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Whatever Happened To Nigeria!

Whatever Happened To Nigeria!

 -Masterweb Reports
So much has been said about the problems besetting Nigeria - economic, political, social - name it and you can see the evidence all around. Since 1999 when the Abubakar military regime returned the country back to civilian rule, Nigeria has been enjoying an unbroken era of civilian government and one would expect such longevity era of democratic dispensation to bring unprecedented benefits to this most populated country in Africa. However, the opposite is the case. The arrays of problems facing the country today reveals once again that there are inherent weaknesses in the foundation upon which the country was built and if these inherent weaknesses are not addressed, they may well become the catalysts that will facilitate the collapse of the Nigeria project.

When you look at the country as a whole, what you will see is a given mass area of Africa blessed with unimaginable abundance of natural resources and human resources. One can be forgiven for imagining that the people living in such an area will be enjoying the benefits of such abundant wealth. However, with Nigeria, what supposed to be her blessings have become her curse. You look at the crude oil for instance, this supposed to bring enormous revenue into the country with which the country should be able to utilise to develop itself and be able to take its place among the committee of great nations, but the opposite is the case. The Nigeria set up has not made this possible. One need to be in the corridor of power or at least closely associated with the corridor of power in order to benefit from these abundant wealth. Similarly, if you look at the size of the population, you will be forgiven to imagine that such a large population will be a great source of strength to the country and a blessing in terms of human resources. If one look around the world and compare those countries with large number of population and in fact very few of them, one will see that it is a source of strength and blessings to such nations. With Nigeria, this is not the case. Nigeria is an aberration. What supposed to be her strength has become her weakness and what supposed to bring her together has become the source of her disunity. Then you cannot but wonder where are we heading as a country?

What is wrong with Nigeria?

During the colonial era, the country was governed by a system of protectorates which recognises the diversity of the people in this area of Africa. In the early years of colonial rule, the Niger Coast Protectorate became Southern Nigeria and had its seat of government in Lagos (Southern Nigeria was made up of the Eastern and the Western regions). Similarly, the protectorate of Northern Nigeria was placed under a high commissioner Frederick Lugard. Although, the regions were formally united as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914, administratively Nigeria remained divided into the Northern and Southern Provinces and Lagos Colony. System of administrations among the regions varied widely and British staffs in each region were encouraged to operate according to procedures developed before unification. In the north for instance, legislation took the form of a decree by the governor and the emir, whilst in the south, the colonial governor sought the approval of the Legislative Council.

In 1957, the Western and the Eastern regions became formally self-governing under the parliamentary system and in 1959 the Northern region became self-governing. Although the whole country was said to be under a federal government, there were numerous differences of detail among the regional governments and there were wide differences in the conduct of public affairs among the regions. The only similarity was that all the three regions adhered to a parliamentary form of government but each was autonomous in relation to the federal government at Lagos. The federal government has specified powers, which included responsibility for defence, external affairs, currency, banking, shipping, navigation, and communications, but real political power resides in the regions and significantly, it was the regional governments that controlled public expenditures derived from revenues raised within their regions.

This was the prevailing system that the then politicians inherited when Nigeria got her independence from Britain in 1960 - a system whereby there were three distinct autonomous regions and each with its own parliament but with a federal government with its seat of power in Lagos. The benefits of these arrangements were there to see - each region follow their own ways of life and determine their own pace of development whilst the role of the federal government was limited to the areas where it was most needed and beneficial to the country as a whole - namely defence, external affairs, currency, banking, shipping, navigation, and communications.

However, today’s Nigeria is completely different from when the country started. Nigeria have experimented with several systems of government ranging from unitary system to the current muddled-up federal system.

How did we get here?

First Military Government - Aguiyi Ironsi government (January 1966 - July 1966)

When the First Republic under the Premiership of Tafawa Balewa was overthrown by a group of mostly Igbo junior officers under Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and the Aguiyi Ironsi (not connected with the coup) military government took over on 16 January 1966 , Nigeria was deeply divided along ethnic lines. In its effort to encourage unity and prevent the country from breaking apart, the Ironsi government promulgated the Unification Decree 34 which abolished the inherited federal structure and put in place a unitary system in the belief that the new system will move the country away from the brink of collapse. This move proved unpopular particularly among the Northerners who were suspicious of Southern domination. Though the decree was abolished when Aguiyi-Ironsi was deposed and killed on 29 July 1966, it however set the trend for the modern day Nigeria.

Until the incursion of the military into Nigeria politics and the promulgation of Decree 34, the regional governments enjoyed a significant level of independence and could make their own foreign relation policies including having their own so called “mini-embassies” abroad. However, since the overthrow of the Tafawa Balewa government and the incursion of the military into the Nigeria politics, there has been gradual erosion of the autonomy of the regions and their authorities vis a vis the federal government. Subsequent governments over the years and in particular military governments have continued this trend.

Second Military Regime - Gowon Government (July 1966 - July 1975)

On ascent to power Lt Col. Gowon abolished the unpopular Decree 34 however he did not completely restore the federal principle that was in operation at independence. This was evident when the 3 regions were eventually divided into 12 states by the Gowon government. This move by the Gowon government was in response to the tension created between the Eastern Region government headed by Col. Ojukwu and the federal government headed by Gowon.

