Captured Nigerian state
The thematic import of this topic is troubling indeed and so in many ways. First, is the recognition of the possibility of an insidious or subtle capture of state apparatus by supervening forces not recognised by the grundnorm or the over-riding law of the land. Second, is the realisation of a probable cowardly collapse of state institutions in the face of devious onslaught on them. Third, is the acknowledgement of a mandarin exploitation of state operators’ incompetence or ineptitude. Fourthly, and this is germaine to our discussion, is the epiphanic discovery of a smug siddon look or “It is not possible” attitude of a pliant civil society gravely shirking in its civic role to monitor governance or the relations of power and responsibility. Finally, or as far as this writer can suggest, the indubitable place of money power, corruption and diversity in the forging and fostering of alliances or linkages for the purpose of achieving state surrender to principles, programmes, attitudes and views that renounce or deny cherished or avowed values of state or of the generality of the people.
For reason that the process of the capture of the Nigerian state is subtle and therefore not obvious to the un-vigilant, it is disputed or thought not worthy of attention. It is ignorantly deemed an impossibility. Its physical manifestations – exemplified in the primitive accumulation of wealth by officials of state, in violence that has become the mode for the expression of dis-avowal of state policies and of the impudent neglect of its responsibilities, bare-faced official thieving, up-beat banditry, the invidious application or abuse of otherwise polity-stabilising policies e.g. the federal character principle for appointment into offices of state – are largely ignored.
Everyday we are faced with the reality of an imminent total capture of the state. It is becoming clear even to those in whose interest it is to deny it, that the Nigerian state has been ambushed and has fallen into the hands of persons who do not share the values of its founding or understand the essence of a liberal democratic polity. Sectarian interests are promoted over and above the national ethic. Ethnic jingoism has overtaken the national creed. In all these, the state has been laid prostrate waiting to be finally annihilated or consigned to the dunghill of history.
Whereas the Buhari government’s curious misunderstanding of the mechanics of revolution has set the whole country buzzing for interpretation regarding the true meaning of that value, it is to be noted that the revolution to capture the Nigerian state has since been on-going. It is only being perfected by political pimps, insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, herdsmen militia, etc.; and more provocatively by officials of state who have remained un-faithful to their oath of office and who have surrendered the authority of state to some over-bearing hegemonic cabal.
The conveniently mis-understood Sowore clarion call is a wake-up call to the Nigerian state to be alert to the covert intendment and obvious activities of these enemies of state. A revolution is not necessarily achieved with the assemblage of weapons, their deployment or their use. It is strange that the word “revolution” has excited the kind of impassioned official reaction we are witnessing.
Many are aware of the Shagari-era “Green Revolution” even as its effect or achievement is doubtful. We talk glibly of the Industrial Revolution in England as being the basis for that country’s position today as one of the world’s leading economies. As his aspirational rhetoric, President Buhari himself employed the mantra of “Change!” in 2015 to canvass for election. Dialectically, “change”, as a mode of social kinesis, may be substituted for revolution. Watchful citizens just need to be able to harness the power they have in this age of un-inhibited media space to draw attention to the booby-traps on our way to the achievement of the goals of our social contract even as we are besieged on all fronts. Sowore and his advocacy have together become a metaphor for all our fears and anxieties as a people, concerning a nation in which “the sum of its parts is immensely greater than the whole”; of a nation where right is co-extensive with power and of “a nation that was conceived in hope but nurtured by its own leaders into hopelessness.”
The phenomenon referred to as revolution has, intrinsic in its nature and meaning, the spectre of inevitability. Its advocates and all those who work for its realisation are mere handmaidens. Its engine is self-propelling. No one can stop the process of revolution. It may only be delayed for some time. But its ultimate emergence is as sure as sunrise. Those in the vineyard for its achievement are catalytic agents joyfully excited to see it happen in their own time. Their reward however is in the future when they will be appreciated or acknowledged as the heroes of the new order.
Modern liberal democracy is underscored by its deep understanding of the necessary connection between justice and political order. Where there is no social justice, for instance, the authorities are not entitled to expect a peaceful atmosphere or progress. A pervasive or persistent unjust situation provokes a revolution for the amelioration or termination of its iniquitous offerings. In Nigeria’s unfortunate situation, our attenuated links are made even more vulnerable by the practice of unfair political and social policies and programmes. They are not fostered by the patriotic calls for their re-engineering or outright abandonment.
A successful modern liberal democracy combines the state, the rule of law and accountable government in a stable balance. One of the miracles of modern politics is the achievement by some countries of this delicate balance. The story of how political institutions have developed cannot be recounted without an understanding of the complementary process of political decay.
It must be recognised that human institutions are changed with great difficulty. They understandably resist change.Institutions created to meet certain set of goals ironically continue to survive even when conditions for their continued existence have changed.Their failure to adapt appropriately augurs political decay. The un-civilised human propensity to unduly favour family, friends and tribe – as we are experiencing in the impunitously insouciant attitude and practice of the current political order – constantly “re-asserts itself in the absence of strong countervailing circumstances.” The Sowore advocacy must be seen as the presence of one such needful countervailing circumstances. It is a bold step in the march of history.Thankfully, it is un-challengeable; it is un-stoppable.
Rotimi-John is a lawyer and public affairs commentator.