Before the rupturous re-entry of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the High Priest of ‘red card’ in Nigerian politics, to issue President Muhammadu Buhari quit notice via a more than damning testimonial yesterday, the Nigerian political space was already rumbling. In fact, many agree Obasanjo merely seized the moment of the crystallisation of disenchantment to release his intriguing but welcome testimonial for the government of the day. Only a week or two before, he had said in London that it was not yet time for him to comment on Buhari. In what appeared to be a change of mind on timing, he came up with the comment convicting not just Buhari but also the political parties and, by implication, the current political process in favour of his own model for the way forward: Coalition for Nigeria, (CN).
Before he made his entry, voices warning in the previous week that Nigeria is heading for something unpleasant if care is not taken were being heard from as diverse players as APC leader Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, former Inspector-General of the Police; Mr Afakriya Gadzama, former Director-General of the Department of State Security; the Sultan of Sokoto. When added to what someone as General T Y Danjuma said much, much earlier to the effect that Northern Nigeria is in the middle of a civil war, it all got everyone frightened. For, unlike 2010 when General Danjuma’s statement was triggered solely by Boko Haram insurgency just unfolding then, the security situation in the country has since graduated to a war without battlefronts.
That is the ‘Somalia’ that some people are saying demands to be quickly but innovatively managed because there is nothing alarmist in the fear of Nigeria going the way of ‘Somalia’ anymore. Ironically, the North which used to be the country’s anchor of stability has transformed into the foremost source of poverty, insecurity and instability for the democratic order and Nigeria’s future. The fear is that nothing will prevent the aggravated stereotyping of a particular ethno-religious identity going on in the social and traditional media as well as in everyday narratives from precipitating the reality invoked if nothing fundamental is done. In one sentence, peace and security have eluded Nigeria again, contrary to the expectation that a retired General in the saddle is all the country needed to experience security.
Nigeria as a space of unchecked violence and insecurity is a negative testimonial for state power because, in every society, it is the state that has the responsibility for peace and security. Threats to peace and security are, therefore, bad commentary on the intervening variables of leadership, power and governance that define the mystery called state power. By implication, the leadership of the government of the day stood indicted, directly and indirectly. Although not even President Muhammadu Buhari’s worst enemy would say that he is the type who will steal Nigeria’s money to buy a Yacht or a ship, there is a harsh but understandable joke, for instance, that beside a First Lady beautiful intellectually, physically and politically, the president has not added fundamental values to Nigeria between 2015 and today. His critics such as Obasanjo are angry that it is in his declared core competences – the economy, security and anti-corruption war that the failures are most noticeable, charging him with condoning corruption.
The president and his team have had the difficulty of signposting the depth, the cant and the coherence required to come up with the developmental narrative and corresponding practices or the sort of nationalist lore with the potential to overwrite the decay of the past 32 years. The more they try, the deeper the nation sink. The most conclusive evidence in the eye of commentators is in the referencing of Nigeria in terms of ‘Somalia’. Nobody can guess what might be the next flashpoint after the herdsmen nightmare playing out now and if it won’t be more threatening than herdsmen violence.
Yet, the leadership and governmental crisis coincides with virtual breakdown of the society that is beyond presidential incompetence. As someone said recently, this is the most unproductive, most wasteful, most corrupt, most unjust and the most mindless peripheral capitalism in human history. Only one other country in the world is cited along with Nigeria in global political economy lecture halls. The people in power are, individually and collectively, overwhelmed by the offices they occupy. They have stopped thinking and that is why too many things that are unthinkable appear normal in Nigeria and the rest of the world cannot stop wondering: what manner of people are these?
For instance, it is now a criminal act to fall sick in Nigeria because, unlike 1983 when there were consulting clinics, there are now only badly painted buildings with neither the technology nor medical personnel appropriate to the 18th century, not to talk of the 21st century. In the few exceptional cases where some teaching hospitals miraculously managed to buy pieces of 21st century technology, there are usually no specialists with the capacity to read the print out from the technology. It is that bad. The nutritional value of the food the average Nigerian can afford must be one of the most hopeless in the world. Not only are pensioners being owned, public service workers are not being paid.
Unlike South Africa which takes this for granted, Nigeria has not a single journal published in the country that is mentioned in any serious centre of reflection anywhere in the world today. How can you lay claims to continental leadership or leadership at any levels when you do not have a platform where Nigeria’s sense of geo-power comes into itself in a world of images. Universities are in so bad a shape as far as thinking for a country of nearly 200 million people. It is not for nothing that no one is hearing anything from any quarters now comparable to the sort of ideas people in the hierarchy of authority used to commend Professor Bolaji Akinyemi in those days. Today, the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA) from where Akinyemi used to engage Nigeria has disappeared into oblivion. This is a place that used to publish its calendar of activities for the year by February unfailingly. Yet, it is or ought to be the place with the highest concentration of the brightest statisticians, political scientists, Historians, economists, scholars of ethics, International Relations experts and geopolitics researchers, ‘scientifically’ looking into the seeds of time for the survival of Nigeria. The country is thus facing a survival threat.
