Nigeria At 60: Stories For The Gods, By Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN
A refrain from the enjoyable and energetic lyrics of Olamide in his rave of a lifetime Story for the Gods reminds me of the moral, political and economic debauchery that has characterized the accounts of Nigeria’s existence as a nation.
Now that the country is turning 61 on the first day of October 2021, there is a need to review our past and see if it can lead to a prosperous future or it is certain to end up in utter damnation. By the Civil Service Rules, a civil servant retires on turning 60, by which time he is regarded as having joined the supposedly respectable club of elderly citizens of the country.
Whether there is anything respectable in the poverty-stricken life to which an average retired civil servant is condemned by the system in Nigeria is a matter for an artistic examination and portrayal by the productive film industry called Nollywood in Nigeria.
But the implication is that, our nation, were it to be a civil servant, or should nations be retired upon attaining 60 years of age, it is certain that Nigeria mirrors the life of its retirees as the nation is in terrible shape in all respects.
Maybe that is a justification for the agitations to wind up Nigeria, having surpassed the retirement age but refusing to be retired while pretending to be serving. Its capacity as an entity to hold all together has become weakened by all sorts of tugging disasters, which are not natural but man-made.
Nothing thrives in our land, as the only thing that seems to be prospering is the redoubtable criminal industry, where it is one day, many troubles. The political class has guillotined the political space and made democracy a hollow slogan that signifies nothing.
That justifies the contention that what obtains in the country today is merely civil rule and not democracy. The economic situation has rendered the citizens powerless, as their purchasing power has fallen below the nadir.
The story in the press as regards the North is either bandits’ kidnap of hundreds of victims in one fell swoop or that Boko Haram has taken over a whole local government area without any challenge from security operatives.
In the Middle Belt of the country, the narratives of anguish have always been constantly refuelled by herdsmen-terrorists sacking whole villages with sorrow, tears and blood trailing their escaping footsteps.
The East is battling with internal insecurity issues coupled with external aggression from herdsmen, while an average citizen of Nigeria from that enclave called the eastern part of the country is a subject of double identities of Nigeria/Biafra.
The western part of Nigeria has been a theatre of ritual killings, wanton assassinations, coupled with all sorts of vices you can never imagine. ‘Yahoo-yahoo’, as the obtaining under false pretence is now popularly known in the western part, now occupies a central space in the region.
Various parts of the country are riddled with all manner of challenges and the economy is in its most devastated condition. Naira keeps plunging in a free fall in a manner never experienced. Nigeria fought the civil war for three whole years and did not devalue its currency and the records have it at a time that our “almighty” naira was stronger than both US dollar and British pound. That time seems to have gone forever and it is doubtful if it can ever come back.
Naira is being trumped at the exchange market like Arsenal Football Club in the hands of other clubs. Even CFA, CFA of all currencies, is said to have greater purchasing power higher and above our dear naira. Waking up this morning, the 30th day of September 2021, to the hard realities of “wars” ravaging the land, one is tempted to conclude that never have we ever had it this bad.
It seems this British experiment has failed. The fragments are being glued together by unreasonable and anti-democratic forces who believe that arrogance of power can trump any voice of dissent and any form of unity can be imposed on a people not prepared for a lasting union.
The agitations for reforms have given way to acerbic campaigns for dismemberment of the country. But this is one call the lords of the flies do not want to hear and yet they are not prepared to do the needful to bring peace back to the land or enable it to develop at a rate that can guarantee peace. The crisis ravaging the country is such that its intractability is only being ignored by those leading the country under the arrogance of deliberate ignorance.
They are already aware that the country is on the verge of explosion but their choice of arrogance is the type that has never prospered any nation but brought disintegration and bloodshed. This is the time that one would expect a conscious and conscientious leadership to genuinely seek solutions to the myriads of problems bedevilling the country. The language of hubris and tactlessness from the members of the government can be disturbing.
