Although the Toyin Falola Interview series preceded this moment, Prof Attahiru Jega’s impending appearance in that series December 12th, 2021 is bound to trigger or reinforce, as the case may be, all manner of speculations with respect to whether he is or is not contesting the Nigerian presidency, come 2023. Not when the interview is to be conducted by three interviewees, two of them notable radical activists. And not with Jega’s recent activism, visibility and vigorous interrogation of the All People’s Congress, (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP).
When the Jega moment started unfolding in mid-2020, Intervention, for instance, had wondered what it could all be about if not the unfolding of such a moment when an American trained Professor of Political Science, a former president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), a former Vice-Chancellor and a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) started talking politics.
Who knows, that might be what is entering into a slow motion at last as Jega comes alive in the interview sketched out in the cover picture of this story. It is a large scale outing but a main discursive condition of his emergence.
There would be absolutely nothing wrong with him contesting. In fact, if his constituency – the radical nationalists – has not been a power shy one, the Bayero University, Kano Professor of Political Science is the sort of identity they would have since appropriated and built a huge electoral capital around him to the point of interrupting the so-called ruling class.
Although this would still be another ‘revolution’ which cannot answer its father’s name, perhaps yet, it promises to be an interesting kind of interview. Not only would it have sent the signal no important centres of power in Nigeria and even outside can ignore, it would also have tested the capacity of the radicals to claim their own share of the social space which is discursive in character. Such a shift from Marxist ideological essentialism to the wielding of discursive power would be the masterstroke for breaking the back of a ruling class generally regarded as signifier for collective myopia and taking the people for granted for so long.
This is more so that the argument in informed circles is that 2023 is not about election of another president but the election of a genius who can use modern techniques of governmentality to re-imagine Nigeria. Pundits are, therefore, certain to speculate that some caucus (in truth, a Jega candidature would be a project of multiple caucuses) might have found in Jega the genius.
Of course, who is a genius can only be a construction but even constructivism does not do away with history, material/structural, institutional and such other configurations. The BUK professor would, in that circumstance, be the contestant to beat if the requirement of a genius is stressed into the dominant issue in the coming campaign along with the emerging campaign for epistemic authority in recruiting future leaders.
The strong assumption is that leadership recruitment has been so restricted to an orbit with simply no idea of managing a modern nation. And the country has thus lost its soul.
From the roadside to the inner recesses of government, the average Nigerian is permanently cheated into victimhood. At the petrol station, the attendant has about 14 ways of successfully cheating the suspecting and unsuspecting buyer. No operative, be they from the Police, DSS, Special Forces, FRSC or Civil Defence tells him or her anything. In the hospital, anything can happen to the average Nigerian, from inattention to wrong diagnosis or over-pricing of services. There are no consequences. In the Police Station, s/he is a thief until s/he shows to the contrary. The Police men and women are even conditioned by the environment of work to take it out on the citizen although, as in all such situations, there are brilliant and highly dedicated officers and men who are waving a banner without stain.
The level of corruption is perceived to be so high that governments – federal, state and local – are held in contempt. Leaders and actors driven by statements such as “I must make my first billion now” are pervasive. And they flaunt this inglorious audacity. Paradoxically, they are celebrated but as a coping strategy for securing crumbs. It is not surprising that such leaders are the least competent.
The universities are in a mess. Through a deliberate strategy of nominalization by successive governments, Nigerian universities which were conceptualized and built as world class centres of learning have been reduced to centres for the production and circulation of illiteracy and it cannot be better said.
The judicial process is so slow and formalistic that the idea of the judiciary being the last hope of the common man sounds Greek to many. Again, that system still has its own share of fantastic and determined performers but who are mostly overwhelmed by the ‘smart’ guys.
Within the populace, there is no scarcity of ‘smartness’ and associated practices. The road is the demonstration school for this. A Taxi driver who would not stop to drop off a passenger at the point asked for will stop anywhere, including the middle of the road, to pick a passenger. He doesn’t care what implications that may have for those at his back. On Nigerian roads, forget about ‘right of way’, especially at the Roundabouts.
It is also on the road one hears the voices of the itinerant sellers of herbal medicine that are credited with curing just about every imaginable ailments. This may not be peculiar to Nigeria in the African context but Nigeria must have an unfair share of the boldest and most brazen cohort licensed by nobody and checked by nobody.
The listing can go on. The implication is that the system is as chaotic as to be inherently unstable. It is a classical soulless society. Hence, it would be the most exciting electoral test of strength in the 21st century should the 2023 contest assume the form of a Jega type candidature versus any of the traditional politicians. Already, former Vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Senate-President Bukola Sarakis and the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal have, in one way or the other, signified interest in 2023, with Atiku, for example, being touted here and there as the safest bet for national unity.
The violence of the past few months – the operation at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna; the intrusion into the University of Abuja Quarters; the more recent 4-day siege on Abuja-Kaduna Federal Highway; the killing of Sylvester Oromoni in a Lagos school without any hint of all of that to any layer of authority; the shooting of a Senior Lecturer with the Benue Polytechnic; Ugbokolo in Benue State in broad day light, the burning of travellers at Gidan Pawa in Sokoto State; the killing of a commissioner in Katsina State; the security situation in most Abuja suburbs or the overarching atmosphere of violence across the country have weakened people’s faith in tomorrow. But 2023 might still come to pass, magically.