Following the coup led by some officers of Eastern origin which brought an end to the First Republic and also cost the lives of many politicians particularly many Northern politicians, suspicious were raised among the Northerners who thought the coup was an Igbo conspiracy. Although the Ironsi government made efforts to dispel this notion but his failure to punish the coup plotters lent credence to this suspicion. This led some Northern officers to plan a counter coup which cost the life of Ironsi and the lives of some other notable officers. The counter coup was followed by the massacre of thousands of Easterners throughout the Northern Region. The persecution led to the flight of more than a million Igbo from the North and towards their homelands in Eastern Nigeria. Col. Ojukwu who at the time was the military governor of the Eastern region felt that if the Nigeria state could not offer protection to the Igbos, the Igbos reserved the right to establish a state of their own in which their lives would be protected. He therefore demanded for talks with the federal government controlled by Gowon on neutral soil. In response to the demand, a summit attended by Ojukwu, Gowon and other members of the Supreme Military Council was held at Aburi in Ghana. The outcome of the summit was the Aburi Accord in which it was agreed that Nigeria was to be a confederation of regions. However, this agreement was never implemented by the Gowon government. It was rumoured that Gowon and also Ojukwu had knowledge of the discovery of large oil reserves in the Niger Delta area of the Eastern part of Nigeria in the mid-1960s and this was partly responsible for the Gowon government’s reluctance to implement the agreement.

In a move to restrict the influence of the Ojukwu's government in the East, the Gowon government divided Nigeria into 12 states: North-Western State, North-Eastern state, Kano State, North-Central State, Benue-Plateau State, Kwara State, Western State, Lagos State, Mid-Western State, Rivers State, South-Eastern State, and East-Central State on 5 May 1967. Until then the only region created after independence was the Mid-Western region which was by plebiscite in accordance with due process as laid down in the constitution. Henceforth, state creation exercise has continued under military regimes and by decree.

The erosion of the authority of the regional governments and the arrogation of powers by the federal authority combined with the discovery of the oil reserve and the control of which was now firmly established in the hand of the federal government, set the stage for a rapid increase in corruption particularly at the federal level. Although Gowon was not personally implicated in any corrupt practices but there were widespread allegations of corruption by government officials and the Gowon government failing to do anything about it.

Third Military Regime - Mohammed Government (July 1975 - February 1976)

As mentioned earlier, during the colonial rule and also at independence real powers resided in the regions, the federal government sphere of authority was limited to defence, external affairs, currency, banking, shipping, navigation, and communications . Slowly but steadily, the federal government under successive military regimes arrogate powers vis-a-vis the regional governments. During the Murtala Mohammed regime, the federal government extended its sphere of authority into areas which were formerly exclusive to the regional governments thereby restricting the powers of the state governments in those areas. Under the military set up and in particular under the Murtala Mohammed military government, the newly appointed military governors of the states were expected to administer policies handed down by the federal government through the Supreme Military Council on which none of the state governors had a seat. In addition, the federal government took over the control of the country’s largest newspapers and made broadcasting a monopoly of the federal government. State-run universities were also brought under federal control. Although Gen. Murtala Mohammed made attempt to curb corruption particularly at the federal level but his effort was short lived as his regime was overthrown in a bloody coup which claim his life and the lives of some notable officers on 13 February 1976.

Fourth Military Regime - Obasanjo Government (February 1976 - October 1979)

The Obasanjo military government was an extension of the Murtala Mohammed regime. General Olusegun Obasanjo was the second in command to General Murtala Mohammed when the latter was the head of state. Gen. Obasanjo took over power following the death of Gen. Murtala Mohammed in an unsuccessful coup led by Lt. Col. Dimka. Although the Obasanjo government fulfilled the promise made by the Mohammed government to return the country to civil rule by handing over power to an elected government but corruption was becoming widespread and unabated. There were allegations of massive corruption perpetrated under the Obasanjo military government. Retiring army generals were said to be rich beyond what their life term earnings as military officers could account for. Holding power at the centre had become so attractive since it puts whoever is in power at the centre in total control of the enormous wealth of the whole nation, and with little or no control, subsequent Nigerian leaders particularly at the centre have exploited the set up to enrich themselves with dire consequences for the whole nation. It was during the Obasanjo government that 2.8 Billion Naira (equivalent to about 2.8 billion British pounds sterling at the time) was alleged to have gone missing from the nation‘s account but this was later dismissed as a mathematical error. During the Obasanjo government, the country was further divided into 19 states thereby further reducing the influence of the regions in the nation politics. The mannerism of the state creation exercise have also become detached from any justifiable reason and had become more or less the personal wish and judgement of those in power at the centre rather than the needs or the wish of the people.

Second Republic - Shagari Government (October 1979 - December 1983)

In accordance with the promise of Gen. Murtala Mohammed to hand over power to an elected government and the declaration by the Obasanjo government to honour this promise (Obasanjo government being an extension of the Murtala Mohammed government), Gen. Obasanjo handed over power to an elected government headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari on 1st October 1979. However, the circumstances surrounding the whole conduct of the election and subsequent declaration of results and the controversy surrounding it, suggested that the military were now firmly established in politics as the outgoing regime seemed interested on who succeeded it.

