Alerts against the possibility of war in yesterday’s national security assessment by the National Christian Elders Forum composed of crack former military commanders must still be the talk of the town in Nigeria. As opposed to politicians and their partisan claims, most members of the forum have been field commanders with considerable experience of dealing with security matters. The skewedness of appointment, especially the Muslim identity of the heads of security and security related agencies as well as their Jihadist reading of herdsmen violence are not totally new as earlier critics such as the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Balarabe Musas, the Bishop Okogies, the Dangiwa Umar, Dr Ahmad Gumis, the Junaid Mohammeds, General Obasanjo have also made the same point.
However, the appearance of TY Danjuma’s name there is read in some quarters as the ultimate proof of the collapse of consensus at the very top of the power elite. It reminds many of the section of IBB’s biography where the late Colonel Yohanna Madaki was asking: If there is a coup against Murtala and TY Danjuma is against the coup, Dogonyaro is against it, John Shagaya is against it, then who is doing this coup? If there is a government whose policies are opposed by all the critics named above, then what’s in the government again? Obasanjo’s name features here because he said Buhari was merely a chance beneficiary of his opposition to Goodluck Jonathan, not his candidate for the job.
It is frightening that, except the Southwest, all other parts of Nigeria are currently at war. The government says it is corruption fighting back. Its critics say the government itself has been pocketed by political Jihadists. There is a stalemate evocative of the sort of situation all earlier fears for Nigeria have mentioned. The most dramatic of such must remain the 2004/5 projection of Nigeria’s implosion by the United States National Intelligence Council, (NIC) in 2015. It was just a speculative analysis or better still, a scientific guesswork but a discourse that seems to be reproducing the reality it invoked, particularly where it talked of the plausibility of outright implosion of Nigeria by 2015. It requires being quoted in full from the adjunct of the main report. While Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council 2020 Project is the main issued in December 2004, the adjunct titled Sub-Saharan Africa’s Future: A US National Intelligence Council Conference Report of 2005 stated in part: “Other potential developments might accelerate decline in Africa and reduce even our limited optimism. The most important would be the outright collapse of Nigeria. While currently Nigeria’s leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja. The most important would be a junior officer coup that could destabilize the country to the extent that open warfare breaks out in many places in a sustained manner. If Nigeria were to become a failed state, it could drag down a large part of the West African region. Even state failure in small countries such as Liberia has the effect of destabilizing entire neighborhoods. If millions were to flee a collapsed Nigeria, the surrounding countries, up to and including Ghana, would be destabilized. Further, a failed Nigeria probably could not be reconstituted for many years—if ever—and not without massive international assistance”
2015 has passed relatively peacefully compared to the imagery of implosion but Nigeria seems not to have put that scenario far behind if there is no dramatic elite consensus very quickly. While the US reports do not mean much in themselves, the reality of deep division within the elite points at echoes of a war foretold. No society can transcend its elite.
It would take an extraordinarily resilient elite to survive a long history of early warnings of its collapse, from Karl Meir’s This House Has Fallen to Robert Kaplan’s The Coming Anarchy (which is though not about Nigeria but about the collapse of West Africa even as applicable to Nigeria as his list of the drivers of collapse – poverty, crime, over population, tyranny, juju, polygamy), the US scenario projection in 2004 down to the current Country Report by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Nigerians themselves have been agitating for restructuring which some people see as euphemism for breaking up the country. Otherwise, they don’t see anything so difficult to implement in the restructuring agenda that it would become a make or mar campaign if it were not an arrow aimed at the state itself. But, many would shudder to think of anarchy in Nigeria. The picture of such an anarchy Isa Yuguda, former governor of Bauchi’s painted in February 2012 went as follows:
“In any event, there will be no winner in such war that these doomsday prophets are advocating. A free-for-all internecine conflict in Nigeria will take on the character of several different battles-an inter-regional, intra-regional religious war between Muslims and Christians; an ethnic war fueled by pent-up tribal grievances within a single state or across the boundaries of neighbouring states; an indigene-settler, farmer-nomad war of attrition and an all-out war between the haves and the have-nots across the length and breadth of the country. It will be a war without a warfront, because the whole country will be the theatre of battle and every inhabitant a reluctant warrior. And it will be a general war with an unprecedented number of casualties that, in addition, will cause large-scale suffering in which several millions of internally-displaced persons will be rendered homeless and many more refugees will be forced across Nigeria’s borders into neighbouring countries”.
So, who is going to make that move that would take this country across this crease?
President Buhari? Unless the theory of ‘Diverted Mandate’ is completely correct and the president actually didn’t know up to 45 out of 50 of his appointees as claimed, then Buhari has little chance of getting back his grooves. That is if presidential ill-health is not a different kettle of fish. The only silver lining is the threat of distilling the regime of its hyena and jackal components in a move that would redirect power to the rightful owner. How long would Nigerians wait?
Acting President? He can do a lot because he has moral authority and his head is certainly helping him a lot. If only he has enough room to do what Obasanjo (of 1999) or Abacha did in their own time by bringing in the stars of the contending tendencies in Nigeria into a Government of National Unity or whatever name it is called. He would have calmed the country and created room for the government to meander through the landmines. Gowon did that too by bringing out Awo from the prison and investing him with Vice-Chairmanship of the Federal Executive Council. If Buhari plans to exile the hyenas and jackals and cats with nine lives in the regime, then it might also be his interest to edge on Osinbajo to move in this direction.
The APC? No comments
The governors? No comments
The business community? No comments
The retired Generals as a caucus of power? When Intervention asked an interviewee last last January if he thought Nigeria could rely on the seven top retired Generals to act as a national cohort in the face of breakdown, he wondered if they were that at peace with themselves to act such role, saying they are an embodiment of crises. He seems to have got it right. Although we are told these people have a way of relating to themselves, it would seem they are no less fragmented, with Obasanjo/IBB/Abdulsalami managing to function as a group, TY in a different caucus as well as General Gowon while Buhari is running his own show. While they each believe in Nigeria, acting as a collective symbol doesn’t appear to hold.
A Nigerian Mandela from the blue? But can there be an overnight Mandela about whom no one no signs have been evident before now?
The National Assembly, (NASS)? No comments although it is the most strategic rescue institution in existence in Nigeria today along with the judiciary. But that is if it were not a conflict party itself!
The people? The people are like the NASS – very powerful. They can do anything, depending on the vanguard and the direction of mobilisation. Right now, the vanguards are in a multiple and they are taking the people in different rather than one direction. So, there is a dead end there unless and until there is a pan – Nigerian vanguard. Can the pan-Nigerian vanguard arrive quickly enough?
Can’t the civil society do it on their behalf? Least likely because they have to get the funding and those who provide such funding might not be inclined to pour more money to healing an elite that they have had to heal several times before. In any case, they have other problems to attend to and may also not be so much in a hurry.
What about the media? But the top elite owe the media. Can the media sustain being above the fray when their owners are in the trenches?
So, allow Nigeria – the highest concentration of blacks under one government in human history – to crash out of history? Well, that cannot be ruled out but we are also told that every society has a way of re-inventing itself. It could still, therefore, be Morning Yet on Creation Day for Nigeria! God might not leave 200 million people stranded, no matter how frequently Nigerians have been let down by all who should have elevated it!