There’s no technology that measures the political temperature of nations beyond intelligence estimations of such. Polls try to do something close to that but no such poll has come up with any scores in the aftermath of President Buhari’s return to office yesterday after over 100 days on a medical vacation during which the country exploded in agitations for restructuring, among other problems. The political temperature would certainly be much lower than the previous week if a barometer exists to take it. The fear of the worst and how such might have been handled to the satisfaction of all contending interests has been the unspoken heart of the matter. That is now out of it. Even if the president were to do the least likely thing of resigning from office today, no acrimony would attend such a move anymore as it would have been seen as a product of his reflexivity. Interestingly, there are no tell tale signs of such a move as it seems the president is back determined to wrestle his challenges to the ground.
The challenges are much though. They range from agitations for restructuring; escalation in violence and cruelty from the domestic to urban gangsterism, even in Abuja, the capital city; corruption in its moral, political and financial dimensions; elite fragmentation along identity fault lines; in-fighting in the seat of government; infrastructural decay; insurgencies and secessionist threats; a strong head economy spraying poverty on majority of the population following non-payment of salaries across the country. The list is not exhaustive. Any one of these manifestations of crisis is enough threat in itself. To have all of them converge on a single nation at a time is dangerous. To make matters worse, the solution to the Nigerian crisis is framed exclusively in ethno-regionalist terms while ignoring the statist requirement to handle the contradictory forces of globalisation at work.
Northern governors, for instance, are hoping they can create prosperity by restoring the textile industry. So, they are partnering with a foreign firm to the tune of N15billion or some amount of that nature. Great idea but they have to watch globalisation. Kano whose governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, announced the decision only has to look across the huge Kwari Market to see this in Chinese textile takeover of the market. And China is a product of globalisation because it restructured its textile industry in conformity with World Trade Organisation standards before it could be allowed to join the organisation. After doing that, China is sensitive to any attempt to restrict its market access anywhere in the world on the basis of any other criteria than demand and supply. Meanwhile, Chinese textile has the advantage of the backing of a great power state, technology and diplomatic deftness escorted by a seductive discourse of ‘win-win’. So, what is the guarantee that the north’s nostalgic overdrive might not meet its waterloo in the Rock of Gibraltar called China as far as a viable textile market option is concerned? Yes, the Sardauna did it but the international political economy has changed since then. Sardauna accepted the overarching Import Substitution Industrialisation Strategy (ISI) which was a radical paradigm at the time. Northern governors today have submitted to neoliberalism which is not just status quo or even conservative but a formula for second slavery. How might they produce same outcomes as the Sardauna?
Over to the south east where the linking and de-linking dialectics of globalisation has eroded much of the Igbo advantage from hooking up to globalisation in merchandising/import-export trade, etc in the eighties and 1990s. Today, any credible computation of that advantage must record a decline because, with globalisation, people can also access much of those goods, spare parts and pharmaceuticals in particular, directly from whichever sources, get it delivered to them through e-commerce and informational capitalism, quality guaranteed and with warranty. These facilities were not available at a threatening volume until a decade ago. The implication is that hundreds are out of jobs/business, ready to join IPOB or whichever front that arrives to give them direction in a confusing situation as this. Intervention is informed that the late Pius Okigbo anticipated this and wrote an advisory in 1997, suggesting to the Igbos to emulate the Yorubas in terms of institutionalising capital and policy making.
According to the source who read the said advisory, Okigbo argued that a one per cent movement of interest or exchange rate, for instance, can wipe out a trader’s capital. It was on that basis he advised Igbos to start moving from trading, import-export or merchandising into investing in banks, insurance companies and stocks or institutional capital, in short. The control of this sphere has been the Yoruba advantage in Nigeria, an advantage secured through early contact with Western education and the consolidation of that through the road taken by such leaders as Chief Awolowo. That advantage enables them to control policy, not through political but technocratic power as head of professional associations – NBA, NMA, CIB, COREN, NIB, etc. Even in academia, it is most likely to be a Yoruba Nigerian who is most fulfilled if he has had an academic engagement in the Western world unlike across many other parts of Nigeria where an academic may never step outside his or her university of employment, even to other Nigerian universities till he or she retires.
