By any measure, Nigeria is at the tipping. Be worried. Be very worried. No one can exactly say what it looks like when a country takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Nigeria.
Never mind what you’ve heard about failed states as a slow motion emergency that will take decades to play out. Abruptly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us and the country that even survived civil war is at the brink.
The debate over whether this country has failed should by now be over. Now we’re witnessing how the consequences feed off one another in accelerating spirals of destruction. The fear is that we may be approaching the point of no return. A familiar national ritual is currently in progress. Politics and politicking are back on the national front burner of national affairs. Regional and religious masquerades are on a rampage.
Political groupings and unholy alliances are being held here and there. Politicians have once again taken to their soap-boxes, dishing out their usual false promises and assurances. 2011 is a year that is assuming magical symbolism in the Nigerians psyche. For many it is more than just an election year, but marks a season of change, hope and a new era upon which to hinge their hope of a better life, for Nigerians place a high premium on politics as a vector to take this country out of the dire doldrums. The usual eruption of pre election violence has taken a more sophisticated form.
Recent loss of lives in Jos, Abuja, Maiduguri and Bauchi are reflections of the clear and present danger the country faces. These killings are a reminder of the high stakes our heartless ruling elite attach in their pursuit of laying their hands on the levers of power for self enrichment. And this is definitely a fearful foretaste of what could happen in 2011. What a fearful paradox that those who want to rule will go this length of polarizing our people to take up arms against each other. Only God knows what they would do beyond 2011. From 1999, the most popular slogan following elections was democracy and its ‘dividends’. It was used to refer to the bountiful benefits that would accrue every Nigerian as a result of the dawn of what they call democracy. The expectations and the promise was that things would be better. After eleven years of this deceit, the reality on the ground is not pleasant. Hardship and poverty persist in the land. All is not just well. Because of this, whatever assurance the government tries to dish out is often quashed by a legitimate popular mistrust and disillusionment with the citizens. To a large extent, the level faithlessness with Nigerians over leadership and governance.
The exit of Obasanjo in 2007 is said to have gone with his menacing musketeers. But this tiny clique of his acolytes was not removed. They were just displaced, some to senate or their wives, House of Representatives or their wives, some as ministers or their wives and children, some to opposition parties or regional pressure groups. They merely moved into other, sometime more powerful positions. Many of these politicians who would under normal circumstances been in jail are now pivotal in the scheming and bargains. The boom in this corrupt industry, endangered in some sections of the economy by the spree, enabled most of them to cling for what they know best; rip off!, and get even richer. Based on this self enrichment, with the compromised civil servants and bureaucrats controlling this expenditure. The positions of these people and or their proxies also offered some of them the shield against prosecution and further access needed to milk more, enlarged much more from this expenditure. So while the political and strategic imperative of post Obasanjo era led to a reorientation in the political stance of Nigeria, the political economy of a strangled Nigerian state in the hands of this avaricious bunch of gnats produced and hatched rapidly in large numbers, and enriched, a class of a more portent wreckers of the political economy. These joined the older members of this class, who before these developments were in a mouse and cat chase game with the EFCC, and were very closely tied to both Obasanjo and Yar’adua dynasties. The death of the evil third term, unexpected departure of Yar’adua and the inevitable collapse of these dynasties with peculiar political economy, led to a great dispersal of these merchants across, and widened the possibility of communal mobilization behind their interests. For this class, whose economic and political role is akin to a get man collecting tolls, national unity is not a means of forging the productive and political forces of the nation into a new, coherent and enduring synthesis. National unity is to them merely an arena for bargain. And the discontinuities, imbalances and the blockages in the national system enhance their bargaining capacity. Any attempt for a just and egalitarian Nigeria almost directly threaten their existence, since they feed and thrive on these circumstance and cannot survive in a just and equitable Nigeria of our dream without this parasitism. On both aspects, however, they would tolerate and welcome some national unity and cohesion rhetoric in order, in the first instance, to preserve the arena for the bargaining and, in the second, to gain some political and psychological leverage over their followers and their principals. The spectacular enrichment and proliferation of these people went hand in hand with the extreme poverty the poor Nigerian is in. So they now establish a firm grip on the state.
