Nigeria and the Wattage of Nationhood-Araoye

Nigeria and the Wattage of Nationhood-Araoye

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 8:35 pm

Ademola Araoye

By Ademola Araoye

President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent lamentation over the struggles for ascendance by different factions of those who perceive themselves as owners of Nigeria is indeed not a completely false narrative. The struggle for the full appropriation of critical spaces: social, economic, cultural, spiritual, political, by diverse social protagonists and antagonistic ideologies is a universal truism, in spite of the paradoxes implicit in this sudden acknowledgement of an open struggle for partisan hegemony in which the President had prominently participated and still perceived in many quarters as a major player. These confrontations are reflexive of and reflect the lack of an articulated consensual essence of the Nigeria state-nation space. The struggle for the appropriation of every such space: ideo-political, religious, economic, cultural, class and even on racial and ethnic lines, however remains the permanent motif of history.


In the 1920s, in the search for a universalistic vision and mission class struggle raged all about Europe. Conceptions of the struggle founded on Marxist theory and philosophy dominated not only the narratives around economic, but also the social and political development. Experts note that for Marxists, the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. History is the unending dynamic of the sharp interaction of the oppressor and oppressed in constant opposition to each other. The struggle is sometimes hidden and sometimes open. The challenge then of building a new, a whole social order to emancipate human society from the clutches of the bourgeoisie entailed attempts to elevate the lower classes over the ruling upper stratum of society. The struggle encapsulated the repudiation of religion. With a religious fervour of its own, this secular ideology was in favor of the solidarity of the oppressed in the process of building this whole new social order. These visions constitute the raison d’etre of many struggles and the essence of many states and nations mobilized by their secular ideology.

Societies mobilized through idea contestations and therefore successfully articulating competing visions of the altruistic global good or even including the possible unending national pursuit of glocal loot-contrived dependencies of weak states as well as societies and imperialism, for instance- are often at the vanguard of social evolution. They lead and others follow, irrespective of the moral and value judgments of the consequences of their ascendant vision(s) for the objective well being of their societies in the long term, including even implications of the moral and value choices made by elite societies for the continued sanity of humanity. These conscious choices have come in many myths and terrible civic and secular hues in developed societies. Mankind has been elevated and at the same time depraved by these choices.

Apartheid and Nazism come to mind. They are both linked. The false doctrine of superiority of the Aryan race uberall in the Third Reich elicited an overwhelming catastrophic impulse not only for Nazi Germany, but ultimately for the world. Israel was born out of the tragedy of this vulgar Nazi national pretensions and understanding of the essence of the Deutsch volk. The essence of Israel lies in its myth as the fulfillment of scriptural encryptions of a covenant of the return to the promised land. Accordingly, Israel’s modern reincarnation and creation are perceived as a return home from a Diaspora to a haven of refuge founded on a religious myth. It provides the myth to sustain national coherence, whatever the internal controversies and political prejudices around the morality, justice and fairness of the policies of the State of Israel.

Karl Marx

Meanwhile, the rise of ultra right nationalism associated with Donald Trump’s establishment United States, a direct assault on the foundational essentials of the historic secular theology of the American nation, reminds of the cyclical disjunctions and continuities of history and the centrality of partisan and dominant social forces as drivers of the direction of individual states and nations. Emanating from the notion of America as a “shining city on a hill” flows the concept of American exceptionalism that has been the barometer through which the United States of America has gauged the pulse and health of the nation, especially in uncertain times of social turbulence. The concept of shining city on a hill was a vision to brand the emerging and embryonic America early in its colonial evolution. It was introduced in a 1630 sermon by Puritan John Winthrop while still aboard the ship Arbella, the lead vessel ferrying the early puritans to the United States.

