Arising in the period after Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s consultation with various constellations of the power elite in Nigeria must be the question of the most important raw materials for the re-constitution of Nigeria beyond false consciousness, ethnocentric parameters and supremacist altercations. To whom might the elite turn for the most critical ideas? Dr Festus Iyayi died in August 2013. But, like many of his peers in terms of people who perished in one road accident or the other, air crash or just plain lack of a functional healthcare system in Nigeria – Prof Claude Ake, Bala Usman, Reuben Ziri, Chima Ubani, Bala Mohammed, Bala Jubril, Bamidele Aturu, (BF), Hassana Garba, Tajudeen Abdulraheem, Abubakar Momoh, etc – Iyayi still lives amongst us and speaks to the issues of the day through his timeless interventions while he was alive. Such as the excepts below, taken from a 2010 Speech he titled “Assassins of Nation Building, 2011 Elections and Electoral Reforms in Nigeria: Chronicle of a Death Foretold”. Even as excerpts, there is a clear argument that serves Nigeria’s elite the home truth of a failure that hardly anyone else could craft better than an Iyayi. But, beyond home truth for the elite in the post Osinbajo’s consultations, Iyayi also provides a way of thinking about the Nigerian crisis around which the media, the civil society especially labour, religion and academia; the qualitative segment of the right wing establishment and people of conscience can gather and promote. The excerpts have been published under the title “Festus Iyayi, Nigeria’s Power Elite and the Post-Osinbajo Consultations”. It says a lot – Editor
“In many parts of the world, individuals feel specially honored if their day of birth falls within the halo of some significant national or historical event: the day of the revolution, the day of the declaration of independence, the day of man’s landing on the moon, the day of freedom for Nelson Mandela. Following this, all those who are about to mark or are actually marking their 50th birthday in Nigeria ought to have their noses in the air. … The achievements of the nation ought to be part and parcel of the development of those who are about to or have just attained 50 years of age. …Thus this address ought to be devoted to themes like “Responding to Nuclear Threats: The Role of Nigeria’s New Missile AF50”, “Retaining Nigeria’s Leadership in Car Manufacturing: Keeping the Japanese Behind”, “Sharing Nigeria’s Cure for Malaria with the World” or “Teaching the World How to Dance: Lessons from Nigeria’s Democratic Success”. Unfortunately, the story of Nigeria at 50 is such that not only can we not devote ourselves to such themes, we find that our individual lives have been diminished by the dismal failure of the country to realise its great potentials”
“Now the responsibility for building a nation state belongs to the ruling class. Indeed, the claim by a class to be the ruling class can only be sustained on the basis of its effective recognition and discharge of this responsibility. The claim cannot be sustained by the fact that it is in control of the state apparatus; or in practice of the cudgels and purse of the nation; as everyone knows, bandits often come into control of the cudgel and purse that belong to a people but they do not then gain legitimacy as the owners of the estate. The claim can only be sustained by the emergence of a nation state from the ashes on the basis of the actions of the ruling class.
The history of all ruling classes of all viable nation states proves this. The success of the ruling class in the USA in maintaining the legitimacy of its rule is premised upon its ability to build disparate groups of people into one nation. The same is true of the British as is of the Germans, the Japanese, French, Chinese and Cuban ruling classes. Although it may be too early to tell, we see this happening today in neighboring Ghana. For this reason, nation building is a process. It cannot be taken for granted because of the inherent tensions in the project itself.
…Nation building thus requires achievements, whether rhetorical or concrete for its validation; in effect, it is not enough that a ruling class understands its responsibility and assumes it for its validation ‘to both self and others’, it must showcase its achievement in the process. Without specific achievements, achievements that compare with those of other ruling classes in other nations, it stands the danger of losing, for want of a better word, the love of the woman without which it would be nothing. Thus the British ruling class not only built railroads and industries, it also built an empire. The Americans ruling class which came after the British did exactly the same. …Whether British or American, Japanese or Chinese, Singaporean or Brazilian, Cuban or Indian, every ruling class that succeeds at nation building offers some spectacular achievements that feeds upon and promotes a sense of national pride and hence identity. Not to be both or to simply be either of the two, (which is, however, impossible because the one derives from and drives the other), is to serve as an assassin of nationhood and nation building.
In Nigeria, the ruling class is an assassin of nationhood and nation building. It neither understands nor accepts the responsibility for building a nation out of the diverse peoples and ethnic groups that inhabit the Nigerian territory. The major basis for defining citizenship rights and participation in Nigeria today is the ethnic platform. Thus we have the Afenifere for the Yoruba, the Arewa for the Hausa Fulani and the Ohaneze for the Igbo. The ethnic minorities are also organized in parallel platforms: there are the Middle Belt Forum, the Ijaw National Youths Congress, the South-South Forum and so on and so forth.
…In the process, the idea of a Nigerian identity and of a Nigerian nation-state not only feel and become remote, they do not become the basis for individual participation, calculation and action. Rather, the basis for this is provided by the ethnic group to which the individual belongs. The same phenomenon repeats itself at different levels of the nation state: at the state and local government levels, individual’s identity is defined either in terms of ethnic identity clan or town and village community origins. It is for this reason that it would be true to say not only that there is not one but several nations in Nigeria today but also that each of these nations is more vibrant than what Nigeria pretends to be as a nation.
…In the area of achievements, ours is the only country on earth where a ruling class that does not contribute any value added in terms of originating products or services consumes the best that is produced from other parts of the world. What the ruling classes in other countries produce, it imports for its pleasure at home. Our ruling class cannot produce toothpicks, yet its members eat caviar for breakfast and ride around in Hummer Jeeps and private jets. They stay in 5-star hotels around the world or buy up the choicest properties in different parts of the world. Our ruling class does not know how to exercise restraint; it is noisy; it lacks self-control and self-discipline; it cannot forgo today’s pleasures in order to achieve long term rewards tomorrow. It lives in the instant; in the moment. As a result, our country is daily bleeding to death.