In such a context, the emergence of Obasanjo in 1999 after June 12, the ascension of Jonathon as acting president despite the cabal’s schemes, the political stance in favour of national unity and cohesion became hollowed and hollowed. But it could not be abandoned. It had provided the political and ideological basis for the defeat of secession. This was no doubt a great and historic achievement by the electorate and therefore, the political and ideological reorientation it brought about could not be simply reversed and rejected. It could be made hollow and mere rhetoric. But all the same it is irreversible in important respects. Unfortunately, in place of this national direction, the personalities of Obasanjo, Yar’adua and Jonathan were promoted as a substitute. Genuine democracy and a dynamic national integration were reduced to Obasanjo’s state visits and the games and festivals he hosted. A just and egalitarian society was reduced to Yar’adua’s ‘piety’ and simplicity. This was buttressed by letting the crooks off the EFCC hook and letting them roam free, armed and even more dangerous, this was done by technically clipping the EFCC. The forging of national unity was reduced to Jonathan ‘minority’ ethnic background, leadership transparency and public accountability was negated to his Face book chat room.
Dazzled by the glare of the boom in money bag politics and getting a pittance of what the politicians stole in form of gift, the scavenging poor peasantry has become more entangled in the system and is now left with illusions and chronic poverty, bred and sustained on such illusions. The policy of deregulation in which public institutions were acquired by rich businessmen, politicians in power and shrewd civil servants is another dimension of this process. This heightened the discontent of the dislodged elite that have invested so much in the formation of the fourth republic is probably most succinctly put in expression ‘monkey de work and baboon de chop’. This corruption came to be the Achilles heel of this democracy, especially in 1999 when the first batch of the political ruling elite, from Atiku to IBB, from Danjuma, to Aliyu Gusau and Adamu Chiroma, who are starkly rich, powerful and confident, realized that Obasanjo might not be willing to let them have their ‘turn’. Obasanjo was sent parking and his boys were enthroned in the most unpopular passion the country has ever seen. The dangerous signal then was beaming for even the blind to see. As part of his diabolical plan to entrench himself in proxy, Obasanjo and his acolytes saddled a dying man for the most crucial job that even the healthy would contemplate in an ideal situation. Up till now, Obasanjo and all those behind that project have advanced no convincing argument to justify their inordinate desire to drag this nation on the road to perdition. Their actions however, were strong pointers to the danger we are now into. What happened since then is more familiar. There will be many occasions when the events that produced the Yar’adua/ Jonathan ticket will be recalled.
The recent so called constitutional amendment is also an important development. It reveals how, even though the Executive and the legislature rationalized the neo military political and economic system for Nigeria, the inherent tendencies of our states legislature tend to entrench such rationalization. The manner in which the amendment was conducted in such a hurry and secrecy cast a serious doubt on its legitimacy. All that they did to limit the debate, within the frame work suitable for continuing to rule for eternity, could not persuade them to cover up their greed and true social and political basis. The amended constitution and the charade of taking it round the 36 state assemblies for rubber stamping is all intended to create a stable succession pattern for these people in power. These are administrative, legal and bureaucratic measures whose impact is determined by the political forces involved. Most of the parties that would have rise to the occasion are clearly, by their very nature of support, leadership and general political structure only capable of maintaining the status quo or, even attempting to revert to an earlier position of evolution of this structure. This is irrespective of their manifestoes and statements. This status quo or the previous arrangement is one of horse trading, bargain, conflict and entrenching the parasitic affluence of the few. For those who can read the clear writing on the wall but deliberately chose to be deluded by ethnic, religious or regional bigotry, these are realities that even sky scrapers cannot hide. Whoever doubts this subversive trend for manipulative innovation is unconsciously succumbing to great shallowness and arrant superficiality. If anything the last eleven years of our political journey have demonstrated, it is the truth saying of the late Fela; BEAST OF NO NATION !
Mukhtar Kabir Usman wrote in from
Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design
Universiti Antrabangsa Islam