Nigeria is 57 years old today. Today marks an important day because of its historical symbolism but it is doubtful if more than 5% of Nigerians are happy about the country. Nigeria is certainly stressful for both the rulers and the ruled. With four out of the six geopolitical zones in one form of conflict or the other, it cannot be otherwise. With the degree of poverty, infrastructure collapse, largely dysfunctional public institutions and overarching fear of the unknown and the associated uncertainty about the future, happiness is, indeed, on leave from the minds of majority of Nigerians.
The state of the nation has been compounded by a peculiar crisis of the ‘state of nature’ in Nigeria – the deepening difference in the meaning of Nigeria that has enveloped the country. It is not that there has ever been such a consensus about Nigeria among the citizens across the regional blocks but the difference has deepened. And, unlike the situation Thomas Hobbes envisaged in the Leviathan or the state acting as reconciler of such difference of opinion, which is actually what he meant by the ‘state of nature’, the Leviathan in Nigeria or the Nigerian State is the target of attack in much of the different standpoints on the trouble with Nigeria. Right now, it could be said that there is an agenda implying running this country without the state. It is called Restructuring but the deeper meaning of which is a campaign for doing away with the state as an instrument of rapid transformation of Nigeria into an industrial political economy. The argument for restructuring says that the state has, instead, been a roadblock to that essence.
This position may be right just as it could be wrong. That is, however, not the problem as much as the fact that both those for and against Restructuring are canvassing positions reflecting the wishes of a hopelessly insignificant but vocal percentage of the population whose only qualifications are that they live commodiously in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Portharcourt or Kaduna and are mostly politicians, intellectual workers, (academics, columnists, middle class professionals) or agitator for mostly emergency causes. As truth does not stand anywhere to be apprehended but specific to those who experience the realities in context, this elite coup in the discourse of Nigeria is the contradiction to be deconstructed.
President Muhammadu Buhari, for instance, is saying in his Independence Day broadcast that progress is being made on re-balancing the economy; devastating Boko Haram and fighting corruption. He started by correctly insisting that October 1st remains a special day for Nigerians but veered off quickly to a problem-solving account giving in the rest of the 1552 word address. But, account giving is the easier part of it. The difficult part is the conception of where the problems came from. On this, he was not silent as such but selectively pointed at his own truth: failure to save in the immediate past. That leaves us with whether failure to save in the immediate or distant past is an explanation or something to be explained in itself.
For former President, Obasanjo, anyone talking about devolution of powers doesn’t know what he is talking about. But, in the Second Republic, comparatively qualitative and high performing governors in the 9-Governors’ Meeting were talking about devolution. Is it devolution that is bad or the context in which devolution sneaked into the agenda today as a polite vocabulary for disembodying Nigeria by its local and foreign detractors? The former president is not wrong but he was speaking from where he stands, producing truth as he knows it just like the incumbent president and in the same manner that IBB, for another example, has been quoted as asking everyone to embrace peace. Yes, that is how a leader should speak but what is peace? 200 million Nigerians do not all have a same conception of peace.
It is not only the upper crust of the power elite that are producing their own truth about the situation or crisis in Nigeria. All the intellectual workers doing wonderful research and advocacy are also producing their own truth on issues they are, without exception, mere observers and distant ones at that, be it violence by herdsmen or communal conflicts or excruciating poverty or the tyranny of local potentates and hegemons across Nigeria. It is the things in their head, the truth from where they stand but about which Amilcar Cabral has reminded us long ago as not what the people are interested in.
If truth does not stand somewhere to be discovered or apprehended, why is the search for solution to the crisis in Nigeria never about getting the people to talk about what they are experiencing? Wouldn’t that open a better opportunity for real discovery about where the problem really lies? The world has advanced beyond the model of democracy that Nigeria has absolutised. The limitations of representative democracy have to be overcome in Nigeria or the banalities of elite advocacy will soon get this country finally stuck. A sea of evil is overwhelming the country which those who are not its direct victims do not even have the language to capture it. Popular intervention in the re-constitution of Nigeria is an imperative, it is doable.
Nigeria has not disintegrated yet because the common people are together. There are no racial/ethnic barriers in Nigeria, in theory and in practice. It is only a disastrous elite failure that has made 57 years such a stressful journey but Nigeria still remains an unambiguous journey because it is God’s own statement in historical compensation. All those who feel their own share of the pain of elite failure in Nigeria is no longer bearable have a right to shout plenty but that right does not include an agenda of breaking the country because there is no way of accomplishing such without occasioning the spectacle of mass misery for the majority that informs or reinforces the imagination of Africans as people cued to endemic catastrophe.
Intervention is convinced that every society embody in itself a mechanism for self-cleansing and Nigeria is not an exception. Somehow, the dynamics would work out in such a way that all the positive factors would come together and what people think are impossible now becomes achievable. In a diffuse, globalising as well as de-globalising world, this is not far- fetched. In the context of such possibilities, Nigeria is still not an ambiguous journey although this is provided that the next independence anniversary MUST not be as dim as this. Against that hope, Intervention says Happy Independence to all!