The Swiss experiment and the Nigerian expedition

January 20, 2020
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IT is increasingly evident that Nigeria is sliding dangerously close to an implosion. What feels like a domination agenda driven by the North being played out before us, the tenacious rumblings of discontent coming from the South East, driven by the IPOB and the MASSOB, right alongside the undulating controversy over the legality (or not) of Operation Amotekun’, the proposed security outfit currently drawing mounting support from a significantly large number of South-Western Nigerians who view Amotekun as a much needed extra layer of security urgently required to plug the gap created by the central government’s ostensibly lethargic disposition towards the protection of lives and chattel  in the South-West region. As Nigerians flick through the dailies, tune into broadcasts or browse the internet perhaps, the deluge of socio-political intrigues we become aware of plainly highlight the widening divide amongst the various regional groupings which make up the construct called Nigeria; a divide so discernibly sharp that the deafening histrionics for a parting of ways as the final answer to the Nigeria question becomes louder by the day. Conceivably, the call for partitioning predominantly led by our compatriots in the South East is somewhat legitimised by historical accounts which opine that Nigeria is an amalgamation of strange bedfellows surreptitiously brought together by our former colonial masters in furtherance of their empire-building quest. If, as history demonstrates, our inter-tribal connubial was merely one of convenience, what then is the justification for trusting that Nigeria can work? And the answer of course is not nearly as intricate as it may initially seem. In fact, the answer clearly stares us in the face, neatly wrapped up and presented to us on a platter of gold, by what is probably best described as the Swiss Experiment.

Switzerland, as we know, has four main linguistic and cultural regions, namely German, French, Italian and Romansh. It is currently one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth highest per capita GDP; and their constitution describes the Swiss nation as a democratic federal republic of 26 cantons (regions) governed by the rule of law.  Without question, the success of the Swiss experiment hasn’t been by happenstance. Rather by design; and three key factors account for this success: They embraced their individual heritage and diversity; They upheld the concept of unity in diversity; They had (or have) the indispensable quality of leadership required to make the above count. The misleading notion of Nigeria as one nation or a nation even, improvidently propagated by the Brits and the successive attempts of our leaders to ingrain this fallacy in our national consciousness without a preceding national dialogue, is largely responsible for where we are today. Heck! It was hugely responsible for Nigeria’s avoidable civil war in 1967-1970.

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We are not one! We never were! But we certainly can be, through dialogue, mutual understanding, respect and acceptance.  The Swiss recognised that diversity can be a force for good and not an impediment, contrary to what members of our self-serving political class prefers that we believe, seeing it furnishes their customary and brazen power-grabbing agenda.  And, the awareness that diversity can be a boost and not a barrier particularly to economic growth for example, inspired the Swiss to come under a common flag, which they achieved without suppressing the rights and aspirations of any of the groups within the Union. Rather remarkably, the German-speaking population, the largest within the union have not sought a domination agenda. Fancy that!

Under the terms of reference of the Swiss constitution, the state is committed to the principles of obedience to law, proportionality and good faith, a commitment which remains disappointingly alien to the Nigerian state.Obviously, the Nigerian State has a subsisting template to work with.  Simply put, we can do what the Swiss did.  Admittedly, however, this may very well be a tall order; not least when leadership has become such an abstract concept in modern-day Nigeria, and faces the existential threat of remaining so, courtesy of a citizenry that seem blissfully unaware of this cheerless reality, or are damn too lethargic to act definitively.

  • Agunbiade writes from Nottingham, United Kingdom

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