Chief Owolabi Salis, New York-based lawyer and chartered accountant is also an authority on diversity management. In this interview, he speaks on his extensive research on diversity on a global scale, why the issue remains a tough nut to crack in Nigeria, challenges of diversity under presidential and parliamentary systems and more. Excerpts:
As a researcher on diversity, what are your perspectives on the subject matter?
We have a big problem to solve as many regions are agitating for secession. The objective of this
campaign is to stress the importance of Nigeria staying together as a country within our diversity. We just have to in the interest of the black race. Nigeria as the 7th most populous country in the world needed to be together in the interest of our black brothers distributed across the globe.
I am speaking from experience having lived in the United States, a collation center for races of this world for over 20 years and travelled to several countries across the planet earth in my study of the relative conditions of blacks in this world. We have no option than to stay together; the hope for the black race in political and socio-economic growth rests here in Nigeria. This campaign is titled African Action Alliance otherwise called Advance Action Alliance which is a One Nigeria Project to promote Nigeria unity and development that will ultimately advance the interests of all Africans across the corners of theworld. Africans cannot continue to be slaves and the oppressed.
Can you dissect why the situation is very serious in Nigeria?
The situation is so bad in Nigeria now that states are now deporting Nigerians not from their state to their states of origin. This is a development in the North which should not be. Lagos did it before to the Igbos which was an unfortunate event. I am sad to note this. The federating units need to intervene against the development and outlaw the deportations. We are all Nigerians.
There will always be discrimination; we just need to put measures in place to minimize it. If we decide we should be broken into the suggested 6 geopolitical zones because the 6 zones are big enough to stand as a country; there will still be agitations in the zones because some ethnic groups will still feel marginalized.
Besides, breaking up Nigeria is not good for black race because every race in the world has a major high populated country that speaks for the race. Nigeria represents the high populated country for the black race. This is my findings. I am a researcher in diversity issues. Many countries in this world have different diverse groups. Nigeria is a diverse country of about 250 ethnic groups. In Nigeria, we have practiced parliamentary, military and now presidential systems. A diversity intelligence study of Nigeria shows Nigeria is a country shaped by ethnicity and religion. Many countries that have poorly managed their diversity have fought or are fighting civil wars.
War can be devastating and is nothing to hope for; if you don’t believe this, look at the experience in former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Rwanda, Libya, Syria, Iraq to mention a few. Technically, the wars have begun in Nigeria; the Boko Haram, the Bandits, the Herdsmen-Farmers, Islamic State of WestAfrica, Shiite-Government Crises, the Middle Belt Crises, the new Biafra Agitation, Niger Delta Crises, Amotekun and so on. All these are no jokes to those who are nationalistic of Nigeria. It has been reported that many lives have been lost in Nigeria than any country in the world, even more than countries indeclared hostility. Killing of human beings means nothing to so many in Nigeria now. Why is that? This is a technical war.
Why then is Nigeria still able to exist despite these challenges?
I was in a seminar about 20 years ago in New York when Nigeria was predicted to go the way of former Yugoslavia, a country that broke up to several pieces. We are probably lucky with the 1967-70 civil war that came early in Nigeria before modern sophistication; war now will be hell but then we need to address the push factors. We are also lucky that Nigeria has been mature in managing challenging crises but many are worried about recent developments. Contrary to the popular belief,Nigeria is well formed and balanced of the diversity is well managed.
For a good system of government, there must be proportional opportunities for all diverse interests within the country.
Why is diversity is challenging despite the benefits of presidential and parliamentary systems of government?
Diversity can sometimes be a problem for democracy particularly when it forms unequal diversity ratio. For simple example, a country with 2 ethnic groups A and B. A with 60% population and B with 40% and operating a presidential or parliamentary system will create poor balance against the minority 40%. A will always produce the leader because of majority sentiment. In rare cases, B may produce the leader atthe mercy of A or if controlling the institution of control. The 40% is zero under the presidential and parliamentary system when it comes to producing the leader based on majority votes. To achieve proportional opportunity, we have to breakdown the diversities into a common factor, say 5 so that: A= 1/5+1/5+1/5 and B= 1/5+1/5. We will now use the common factor (5) for comparison. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many presidential and parliamentary systems.
Currently Nigeria practices the presidential system which have presented a lot of challenges including Ethnic, religious and other race based crises including the dreaded Boko Haram, Jos Crisis, IPOB, Niger Delta Crisis among others, marginalization and political domination. Those presumed marginalized in the present system are the North East, the Middle Belt, the northern Christians, the southern Muslims, the South South, the South East, and the minorities, the force and domination of the incumbent in elections and running state affairs. People hardly challenge the incumbent. It is a sycophantic or parasitic system, party imposition and impunity depriving competition and the best for the country. Many party leaders care less about Nigeria but their selfish and group interests, creating disregard for equity and loss of confidence in the system by the populace and many others, inability of Nigerians to live freely without fear in any state of their choice except some few states like Lagos, Fraud, rigging, rituals, violence and deception. Also, politically induced killings and monetization of votes, bad campaigns, unattainable promises and damaging vote negotiations. Candidates being held ransom, clash of political personalities and rival parties. Too many lawsuits and bribery of electoral umpires.