Adherence to tribal sentiments, nepotism and open allegiance to one ethnic group over hundreds of others in the country have shown that Nigeria at 61 is a nation working towards disintegration rather than integration. Many northern leaders have displayed open commitment to promotion of parochial interests and lack of readiness to man the northern borders as Fulani people that are non-Nigerians are being regarded to be “global” citizens.
Thus, despite the influx of marauders, bandits and terrorists from other nations through the northern borders, the government is not ready to police the northern borders. The implication is that while the northern borders can be flung open to these foreigners’ extra-territorial movements, the western borders must be secured against unlawful immigration as the Yoruba people of the South West of Nigeria and Benin Republic are not “global” citizens.
Can anyone be dafter than that? If the interest of the foreign Fulani people are meant to be protected extra-territorially notwithstanding the terrorist challenges they pose to the Nigerian people, is it not high time we redefined our relationship by way of restructuring that others have been clamouring for since? Is the government not aware that the citizens of the country are daily agonizing under its irresponsible unity-at-all-costs mantra while the nation keeps disintegrating under hateful policies. It must be realized that, if the nation explodes in the threatening war the government is fanning, no one is to blame but those who make peaceful change impossible.
If it is important and non-negotiable that foreign Fulani people must be retained as wanderers of no boundaries, must it be at the expense of the Nigerian people? No nation, in any part of Africa, allows its boundaries to be treated with disdain by any people whose animals must be grazed at the expense other people’s investments in growing food crops. It is certain that the future has no pity for Nigeria the way its affairs are being channelled by its leaders.
The prophecy of disintegration that we denied at the tail end of the 20th Century is now threatening us with fulfilment. Various religions used to coexist before but now they are competing. Likewise, various ethnic groups used to cohabit but now they are flexing muscles and competing.
Rather than the government genuinely promoting unity, it is busy strengthening the armoury in the North, believing that whoever controls the weaponry of the nation controls its existence without an alternative. No nation has ever been kept together by the force of arms. If that were to be so, the Soviet Union would have remained one. For Nigeria to remain a single country, there is need to promote equity and social justice among the various ethnic members. No multi-ethnic society like ours continues in existence only by sheer force of arms. The various nations of Europe are organized along ethnic lines and that is why Germany can never be ruled by the French and never shall the French succumb to leadership under the English.
They are different nations that have recognized their differences and even their efforts to be under one system in modern times have been shown to be impossible by Brexit. That is notwithstanding the promotion of genuine efforts at sustaining a union to benefit all. The only problem is that those who believe in the arrogance of power can only preserve the nation together under a system of inequity for as long as the resistance spirit of others can tolerate. The day the various centrifugal and centripetal forces tugging Nigeria away coalesce in an irredeemable explosion, that is the end. It is high time the government gave way to reason to prevail rather than nursing a woeful ambition of subjugating the entire nation to ethnic sentiments and irredentist policies.
This can but only be by way of ethnic engagements through the enthronement of fairness and justice. But it seems this government is not ready for such redeeming efforts. It is rather sad that the elite of the nation are not making efforts to ensure its unity, otherwise, my brother, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed would not claim the superiority of the North over the rest of Nigeria. And that is one of those flaunting the arrogance of government based on ethnic cards. I call on the government of Nigeria to realise that no nation can absorb our population once the keg of gunpowder we are sitting on explodes.
Rather than threatening the fragile unity of the country with irresponsible management of the country’s affairs, it is better to sit down and take government as a serious business. If their mental capacity cannot guarantee a continuous existence of the various peoples of Nigeria as a nation, it is high time they allowed a peaceful negotiation of our dismemberment rather than tossing the geographical expression called “Nigeria” to the throes of war.
Nigeria at 61 is nothing but ‘stories for the gods’; the gods of inequity, arrogance and irresponsibility. Let me warn that those who make peaceful engagement impossible render agitation and war inevitable.