It is a common aphorism in medical practice that the diagnosis of an ailment is half way to its cure. That should also hold sway for other ailments either of economic, political or social dimensions.
Curiously, this time cherished maxim has been of little help in addressing the challenges buffeting this unity in diversity called Nigeria. Even with considerable national consensus on the road to extricate the country from continuing drift, our leaders act as though they want these problems to linger.
We are sadly regaled with attempts by the authorities either to live in denial of subsisting realities or deliberately obfuscate them for some inexplicable considerations. This disposition has tended to convey the unmistakable impression that it is either they are far removed from the lot of those they rule or we are contending with the displacement of public goal with others of parochial and clannish hue. This curious tendency may account for why these problems have festered to the point of constituting potent threats to the collective wellbeing of the citizenry.
Nothing bears out this ruinous culture of denial or political rhetoric more eloquently than the reaction of federal functionaries to recent observations by Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo on the state of the country. Obasanjo had said Nigeria was fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state, and that economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world and socially firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.
He further observed that “these manifestations are products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of the country, old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation”.
But the presidency in keeping to the tradition of defending the indefensible launched a vitriolic attack on him. They accused him of attempting to divide the country even as they claimed ‘Buhari continues to promote nation building and the unity of Nigeria’.
Did I hear that Buhari promotes nation building and Nigerian unity?
Is there anything in the statements of Obasanjo as reproduced above that amounts to an attempt to divide the country? Or put more succinctly, is there really anything in those statements that are not already in public domain? The answer to the latter is that Obasanjo said nothing new. All he said have been said before not only from within our shores but through the ratings of some international bodies.
He may have reinforced what is already within the public space because of his weight and influence. But they are nothing new. It is therefore uncharitable to label his intervention as an attempt to divide the country instead of a patriotic call to save it from the precipice into which it is inevitably headed. For, it is said that evil thrives where men of good conscience keep quite. Obasanjo may not qualify as that good man to some but he is undoubtedly, a man of conscience.
Whether one likes it or not, Obasanjo is fast assuming the place of the conscience of this country. He did it during the regime of Jonathan even going to the extreme of alleging that Jonathan was training snipers to eliminate opponents. Then, not many understood his intentions. It is increasingly dawning on us that he knew things that were to follow if things went a particular way. He was desperate to avert that foreboding outcome. Jonathan never read the signals correctly otherwise he would have done one or two things to avert that potent danger. He is at it again and his views should not be dismissed offhandedly.
What are the issues? He said Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state. Wikipedia defined a failed state as a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer functions properly. It went further to say that a state can also fail if the government loses its legitimacy even if it is performing its functions properly.
The question is whether Nigeria in her current circumstance properly fits into the above categorization? Before that question is answered, it will be helpful to take other views on the subject matter. In its 2019 Fragile States Index, a yearly report of the Washington DC-based think tank Fund for Peace, Nigeria ranked 14th most fragile state of the world and ninth in Africa out of the 178 countries surveyed.
These countries were assessed across 12 indicators of risks and vulnerability: security, group grievances, economic decline, brain drain, legitimacy/human rights, rule of law, demographic pressures, internally displaced persons and refugees. Challenges of insecurity, group grievances, economic decline and demographic pressures featured very prominently in Obasanjo’s observations. So also are issues of legitimacy and division.
Even then, the verdict on debilitating poverty had long been captured by the World Poverty Clock. It reported that Nigeria had overtaken India to become the country with the world’s highest number of people 87-million living in extreme poverty in comparison with India’s 73 million people. These indices had long been in the public space before Obasanjo spoke.
Of the other issues hinging on polarization along the fissures of the fault lines of the country’s federation, the evidence is overwhelmingly starring us on the face. The competition between the primordial realm and the civil public for the loyalty of the citizens has not only been reinforced but gained further momentum since the current administration. It is not only palpable from the upsurge in separatist agitations but has been given fillip by the criminal disregard to the key balancing processes without which a federation will lose relevance.
This is evident from extant appointments to the commanding heights of the military and paramilitary institutions that now seem an exclusive preserve of people from a section of the country. What can be more brazen than the assault on the federal character principle given the reality that both the chairman and the secretary are from the north contrary to extant tradition? If such a balancing institution can be subverted in such a manner, what else is left of its constitutional objective?
And someone was talking of Buhari promoting nation building and national unity. What nation and unity are we really talking about? Nigeria is yet to evolve as a nation as the process of nation building and the unity it forges, has been put on reverse gear through the actions and inactions of the current leadership. What we have is a country of a multiplicity of nations- about 380 of them. Sadly that constitutional provision for forging a common sense of national consciousness and identity among the disparate nations has been largely observed in its breach. Little wonder citizens still see themselves more from the prism of their ethnic identities than as Nigerians.
So when apologists of the government talk glibly of nation building, the feeling one gets is that either they are ignorant of the real context of the subject matter or they are merely expressing a hope that is at variance with facts on the ground. It was the expectation that with amalgamation of the country and independence, those who preside over its affairs would commence the process of nation building. That has failed to happen with Nigerians more divided today than ever before.
The fact that we are yet to perfect such a rudimentary thing as a fool-proof national identity card, says it all. Rather than nation building, fissiparous tendencies and loyalty to the composing nations have been the order of the day. This is clearly manifest from the current allure of regional security outfits. It is a reinforcement of confidence and trust in regional protection as opposed to that provided by the federal authority. It is a serious legitimacy issue.
Instead of living in denial of subsisting realities, the presidency must come to terms with the issues raised by Obasanjo. The challenges of insecurity, debilitating poverty, a convoluted and disjointed federal order and leadership actions constantly assailing the confidence of the constituents and reinforcing separatism are signposts of a failing state.
Read the original article on The Nation