By Musa Toyyib Olaniyi
It is not pessimism neither is it doomsday prophecy, but we hardly need any seer at the moment. Everybody, without crystal ball, except those in power, can see the tearing apart of our country. But when an individual or a group of people continuously follow a path and expect a result different from the standard outcome of such exertion, such a situation can only be described as insanity at worst or idiocy at best.
Since time immemorial, Nigeria has been seen as a potential giant in Africa that will also find her place in the world. But again, there is a whole world of difference between potentiality and reality. Even the regional champion Nigeria considers her birthright by virtue of her population and remarkable natural endowments is fast slipping off her fingers. So, in essence, Nigeria has continued to disappoint both her internal and external admirers who are expecting greatness from her. Yet again, Nigeria is anything but great except in potentials and things that make sane people query the intelligence of her people.
The line that Nigeria is hanging on a cliff or standing on the precipice seems to be a jaded one that has always been sung to successive governments that have had the fortune to preside over her affairs. Still, none of these administrations has deemed it fit to move Nigeria away from that often cited precipice.
Though, it all started on a wrong foundation when the British for their pecuniary interests and imperialistic agenda set foot on this vast land and forcibly bring together different people and nationalities that are disparate in almost all particulars. That was in 1914. Nigeria has since celebrated a century of that amalgamation without unity, even though the conceptualisation and the form of the celebration were subjects of contention.
A hundred and three year old man could be wizened but sagacity birthed of years of accumulated experiences should not be absent in his virtues just as a fifty seven year old should be a grandfather, if the normal ordering of human life prevails. In the case of Nigeria, the country has continued to crawl and act like a toddler. Everything about her appears infantile.
Between 1967 and 1970, the country fought a vicious civil war that claimed about three million lives between both sides of the war and yet the country learnt nothing. Perhaps, our lack of empathy for fellow human beings and utter lack of respect for the sanctity of life emanated from that unholy kiss with war and cruelty.
Today, a python is dancing in the Southeast and there are strong signals that if care is not taken, the country may again blow up the fragile fraternity among her component units and shamelessly descend into another brutal civil war. And I have heard severally that no nation can survive two civil wars. Why Nigeria is intent on treading that path is unfathomable.
The tense situation in the country today is not strange as those who are reflective enough have spoken loudly enough and written copiously on the critical issues that will invariably imperil the country if not addressed.
The greatest misfortune of Nigeria as a nation is the ignorance and outright blindness of her leaders. Agitations, impunity and lawlessness are rampant all over the country. While some of the perpetrators of these felony and affray are treated with kid gloves, pythons are set after the others. Before the Northern Youth Coalition retracted their threat and quit notice to Igbo living in the North, the government found it difficult to arrest and prosecute those purveyors of hate speeches.
The government has also found herself helpless in dealing decisively with the felonious herdsmen threatening the peace of the nation. Sending pythons to the East without sending the monarch of the reptiles after the murderous herders and those who spewed hate in the North to counter Nnamdi Kanu’s hate rhetoric amounts to injustice and a leader must be fair to his people.
Underlining these ricocheting hate speeches is the disenchantment of the components units with the country. In this 21st century hallmarked by the liberalisation of access and production of knowledge, I don’t understand why Nigerian leaders are still stuck with the sentiment that our unity is non-negotiable. If to them, that represents patriotism, such patriotism is what Samuel Johnson referred to as the last refuge of the scoundrel. There is no better time than now to quickly restructure this country before it goes up in flame. True federalism will no doubt turn the potentiality of the country into reality.
The elites are no less culpable in the gathering armaggedon all over the country. In the North, the elites deliberately pauperised their people to maintain their hegemony. It is plain feudalism in action there and the system has bred Boko Haram as the monster that will continue to give the country sleeplessness. When the complete degradation and defeat of the insurgency will be achieved is uncertain.
In the East, the elites have succeeded in turning justifiable grievances to criminality and we have on our hands dangerous cases of militancy and secession. The West too is not exempted as the systematic pauperization of her people has turned them to ritual killers and armed robbers who can go to any length just to live the good life. All over the country, noble values have been debased and the worst among men are presiding while the best are gaping like spectators.
If there is a competition to determine the gullibility of nationalities, Nigerians will likely come first in the world. Their lives have been so bastardized that they will grovel and praise -sing their leaders for doing nothing at all. And they so love their tormentors as they always exhibit the familiar Stockholm syndrome of falling in love with their chains and oppressors. Rather than hold the dregs of leaders to account and strongly demand good governance, they will herd themselves to prayer houses where again, they are fleeced by ‘supposed’ men of God, who in reality, are entrepreneurs thriving on the gullibility of unwary compatriots.
From the North to the South, the cannon fodder bearing the brunt of wickedness in high places and cataract-infected leadership is the youth. Today, a python is dancing in the East, majority of the victim of that misadventure will be young men who are recruited into the mob of IPOB because of idleness just as those that are detonating bombs and planting caliphate in the Northeast are young men and girls who the society have neglected and who are now clamouring for alternative society. What a heedless nation!
Since the critical soft infrastructures mentioned above are absent, we cannot possibly talk about societal institutions. Sometimes, when a society is struck with the misfortune of selfish, ignorant and blind leaders, the institutions in the society may temporarily fill the gap and rapidly make the necessary adjustment to remove the distortion, but in our case, there are no institutions. In any case, where are the men to build the institutions? So sad!
This predicament, though gloomy, is not without exceptions. There are still men of honour either in the government or outside of the government but their numbers are too little and too few to make any appreciable impact. No doubt, there are great Nigerians in the country and all over the world, who are the exact materials to effect the necessary changes that will jumpstart our journey to greatness. But are they within the power centres?
The python that is dancing in Southeast should be recalled from the dancing floor. Though, it is sad that the Igbo nation has ceded her representation and advocacy to the mob and a man who is clearly intellectually incapable of dealing with the grave challenges of nationalism and nation building. Kanu calls Nigeria a zoo and revels in incendiary rhetorics, calling for open enmity and disaffection between Igbo and the other nationalities in the country. But apple does not fall far away from its tree as they say just as a man can only give what he has.
If Nigeria is a zoo and his compatriots are animals as he insinuates, definitely an irrational animal must be living within him, with him providing the hide and mouth for the beast in him. This is the man leading the Igbo today. This calls for sober reflections. Where were the Igbo Intelligentsia when Nnamdi Kanu seized the narrative on behalf of their people. Where were the political class when the rabble were being roused?
In spite of the glaring failure of the cream of the Igbo nation to provide the necessary leadership for their people, President Muhammadu Buhari cannot win this vociferous demand for restructuring through strong-arm tactics or by rolling out tanks as he just did in the southeast. When a state responds always with threat, intimidation and suppression of the genuine grievances of her citizens in order to subjugate them, such a state is loosing the narratives and initiatives and it is heading towards failure. The demand to tinker with the federation as presently structured is becoming a din and if hearkened to, the Igbo may after all find secession less attractive. Is the President there?
God bless Nigeria.