of the founding president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Odia Ofeimun.
Splitting Nigeria “would stop the bloodshed and burning of places of worship”, Libyan State News Agency Jana quoted him as saying. An unidentified senior Nigerian diplomat said he was not taking the suggestion seriously.
Hundreds of people have died in communal violence in villages around the central Nigerian city of Jos this year. Last year, Ghadaffi called for Switzerland to be abolished and for its land to be divided between Italy, Germany and France.
Although the violence in Northern Nigeria generally takes place between Muslim and Christian communities, the underlying causes are a complex mix of political, social and economic grievances.
Ghaddafi, who was the immediate past head of the African Union (AU), characterised the Jos violence as a “deep conflict of religious nature” caused by the federal state, “which was made and imposed by the British in spite of the people’s resistance to it.”
He described the partition of India as a “historic, radical solution” which saved the lives of “millions of Hindus and Muslims”.
Mamdani urged the Nigerian government to take a second look at its federal character system which tends to make it difficult for citizens not born in an area of the country to get federal positions allocated to those born within the same area.
His lecture’s topic was “Sudan and Congo: What Lessons for Nigeria?”
He criticised the part of the Nigerian Constitution which states that the makeup of key federal institutions such as the civil service, the army and the universities must reflect the federal character of the country.
He said it is possible that the provision of federal character was adopted as a form of affirmative action for those parts of the country which had lagged behind in educational and social development during the colonial period and that its purpose was to ensure them fair representation in key federal institutions, one proportional to their weight in the population.
“The question I have in mind does not concern motive, but consequence, whether the unintended consequences of this provision – its costs – may have come to outweigh its intended benefits for Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, the federal character principle has extended the colonial principal of Native Authority to key institutions in the federal state.
“Its unintended effect has been to turn federal citizenship into an extension of ethnically-defined membership of Native Authorities, and thereby undermine it. By dividing Nigerian citizens into ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ – not of Nigeria but of individual states – for purposes of participation in national institutions, it has disenfranchised a growing number of Nigerian citizens, those who do not live in the states where they and their fathers were born,” he said.
He said the simple fact that Nigeria is increasingly integrated into a global economy and has been the subject of market reforms, has intensified the contradiction between the market and the state as currently organized in the country.
“The tendency of the market economy is to move more and more strata of the population away from the locality where they were born. This includes both rich and poor Nigerians: on the one hand, businessmen, industrialists, and professionals, and on the other, unemployed workers and landless peasants,” he argued.
He added that the state system, in contrast, disenfranchises precisely those who move.
“The state system penalizes those the economy dynamizes. The least dynamic sectors of the population respond to this situation by calling for a defence of their ‘customary’ rights, and the most dynamic rally around the principle of a ‘national’ citizenship.
One lesson of Congo and Sudan is that it may be time to rethink the legacy of both the colonial past and the reforms you undertook to end the civil war,” he concluded.
Mamdani's views during Idi Amin’s era in Uganda had earned him banishment from the country. He thereafter lived as a refugee in Britain.