How do we open opportunities for many qualified personalities in Nigeria as the present system closesopportunities against them?
Leaders are forced to manage crises throughout their tenure rather than concentrate on development issues, engaging in human rights abuses and disregard for the less privileged
The parliamentary and the presidential systems are not able to solve the above problems but rather create more. The system we operate now is that the more crises you are able to create and distribute, the more political relevance you enjoy. The question is can we have a novel system that can address all of the above problems at the same time. I mean a peace building system. Yes.
No country achieves its full potential where certain citizens are treated as second class. Such treatment promotes hate among citizens. There are also crises when it comes to sharing resources; peace may only be achieved when equity is followed.
I am a Nigerian and I want to remain a Nigerian. The expiring generation and the expired generations of Nigerians have enjoyed one Nigeria. The developing and coming generations of Nigerians are also entitled to enjoy one Nigeria and it is our duty as current generation and governments to preserve one Nigeria for them.
We have to stay together because we are stronger together and represent the hope for black race. How do we now promote national unity?
For us to stay together in peace and with love, we have to reform or restructure to create proportional opportunities for all diverse groups within the country. The system we currently practiced does not give hope to the minorities even though they are stakeholders in the Nigeria project. If the minorities can form a solid block, which is unlikely, then Nigeria is balanced. We, however, need a system that will address all the challenges above.
One best solution is to practice a form of democracy called “Equitocracy”, an equity based system that helps to reduce and or eliminate all the above vices at the same time. It is also called “diversity based democracy”. With this system, Nigeria will assume the name Federal Equity Republic of Nigeria or Equity Republic of Nigeria.
The steps involved in the creation of equity republic include
Conduct an objective country study of the differences or diversities existing among the people in the political entity. This is called diversity intelligence, note the weights of the differences or diversities and allocate ratios accordingly for evaluation. This is called diversity ratio allocation creating diversity zones, determine the candidates or vote propensities or choices or the number of ratio representatives to be evaluated at every ratio points. Is it one in two options or one in three or one in four etcetera? This is an area for creating political opportunities or wider competition that relaxes or flexes political tension determine the evaluators- either general covering all the people or close using delegates, invest or inter/intra vote the ratios in one another linking it to the choices under an objectiveevaluation to determine which of the ratios is best valued.
What kind of approach do you propose for Nigeria?
There are so many variations of the equity design but I am going to discuss the one based on state diversity because among the past efforts in managing our diversity is the creation of states and geopolitical zones. This campaign therefore is discussing both substantive and procedural issues in strengthening Nigeria diverse groups.
This one will discuss the election of the President or Governor-General, assuming we want to have a separate world identity of calling our president, Governor-General.
We have 36 states in Nigeria. For clear understanding, we are going to make 36 assumptions based on the best three parties that are recognized from the states. The first assumption is to ask Abia State to present to Nigerians three candidates from their State that are competent to rule Nigeria. These candidates fromAbia State will be evaluated state by state by the 36 states. Let us take these candidates parties to be A, B and C. The people of Lagos State may prefer C to others (say 30:20:50 in %) while the people of Sokoto
State may prefer A (say 60:30:10 in %). In this case, C won the point of Lagos State while A won the point of Sokoto State. Other states’ votes in the federation will also be analyzed in the same manner for the candidates from Abia State. The candidate with the highest states points will be the winner from Abia State. 36 states points will have to be won which may be won as follows: 25:4:7. In this assumption, A wins 25 states, B wins 4 states and C wins 7 states. A is therefore the overall winner from Abia.
In the same manner, other states in the federation will be asked to present three candidates to Nigerians for evaluation and votes. The candidate A from Lagos State may have won as follows: 36:0:0 while the candidate B from Kano State may have won as follows: 0:35:1 and so on for other states.
All the candidates from the states that won with the highest states points will be collated into an Equity Council and the one among them that won with the most states points will be the President or the Governor-General. If there is a tie of highest states points, the one that won with most states points and votes will be the President or the Governor-General. If there is a tie of highest states points and general votes which is highly unlikely, there will be a general election for the tied candidates. All the other winners will be Governors in their respective states and the runner up to the Governor-General or President will be Governor in the affected state. In this case, all Nigerians are involved in the election of the Governors and the Governor-General. This is governed by Equity Rules that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands and among equal equities, the strongest is the law. To be elected as a member of the Equity Council, you have to be a lover of Nigeria or be seen to be so; you have to campaign with clean minds.