On a day like this, I remember President Muhammadu Buhari’s 60th Independence Anniversary Address to Nigerians and my heart bleeds!
From the “directionless, unstable” and “nose-diving” state of the economy, to the deplorable security situation of the country, only a fool will fail to recognize that the story of Nigeria has become one, same, worn-out, yearly ritual. While human beings are still being callously slaughtered across the country, the symbolic retrogression is that, now, bandits and terrorists are wantonly killing military top brass. Still, the conscience of the people in the leadership of Nigeria, especially, at the centre, seems impervious to sound reasoning and the flurry of danger alerts coming from every side. The unfortunate thing is that the sitting president was a former military officer; and the wanton killing of military personnel is expected to jolt him out of slumber. Well, whatever took those values away from him is what Nigerians are trying to understand.
Judging from the policy pronouncements of the Federal Government and the ferocity of its inconsiderate responses to constructive criticisms and credible-but-frightening statements from elder-statesmen, religious leaders, professionals and other sundry social commentators, the reasonable conclusion deductible from the cacophony of voices and litany of agitations is that Nigeria’s governance goal-post is troubled! The drift in governance is so palpable and the situation is so appalling! The national government’s direct disconnect from the governed is alarming! That is why the man is signing budgets and making proposals that have little or no bearing on the lives of Nigerians. Should Nigerians raise their eyebrows questioningly, they’re easily tagged ‘wailers’ and/or ‘disgruntled members of the opposition.’
Contrary to the popular notion that Nigeria is disjointed, or disorganized, we can see that she is matter-of-factly running an ailing systemic administration. The principle of a functional system still operates; only that the fractures and dysfunctions of the federating units are having debilitating effects on the system to the extent that the system itself may no longer be serviceable. It is a very bad system; and the Nigerian ‘centre of coverture’ may not hold out for too long. Since the centre has no firm grip on Nigeria’s socio-existential reality, ripples arising from any of the fragile units must necessarily spread to every part of the country, like that of a true system. Put differently, since the centre is certainly not holding, the federating units are at the receiving end.
The truth of the matter, for now, is that, it is not only the government that is muddling through, the governed is also not spared of this malaise. Go back to history and one will discover that we have only been treating symptoms, not the disease. So, how did we get here and what has been the social cost of the conflict of interest between sore wickedness in high places and serious agony in low places? Instead of playing ludo with Nigeria’s destiny, have we taken time to interrogate the shape and size of the true dynamics and core matrix of government in Nigeria? How do we get the raw materials to power the industry of “hopes and aspirations for a better and greater Nigeria”? Again, what is likely to be the price of a ticket of the strength, commitment and encouragement needed “to do that which is right and proper”?
Karl Marx once argued that, when people are alienated from the means of production, they “invariably lose the ability to determine life and destiny.” Whether we speak truth to ourselves or we don’t, it is because of the failure of Nigeria as a working project that agitations of suspicion have been largely knocking at an open door. It is because the Project is ailing that other untoward things are happening and the people are looking helpless. It is a fact but a wicked, reversed psychology that the political class in Nigeria prefers the mass of the people to be hungry and dependent for easy subversive patronage and effective-but-disoriented followership. Again, that explains why poor workers and pensioners continue to suffer from unpaid salaries and pensions while political practitioners are busy procuring earthly wares as if the world is going to end tomorrow. It is the same reason a governor without conscience can wake up one morning and ask civil servants to ‘stay at home’ without making reasonable provisions for how the restricted residents will cater to the needs of their respective families.
Have we forgotten that some students left the university six years ago but are still at home, employable, but yet to be employed, still being fed by their parents? Have we forgotten that some fathers died due to the frustration that those they had looked up to for survival in their old age never made it? Isn’t it time the government began to look at those issues that are currently fracturing the body polity before it is too late? Instead of tagging agitations for responsible government as sectional or parochial, can’t we ask why they keep coming?
If we have a system that functions, indeed, our public institutions will be virile and effective. There are expectations from these public institutions and once those expectations are being consistently met, there will be no agitations for restructuring because the country is already structured and things are working. If our medical system is working, then, nobody will travel to Ghana for medical succour. If the justice system is functional and the country’s security system is not compromised, everybody will go to sleep with his or her two eyes closed. But, if a government has found it difficult to handle banditry and kidnapping in five years, how can it successfully conduct ‘clearance operations’ to rid the country of the ‘remnants of Boko Haram terrorists’?
In the days of old, the elite, and those who were qualified to be regarded as the elite were always conscious of the fact that they were the elite, unlike what we have today, where marauders gather themselves together to form what’s more like a club - headless and tailless!To this set of the people, the political and the socioeconomic dynamics of the society are strange topics. However, the lesson from history shows that, since the society is always in a delicate balance, the ignorance and greed of these self-labeled power elite will be their undoing. Should they fail to listen to the cry of the town, that their destruction is assured is a matter of time.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
By abiodun KOMOLAFE