The reality heard so often can quickly become the real. If that is correct, then the break-up of Nigeria heard so often can become real, irrespective of whether those who frame the way forward that way actually mean it or not. In other words, it is not so much the intention of those behind the rhetoric of break-up that is as important as the performative power of such rhetoric over and above its original proponents. If saying is thus the same thing as doing, then the rhetoric of break-up is itself the reality and comfort about it in any quarters is foolhardiness.
But, should Nigeria break-up? Interpretation of President Buhari’s practice of power as embodying break-up implications is almost a settled point of departure about Nigeria today. Nearly everyone here would say yes. And then go on to say that it is all a case of a naïve attachment to Nigeria to argue against its break-up at this point. Still, that can only be one side of the story because it is doubtful if anyone who has gone out on a Nigerian mission in whatever capacity would agree with the break-up option. Even as badly managed as it is, Nigeria is still a great experience.
Out there, Nigeria is both a laughing stock as it is a mystery. It is, indeed, a laughing stock for being so wealthy but so poorly managed even by African standard but still a mystery in its incomprehensibility to even the best of experts in Area Studies.
Above all, Nigeria is still the closest to the condition of possibility for the African Moment in History. One of the conditions is the idea of a core state whose absence is Samuel Huntington’s reason for calling Africa a candidate civilisation in his much contested ‘Clash of Civilisation’ thesis. The point is not about agreeing or not agreeing with Huntington but about thinking through his claim. Doing so has become even more important than what Huntington said in the wake of the successful politicization of the black subject’s own ‘centuries of humiliation’ now underway across the world. That is a great therapeutic moment to witness. But it will still remain incomplete until what is subjective transforms into what is objective as Robert Cox would say. The subjective cannot become objective without a core state. It is all very interesting that the narrative about China in the world today has moved from anything else to how the world would fare under China as Hegemon. Nobody can look down on the Chinese cultural identity anymore because it has a core state in China.
If the break-up narrative is not an alternative when seen from the point of view of the bigger global picture, then what is the way forward in the context of fragmentation and anomie? Conflict management experts would always argue that conflicts degenerate quicker when the inter-subjective space is closed. Closure of the inter-subjective space refers to when or where there is no communication between the conflict parties. In this case, the conflict parties are Nigerians, currently so divided as for even mourning to reflect that.
Death in hundred have occurred in the past few weeks across Southern Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Maiduguri. But while the deaths in Katsina, Sokoto and Borno states are attributed to banditry, that of Southern Kaduna is attributed to genocide. Similarly, while the killings in Katsina, Sokoto and Borno have roused the North against the government, some social media text producers are asking why killings in Benue, Plateau, Taraba and so on did not rouse the same North against the government much earlier? It marks the sort of division that speaks to a terrible state of nationhood that no one ought to be comfortable with.
In what seems to be an agreement with the idea that closure of inter-subjective space is provocative of the worst case scenario, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for instance, has proposed a constitutional talk – talk. Even beyond opening up the inter-subjective space, Obasanjo’s idea of a new constitution is worth fighting for. And that is for the simple reason that the nobility of mind and the spirit of the father figure that the framers of the 1979/1999 Constitution expected of incumbent presidents have been interrogated by the evidence. The interrogation has worsened under the Buhari Presidency. Reaction to the sense of alienation under Buhari explains the degree of division among the populace reaching to the arena of mourning as illustrated above. A new constitution is thus a great starting point in confronting this.
But how does it come about? How it comes about is not something that will depend on what we have seen before. It is the way the crisis is being framed or understood in different quarters that will actualize it, not anything that already exists. As much as peddlers of one-dimensional perspective of the crisis are pushing themselves hard on that, there is also an emerging reckoning with the multi-dimensional character of the crisis and, by implication, the need for multiplicity of approaches in the search for solutions.
More crucially, it appears that many are clear of the lack of a formula for breaking-up the country without the usual African spectre of mass agony. And even if that were possible, does it serve any purpose in the emerging global configuration? Is Nigeria an entity that Nigerians can just break up without considering other stakeholders – Africans, Blacks and other sources of genuine solidarity for her?
Obasanjo’s proposal thus makes much contextual sense in relation to the big question: if the break-up narrative is not an alternative when seen from the point of view of the bigger picture, then what is the way forward in the context of fragmentation and anomie?
It might be no more than frustration with the Obasanjo persona also if people are not discussing Obasanjo’s proposal as one of the ways forward. However, on a case as this, it should be possible to separate the message from the messenger!