By Daniel Obioma
THERE is a loud thinking from informed quarters that the manner in which 2015 political equation would be resolved may be a turning point in Nigeria’s political history. The political class pretend they are in firm control of affairs, but they cannot deny the fact that the nation’s foundation is wobbling.
Recently, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, (both retired Generals and former rulers of this country) got infected by the phobia of Nigeria’s disintegration, when they both voiced out that Nigeria would not be allowed to collapse. They probably said so as concerned citizens based on the unimaginable things they see and hear. Not long after that hopeful declaration, IBB asserted that the era of coup d’état in Nigeria was over.
According to informed commentators, these are expressions of a guilty conscience arising from errors of commission and omission perpetrated by the two leaders while in office. Of course, the evils of Jonathan’s tenure accumulated from the mistakes and undoings of past regimes. As military and civilian presidents, both IBB and Obasanjo ruled Nigeria for about 19 years. Did they have anything to show for it in terms of moving the nation forward. Nigeria’s former contemporaries including Brazil, Malaysia, India, South Africa, Ghana among others, are no longer in the same class with Nigeria. Reason: we have never allowed patriotic leaders with genuine national interest to rule this country. A patriotic leader is revolutionary by reason of the aggressive developmental policies he implements for the well being of his people. A patriotic leader identifies, and copies development ideas from abroad, domesticates them and comes up with something better, like Malaysia and the other Asian Tigers have done. Our own leaders have been extremely selfish and acquisative; they bring back deposit slips rather than development ideas.
In the 1980s, we used to deride Ghanaians as parasites and distractions to Nigeria’s economic growth, hence the acronym, “Ghana must go”. Looking inwards, and with a string of focused and patriotic leaders such as John Jerry Rawlings (also a military leader like many of ours), John Kuffor, the late John Attah Mills and others, Ghana was able to restrategise into a better organised political economy than Nigeria. Today, Ghanaians are saying the same thing to us, “Nigeria must go”. And when we resisted, they began to churn out laws and economic policies deliberately designed to frustrate us into leaving. Without doubt, Nigeria is a terribly corrupt and lawless country; where many things have gone, and are still going wrong and government appears helpless and bereft of ideas. It is a place where institutional and infrastructural decay has become monuments of government failure from independence till date; where moral values have been sacrificed on the altar of greed, avarice and kleptomania, where people who leave public service with mind-blowing loots are eulogised, celebrated and protected by their own tribesmen, especially if they are prepared to let the crumbs fall. Nigeria is a country where an honest man who does good job and leaves office with clean records is booed by his people as a failure and disappointment. It is also a society where the population of good people is fast thinning because if they cannot beat them, they safely join them; where government panels of inquiry set up to investigate and punish offenders truly come up with “white papers” but which soon become brown because government lacks moral integrity to sanction or preach against corruption. With all these, do we expect Ghanaians to fold their arms and watch Nigerians flood Ghana with these vices? Our education system which used to be the best in the British Commonwealth, is now polluted and deglorified. Nigerian parents are trooping to Ghana for better education for their children, and they are made to pay through the nose in dollars. This is also deliberate.
Quite undeterred however, Nigerians still troop to Ghana. To go back to the rot at home or devise measures to remedy the situation, is out of the question. When a country has so degenerated that its citizens feel more comfortable to live and do business outside, it signifies a vote of no confidence on the leadership and a sign that the country is at the brink of collapse. And hopefully, the year 2015 will offer an opportunity to flush out a decadent regime and pave the way for the end of the irreconcilable political marriage called Nigeria.
Political office holders and power brokers always believe that dissolution of a political union is abominable. They cannot see it as a relief measure because of what they gain from the system. Nevertheless, if the structure of a union and its internal operations are perpetually unfavourable to some components/partners in the union, it makes its dissolution reasonable and inevitable. Countries of the former Soviet Union, Eritrea and Southern Sudan are recent examples of independent states that opted out of their former unions in which they were dominated, exploited or marginalised.
In Nigeria, as in all colonial Africa, people did not agree by choice to live together. They were brought together willy-nilly by British overlordship. Often, we look at this as a mistake because of its unpleasant consequences. It was a historical phenomenon which Africans had no control over. To the big powers/colonialists, it was not a mistake at all, because they were driven by a different motive — economic exploitation. That’s why in the Berlin Conference (1884–85) which triggered the scramble and partition of Africa, carving-out of spheres of influence or territories by the colonizers was neither done to favour Africans, nor were they consulted. They were forced to swallow the bitter pill of imperial hegemony. But today, we have our destiny in our own hands, having gained independence. Therefore, we cannot allow the “mistakes” of 1884 – 85 to subjugate us into another form of indigenous slavery. This makes it imperative for Nigerians to come together (not National Assembly members) to decide whether to continue in the union or go our separate ways. If we decide to stay, what are the conditions? What happens to issues of resource control and political overlordship by the North? What happens to the aggressive determination to Islamise Nigeria or part of it, where we have other religious adherents? Why does the North hate the Southerners so much (especially the Igbo) that they always slaughter them with impunity or give them quit notice from their territory, whereas the same Northerners are living in the South in their thousands. Is it not a clear signal that we don’t really belong to the same country and that the north is fed-up with the union. These and more are the issues that the National Sovereign Conference (NSC) must resolve on or before 2015, the decisive year.
*Obioma is an Associate Editor with The Economy magazine