Might Western think tanks be taking up a major role in rescuing Nigeria from itself in terms of superintending the inter-subjective interaction that can produce a consensus? That appears to be an emerging response to managing the many impasses enveloping the country. Having localised most of the national heroes and moral authorities and rendered the major think thanks dysfunctional, the country seems set to look up to international players such as Western think tanks, many of which are already involved in several arenas in the country, from research to conflict prevention to partnerships, etc . A list might include the Royal United Services Institute, (RUSI) in London where General Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff gave an address in June on Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram; the Council on Foreign Relations, (CFR) in the US where John Campbell, a former US ambassador to Nigeria is a key resource person; the London based International Institute of Strategic Studies, (IISS); the three of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, (CSIS), the Atlantic Council and the Brookings Institution, all based in Washington DC, with two of the three involving many former actors from the national security establishment in the United States. There is, of course, the Chatham House, London and the United States Institute of Peace, (USIP), a unique institution the struggle for which took over 200 years before it became a reality in the mid eighties. There are several others.
Already, the Chatham House in London, the equivalent of Nigeria’s seemingly docile Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA) and the United States Institute of Peace, (USIP) in Washington DC, the rough equivalent of Nigeria’s Institute of Peace and Conflict resolution, (IPCR) are emerging as main theatres for representing, performing and reforming Nigeria. Washington DC and London represent the ultimate in contemporary politics of place in global politics.
While “Peace in Nigeria: How to Build It and America’s Role” will be the issue at stake for a cream of civil society and policy leaders from Nigeria and their counterpart from the United States of America, come September 28th, 2017 in Washington DC, Chatham House in London has commenced a series titled ‘Next Generation Nigeria’. Kicking it off last Thursday was Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Nigeria’s Kaduna State. Surprisingly, there was nothing rupturous from the main or even the only real ideologue of the ruling party in Nigeria – the All Progressive Congress, (APC) on restructuring. In other words, he didn’t play the politics of platforms by using the opportunity to frame the restructuring debate in any definitive manner. Rather, he ducked by turning to tact, invoking his own position as chairperson of the party’s committee trying to make sense of the restructuring fray and the imperative of pluralising the inputs, especially of youths. Since when? Does the silence reveal how complicated restructuring might have become for both its promoters and its antagonists? How could a country enveloped in impasses lack political parties, ideologues, political appointees or elected operatives ready to come up with shattering conceptual, ideological and organisational clarity or models that can move the impasse from newspaper editorials towards the possibility of open covenant openly arrived at?
Meanwhile, the second in the series at Chatham House would be featuring Chief John Nwodo, the President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the cultural platform of the Igbo nationality in Nigeria On September 27th, 2017. Chief Nwodo, in Chatham’s explanation, will be examining Nigeria’s efforts at nation-building, the reality of citizenship, as well as power-sharing and devolution as strategies for strengthening democracy and accountability. “He will discuss how these questions are being framed in the ongoing ‘restructuring’ debate, and propose how best to foster a sense of equal belonging in Nigeria”
This emergent tradition will move to Washington DC on September 28th, 2017 when the US Institute of Peace would host discussants who would be looking at what the Institute calls concrete steps Nigeria and the United States could take to stabilize Africa’s demographic and economic giant. They would particularly be exploring options other than predominating over Boko Haram militarily as well as inclusive policies that can prevent violent conflict.
Among the discussants as listed by the announcement on the Institute’s site are Nancy Lindborg, the President of the U.S. Institute of Peace; Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Senior Advisor at the Institute; His Eminence Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) and a member of the Nigeria Senior Working Group; Ambassador Princeton Lyman; Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute of Peace; General Martin Luther Agwai (rtd), former Chief of Army Staff of Nigeria and former Commander of the combined United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan as well as member, Nigeria Senior Working Group; Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Senior Fellow, Center for Democracy and Development -West Africa and member, Nigeria Senior Working Group; Ambassador Fatima Balla, former Nigerian Diplomat, civil servant and politician as well as member, Nigeria Senior Working Group; Yunusa Zakari Yau, Executive Director, Center for Information Technology and Development, Kano, Nigeria.
Others are Dr. Pauline Baker, President Emeritus of the Fund for Peace and Senior Advisor, Creative Associates International; Prof. Attahiru Jega, former Chairman, Nigeria, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and member, Nigeria Senior Working Group; Idayat Hassan, Director, Center for Democracy and Development – West Africa and Dr. Usman Bugaje, founding Chairman of The Network for Justice and convener of the Arewa Research and Development Initiative as well as member, Nigeria Senior Working Group who would, however, be representing the Sultan of Sokoto in the discussion. It is understood that there might be other members of the panel in Dr Chris Kwaja, the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola Peace scholar and Professor Ibrahim Gambari of the Abuja based Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development.
In both cases, the discussions would be livestreamed, suggesting that Chatham House might have waved off its house rule in this case, especially as the Nigerian media has already published el-Rufai’s presentation, attributing his views to him.
While there is no guarantee that discussants would overcome whatever blockages prevent them from frank interventions at home when they are in the US or UK, some analysts are optimistic that the institutional ambience outside could magically make them more forthcoming in their location of where the trouble with Nigeria might be. Such analysts are citing the crisp summation of the problem by Chatham House, for example, which has articulated its intervention in terms of a combination of economic stress and political uncertainty with multiple, localised violent conflicts as well as the rise of divisive rhetoric to reignite debate in Nigeria on share of power and resources. It identifies the two contending positions on the issue between those who want ‘comprehensive rethink of Nigeria’s governance architecture’ and those who argue for preceding such rethinking with improving existing order. Its own fears appears to be conveyed in the notion that fractious politics and competing interests could muddle the waters of the current debate especially as it notes the problematic of “what restructuring would involve, what the consequences could be, and how it could be properly and peacefully implemented”. Most people see this as a satisfactory framing of what is happening in Nigeria, thereby positioning Chatham House as a factor in the Nigerian crisis via ‘power through discourse’ because the way a problem is framed provides the terms by which the problem is understood, hence power in framing or the power that think tanks and non-state actors generally possess. The overall outcome remains to be seen.
While it is true the world has become too permeable to insist on the inside/outside distinction in national affairs, critics are nevertheless wondering when equivalent institutions in Nigeria would be empowered to rise to the challenges they have been set up to address. Why might Chatham House take control by aptly framing the situation in terms of ‘multiple localised violent conflicts and the rise of divisive rhetoric’ but not Nigeria’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, (IPCR) or the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, (NIPSS)? Is this a crisis of financial resources, lack of patronage by the powers that be or a crisis of intellectual resources? The other side of the same question is when the Nigerian power elite in Nigeria would acquire the capability to find answers to her problems without having to run all over the world for answers every decade or so.