It is probably not for nothing that one time US president, Bill Clinton, once said that nobody can understand Nigeria. When he said so, he was expressing US bewilderment with General Sani Abacha. In spite of deep divisions all over the country on issues of equity, exclusion, corruption, generalised insecurity and mass misery, there are still whiffs of mini-scale Nigerianity going on here and there every day across the country that speaks to the incomprehensibility of Nigeria.
Ambassador Usman Sarki, a Shuwa Arab from Borno State wrote an opinion piece on Federalism, sends it for publication in Intervention edited (this week by someone from Benue State) but only for a Fulani from Taraba to protest that the illustration of Sarki’s article were incomplete because Prof Isawa Elaigwu, an Idoma from Benue State, was not been mentioned among the giants of scholars on the subject of federalism.
To the explanation that Prof Elaigwu could not have been deliberately refused mention but rather that it could be hellish sometimes getting the cover page graphics from web sources, he promptly sent the cover with the argument that “In fact, Elaigwu has published on federalism more than any scholar in Nigeria” and that the particular book whose cover he sent is particularly “a profound book by any standard”.
Well, he is in a position to say that. Although he is not in Political Science per se, knowledge was not as hopelessly fragmented as today in their time as an academic. Beaten hands down, Intervention is hereby updating part 2 of Ambassador Usman Sarki’s article on federalism which was published earlier today.
What is the message here? This particular whiff is part of that which, as Clinton said, makes Nigeria simply incomprehensible, especially to those within and outside the country who might not mean well for the country.
By the way, Usman Sarki’s two opinion pieces published in the past few days have been generating interesting reactions. A very senior citizen who shall not be named inferred that the article calling for urgent re-reinstatement of History teaching in Nigeria rated the Ibadan School of History to be inferior to the Zaria School of History. Nowhere in the article was anything of that nature suggested. None of the two schools of History was inferior or superior to the other. They were different but not superior or inferior. It would take an unimaginable quack to to ever say that one particular school of History is superior to another.
The article on federalism has generated even more reactions, most of them angry. In all cases, Intervention‘s reaction is to refer readers angry over any article to Chinua Achebe’s wisdom in all such circumstances. Achebe would say: write your own if you find a particular account not good enough. There is enough space to publish rejoinders.
It is not surprising that Ambassador Usman Sarki’s standpoint in the article on federalism will generate angry reactions. His quasi-Socialist position will not sit well with citizens too angry about too many things to maintain critical distance between themselves and what they read. Writing anything in Nigeria today is actually a risk. The lens from which most people see a text today can be frightening.
But the battle of ideas must go on.