The set up under the civilian government was not completely different from what was obtained under the military government. Before handing over power to elected government the preceding military government always enact a constitution under which the subsequent civilian government is to operate. These constitutions was never a return to the inherited constitution at the time of independence but a constitution that those handing over power prepared and sanctioned. Hence, the continuing trend of the centre arrogating more powers to the detriment of the regional governments. Furthermore, the weakness in such a set up and the consequences of it was the more glaring after just four years of the Shagari government when it became clear that reckless spending and corrupt practises on the part of the federal government had caused irreparable damage to the Nigeria economy leading the country to eventually ask for a bail out from the International Monetary Fund.

By the time the Shagari government was overthrown by the Buhari/Idiagbon regime on 31 December 1983, Nigeria was on her knees economically. Politicians have seen the weaknesses introduced into the system by the military regimes and have massively and recklessly exploited the weaknesses. Corruption was widespread and the use of arson to cover their tracks were common place under the Shagari government.

Fifth Military Regime - Buhari Government (December 1983 - August 1985)

The Buhari regime that overthrew the Shagari elected government stated that the reason for the overthrow was because the Shagari government was very corrupt and the new military government initiated the ‘War Against Indiscipline’ to sanitise the society. Many politicians were arrested and tried for embezzling public money. The Buhari government was praised for its stand against corruption but failed to correct the inherent weaknesses in the system which put the whole nation’s resources at the mercy of the government at the centre and which had made control of power at the centre very attractive to unscrupulous politicians and leaders. The economic problem created by the reckless spending and corruption of the Shagari government meant that austerity measures had to be introduced which resulted in economic hardship for majority of Nigerians. On 27 August 1985, the Buhari regime was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida, the Chief of Army Staff and a member of the Supreme Military Council during the Buhari Regime.

Sixth Military Regime - Babangida Government (August 1985 - August 1993)

The Babangida government that took over power following the overthrow of the Buhari government was well known for taking corruption to a level never witnessed before. No Nigerian leader before Babangida had exploited the weaknesses in the system to the extent carried out by the Babangida government and never until then was there such a culture of impunity in dealing with public money. Corruption was widespread and there was a free for all attitude within the polity. At one stage during his administration, it was difficult to delineate between Babangida’s own personal account and the state account as public money was spent with total disregard for due process. As a matter of fact, the Babangida’s regime was criticised by the World Bank for spending two Billion British pounds sterling without budgeting. State sponsored assassination was also introduced into the system to silence government critics. The extravagant spending and widespread corruption together with the infamous decision to cancel what most observers believed to be the fairest election ever conducted in Nigeria (12 June 1993 Presidential Election), brought Nigeria to the brink of economic and political collapse. Facing widespread revolt particularly from the western part of the country, on 27 August 1993 President Babangida as he wished to be called decided to ‘step aside’ and installed an Interim Government led by Mr Earnest Shonekan, an industrialist from the western part of the country.

Interim Government - Ernest Shonekan (August 1993 - November 1993)

The Interim government of Earnest Shonekan that succeeded the General Babangida government was a victim of the Babangida misrule. Nigeria was already on her knees politically and economically by the time President Babangida decided to step aside. There were widespread industrial action by the Labour Congress and the operation of the business of governance had become paralysed. With no form of legitimacy whatsoever, the interim government lasted only three months before it was dismissed by General Sanni Abacha on 17 November 1993 following a court ruling that declared the Interim Government illegal.

Seventh Military Regime - Abacha Government (November 1993 - June 1998)

Following the dismissal of the Interim Government headed by Shonekan, Gen. Abacha took over the rein of power. The Abacha government completely exploited the weaknesses in the system to its advantage and to the benefit of those close to the government and the Abacha family but to the detriment of the country. Corruption was blatant and so also the abuse of power by those in authority. Gen. Abacha simply continued in the vein of the Babangida government.

There were large scale embezzlement of public funds. It was reported that during Abacha's government, a total of £5 billion was stolen from the public purse by Abacha and his family. Abacha was labelled the fourth most corrupt leader in history at the time. A preliminary report commissioned by the Abubakar government that succeeded the Abacha government described to some details how the Abacha government swindled the Nigeria coffer. It described a process whereby Abacha's national security adviser, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, under the direction of Gen. Abacha would make a fake request for fund which Gen. Abacha would then approved. Gwarzo would withdraw the money from the Nigeria Central Bank by way of cash or travellers cheques before depositing the money in Abbacha’s house. Abacha’s son Mohammed would then arrange for the money to be laundered to offshore accounts. It was estimated that about $1.4 billion in cash was taken out in this way.

General Abacha declared on 6 September 1994 that his government had absolute power meaning that his government is above the jurisdiction of the courts. Despite the existence of courts in the country, none was prepared to challenge the authority of the Abacha government. General Abacha also promised to hand over power to elected government in 1998 but it became clear that he only planned to succeed himself as the elected president because he had forced all the five registered political parties to adopt him as the sole candidate.

