After hauling historical invectives at each other to no end, the regional fractions of the power elite in Nigeria are enacting a convergence of interest that is sending ripples across the regions, social classes and dominant centres of power in the country. Tagged the “Extraordinary Summit of Leaders and Elders of Nigeria”, the one-day meeting Wednesday embraced the Northern Elders Forum, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum, Pan Niger Delta Forum, the North East Forum for Unity and Development, the New Generation Representative, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Christian Association of Nigeria. At the moment, only the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF) is missing in a realignment that even has noted Marxists.
Officially prompted by the insecurity in the country, the communiqué of the meeting, however, ended up a categorical vote of No confidence on the President Buhari regime which was scored low on security, the economy and fighting corruption. It quoted global agencies such as the World Bank, Transparency International to back up its claims in each case. The unwritten or unsaid conclusion of the communiqué is that a failure of leadership at the federal level has created a vacuum and crisis of national unity.
The meeting can thus only be understood as a part of the strategy of neutralising the president as far as 2019 is concerned. Why it is the case that not only the political class but also key members of the president’s military constituency are angry with him remains unclear. While these angry godfathers are alleging incompetence, condoning of corruption and nepotism against the president, the president is replying by saying it is because they have reasons to fear in the context of his regime’s anti-corruption war.
Surprisingly, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed who was the Keynote Speaker did not contest the president’s claim. Rather, he said in the speech that “The president’s claim that certain interests and persons are involved in fuelling the killings for political reasons must be taken seriously”. His point of departure, however, is that such persons must be exposed and brought to book rather than remain as excuse for failure to secure citizens and the nation, his words. Of course, he directed his vibes at the president whom he said must show firmer and more decisive leadership in dealing with “alarming scale of killings”. This sentence was coming after he had declared that the nation faces “unprecedented spate of violence from familiar sources as well as many new fronts with vast tract of the nation at the mercy of marauding killers, inter-communal conflicts, violent crimes, kidnapping and violent urban gangs”. The six page speech contains a comprehensive listing of nearly everything that is wrong with contemporary Nigeria. The listing is so exhaustive it can hardly be improved.
In the inside back cover of the programme of the meeting lies what might be said to sum up the standpoint of the conclave of elders: “Nigeria has never faced as many threats to individuals, properties, communities and national security as it does now. The challenge before leadership and all Nigerians is to understand the causes of the failure of security and to put in place measures that will re-assure citizens that they are safe wherever they live or whatever their ethnic, religious or political affiliation. A situation in which we are in perpetual fear of each other must be brought to an immediate end”.
The outcome of a surprise and disarming visit by one of its prime movers to the house of another of the prime movers (whose biography was presented to the public not long ago), its ideologues put the achievement as a successful turn to dialogue on contentious matters and a move towards national unity.
We have heard of cocoa farmers organising, women organising but we have never heard members of the ‘ruling class’ organising. This seems to be one. But, as much as this meeting has symbolic import for national unity, it also shows a badly fragmented ‘ruling class’ seeking class unity out of a sudden realisation that it is easier and more profitable to keep Nigeria as one than otherwise. Better late than never, particularly if they can find an informed unifier who will prioritise rapid industrialisation of Nigeria. It is not too much to expect industrial transformation from a national bourgeoisie. Only in Africa have the ‘bourgeoisie’ been unable to industrialise. Europeans led the process, then North America. Asia has now done it and Latin Americans to some extent. Only Africa has still not a single example to show. Might Nigeria be about getting onto that with this realignment within the ‘ruling class’?
The Presidency has yet to react to this development.