By BAYO OLUWASANMI
The possible breakup of Nigeria brings on the bone-shaking shivers doctors call rigors. Many writers have detailed how Nigeria is bursting at the seams with ethno-religious, political and economic problems waiting to explode. However, the apostles of one Nigeria have repeatedly denied or dismissed the notion and tried to nudge us out of that zone.
By definition, a failed state is one that has simply ceased to function. Going by this definition, Nigeria is a failed state. Nigeria is a divided nation. Nigeria is a collapsed state and her breakup is imminent. The signs are all over the place.
The historic rivalries between east and west, south and north, oil states and non-oil states, Christian and Muslim communities, democrats and autocrats, and soldiers and citizens that have bedeviled Nigeria since its founding are pulling us apart to the extreme. We’re closer to the breaking point.
The elements of traditional prejudice of the three major tribes – Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba – continue to ignite enmity, distrust, and hatred. The three tribes have remained incontestably hostile – forever. Today, there is more animosity than there is collegiality. The three tribes are full of expression of self-hate, suspicion, and intolerant of each other.
Our history proves that ethnic unity is more of a dusty artifact of ancient political arrangement than the outcome of genuine political incorporation or enhanced cohesion among the different ethnic groups. The fragile state of affairs has been held together by tsunami of lies and misrepresentations in whose wake the country is reeling perpetually.
Successive governments were dominated by evil and murderous perpetrators of crimes. Ethnic fragmentation and persistent hotbeds of political criminality were encouraged and sponsored by the rulers. As a result, we were submerged in ethnic hatred, and rabid nationalism that swept throughout the nation like a disease. The absence of a true democracy to ensure devolution of the federal power is a powerful incentive against unity and cooperation.
Nigeria is convulsed by internal violence. It can no longer deliver positive political goods to her citizens. The government is fast loosing legitimacy. The government has become illegitimate in the eyes and hearts of a growing plurality of 170 million Nigerians.
Nigeria sinks deeper and deeper into chaos and calamity. The north-south divide remains the greatest obstacle to a strengthened democracy and a workable union. We’re battling economic confusion, continued corruption, and mismanagement.
The scale of corruption dwarfs any brazen robbery of public treasury in recent memory. Our world has been turned into a medieval hellscape. Corruption flourishes on unusually destructive scale. Our corrupt ruling elites mostly invest their loots overseas, not at home, making the economic failure of the country much more acute.
Our rulers siphon funds from the state coffers. They dip directly into the coffers of the shrinking state to pay for lavish residences and palaces, extensive overseas travel, and privileges and perquisites that feed their greed. Nigeria has failed to grow economically and its citizens have failed to flourish. For many years, Nigerians have been trapped in irreversible debilitating cycle of poverty and hopelessness.
The paralysis of our democratic structures have illuminate further the mockery and the failure of our democracy. The twice forgotten man in Nigeria has always been the poor. The government response to the abject poverty that has defined the lives of the poor is zero. Our political leaders are not chosen on the merit of mass support. Most are selected by god fathers, elevated to position, supplied with resources and as expected subjected to the king maker’s control.
The Presidency and the National Assembly are inarticulate giants with uneasy gait, subjected to abuse and confuse in their responses to national issues. Checks and balances that are part of a healthy democracy have been deleted in our system. It’s no surprise that our representative democracy is nothing but a disguise in name. It is no exaggeration to say that there are no legislatures in Nigeria. If they exist at all, they are rubber-stamp machines. Our judiciary is a derivative of the executive rather than being independent. Nigerians know that they cannot rely on the court system for redress or remedy.
The mass poor of our people nurtures a healthy suspicion toward these manufactured leaders. It’s an open secret that money is the chief argument these leaders are offering to induce and buy loyalty. These manufactured leaders lack personal integrity, commitment, and ability. Tragically, they’re not fighters for a new life for our people but figureheads of the old.
They are not impressive or illustrious to their constituents. We’re all too familiar with their impotence and remoteness from the problems that have made life unlivable for the people they profess to represent. Many in their constituencies are among the legions of the lost and have been crushed by the weight of many years of poverty. These leaders do not evoke affection, respect, and emulation.
Our democracy have slid towards autocracy, maintaining the outward appearance of democracy through elections, but without the rights and institutions that are equally important aspects of a functioning democratic system. Our constitution is not robust enough to promote long-term stability, reduce discontent from minorities against the government, and bolster the fight against corruption.
Our democratic system is based on economic coercion. People are forced to do what they don’t want to do. The effect of this is lack of innovation and technological progress. Our bureaucracy has long ago lost its sense of professional responsibility and exists solely to carry out the order of the executive, and in many ways oppress Nigerians.
We have deteriorated or destroyed infrastructures. Our education and health systems and other public facilities are decrepit or neglected. Civil servants are paid late or not at all. Economic opportunity is only for a privileged few. Those around the president or around the governors grow richer while the rest of us starve.
Our economic insecurity is engineered by our rulers in order to maximize their own fortunes and their own political and economic power. Unemployment is dangerously high and persistent. Regional inequalities remain the rule. Economic decline is accompanied by a diminished confidence in the federal system. Our currency falls out of favor.
It is common knowledge that nations don’t breakup overnight. The seeds of their destruction are sown deep within their political institutions. Some nations fall as a result of total collapse of institutions. Examples abound: In Afghanistan, after the Soviet withdrawal and hanging of President Mohammed Najibullah from a lamppost. In Sierra Leone, the long Civil War erased all traces of existence of government. This form of slow death of institutional failure is responsible for the sub-living standards in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America in contrast to what obtains in the western world.
Nigeria is not going to fall or explode as a result of war and violence, but the refusal or failure to capitalize on the enormous potential for growth and for pursuing a policy that condemned the citizens to a lifetime of poverty.
In the case of Nigeria and like any other failed state, the failure is by design. The institutions are designed to fail by the elites who are the beneficiaries of such design. As we have seen in Nigeria, such elites benefit from rigged political institutions. The system is built on exploitation. And any system propped on exploitation is doomed to fail leading to immeasurable suffering of its citizens.
Nigeria is operating on a tilted plain field. The big men get greedy. The elites control the economy. They use their powers to create monopolies and block the entry of new comers. A good example is Dangote cement and salt. The privatized industries end up in the hands of the elites. The privatized power sector is a case in point. These elites with their fraudulent companies received protection from the state, got government contracts, and large bank loans without needing to put up collateral.
The greedy big men and their businesses could be described as “whales.” Their stranglehold on our economy had created huge windfalls for them and blocked opportunities for the vast mass of Nigerians to move out of poverty.
A successful economy must have effective government. Law and order and the mechanisms for resolving disputes are possible and applicable in a truly democratic system with apparatus of enforcing the laws. Nigeria is yet to create or operate on a set of nationally respected laws or rules.
The absence of the central government is felt throughout the 36 states. The federal government is unable or unwilling to exert control over the whole country. With Boko Haram on the offensive, territories have been federated and annexed. The absence leads not only to lack of public services such as roads, healthcare, electricity, jobs, safety, but also to lack of well-defined institutionalized structures.
Without a responsible and responsive central government, there can be no law and order. Without law and order, there can be no real economy. And without a real economy, a country is doomed to fail. Competition in the coming 2015 presidential election could break the already tattered ties that keep Nigeria whole.
With stagnant economy, Nigerian quagmire, Boko Haram terrorism, ethnic fragmentation, local nationalism, lack of economic incentives, incendiary nationalism, bleak future, and leadership vacuum, the breakup of Nigeria is assured.