There were widespread human rights abuses during the Abacha regime. Some Ogoni activists including Ken Saro-Wiwa were hanged whilst Chief MKO Abiola (the presumed winner of the 12 June 1993 Presidential Election), retired Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo were among those jailed for treason. Gen. Yar’ Adua and Chief Abiola later died in prison.

Eighth Military Regime - Abubakar Government (June 1998 - May 1999)

Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar succeeded Gen. Abacha following the sudden death of the latter on June 8 1998. The country inherited by the Abubakar government was in a mess both politically and economically. Successive governments’ mismanagement of the Nigeria economy coupled with some politically insensitive decisions by previous governments have brought the country to the brink of collapse. There were murmurings of secession as many people from the regions started to question the viability of the Nigeria project. The leaders have over-milked the Nigeria coffer and the masses were reeling under severe economic hardship. The Abubakar government knew that time was not on its side and within days of assuming power promised a return to civilian rule within a year. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was established to oversee the conduct of elections. However, just as in previous elections conducted under the aegis of the military, the results and particularly results at the centre were more or less stage-managed. Many knew that Gen. Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party was a President in waiting not because of his huge popularity or wider political appeal but because he was a safe pair of hands for the ruling elite - the clique. The prevailing situation at the time threatened the privileged position of the clique - the Nigeria people were near revolt against a system that have yielded nothing but years of economic mismanagement, oppression and a culture of impunity for erring leaders. The clique needed someone who could be trusted to pacify the anger of the people and at the same time safeguard the system to ensure the continuation of their privileged position and their protection. It did not come as a surprise when the conduct of the elections drew strong criticisms from foreign observers for widespread irregularities.

Just as in the past, the outgoing military adopted a new constitution for the country on 5 May 1999. A constitution of their own making which the people have no say in its making nor were they consulted about it. This is a constitution formulated by the leaders, for the leaders, to manage the people.

In fulfilment of its promise, the Abubakar government handed over power to an ‘elected’ government on 29 May 1999 but not without the controversy of corruption as once again the retiring generals have left the seat of power with more than a golden handshake that ensures that their amassed wealth surpassed what their life-time earnings as civil servants could account for.

Third Republic - President Obasanjo Government (May 1999 - May 2007)

The fact that Chief Obasanjo was only called to lead the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after its formation was not a secret. He was the choice of the clique and Gen. Obasanjo now President Obasanjo did not disappoint. With smart political manoeuvring, the country was moved away from the brink of collapse and apart from some cosmetic changes, the system was maintained as the clique had wished. We had gone round in circle and back to where we were before.

Although Obasanjo made fighting corruption one of the stated aims of his first term in office and managed to pass some anti-corruption laws, his government was accused of doing little to control corruption particularly at the federal level. The tone of its government with regards to corruption was encapsulated in President Obasanjo’s response to a question about whether or not his government would probe former President Babangida who had been alleged to have embezzled large sums of public money when in office. President Obasanjo replied that whoever has got any evidence against Babangida should let him know and he would prosecute Babangida. Also the remit of the task entrusted to him by the clique was also revealed in this comment made by President Obasanjo in Dutse, Jigawa state: “In 1999 Nigeria was not looking for a President that will build roads or fix power supply or provide water, Nigeria was looking for a President that will hold Nigerians together." With this kind of comment, one need to ask for whose benefit President Obasanjo came to power in 1999. This is because, building good roads, fixing the power supply problems and providing clean water supply are the issues that matters most to the long-suffering masses, but keeping Nigeria together and maintaining the tainted and discredited system are issues that matters most to the ruling elite. It shows that the Nigeria public without any doubt had been short-changed once again by the ruling elite.

And just as with previous governments under the current system, the Obasanjo government was rife in corruption. There were allegations of large scale mismanagement of funds. There was the allegation of corruption in the sale of the country's businesses like Nitel and Nicon Noga Hilton together with land allocations and oil blocks which Obasanjo was accused of allocating to himself and his cronies. There was also allegation of mismanagement of the funds for road projects. The Obasanjo government embarked on war against corruption and set up Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) but it soon became clear that the anti-corruption drive was selective with the government targeting political opponents and ethnic militants, whilst ignoring growing concerns about wide-scale corruption within its own inner political circle. In March 2008, President Obasanjo was indicted by a committee of the Nigeria National Assembly for awarding energy contracts worth $2.2bn without due process. The report of the committee was never accepted by the National Assembly as the entire process was derailed. It was no surprise that Ribadu, the head of the EFCC faced a lot of persecutions after Obasanjo left the seat of power because many had seen the operations of the EFCC during Obasanjo government as selective justice.

Third Republic - Yar Adua Government (May 2007 - May 2010)

It was a well known fact that the Yar’ Adua and Jonathan government that succeeded the Obasanjo government was a brainchild of President Obasanjo. What was not clear was the main reasons behind it. There were those who believed that Obasanjo had wanted Yar’ Adua to succeed him because Yar’ Adua was one of the few governors without a blemish on their record. There were others who felt that Obasanjo had wanted Yar’ Adua to succeed him because Obasanjo was close to Yar’ Adua’s late brother as the latter was his second in command when Obasanjo was the military head of state and Obasanjo saw the younger brother Musa Yar’ Adua as someone he could easily control.

