The deluge of socio-economic and political upheavals in the Nigerian polity currently portrays a very bad omen for peace, progress and continuity of the country. For an entity with so much potential, the wasting of assets, both human and material, in the past few years has been monumental even to the uncaring. In totality, the ruling political elite at all levels of government have ran the country almost aground such that hope for a redeem is dim; and, unless some drastic action is initiated, not only will it be difficult for the country to survive eventually, her downfall can be slow, steady and painful. The handwriting is on the wall, and the dastardly results are playing out. Surely, the state of the Nigerian nation calls for a change of direction to avert a looming doom.
For this newspaper, it would amount to dereliction of duty, and perhaps, undermining the motto of our medium, that is, “conscience, nurtured by truth,” if we fail to rouse the attention of Nigerians, and the entire international community. Once upon a time, when the euphoria of independence with the attendant optimism was pervading the national landscape, Professor Wole Soyinka, then a burgeoning dramatist, staged the Dance of the Forest, that gave a foreboding to the effect that the euphoria of independence might be short-lived. The emergent elite then appeared not to have grasped the enormity of the nation-building project, and soon unhinged the stability that was required to meet the imperative of development of the new post-colonial state. It was neocolonialism writ large with a consequential elite infamy that set the nation on a fratricidal war that lasted three years with a revolting casualty, both material and human. By some estimate, over a million people were lost.
The country managed to crisscross the huge contradictions of that historical episode to the present state without addressing the fault lines that resulted in the civil war. The country’s warped rulers, without a sense of historical responsibility but self-interested and enamoured of filthy lucre, has further plunged the country to its present sorry state. All the while, the country has mainly lived a lie.
Today, Nigeria manifests all the symptoms of a failed state. In the empiricist literature, a failed state is not only economically prostrate; it is also devoid of the rule of law. While its sovereignty is contested by non-state forces, its borders are violated by aliens claiming territory. In its failed dynamics, the state is unable to perform its primary function of protecting lives and property over which the state as a social contract is based. Above all, the material force of the state (the armed forces) has become corrupt and criminalised, and consequently unable to fulfill its historical role of protecting the state. Truth be told, the armed forces have become victims of their irresponsibility by acting in the interest of an ethnic cabal that has demonstrated its incapacity to direct the nation-building project and further the goal of national development. What it has in abundance as a trait is its capacity for waste, clannishness and violation of the sanctity of human lives. Its exploit in the bashing of the fabrics of the nation has now come to a head. Indeed the country is rudderless and on autopilot that if care is not taken, it is bound to crash with all the imagined consequences. Therefore, the current state of the nation deserves a re-capitulation at this historical juncture.
The rampage of the Boko Haram for more than 10 years, and that of its Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) counterpart has continued to endure in the northeast of the country while the so-called armed bandits whom some state actors have treated to state banquets and camera calls have taken over the entire country pillaging everything on its path and sowing deaths. By some estimate, about 37,000 deaths have resulted from their murderous campaigns. It has also made kidnapping for ransom its arsenal of terror. The peasantry feeding the nation is now unable to perform its occupation of farming, exposing the country to all forms of economic woes. Indeed, the external consumerist orientation of the backward rulers of the land has aggravated the economic conditions.
While we bemoan the economic stasis, there has been an incremental influx of aliens into the country swamping indigenous population across the country with the seeming connivance of the current minders of the state. They have been unable to rein in the situation and have unconscionably prevented communities’ effort to ward off the aliens underscoring the sinister dimension of the phenomenon. Apart from alien intrusion, there is the corresponding influx of small arms into the country, especially the southern parts by herdsmen and armed irregulars, signaling that something horrendous is in the offing. In the southeastern part of the country, the so-called unknown gunmen are ravaging the population and targeting the elite of the region in what appears a false flag operation. The peoples of Southern Kaduna and the Berom of Plateau State have faced daily, in every respect, a premeditated genocidal onslaught from Fulani herdsmen and bandits. Their situation is one of existential danger. In the midst of these happenings, the rudderless state is mute.
In a clear erosion of the secularity of the state, right to life, and freedom of expression enshrined in the extant Nigerian constitution, Ms. Deborah Yakubu was murdered in cold blood by some Islamic religion fundamentalists for professing her faith in relation to her academic excellence. The élan for terror was further stretched to the burning of churches without consequential state response.
On the economic front, the country has demonstrated all conceivable economic ills: a useless currency called the naira; accumulation without corresponding production; debt peonage; elite ostentatious living amidst widespread poverty; continuous import of petroleum products and sabotage of domestic effort at refining petroleum products. This is a national shame, and the jinx ought to be broken in the pursuit of enlightened self-interest of those running the country. Petroleum comes with sundry products that ought to stabilise the energy situation in the country and boost national productive forces but what Nigerians see is an elite gait that acquiesces to the situation as normal. Amid these economic woes, capital flight, in the form of looted funds by state actors, and their collaborators, is an ongoing enterprise.
A three month-plus shutdown of universities due to the inaction of the minders of the state and actions of the political elite compounds the national contradictions. Instead of addressing the issues besetting the country, the power elite are juggling for power to continue the pillaging of the country in a transition trap. It is a trap whose latent function is the retention of the unworkable Lugardian architecture that seeks to retain power where the British wanted it to be—north. All the politicians scrambling for power ahead of the 2023 general elections have no rescue plan for the country other than rhetoric. The electoral process has been overtly dollarised with a consequence shock on the already weak naira. Also, it is devoid of any democratic competitiveness and prone to imposition whereby the electorate is undermined. Given the violence and manipulations manifest in the ongoing party primaries across the country, indicating the absence of elite consensus on the rules of contestation for power, the residual of the process is a matter for the imagination.
Given the above, we make bold to apprise the incumbent state actors who, in the last seven years, have destroyed the country beyond recognition; the toiling people of this country and the international community that what we see in the horizon is an impending implosion. The absence of a ruling class compounds the Nigerian tragedy. To be sure, a ruling class ought to act in ways that ensures its hegemony, legitimacy in the eyes of the people, protects its very existence by outputs that results in the wellbeing of the people. The Nigerian ruling class has none of these attributes compelling one commentator to describe it as one in which order is macabre, and reward is for the indolent.
Today, the country is hell-hole describable by the absence of government in the national space and negative sovereignty; it is a country living a lie. It might not be so lucky this time around. It is the time to act; and to act quickly to rescue it from the brink of disintegration.