Nigeria continues to be a contested national project, with optimists and pessimists articulating their arguments every now and then on why each’s position is the correct one. This piece which can be classified as a pessimist’s manifesto is an example of the contestation:
By Mike Kebonkwu Esq
There is no other place I know on planet earth that is like Nigeria. Not because of its rich biodiversity of flora and fauna and not even because of the cream of its colourful ethnic nationalities. We are excitedly a lively, animated people living loud and priding ourselves as very intelligent people whereas we have not been able to outgrow our primordial sensitivities of religion and ethnicity. We are, indeed, a strange people who will hold on to the fossil of a dinosaur even when it is known to cast a spell on us and impedes our growth and development. We have found ourselves attached to Nigeria not because we have patriots committed to having the ethnic nationalities gravitate to a Nigerian identity with its own unique value system.
Where we are today, the country will snap if it is not unbundled soon. People have generously talked about restructuring and true federalism. We have fundamental foundational problem that not even negotiation on terms of staying together as one Nigeria can resolve at this material time given the incalculable damage by the APC led government and especially the lopsidedness of appointments by the president who is incurably tribalistic.
Corruption is perceived as a behemoth, the greatest problem in Nigeria and like the President said during his inaugural speech in 2015, “If we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”. We have corruption because of bad governance and poor leadership. So, if we do not kill bad leadership and poor governance Nigeria is as good as dead. It is poor leadership that enthrones and sustains corruption; it is bad leadership to promote nepotism, ethnic hatred, resentment and intolerance.
Our problem is not the Fulani ethnic group that we have chosen to demonize in our characterization due to the marauding herdsmen that have been unleashed on Nigeria as a result of political calculation which they are not able to rein in after using them to win election. Our problem is not Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB or secessionists campaign. Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a. Sunday Igboho) and his demand for Oodua Nation is the least of Nigeria’s problem. These are young men fired by the desire for good life for their people. Their approach and methodology may be wrong headed but they represent the sum total of the views of their ethnic nationalities who have become vulnerable due to bad governance. The problem of this country is not President Muhammadu Buhari, he is a manifestation of deep rooted chasm that exist between the ethnic nationalities in the country. If he leaves office today, Nigerian problems would still remain.
The problem of the country is hugely the elites; the political elites and their intellectual wing that provide them compass without a sail. These elites are not amorphous, they are well known. They are from all the tribes; Hausa politicians, Fulani politicians, Igbo politicians, Yoruba politicians, Effik politicians without exception. They are people who have appropriated the machinery of the state, including security enforcement for personal aggrandizement. They own the media and mold and opinions to suit their whims and intuitions. They deploy the coercive apparatus of the state to protect themselves and establishment without providing safety and security for the ordinary citizens.
The bandits and insurgents can kidnap the whole school and pupils therein and rape all our women. For as long as it does not affect the elites who have cornered all the state security apparatuses to themselves and probably with their children kept safe and away in Europe and North America, and lately UAE, Dubai and other Asian countries, Nigeria is working. The elites suppress every genuine protest and revolutionary move by a few patriots who are now depleted and thawing out in their numbers due to frustration and early death.
What else is therefore left to defend of Nigeria? Is it the name or our individual selves? Is it our regions or religions or simply to keep the identity for the purpose of sharing the available resources? What is the value system that is the magnet and attraction why we are holding unto Nigeria as presently constituted and run? Every tribe and ethnic nationalities have one grouse or the other and feel marginalized. The country is sitting on a stool of injustice and the people are traumatized being pummelled by insecurity and economic hardship heaped on the citizens by poor government policies.
How does one explain to average Nigerian citizen that the politician in Abuja or the Government House in his state does not represent his interest but just there to build an empire for himself and his family? Watching the pattern of voting in the last Bill on the use of Electronic Transmission of Elections Results where the Deputy Senate President, Omo Agege voted against it, one can conclude that Nigeria has lost everything noble. The unkindest cut of all was when I saw Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele, once a student union leader and a redoubtable activist voting against the Bill. There is no place indeed like Nigeria.
We have to come to terms with the stark reality and avoid further plunge into anarchy and bloodshed by taking step to discuss the terms under which we can live in peace together and not just to hold on to the name and identity of Nigeria without more. To save Nigeria, we have to midwife a peaceful unbundling of the federation as other nations have done without bloodshed as no amount of legislative or constitutional fiat can hold strange bedfellows together.
The discontent of the people and ethnic nationalities is as a result of the perception of injustice which is covered up with more injustice. The secessionists’ agitation is fuelled by the inability of the State to treat equals equally and carry everybody along.
The arch secessionists, the duo of Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB and Sunday Adeyemo Igboho of Oodua nation have been arrested and are facing trial. The government invested so much to apprehend them as if every other problem would go away by neutralizing the duo. We will soon realize that they are symptoms of the problem and only a manifestation of resistance to injustice which every other person prefers to bury just for a pot of porridge to maintain the peace of graveyard.