At the time of his nomination for the candidacy of the PDP, Yar’ Adua was relatively unknown on the national stage although he was the Governor of Katsina State. There was also a rumour about the fact that Yar’ Adua had no presidential ambition but for the persuasion and the support of President Obasanjo who in fact did many of the campaigning on Yar‘ Adua‘s behalf as the latter was always in and out of hospital due to his ailing health.

As for Goodluck Jonathan, he hails from the Niger Delta region of Nigeria where most of Nigeria oil, the main source of revenue for the country came from. His candidature as the running mate to President Yar’ Adua was a way of diluting the protest by the Niger Delta people and to placate the militant organisation, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) that had been fighting against the foreign oil corporations and the Nigeria establishment who they felt were exploiting them.

Mr Goodluck Ebere Jonathan is a perfect gentleman. His demeanour not only depicts this but his history in politics confirms it. Whilst the deputy governor in Bayelsa state, even when the then governor was more or less incapacitated due to his involvement in money laundering case and temporary detention in London, Mr Jonathan was reluctant to step into the vacuum of power. Again when he found himself in similar situation as a result of the pro-longed ill health of President Yar Adua, Vice President Jonathan was reluctant to step up and fill the vacuum created by the President’s ill health. Mr Jonathan is not someone that can be described as a career politician but someone who finds himself in politics and then found himself thrust into position of high authority as a result of catalogue of unplanned events - stroke of luck. Goodluck Jonathan also was said not to nurture any presidential ambition until the intervention of President Obasanjo who persuaded Jonathan and supported him.

The inertia of the Yar Adua government caused by the late President’s ill health was there for all to see. As a matter of fact, the issue about the late President’s ill health was not a secret. Whilst he was the governor of Katsina, he was constantly in and out of hospital. Only in Nigeria will someone with such a history of poor health get to win the nomination of his party and then went on to win the presidential election. Even during the campaign for the presidential election, Yar Adua was constantly in and out of hospital for treatment. There was a time during one of the campaigns where the outgoing President at the time President Obasanjo was doing the campaigning for him whilst Mr Yar’ Adua was on a sick bed in a German hospital. There was a rumour about whether or not he was still alive at the time and President Obasanjo had to quell the rumour by phoning him on his mobile phone and had a phone chat with him for the audience to witness. This helped to confirm to the crowd that he was alive and receiving treatment in hospital in Germany. In fact there was some disquiet within the PDP that Obasanjo had imposed Yar’Adua on the party and by implication, on the country.

The successes of Yar’ Adua and Jonathan both at their party’s primary and at the general election were said to be largely down to Obasanjo’s political manoeuvring and the general election in particular was massively rigged in favour of the two. The conduct of the presidential election was criticised by foreign observers which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. This is Nigeria and we are yet to witness a free and fair presidential election. There is too much at stake for the ruling elite to allow presidential election to be free and fair.

The government of Yar’ Adua and now Jonathan have left much to be desired. It shows that when you put together a team of the unwilling to head the executive of a country, what you will get is a reluctant Presidency and a nation that is left to drift. There was so much optimism at the beginning of the Yar’ Adua government but the fact that President Yar’ Adua was always in and out of hospital due to ill health means the government lacked leadership and direction. And with the Vice President unwilling or unable to lead, a dangerous power vacuum was created which means important decisions were not being made or made late to the detriment of the country. The fact that there was no visible person to effectively take on the mantle of leadership in the absence of the President also allowed many government officials and ministers to dictate their own direction and again corruption went on unchecked.

On 23 November 2009, President Yar'Adua left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for a heart condition but was never seen in public again. His return back to Nigeria was carried out under the cover of darkness which generated more controversy as he was flown back in an air ambulance which clearly indicated that something was gravely wrong with the President’s health. On 5 May 2010, the country was informed that Yar'Adua had died and on the following day, he was buried in his hometown.

Third Republic - Jonathan Government (May 2010 - Current day)

Following the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in on 6 May 2010. Goodluck Jonathan had been the Acting President since 9 February 2010 when the Senate decided that presidential powers be transferred to the Vice President until President Yar’ Adua return to full health which he never did. This decision by the Senate was preceded by so much outcry from concerned organisations like the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the Save Nigeria Group. On 22 January 2010 the Supreme Court of Nigeria gave the Federal Executive Council (FEC) fourteen days ultimatum to decide a resolution on the capability of the ailing President to discharge his presidential functions. It was clear that Vice President Jonathan was never going to make any move of his own accord or provide the leadership needed at a time when the President was no where to be found to discharge his constitutional duties and despite the fact that the President’s poor state of health was a general knowledge.

On 18 May 2010, the National Assembly approved Jonathan's nomination of Namadi Sambo, the Kaduna State governor for the position of Vice President. This continued the unfinished four year term of late President Yar’ Adua. On 15 September 2010, President Jonathan announced that he would run for re-election and on 18 April, Jonathan was declared the winner of the election. His victory was however marred by violence in the northern part of the country over claims of vote rigging.

