Considering the spaces of insecurity in Nigeria today in the last decade, it would not be a careless statement to say that Nigeria is targeted for destruction, currently under siege and is being undermined. An organised programme of creating instability, using fronts and fifth columnist must, indeed, be unravelling. Nigeria today is full of smoke without fire contrary to the wisdom that there can be no smoke without fire. A number of things are happening that are more than meets the eye. Boko Haram war, for instance, has not only taken a decade to conclude when the Nigerian Civil War took less than three years actually, it is coming back with vengeance. Even if we grant that an insurgency is miles apart from a conventional war, there is still something unusual about this.
Add to Boko Haram the emergence of herdsmen violence on a nation destroying scale. And this is in the context of an experience of criminality encompassing kidnapping for ransom, abduction, robbery and ‘cultism’. In fact, a new security challenge crops up every now and then in different parts of the country, simultaneously. A resource insurgency in the Niger Delta might only have gone on a recess. While it is on recess, a secessionist tendency is fast establishing a hegemonic discourse of Igbo exceptionalism in terms of marginalisation, generating counter-discourses from within and outside Igboland. The country is reaping intended and unintended consequences of a heightened push for restructuring, a concept that means different things to different users. These cannot be innocent and unconnected manifestations of anything less than a war of attrition, a war to tie down Nigeria, from Borno State to Southern Kaduna, from Benue State to Niger Delta and to the South East.
Taking place at a time the country is at its weakest in crucial dimensions, a reading of it as targeting for destruction is neither alarmist nor a grand narrative. All these demand going beyond the analogy of ‘corruption fighting back’. It calls for an option whose novelty or quality of newness can calm the country to unity to defeat the forces that have combined to target it. At the moment, no individuals or institutions possess such quality of newness to achieve calming the country to a more strategic understanding of what is unfolding steadily. The Presidency hasn’t got the image of a cohesive machine for managing power. Rather, it has been exhibiting features of internal rancour and in-fighting. There is no evidence to suggest that the National Assembly enjoys the moral authority in popular consciousness to be such an actor. As a layer of power, the governors seem most alienated. If this were not the case, why have they basically been overthrown by the youths in the different regions if we reckon with sit-at-home orders or quit notices that are effective but which they say they do not approve of? That layer of power is thus challenged. As former President Obasanjo once said, none of the two dominant political parties is strong in what it ought to be doing. The civil society is hardly different. Although the media has been trying in terms of moderating the shouting match, there is a limit beyond which it cannot rise because, in the last instance, it must refract its elite ownership. Nigeria of today is not the same as when labour, academics and the student movement were capable of, individually and collectively, mounting unifying street actions. The Nigerian military might be strong and Nigerian in orientation but much of the challenges Nigeria confronts are hardly amenable to the military solution.
In the circumstance, the gap today or the crisis itself is a nation confronted with war but lacking a war cabinet to manage the conflict in terms of the creative interpretation, idealistic leadership and high mindedness of power. For, only these qualities can re-engage the nation from the path of righteous indignation and angry rhetoric at all levels but from which nothing good can come out. This is not the time for so-called hardliners but for creativity in politics. A sea of evil is overwhelming the country. It requires mobilising Islands of goodness because there are no alternatives. No distance should be too far to run to, no authoritative manoeuvres too elusive to access or price too much to pay in ensuring this. We need to avoid the costly strategic stalemates that seem obvious in pushing the options the agitators of secession and similar extremist options are pushing but which they are no longer in a position to appreciate.