No voice can have been as shattering of narratives consciously and unconsciously embodying break-up of Nigeria as Alkasum Abba’s edict delivered last Sunday in Kano, (See Ignorance, Political Irrelevance and the Persistent Quest for Restructuring the Nigerian Polity, 1999 – 2021). At the empirical level, he devastated agitators for restructuring, took substance out of the ideology that a return to regionalism will solve all the problems, came hard on the belief that the Parliamentary system would have served Nigeria better and basically dismissed all such current campaigns as the handiwork of busybodies – people who have become irrelevant and are seeking for something to do but going about that the wrong way. It was a classic re-assertion of the nationalist paradigm which define the ABU School of History deriving from higher emphasis on imperialism and colonialism as the most fundamental variable in Nigeria’s postcolonial political processes. Above all, it is a continuation (or is it revival?) of the relentless attack on ethnic federalism in favour of its civic version promoted by the late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman,
It is certainly a stronger and sweeter message when put on the scale along with bland narratives of restructuring dominating the political space but nationalism, like all other constructs has itself become problematic at this point in human history and cannot be taken for granted either. It must also be nurtured because, as is generally argued, the idea of the nation-state and nationalism, by implication, did not come with any scales or criteria by which it can be measured. Neither language nor culture/ancestry nor religion is useful in measuring it OR many of the states that experienced mass atrocity most recently would not have gone through that. This is besides the global capitalist context of the nation state today. The old idea of national security has simply been stressed to its limit when the joy-stick war, (drone warfare) can take out a citizen or citizens of another state in a blitzkrieg for which no troops are involved.
Securing the nation state in the current epoch has thus become more challenging. It is not enough to just assert the case for nationalism and then go to sleep. The discursive nature of the social space which makes it possible for Alkasum to push his own argument against those of agitators for restructuring last Sunday is exactly why the restructuring or re-negotiation of Nigeria is a national security imperative in Nigeria today. Restructuring may have, right now, been taken over by those Alkasum would call the relevance seeking jobbers on the prowl, that is only a challenge, not a reason for securitising restructuring. Not when we have seen the diversity of views that have been canvassed on the theme. While the Attahiru Jegas, for instance, canvass a cautious version of the concept as a way of de-escalating and managing the collapse of consensus over the nation state, the Femi Falanas of this world have stuck to a categorical class view of the concept. This is not to mention the Alkasums who attack it from a nationalist/statist point of view. In other words, contestation over restructuring and the hope of what it could bring is what is keeping the country going.
What is missing is the coalition or the ‘historic block’, that organisational ‘chain of equivalence’ whose notion of restructuring will articulate and perform Nigeria in tandem with the logic of Nigeria in the 2nd National Development Plan. Though high flown, the five cardinal items in that document provides the best articulation of what Nigeria should be like. The tragedy is that there is neither acceptance of the principle of building a ‘historic block’ within any centres of power in Nigeria today nor a single tendency with the capacity to seize and define the restructuring agenda in a manner that gains acceptance across competing tendencies. That is where the tragedy lies because it then reduces the challenge to one tendency trying to show the superiority of its own standpoint. Thus as empirically brilliant as Alkasum’s paper, it does no more than show the pedestrianism of alternative tendencies and groups on the issue. Yes, discourse can be productive of reality but this is not inherent. It depends on competing discourses. If the place of Alkasum Abba’s tendency in the discursive space is not secure, the brilliance of his argument will be swallowed out of any constitutive force by competing narratives.
Even if the approach of a ‘historic block’ politics were on, it does not block the case for a Government of National Unity, (GNU). But GNU is what the Buhari regime dreads, seeing it as a repudiation of itself if not of himself. It remains to be understood where the president got that sense of it from. He wants to be recorded as having been president for more than 9 years, a quantitative kind of reasoning that has been a problem for almost all past Nigerian leaders except General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
The degree of decay is such that implosion is starring Nigeria in the face. This implosion would, surprisingly, not be coming from ethnic armies or the machinations of external enemies but from the contradictions of the system we are running. Even 30 minutes on Nigerian roads will manifest all the signs pointing at this reality – citizens who have no iota of regards for traffic light system; citizens who have no iota of confidence in the state but are armed with all manner of weapons under their dress; citizens drawn to all manner of hawkers, citizens who see no connection with the social order and citizens who are prepared to experiment with even strange ideas, people and practices, including systems they have not properly understood. Such a citizenry is a national security threat and a nation like this is sitting on a loaded keg of gun powder. Looking at only manifest threats to national security such as Boko Haram, IPOB and agitators for restructuring without paying attention to latent sociological threats as some of those mentioned above is the danger ahead.
An immediate re-arrangement of government in a manner that goes beyond partisanship or the formalities of democracy ought to be the way forward in this kind of situation. That is what the nation is not getting, having sold its soul to a notion of democracy that is now a threat to national survival.