The election or the assumption to the Presidency of an Ijaw man and in particular someone who did not come from one of the usual major tribes in Nigeria gave many people a sense of hope for the country but so far, the Presidency of Jonathan has left much to be desired. Accounts of events so far over the Jonathan’s Presidency have indicated that Mr Jonathan was either unprepared for the Presidency or he did not fully had a grasp of the magnitude of the task he was taking on. Presidential decisions were either made late or not at all and even in some instances where presidential decisions were made, it is opened to serious questioning the judgement behind such decisions. The Jonathan government so far gives the impression of being in government but not in power. The death of the ailing President Yar’ Adua had not changed anything as the country is still drifting under the Presidency of Jonathan. The country lacked real leadership and many government officials have seized the opportunity to do whatever they like. There was no clearer example than in the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Mallam Lamido Sanusi who had become an executive governor in his own right with little or no control from the real head of the executive. Islamic banking was introduced into Nigeria polity not by National Assembly passing any law to that effect or by the Presidency giving the authorisation for the Central Bank governor to do so. Also, following the bombing of areas in the Northern part of Nigeria by the Boko Haram sect, the Central Bank governor had not only been going about making political statements in contradiction of his position as a civil servant but had also been disbursing Central Bank money as he wish without any reprimand from the President. Even pressure group like the Save Nigeria Group who had stood up and decried some of the excesses of the Central Bank governor and in particular when he made political statements as to why Boko Haram engaged in terrorism and then donated N100million to the victims of the Boko Haram carnage in Kano, acquiesced when Mallam Sanusi made a balancing act by giving N25million to the Christian victims of the 2011 Christmas bombing by Boko Haram. Those who kept quiet when wrongful acts are done in their favour loses the moral right to complain when wrongful acts are done against them. Regardless of the balancing act, Mallam Lamido Sanusi was well beyond the remit of his duty and should be censured. He had no authority whatsoever to give the money of the Nigeria Central Bank to any victim of the bombings. His actions are politicising the office of the governor of the Central Bank and polarising the Nigeria society. It is a further evidence of the weakness in the current system which has outlived its usefulness to our country if it was ever useful at all.

Also, there is the issue of the fairness of the current revenue allocation formula which have been left unresolved. Even many from the Delta region that have been agitating for a fair deal for the Niger Delta people have become more or less quiet now that one of their own is in power. It seems it is just enough for them to have one of their own in Aso Rock with little or no benefit to their surrounding and their people. For many of us who supported the derivation formula of revenue allocation and sympathise with the Delta people for their cause, will find it difficult to maintain the support when all that the majority of the Delta people want now that one of their own is in power is just a safe and uneventful passage through Aso Rock for one of their own. What many failed to realise is that, if all they are just contented with now that one of their own is in power is just ensuring a safe passage through Aso Rock and kept quiet on the issue of their agitation for fairness, they will have no moral right to demand for a better deal when the power pass on to not one of their own. Then they will be seen as trouble maker because they were contented with the status quo when one of their own was in power.

Thus events over the years have changed the fate of the Nigeria nation. The current set up in Nigeria today is completely different from what existed during the colonial era and much different to what the politicians inherited at the country’s independence from Britain in 1960. The federal government today has arrogated so much powers that the state governments only exist at its mercy. Control of natural resources and revenue derived from them are firmly in the hand of the federal government with little or no control from the regions. This, coupled with the inherent weaknesses in the system have resulted in unprecedented level of corruption and without doubt make the control of power at the centre very attractive to unscrupulous politicians. These two combined have created a vicious cycle which without any doubt will eventually lead to the collapse of Nigeria if not addressed.

Nigeria leaders over the years (military and politicians) who have been fortunate enough (unfortunately for the general masses) to grace the throne of power in Nigeria have seen the inherent weaknesses in the Nigeria set up and have exploited it for their benefit. Many have enriched themselves and in the process impoverished the masses. As a matter of fact, what past and current leaders in Nigeria have done is to make sure that the current set up with the inherent weaknesses are maintained and would go to any length to defend the status quo. The victims in all these are the Nigerian masses who continue to endure year on year of unprecedented level of misrule and mismanagement resulting in total collapse of infrastructures and normal daily life.

There are talks about amending the constitution and President Jonathan has assigned the task to a commission to look at this. But for anyone to think that the leaders who stands to benefit from the continual operation of the current constitution would then agree to change or amend it in such a way that will deprive them of their privileged position of unfettered access to the nation’s wealth or take away their undue authority is either plain stupid or suffering from the worst kind of brain damage. As a matter of fact asking for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) when it is clear that the federal government is never going to organise one represents a complete naivety to the point of complicity.

