FEATURE ARTICLE

Wednesday, August 21, 2019
[email protected]
New York, New York, USA
NIGERIA: A NATION IN CRISIS

vents in the past couple of days here in the United States has sparked public debate about the dangers of unregulated gun ownership, the easy purchase of assault weapons, mental health issues and more recently the threat of white nationalism. The recent shootings in Texas and the state of Ohio which resulted in the loss of 31 innocent lives has also provoked critical comments by ordinary Americans and politicians alike resulting in all manner of suggestions on how to minimize gun violence. In some ways there exist some similarities between the rise of gun violence in the United States and what presently obtains in Nigeria with regards to the rise of kidnappings, rampaging murderous herdsmen, etc. That said, there are differences in the causes and magnitude of the killings in both countries. While that of the United States could be couched in three predisposing factors such as mental health, drug problems and more recently white nationalism, that of Nigeria can be said to be mostly attributable to ethnic distrust, religious differences and the quest for power and control.

Today, unlike the United States that has the necessary institutions and structures to reduce or minimize the rise in gun violence by way of legislative proposals and other judicial measures, Nigeria on the other hand lacks the necessary structures, the national will and more importantly a resolve by its political leaders to tackle the rise in kidnappings, killings and the murderous crusade of herdsmen whether foreign-born or locally bred. Our institutions of the Judiciary, Police, the DSS, and Army, just to mention a few have all been ethnically and ethically corrupted and politically compromised. Consequently, these institutions have been rendered ineffective and impotent. At this moment in time, Nigeria is a nation in disarray and crisis. It is a crisis of violence, kidnappings, domestic terrorism and a lack of confidence in the ability of its political leaders to provide peace and security for its citizens. Some may think the threat of a political implosion in Nigeria is a figment of one's overactive imagination. But truth be told, the threat is real.

There is no doubt or denial of the fact that Nigeria is presently threatened by ethnic-based polarization hence we must stop fiddling and dawdling about how to describe the ongoing violence in the country, hence what we are experiencing is beyond mere kidnappings, cattle rustling and herdsmen retaliatory killings for the loss of their cattle. They are not bandits. Let's call them who and what they are. They are Fulani domestic terrorists. Some have argued that these terrorists are not Nigerians of Fulani ancestry but foreigners from other neighboring countries. But the question remains, what country in the world allows illegal foreign-born herdsmen or any other category of foreigners to gain entrance into its geographical space and walk around with AK47 automatic rifles slung over their shoulders and worst still commit mass murders and get away with it? Today, Nigerians have lost their sense of safety and security not only on the highways but also in their farms and backyards. To board a bus traveling to anywhere in the country is to wonder if you will get to your destination safely. Going to one's farm to harvest crops has become a death wish. The highway from Kaduna to Abuja I am told has become a death trap. These domestic terrorists now seem to be everywhere with loads of arms and ammunition yet we have police and army checkpoints every few miles busy collecting bribes and constituting a public nuisance to innocent commuters.

It is rather unfortunate that in the face of all this violence and the country being on fire, we have political leaders who indicate no intention of playing firefighter. We have feckless politicians whose words are weightless when they attempt to speak on the issue. What we have in our National Assembly are squishy pushover legislators who still represent the musty relic of our inglorious past. It is a common expectation that most politicians when they attain or exit from higher office grow in stature, unfortunately, in Nigeria, they do not only shrink but become miniaturized cowards. Truth be told, these leaders, are the manifestation of the ugliness in us. When bad things happen here in the United States, it is common to hear politicians and political commentators alike say "this is not who we are". Unfortunately, with all the ongoing ethnic and religious tinged violence in Nigeria many of us cannot shamelessly claim this is not who we are because it is exactly who we are as a nation since independence, especially in a section of the country that reveres in such transgressive atmosphere.

What we are experiencing is the worst of our past play out in the open. We can't look at the moment and don't look back at our history. Events of the present is a sad story of how our history continues to change from bad to worse, hence two things happen when you ignore history. One is, you foreclose the possibility of learning from the past, and two you become ill-prepared to confront the reoccurrence of our dreadful past. The reality of the present situation is that Nigeria, as a nation continues to carry the disease of ethnic bias and hatred from one generation to the other hence there exists a vortex in the moral consciousness of this country that has sucked in people's moral values. Instead of our diversity being our strength as it should be, it has become the source of our disunity. It is said that a Republic is only as good as the sum of its parts and its parts being human presuppose the fact that with our country's torrid history and ongoing shameful practice of ethnic bias, widespread nepotism in federal Government appointments, the purging of top military and police officers from the southern part of the country, the rampaging of religious fanatics, etc hope for change is far from springing eternal. Optimism is good but unfortunately, there is no basis to be optimistic. This is a time to be realistic. Realistic in the sense that just as slavery is said to be America's original sin, ours is ethnocentrism. Unfortunately instead acknowledging the ugliness of this original sin and how it has defined us as a nation we continue to delude ourselves with an idealized version of who we are, telling ourselves too many lies about who we are and what this country has become and until we do so, we will continue to slide further away from the ideal of what this country can be.

