Obasanjo, et al and our failing state
All is not well with the state of the nation. Recently, some eminent Nigerians drew the attention of the country and indeed Nigeria’s leader to the parlous state of the nation. And that has elicited responses from the presidency and its sundry reputation managers who should most times compile messages instead of attacking messengers.
Characteristically, elder statesman and former President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke to the deepening fault-lines in the country whose diversity is currently being mismanaged by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The former president summarised the state of the nation in a speech entitled, ‘‘Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over’’ delivered at a consultative dialogue comprising socio-cultural groups including Afenifeere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, and Pan Niger Delta Forum. In his words, “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in.
Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country…. And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration, and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.” Obasanjo did not leave the forum with words of optimism. For him, the dialogue is indicative of the need for unity in the country but one that is based on mutual respect, love, equity, justice, and inclusiveness. A nation so guided by these values could collectively tackle the problems bedeviling the country, namely, terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering, and corruption.
However, Obasanjo’s blunt truth about the state of the country drew concurrence from other eminent Nigerians, such as the Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and former army chief, Lt. General Alani Akinrinade. Soyinka noted that “We are close to extinction as viable comity of peoples, supposedly bound together under an equitable set of protocols of co-habitation, capable of producing its own means of existence and devoid of a culture of sectarian privilege and will to dominate.”
On his part, General Akinrinade points up some of the negative and pervasive views of the Buhari administration. One is the fact that he is “an ethnic bigot, an irredeemable religious fundamentalist that he firmly subscribes and promotes the possibility of his ethnic Fulani to take over the country, the reason he does not interfere in curbing the brigandage of the Fulani herdsmen.”
Two, he has been unable to defeat Boko Haram insurgents. Three is the failure to consider the diversity of the country in appointments to sensitive positions in his government. Besides, the former army chief pointed to the blood-chilling stories of killings and pillaging of villages in North and Central Nigeria and its incursion into the Southern states with the main culprit being identified as Fulani herdsmen or Fulani mercenaries from outside Nigeria. The former army chief did not fail to highlight the consequences of negligence manifesting in famine and the country’s resort to West African neighbours for grains. He warned that if nothing was done about it, it could lead to self-help, itself, a road to everlasting perdition. While noting that the buck stops on the president’s table, he advised taking a firm stand on the organisation of the country “physically, politically, economically, and socially.”
The response from the presidency was different and amounted to what Soyinka has called “insolent distractions from garrulous and coarsened functionaries, apologists and sectarian opportunists.” While giving his boss a pass mark, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that “Nigeria is fortunate to have at the helm a leader who is not only dedicated, selfless and patriotic but one who is globally acknowledged for his discipline, integrity, and vision” and that “national fissures are amplified at a time of dwindling economic fortune, what is needed to foster peace and unity is not reckless elocution but responsible and responsive leadership, the kind being offered by President. ”
For the Information Minister, the likes of Obasanjo were aggravating “the national fault lines with their angry and unguarded actions and rhetoric.” In a collaborating vein, the presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina noted in ways suggestive of normalcy that the country has always remained divided from its amalgamation in 1914, a phenomenon that is being worked at and that the incumbent administration has been seized of it since 2015 and qualified those pointing to the fault lines as undermining harmony and playing “politics with everything.”
Nevertheless, we beg to differ and affirm that the country is failing and on the twilight of disintegration. We point to the indices of a failed state to buttress our viewpoint on the subject. A state fails when it is no longer able to meet the basic functions of a sovereign nation.
Today, Nigeria enjoys negative sovereignty as non-state actors compete in control of a large swathe of its territory; in terms of dispensing welfare to its citizens, it is unable to do so, and the country since 2018 has remained the global poverty capital. Besides, the government of the day has taken the country into another round of debt peonage in one fell swoop. In fact, it is fast losing whatever is left of legitimacy.
Curiously, Nigeria’s leader seems to be running an endogamy government in which the nation’s security and intelligence institutions are placed in the hands of his kinsmen while the hard-won democratic struggle has been completely undermined by his anti-politics of undermining legitimate processes of state institutions. Also, there is widespread corruption and criminality. What is worse, the country is littered with internally displaced persons (IDPs) and there is a multinational task force assisting to keep the security of the country in the northeast zone.
The authorities in Abuja should note that the people are worried that the Nigerian state is set irretrievably on the path to disintegration. It is only the non-discerning minds and perhaps, those living in faraway Afghanistan that can pretend that all is well. Obasanjo is right on target to warn on a country hanging on the precipice whose governing class, as usual, thinks that it can be saved from the brink. There is ill-feeling in the land. Nigerians are not happy about their situation underlined by the aforementioned contradictions. Obasanjo indeed spoke the minds of many distraught Nigerians. The incumbent administration of President Buhari ought to heed the wise counsel of the elder statesman who knows the country well. In other words, the president and his men should separate the message from the messenger and wisely respond to the grievances in the land. To behave like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand will do no one any good in a country that is head on the road to Kigali and Mogadishu. A word is enough for the wise.
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