The issue here is also about mandate and whether the regional governments should accept such a move. The original constitution make a provision for the regional governments to approve major changes in the constitution before it is implemented but this provision had not been respected over the years. Under the current system, the role and responsibilities of each level of government have been diluted. Military incursion into Nigeria politics have created a great imbalance between the regional governments and the central government resulting in the replication of a military style pyramidal chain of command. The central government has arrogated powers over the years at the expense of the regional governments. This was a de facto arrangement, a consequence of military incursion into Nigerian politics as opposed to a negotiated agreement between the regions. For the regions (or states as they are now called) to subscribe to such arrangement and agrees to the central government undertaking its own constitutional amendment not only amounts to legalising the illegality of central government acts over the years but also meant failing to defend the rights of their people against central government encroachment which in itself a great injustice to the majority of the Nigeria people who have been deprived of any say in the formation of the constitution and its imposition on them over the years. It also means legalising the act of fraud performed on the Nigeria populace when the constitution inherited at independence was replaced by a constitution promulgated by the military ruler and imposed on the people without the people having any say. The current system is a fraud not only on the regional governments but also on the people of Nigeria and should be resisted. The fact that the federal government is now in full control of natural resources like crude oil, makes control of power at the centre very tempting and military coup very attractive to unscrupulous military officers. Even the dedicated and professional officers among them will be tempted to get involved because of the prize awaiting such a successful coup - the control of the resources of the whole country in the hands of the few. Secondly, it discourages enterprising among the states since states can get their hands on money which they do not generate. Thirdly, it encourages the agitation for more states and the creation of more local governments by the states as this is the only way to boost their allocations from the central government. The corollary of this is that it leads to substantial increase in the cost of administration. It is now estimated that Nigeria spends over 80% of its GDP on administrative costs. This is not sustainable and it is a barrier to growth and development. With so much spent on administration, little is left on building infrastructures for the people. Fifthly, it makes the conduct of fair and accurate census impossible as it encourages falsification and artificial inflation of census’ figures. States are using the figures to justify the creation of more local governments and demands for more money from the central government. Up till the present day, Nigeria is yet to conduct a credible census. Therefore, any changes to the current system that leaves the control of the nations resources in the hands of the central government should be resisted. Some people have suggested the limiting of the term of office for elective office holder to a single term of six years, seven years or whatever. How this will help the people of Nigeria or help to fight corruption in Nigeria is yet to be seen. We have witnessed in the not too distant past how our leaders even with not a long time in office have enriched themselves to the detriment of the whole country. The Abubakar government was in power for only eleven months and yet there were allegations of large scale embezzlement of public money. The Abacha government was only in power for less than five years and billions of pounds sterling was siphon from the government coffer. The only people that will benefit from such provision in the constitution are the corrupt leaders as this would make sure that their turns come round quickly. In addition, when those in power realise that they won’t be facing another election make them to act with total disregard for accountability. Those who fail to learn from their past will become a victim of their future.

Nigerians For Referendum (NFR)

This is why we in the NFR believe that a real mandate from the people is necessary to challenge the continuous operation of this discredited system imposed on the whole nation by the few to the benefit of the few and to the detriment of the majority.

Sadly, the situation in Nigeria today more or less resembles the situation prevailing in the old Soviet Union. For a long time, those in position of authority at the centre were aware that the Soviet Union was in a mess politically and economically and there were urgent needs for changes to be made to address the problems but the changes were resisted. There were those who believed that the status of the country as a super power would be jeopardised if the required changes were made and there were those who thought their privileged positions would be threatened if the changes were made. As a result, the problems were allowed to fester until it started to threaten to collapse the whole country. Gorbachev was brought in to try and execute some changes but when his attempts at making changes at the system through Perestroika threatened the privileged positions of some old guards, attempt was made to remove him through a coup d’etat. The coup failed and the old Soviet Union collapsed.

It has become clear that real and required changes will not be effected from the centre when it comes to Nigeria as those at the centre are oblivion to the fact that the corporate existence of Nigeria is under threat. They are too much pre-occupied with maintaining their own privileged position and undue benefits the current system accords those who manage to gain power at the centre. This is the reason why we in Nigerians For Referendum are now advocating for changes effected from the regions. What the country needs is a total abandonment of the current system not an amendment of it. This current system is a complete fraud on the people of Nigeria. A system that put the whole resources of a whole nation in the hands of the few and allow them the authority to deal in the country‘s revenue as they so wish and as if it is their own personal account; a system that allows our leaders to steal our money and then decide among themselves how much they can keep and how much they should return. This is a discredited system which should not be allowed to continue in this day and age. Nigerians have been taken for granted for too long. Nowhere in the world would the public money be treated the way Nigeria’s revenue had been treated over the years and those involved been allowed to get away with it to the embarrassment of the whole nation and to the detriment of the whole country. Everything is wrong about the current system. It was neither negotiated nor agreed upon. It was imposed on the people. This is why we are proposing a return to the original plan put in place at independence (though with some changes) before military incursion into the country‘s politics derailed it. We are proposing a return to regional government based on each state having full control over revenue from resources found within their states. A system that restore the regional autonomy that was taken away by the current system. We are proposing a system that will strip the central government of its unjust arrogated powers and return those powers to the states where their exercise will be for the benefit of the people. We are asking for a system that allows each region the freedom to map out its own path to development dictated by its own chosen pace. This is a plan designed to save Nigeria and restore dignity to our people. This is why we are calling for a referendum based on two issues: returning of the total control of resources and the revenue derived from them to the state governments in which the resources were found and the restoration of the original regional governments.