As much as many may find it convenient to blame the president for his perceived inaction in confronting and putting an end to the violence in the country the reality is that the hate, ethnic distrust and religious animosity that presently exists between the various ethnic groups and which have played a role in the increase in violence long existed before he came to power and will still be in existence after he is gone, except that the ongoing virulence could have been minimized or abated by a few kind, comforting, consoling and reassuring words from those expected to heal our wounds instead of acting the part of a gardener tilling the soil that is already too fertile. It is pertinent to point out also that the silence by many of the country's stakeholders, ie past and present military and political leaders has become a cover for their complicity, ignorance and fear of the EFCC for the possible exposure of their corrupt past and ill-gotten wealth. Another reason why these past leaders or political elite cannot meet the moment is that they helped create this moment. In my book, those who feign ignorance, refuse to speak up or enable historical amnesia are accessories to crimes committed against humanity as the country goes through this seminal moment. In my opinion, the hottest places in hell must be reserved for those Nigerian leaders or so-called stakeholders who in times of great moral crisis maintain their silence and neutrality. These are leaders who are lacking in empathy and humanity.

The ways things are unraveling in the country today, Nigeria as a nation has no sustainable democratic and unifying model. It was the late U.S President Theodore Roosevelt who was quoted as saying, "when people in different regions begin to see each other as the other, democracy fails".it is my belief that many Nigerians today have no idea what it means to be a Nigerian or to be called a Nigerian because our ethnic identities have superseded our national identity hence we have an identity crisis. The reality of our situation today is that abstract appeals to our better angels are not going to cut it neither will this president be our Abraham Lincoln, who in the face of a worsening racial climate in the United States after the American civil war, proclaimed, "it is time to bind the wounds of the nation". It is quite obvious that anyone who hopes that this administration will stop viewing the killings and kidnappings from a safe aspirational remove while pretending they understand the urgency of national unity as an unrealized national goal is wasting his or her time, hence it is time for Nigerians of good conscience from every ethnic group to take the initiative individually or collectively to strive for the unity that has long evaded the country.

It will be nice if a sizeable number of Yoruba's, Hausa's and peoples from all other ethnic groups can emulate the Igbo's who have consistently shown that they have no qualms settling in any part of the country. By traveling and residing in places where the cultures and language are different, interacting and getting to know the people instead of acting on their ill-informed delusions will no doubt go a long way in reducing the ethnic hatred and distrust that presently exists than any program the government can come up with. Unfortunately what obtains today is that for some tangle of the religious, cultural and psychological reason many Nigerians have refused to embrace any exposure to diversity, hence each ethnic group continues to harbor its set of demons. The recent appointment as Commissioners and advisers of non-indigenes of their states by the Governors of Lagos, Kaduna and Imo state is a good first step in the right direction. I will also suggest that the National Assembly pass a law banning these words, "State Of origin" from our national discourse and replace it with, "Place of Residence" as the major qualifications for any Job opening and for contesting elections. Like what obtains here in the United States, all you need is to prove one-year residency in a state to qualify to run for any position in that state. Judging from our long history of ethnic distrust and animosity I know this will be a tough thing to do, but if a few State Governors can summon the courage to sign such laws in their state, others may be tempted or inclined to follow.

Our government and those who have donned the robe of stakeholders must develop a plan of action to confront the exigencies of the times and to counter the trend lines and right now the trend lines are alarming and ominous, for how long can we continue to fight the numbers, the facts and the evidence before our eyes. Just as ex-president Bush after being rebuffed by his own party in his attempt to push through an immigration legalization plan said, he worried about America "losing its soul" I am afraid Nigeria is losing its soul, though some might wonder if it ever had one. At a time when we are experiencing the perfidy of our political elites and bubblehead national legislators let us pray for a recognition by those in power of the urgency of the times and the need to unite the country both by words and deeds as well as halting the assault on the very imagination of Nigeria, of the constitution and of the idea of a country in which everyone belongs equally, for herein lies our only hope for the survival of Nigeria's secular democracy. God help us.

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