The system we are operating will continue to breed bandits, insurgents, cultists and unknown gunmen no matter how much we try to create false reality by promoting con men to be super heroes through media hype. We have only succeeded in promoting a system that can only birth an Abba Kyari and Huspuppis of this world to our eternal derision.
There is palpable fear that to see the next day is sheer luck and the Grace of God as eternally religious people. Worse still is the growing fear of the State which has misdirected its anger and unleash the coercive agencies of the State on the citizens; telling people what they should say or think thereby creating a new reality, like the Big Brother of the Orwellian fable, 1984. Now the NBC wants to regulate what the media should air or what panellists should not discuss. While the country is grinding to a halt, we are telling ourselves the opposite with all the contradictions and ironies.
We appear to be fighting only for the name Nigerian without national identity as we see ourselves in our tribal toga of Igbo, Hausa Fulani, Yoruba, Tiv, Ijaw etc. We are fighting to preserve and keep an entity where some people are faithful while others are infidels. We want to hold on to an entity where the faithful celebrate ecclesiastic victory when the infidels are killed. We saw this when the Emir of Muri in Taraba State during the last Eid el Kabir celebration berated the Bororo Fulani brothers from the neighbouring countries for turning his emirate and domain to a den of criminals and declaring them persona non grata at the pain of death if they do not leave his domain after 30 days.
These are the same band of criminals that have been unleashed in the forests in the Middle Belt and southern part of the country that the federal government is stoutly resisting their removal as unconstitutional through the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami and the Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu. With this attitude, living within the same demographic and political space will continue to be suffocating and engender more extreme variant of violence and resistance.
A united one Nigeria has become an empty slogan and a myth built round the Constitution which this government want to sustain through force of arm and intimidation. What then are we holding on to; a country where the President thinks and perceives growing the economy of a neighbouring country is more beneficial just because his kinsmen and forebear are from there than opening up the economic arteries of other parts of the country? We are funding and developing the hub of Niger Republic economy with our resources, building railway lines to connect Niger before we can connect the Abuja – Lokoja and other parts of the South.
Nigeria cannot regenerate itself because the fibres of the nationalities that make up the country are not culturally homogeneous and socially compatible. You cannot decree unity amongst hostile entities whose differences are rooted in religion and culture. For peace and progress, Nigeria has to be unbundled so that likes will identify with likes. It bears repeating to restate the fact that Nigerians are tribal people and highly divided. Politics in Nigeria has also been essentially regional and tribal within the coordinates of geo-ethno-religious positioning.
The political class has not shown or demonstrated the capacity and understanding of building a multi ethnic and multi religious diverse secular state. We are holding on to Nigeria only as a vehicle for sharing resources which in itself has torn the façade of hypocrisy behind the union. Try as we may play the ostrich, Nigeria has got to a point that it cannot regenerate itself as in the past. Clearly, we have expended our legendary good luck.
Whatever that was alluring about Nigeria has been killed on the altar of poor governance, rabid ethnic arrogance, corruption and bigotry. What then is there to hold on to in Nigeria, insecurity, insurgency, collapsed infrastructure or the economy that is on the wheel of suffocating made in China loans?
You may want to ask yourself if indeed Nigeria is even a developing country and in what sense and direction? Is it in science and technology or industrialization? Is it in agro business which ordinarily we should have comparative advantage giving our natural endowment? We are not developing because of the suffocating socio-political factors inhibiting growth. Our youths are only adept in Information Technology (IT) as consumer technicians not for growth but as a vehicle for fraud in cyber crime (‘Yahoo yahoo’). Our political elite have never be known to excel in anything else but using politics as an art of war by arming deprived youths and turning them to hoodlums and feeding them on drugs and sex.
The APC led government has primed Nigeria up for ultimate implosion and irreversible collapse. Now they are strategizing for 2023 and will try and build a compromise only to secure a ticket for the party. They will appropriate the federal might and go for the kill that will make the country to become a one party state. A fixation on victory for 2023 elections will only be a calm before the storm as the country is racing down on a highway to disintegration not because of Igboho or Nnamdi Kanu but because the government has put a knife on the things that hold us together and we can no longer stand as one.
You may choose to dismiss dissent voices as unpatriotic elements or pessimists when they paint a true picture of the precarious state of the nation which is steering us in the face. You may well prefer or choose to believe the lie that exposes you to risk and danger; again the choice is yours. We are being emotionally attached to an entity that only exists as an object of fancy to be exploited by the ruling class. Our elected representatives have their eyes only on political offices and the perks without furthering the cause of the unity and development of the country.
We are just suffering and killing ourselves over the name of Nigeria without building a Nigerian identity. We have to interrogate who will are and whether we want to continue under the umbrella of one Nigeria and drop all these pretensions of a united, indissoluble entity by fiat.
Mike Kebonkwu, the author, is of the Koyen-Hi Kebonkwu Chambers, Wuse Zone 5, FCT, Abuja in Nigeria