Why a referendum? In a democracy power or authority are derived from the people and for any major changes like the one being advocated to be implemented legally and legitimately, you need the full mandate of the people to carry it out. Much have been said about National Sovereign Conference but if one take a good look at it, it is fraught with a lot of difficulties. Firstly, we have an elected National Assembly which is sovereign in its own right. You cannot select a group of people and then accorded them with such privilege which by any means they do not deserve. The corollary of selecting people to undertake the task of debating our problems and finding solutions is just continuing with the same elitist democratic system that allows certain kind of people the honour and undue privilege to decide on the future and direction of our country while depriving others a say on issues that concern them. Thirdly, the authority of the National Assembly is derived from the people, therefore the only power that supersedes this authority is the people themselves as they are the highest sovereign in a democracy hence the need to have the people decide on what they want the government to do on these important issues.

Why the returning of the control of resources and the revenue derived from them to the state governments in which they are found?

Firstly, this was the arrangement at independence and this arrangement has served us well in the past and we believe it will serve us well now and in the future if adopted. It is evident that most public spending on services and on development projects are undertaken by the states and the new arrangement will stop the concentration of the control of resources of the whole country in the hands of the few at the centre. The current arrangement has become the bane of corruption in Nigeria. This is not to say that the new system being proposed will wipe away corruption or that there won’t be corruption at the state level but never again will the corruption by one individual or group of individuals in a state affects the whole nation as the case is under the current system. In addition, because the state governments are closer to the people, accountability will be more effective and mismanagement easily spotted. Furthermore, state governments are below the regional government in hierarchical order and as each state will only be required to give certain percentage e.g. 20% of its revenue to the regional government, the regional government will have cause to ensure that corrupt state government is exposed since allowing the state government officials to embezzle government’s money would mean a reduction in the amount turned over to the regional government and hence less money for the regional government to spend. Therefore, the new arrangement will have an inbuilt checks which will go some way to discourage corruption.

Why the restoration of the original regional governments? It should be acknowledged that prior to the army incursion into Nigeria politics, the Mid-Western region had been created by a plebiscite in accordance with the constitutional provision. However, the reason behind the agitation was to prevent the domination of the minority Mid-Western people and we believe that the retention of the created states will continue to serve this purpose and allay the fears of the minorities hence the suggestion for the return to the original three regions with the individual states in full control of resources found within their states and revenue derived from them but operating under the umbrella of a region.

We also believe that Nigeria should be a union of autonomous regions and not a federation as it is now. This will allow each region to determine the path to their own development and the pace of their own development. This is what we had before the incursion of the military into the country’s politics. This is not to say that there won’t be any role for a central government but this would be based on cooperation between the regional governments. Also, the areas of cooperation will be clearly defined and will only include those areas that were originally reserved exclusively for the central government at independence namely, defence, external affairs, currency, banking, shipping, navigation, and communications. Much have been said about the role of a President for the whole country but we had existed before without a President albeit with a head of state and a prime minister but we don’t have to have a directly elected President for the whole country as the role can be rotated between the elected leaders of the three regions. This will go a long way to resolve the current and continuing tension within Nigeria. And since the area of cooperation is the area already assigned to the regional governments, cooperation in these areas will be more effective and efficient.

In order to achieve these objectives, we are proposing the following 2 point plan:

(i) The introduction of a ‘referendum’ bill in each state House of Assembly. The bill could be sponsored by any member of the House of Assembly or by the state government.

(ii) The bill is to authorise the state government to consult its people to seek their mandate through a referendum on the following issues: (a) should Nigeria continue with current arrangement or be a union of autonomous regions as it was at independence; (b) Should state governments assume control of all resources found within their states and the revenue derived from them.

We urge all Nigerians to join hands with us in demanding for a referendum organised by the states in actualising this plan. We in the NFR believe and justifiably so that what can save Nigeria from the impending collapse is a return to the arrangement obtained at independence where real powers reside with the regional governments. Much have been said about the Aburi Accord which suggested a confederation arrangement for Nigeria but which was never implemented by the Gowon government. The truth is that the Aburi Accord was a negotiated agreement but this current system was neither negotiated or agreed upon, it was imposed. We don’t have to practice federalism, we don’t have to accept someone else’s discredited plan. We are human beings with hope and aspiration and we have a right to self determination. This is more the reason why we are calling for a total change from the path that our past military leaders have taken the country. It is a path leading to nowhere but destruction. The current system favoured no one but our leaders and their families and cronies Other countries in the world are moving forward while we continue to watch in agony how our dear country is being left behind. Many of our children have lost their lives in search for a better future abroad that they are being denied at home. There are tribal and religious tensions which are costing the lives of many innocent Nigerians but with no solution in sight. We in the NFR believes that these problems have solutions and this is why we have suggested a referendum on those issues that if adopted without doubt will bring us nearer to finding solutions to our perennial problems as a country. Together we can save Nigeria from the impending catastrophe and restore dignity to our people but we must be brave to take the important and needed steps to achieve this.

To find out more about NFR, visit us at: or if you would like to join NFR, leave your name and contact details at: and we will get back to you. You can also leave your comments on Facebook: Nigerians For Referendum

Folorunso Makinde
President NFR

Chief Evans Akpanobong
NFR (Nigeria)
Tel. + 44 - 07574342640

*Photo Caption - Late General Aguiyi-Ironsi addressing the nation in his 1st press conference as Head of State. *In photo - sitting from left to right are Hassan Katsina, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, David Ejoor, J.E.A. Wey and Yakubu Gowon. Click For Enlarged Photo