The thoughts on everyone’s mind today revolve around frightening questions – is there a future for Nigeria? Are we on a direct non-stop slide to anarchy? Is Nigeria beyond salvation? My response to these questions is to say let’s think differently. Let’s ask what we can do as individuals, groups, associations and communities to place Nigeria on the path of recovery, redemption and salvation. Let us place on the table our plans to rebuild the Nigerian State and society. It is not day-dreaming, it’s simply saying let us sing the song with Wole Soyinka. “I love Nigeria I no go lie, na inside am I go live and die.” In other words, now that we know many in our ruling classes have bought houses in foreign lands where they will live if and when Nigeria collapses, let the rest of us work hard to save Nigeria. Having said that, let us admit it is no easy task. We have allowed Nigeria slide for so long that recovery would certainly not be easy.
The Nigerian condition today is one of anomie. We live in a society in which norms, rules and values that held communities together have been dissipated and the basic unit in society, the family is in disarray. The massive urbanization that has occurred over the past few decades has moved a majority of Nigerians away from their homelands to crammed cities where the majority live in slums but they know about the minority that are among the richest in the world, not because they earned it, but because they stole from the public purse. They stole our money. We therefore have this vast army now called the precariat, living precarious lives in informal jobs that can guarantee meals only for the days they are able to work.
The ensuing insecurity has pushed Nigerians, poor and rich to God, or so they think. The rich are seeking protection for their sins and the vengeance of the poor. The poor are seeking for wealth and for health, which neither State nor society is providing. With everybody in Nigeria apparently in God’s Kingdom, a fierce competition erupted on which of the narratives about God are genuine. The result is that families and communities are split on how to worship God for the best results so we start killing each other in God’s name and completely miss out on his injunctions for peace and love. As our relationship with God is largely instrumental, our true object of worship has become money, lots of it, so today Nigerians are killing massively for money and no one is reminding them – thou shall not kill.
To kill effectively and efficiently, Nigerians have been procuring AK 47 rifles to rob, kidnap for ransom and eliminate their enemies. To smoothen the process, Nigerians import massive quantities of drugs to help them do what God has said they should not do. They continue to kill without compunction, sense of guilt or moral scruples. Indeed, they go further astray – rape, incest, selling “human parts” and so on. The anomie has become deep.
It is in this context that the slide from anomie to anarchy accelerated. The guns were directed to: create a caliphate for Boko Haram, turn former herders into ransom-produced millionaires, seek Biafra and Oduduwa Republics, wipe out the neighbouring community that have been annoying a group for 200 years and settle the question of who goes to paradise by killing those WE think are not going there, that is, playing God. Let me repeat what God told us – peace and love. Why do we consider God’s injunctions with such disdain. Our current pathway therefore is towards anarchy, a society of “freedom” from governance, law and humanity. Yes, we are MAD, as we are on the pathway to Mutually Assured Destruction, not through nuclear bombs but by unleashing the worst in each of us.
There is an alternative path. That of redemption and recovery. The first step is for leaders to emerge, those who will tell Nigerians the truth so eloquently expressed by Professor Ade Ajayi that it is worthy to build the Nation:
“There is no easy way to pull this country apart. The problems arising from such an exercise will be far bigger than the problem of trying to keep it going. The value of the size, the market, and the varieties of cultures etc. are important and should not be neglected.”
The greatness of Nigeria can be sought and revealed and we will all be winners. The alternative vision of hundreds of petty dominions and principalities can only lead to Hobbes state of nature where life is “nasty, brutish and short” for all of us.
To stay together however means we must talk and agree about the conditions under which we can stay together. Anyone who says that the time for a sincere national dialogue has not arrived hates Nigeria and wants it to self-destruct. There is urgent need to organise a national dialogue and if the President will not take up the leadership challenge, genuine Nigerian leaders must arise and take up the responsibility with the urgency it deserves. The agenda for the dialogue must be to re-invent what we Nigerians call “true federalism”. Which Professor Ade Ajayi has defined as:
“True Federalism implies power sharing, abandoning the notion of any one group dominating all the others, not secession but building interdependence. But we need to work hard on it and not merely pay lip service to unity in diversity.”
The first step in this direction is to start implementing our federal character principle with sincerity. Those thinking that they can continue to bamboozle the others to 2023 and beyond are the anarchists seeking mutually assured destruction.
By returning to our foundational principles of democracy and federalism, those who have decided they must opt out of the Nation can begin to reflect on the possibility of one more attempt at nation building. It will not be easy and it will take time. My message is that for us to get on the trajectory of state and nation building, we need political assurances that Nigeria is worth fighting for and that can only flow out of a successful national dialogue.
As soon as we have a political plan to save Nigeria, we can start addressing the crisis of massive insecurity. The end game here is for our armed forces to guarantee our security and for law enforcement agencies to provide for our safety. For this to happen, Nigerians must be persuaded to give up on the idea that a gun for each household is the best guarantee for their security. For clarity, my column this week is an open invitation to leaders in our country, even a few, to come out and start working on our common future.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead