No other nation in Africa mirrors the complexity that is Nigeria, a federation of 36 states presided over by Abuja in the centre of the country. Several of them are more resource-rich than some African nations. Under democracy, there are growing calls for a return to true federalism via a national conference to negotiate the terms of remaining together. There are complaints of marginalisation and under-capacity utilisation. Others want a rotation of the presidency. How will Nigeria fare under all these strains and stresses? Ben Asante reports.
To date, Nigeria's inability to organise its internal capacity remains a matter of great concern and a hotly debated issue. When President Olusegun Obasanjo recently visited the oil-producing Akwa Ibom State in the south of the country, the Catholic Archbishop of Uyo, employing a huge dose of irony, told a large congregation in the state capital Abuja, that Nigeria was the only major oil exporting country in the world that imported refined petroleum products for its domestic needs. His sarcasm was less than music to Obasanjo's ears.
Many believe the country would be in a better position to provide leadership and speak with a more forceful voice if its domestic institutions were better organised and competently run. Expectations remain that the consolidation of democracy in the country as it now appears, even with the frequent allegations of fraud in past elections, is Nigeria's best hope of moving forward.
A review of the country's constitution is now underway after months of inaction. It had earlier stalled because a proposal to limit the tenure of elected officers to a single five-year term, at a time when President Obasanjo was still only in his first term, was met with disdain by officials. Now the review is back on track.
According to Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former secretary general of the Commonwealth, the need to restructure the country can no longer wait. He was speaking at a recent retreat organised on the country's relationship with the outside world which was addressed by Obasanjo himself. The participants included the cream of the country's diplomats (both current and retired), and captains of industry.
Arguments are still raging over which part of the country should produce the next president in 2007. The north wants it again, the Igbos in the southeast say it is now their turn, and the minorities in-between say they deserve the presidency as well.