So, they have, therefore, remained connected with globalisation, a process whose origin lies in a list of those that could be called pioneers of Yoruba technocratic hegemony in Nigeria that emerged on social media last week from a US based Niyi Olufemi Oginni: The first Nigerian Lawyer – Sapara Williams- Yoruba; first Civil Engineer – Herbert Macaulay- Yoruba; first Medical Doctor in Nigeria – Nathaniel King- Yoruba; first female SAN – Folake Solanke – Yoruba); Africa’s first Professor of Criminology – Femi Odekunle – Yoruba; Africa’s first female Chartered Accountant – Toyin Olakunri – Yoruba; first Bishop – Samuel Ajayi Crowther – Yoruba; even Nigeria’s undisputed millionaire – Candida Da Rocha – Yoruba; first CJN – Sir Adetokunbo Ademola- Yoruba”. As such, they are the ones through which the new liberal framework for managing modernity is operationalised in Nigeria. As early as the 1980s, the late Professor Claude Ake framed the Yoruba-capitalism nexus as follows: In the case of the UPN, its core leadership comes close to being a bourgeoisie in the orthodox sense for it has a fairly well established base in commerce and industry. It is also beginning to acquire the sophistication of an established bourgeoisie. The UPN would ensure a more rational organization for capitalism in Nigeria and it appears to understand the necessity for defensive radicalism. By its nature, it is more disposed to discipline, efficiency and productive capitalism (orthodox capitalism). To this extent, it is more progressive. However, the UPN is ultimately a more conservative force than the NPN in so far as it is more entrenched in capitalist production and far more adroit in its defence of capitalism”
The differential relationship to globalisation in Nigeria is such that the southwest emerges as a winner, not through ethnic genius or ethnicity but through a historical advantage. But they will need a strong state to consolidate the advantage. That means either a strong, centralised Nigerian State or an Oduduwa Republic. A Yoruba insistence on restructuring in this context can be read as a case for Oduduwa Republic even as this might not be what they might have in mind. Given how globalisation has advantaged and disadvantaged it simultaneously, the south east would also need a strong state to negotiate the turbulence of globalisation. It is either it gets it in a strong, centralised Nigerian State or in Biafra. Given its own frustrations with the functioning of the Nigerian federation, it might prefer a way out in a nation state of its own. That is happening already with it looking for who is pro- or anti- Igbo in explaining group predicament. But has Biafra any chance of negotiating any advantage for anybody at a time when even the best established African states are barely managing to cope with globalisation? In its own case, Biafra has the additional problems of a hemmed-in territory, not to talk of the market disadvantage.
The north is lost in its poverty from lack of competitiveness in globalisation’s terms. Substantially, the north’s discourse of the crisis is not a search for own nation state. (The restructuring campaign in the north is a product of its own internal division along cultural lines although it is debatable if the problem is cultural difference or governance crisis). Northern disinclination to restructuring is interpreted to be the case because the north is advantaged. But, except Yorubaland, no section of Nigeria has any relative advantage when it comes to globalisation. Even the political advantage the north had has been wiped away by globalisation. It had one bank. The recapitalisation required to make banks fit into the globalisation dynamics de-banked the north. Political power could not save it from that fate, in spite of concessions allowed it by the Obasanjo administration on the bank. No region that did not ready itself for globalisation has any advantages anymore. The emergence of finance rather than industry as the corner stone of the global economy makes this worse. East Asia is making a success of globalisation because it foresaw it and went to work in education and infrastructure. A country cannot have dead universities and hope to be a factor in globalisation. That’s not how it works. A deeply divided north confronting insurgency in one of its geopolitical units is completely disadvantaged in the present circumstance.
The tragedy is how the Nigerian crisis is not being discussed in terms of quickly preparing the country to be a factor in globalisation but about mechanical restructuring. Professor Dele Olowu has offered a warning that may be dated but still relevant in relation to this agitation for restructuring which had manifested before in the name of confederation, Sovereign National Conference, etc. In “The Literature on Nigerian Federalism: A Critical Appraisal” (Publius Vol. 21, No.4, Page 160, 1991), he wrote, among others, how “Opeyemi Ola has raised some of the major obstacles to confederalism in Nigeria, citing the examples of previous experiences with confederalism in Europe and the United States. These include: the danger of system of confederalism degenerating into a system of competitive armament, problems of economic management, decision making paralysis at the center, and the fact that a confederal arrangement would go against the grain of world history. In any case, he predicts that confederalism will most likely transform into dismemberment of federation. In retrospect, however, the various demands for confederation in reality reflect frustrations of some segments of the population with the functioning of Nigeria’s federal system, especially given the absence of a nationally accepted, non-ethnic oriented political leadership at the centre”. So, why is it not possible to talk about frustrations with functioning of the federation without resorting to hate statements and the language of violence? Or, why does agitation for redressing of inequality at regional levels preclude insisting on reforming towards a strong state that can be a factor in global politics?
Ideally, the president should have been the moderator of this raucous debate. That’s his job as the Philosopher-in-Chief of the nation. He left behind a deputy who has held forte very well in terms of a statist narrative of restructuring as opposed to the apartheid version of it. He was not drowned in the cacophony. By Monday, August 21st, the world would hear the President’s summary of the encounters while he was away when he addresses the nation. But how far might the president go at this stage? What might the nation expect? Earth shaking announcements? Dramatic come down? A ‘New Deal’? Apologia? Quick fixes? It is another waiting game.