In several centres of power, the sense of the situation is that Nigeria is back to search for leadership, the country’s most difficult engagement with modernity. A former Chief Justice of the Federation is reported to have once said that this country has so broken down to a level that he could not imagine where someone with capacity to put it back might be found. It is a view considered very honest, frank and weighty that the maker ought not to be afraid to make openly. (This newspaper does not know which of the former CJs but he made the statement outside the country in 2010). It speaks to the need for an angel of a leader and how to find him or her. That is the leader that Nigeria itself would not overwhelm.
By Nigeria’s unwritten leadership selection code (zoning), the inter-connected processes of leadership, power and governance today lies in the North. Interrogation of leadership, power and governance in relation to peace and security today is, therefore, interrogation of the North. But the North is split down the middle. Whatever mechanisms held the Northern elite together before have completely and evidently broken down. To this is attributed the intra-elite scuffles seen across the region today.
The mechanisms might have broken down but Northern Nigeria remains constituted in a manner that rules out cutting free from each other, to the extent of its impracticability and needlessness in an inter-dependent and inter-penetrating world. Even the few states in the North that can be called predominantly Muslim or predominantly Christian still have either substantial population of adherents of the Other religion who are indigenous to or who have settled in such states. People bandying about notions of ‘core’ or Muslim North as distinct from a supposedly non-core or non-Muslim North are, therefore, seen to be dealing with concepts that cannot find empirical demonstration anywhere in the North.
Northern togetherness is, however, contradicted by the split in the ranks of the Northern elite, the overarching context permissible of the different violent contestations across the region, be it herdsmen raids, ethno-religious sparks, the organised invasion of targeted communities and the mayhem so common today. So, a school of thought is saying that there is no alternative to reconciling this contradiction. As this war of all against all cannot be stopped by just wishing it, Northern political, business, intellectual, religious and traditional elite need to take a deliberate step at leadership selection as a strategic imperative.
The suggestion is that for this process to be taken out of the rancour which chauvinists, jingoists, purveyors of hate and all manner of agent provocateurs could wrought in the ideological wilderness called Nigerian politics today, an inner caucus of power that can work out a sophisticated negotiation of power between elite camps in the North be given the job. That is a caucus of carefully selected participants, a team constituted on the basis of ideas rather than authority and which should be able to rely on intellectual skills, wisdom and experience to take the north from the path it is toeing now through a consensus presidential material that can re-invent leadership, power and governance, informally right away and formally as from May 2019. The North needs a strategy beyond existing structures such as political parties to do this, it is being argued.
The thinking in this camp is that this caucus would have one person each from the National Peace Committee which General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah are leading; the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) and the Jammatu Nasir Islam, (JNI) as the two religious blocks and key stakeholders; the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF), the Middle Belt Forum and the Northern Elders Forum, (NEF) as three leading civil society cum regional platforms and, finally, the following individuals recognised in their own right: General TY Danjuma, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Tor Tiv, General Jeremiah Useni, Col Dangiwa Umar (rtd), Professor Isawa Elaigwu and Professor Zaynab Alkali.
General Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Atiku Abubakar and Ahmed Makarfi are not on this list. While General Gowon and Shagari are being excused to continue taking their rest, Atiku and Makarfi were excluded because they were said to be already presidential aspirants, just waiting to formally declare it. As for President Buhari, he cannot sit on his own case, being the incumbent.
How this caucus would find this angel would be its headache but the idea is that 2019 cannot but be for a candidate who has got excellent formal education; who is not closer to his or her grave than most Nigerians; whom power will not change; who is a human being, not a tyrant; one who will not steal Nigeria blind, who knows one or two things about the Mandela attitude to reconciliation and has probably demonstrated it somehow somewhere before; who is politically educated, sober and, above all, transformative. The assumption is that the Presidency will not be a self-discovery mission for whoever is the choice.
And such a choice would not have been a beneficiary of the democratic discourse of inclusiveness that does not distinguish between good and bad people in the society. Democracy or equal opportunity must make such distinction because democracy is not madness. It is not democracy or equal opportunity to fail to inhibit the bad guy from getting that office because that is like saying that two drivers, one of them drunk, should all be allowed to drive simply because they all have driving licenses. It is not fit and proper to argue that bad guys should be given equal opportunity with good guys when it is possible to determine who is good and who is bad in the Nigerian context by a simple background check.
The agenda here is where a re-naissance would replace lamentation in and about Nigeria. That has its own leadership requirement: someone who understands the biopolitical practices of power in the 21st century, this age of research, the knowledge economy, reverse engineering, cultural and information warfare and who can, therefore, assemble the sort of human beings who can save the blackman from the catastrophe of Nigeria imploding from injuries inflicted on it by a history of clueless class leadership. Enough then of separatist thinkers in a tightly integrated and integrating world! Away from anarchists and free lance radicals! It requires someone who is sufficiently angry about the Nigerian situation but whose anger is not against any particular ethnic or religious groups, region, gender or generation, now or ever before.
Will this idea fly? It is more than a month it has been worked upon now but when Intervention called one of the nominees last night, there was no hint of the person having been contacted. Will the rest of the North coy up to the idea of consensus candidate again when the last time the North resorted to consensus candidacy, it did not fly. Or has the situation radically changed that the region would embrace caucusing now? If they do not accept this, then what? What is the guarantee that the rest of Nigeria would buy a product of this caucus? Where and how do they find the angel they are looking for? Questions! Questions! Questions!
What about the two other ideas? Part three is next.