Although Winthrop applied the term in relation to the envisaged character of the future Massachusetts Bay colonists  “as a city upon a hill”, that would be watched by the world—it was the ideal that the New England colonists placed upon their hilly capital city of Boston. The Puritans’ community in New England would set an example of communal charity, affection, and unity to the world. The evolved American nation later acquired the concept to reflect an exceptional national community. The notion of America’s exceptionalism has been reaffirmed in the twentieth century by American Presidents-from the president-elect John F. Kennedy who on 9 January, 1961 acknowledged being guided by the standard of John Winthrop to President Ronald Reagan who, on the eve of his election in 1980, proclaimed that he had quoted John Winthrop’s words more than once on the campaign trail that year. He espoused his belief that Americans in 1980 were every bit as committed to Winthrop’s vision of a shining “city on a hill,” as were those long ago settlers.

President Reagan later highlighted that the visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. Despite his stout conservative credentials, President Reagan in his 11 January 1981 farewell speech to the American nation, reiterated that in his mind the shining city on the hill was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace. Later and more contemporaneously, President George W. Bush and Barrack Obama at different times invoked America as the shining city on the hill. It is against this background that Donald Trump has been largely perceived by good old grounded Americans as negating the sacrosanct and fundamental premises of the American nation. In 2016, Mitt Romney, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate, using the template of the United States as the shining city on hill condemned Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He noted that Trump’s domestic policies would lead to recession and that his foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. Given Trump’s temperament and lack of judgment as president, Romney warned that Trump’s personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

With regard to Japan, in a 1920s treatise, David Williams traces Japan’s phenomenal success to the purposeful cast of Japanese national ethos. Indeed Japan’s national objectives had to be seen to stand at the heart of the collective enterprise that has characterized modern Japan. Williams notes that the success of Japan, then perceived as a poor country, pointed to an important truth: the chief factor in fostering state power as an act of collective will is the fruitful marriage of clarity of purpose and the vigorous creation of the national institutions necessary to achieve those goals. Finally, Williams advances that the success of Japan had many sources, but the striking feature of her modernization drive has been the lucidity of her national purpose.

Nigeria and African political entities must address the lack of a raison d’etre- a reason to be- for their existential conditions. The internal geo-physical structure is often designed to support a peculiar political economy in the service of partisan hegemonic appropriation of the totality of the state space. In the ensuing contest, there is neither a national denominated morality gauge nor any agreed ethical boundaries in this Hobbesian national struggle for the total partisan appropriation of the spaces.

It is to be highlighted that as a collective force, the interaction of partisan forces, mobilized on jousting divergent ideas and visions of society impact the evolution of the system, the direction of its development and the tenor of the life of global humanity. Thus in the beginning was the idea, conceptualized and first articulated in the Word as philosophy of action. Otherwise, in the dictum of Kafka, in the beginning everything was once nothing. Ideas energize while transforming nothingness into concretized and enduring reality, for good or otherwise.

Every serious nation thus rests on a certain transcendental idea or uncontested national ethos defining its essence. It drives the national process. That is the big lacuna in the badly riled and unviable African 56 nation state system where only one or two states, if any, are mobilized on some almost transcendental notions of their concrete being driving the state and serving as the organic glue holding its multinational society together. Beyond the full and suffocating throttle of dedication to corruption and mediority, what is the essence of Nigeria? Extrapolating from the odious character of its public realm ,what is its secular ideology or, if you may, its civic theology? A physical throwback to the Hobbesian jungle where anything goes?

A national space consecrated to unmediated fraud and malfeasance comprehensively and in the service of the vilest of human foibles, from unconscionable leadership to depraved followership, from the defiled and polluted sacred to the dilapidated secular? To fake gods and empty religiosity? What are the sublime ideational underpinnings on which the Nigeria state space rests? In the context of this conundrum, Nigeria must be redeemed from a template for various projects of partisan coalitions determined to exploit the floundering state space to death, literarily and as a metaphor.

The political settlement, meaning the nature of subsisting agreements on, but constantly interim, value distribution among the dominant elites across the board, on which Nigerian politics rests is confounding. In the context of the permanent fluidity of every political settlement, the lines of convenient cleavages of the multiple nebulous coalitions are defined in conspiratorial terms of class-the coming together of economic and political elites across the nation determined to exclusively loot and share the common wealth among themselves without qualm. A great deal of the political structures-political parties- are configured to serve this limited pan Nigerian but anti-Nigerian partisan interests. They exhibit a key consensus of Pareto’s insights on elites that the members of the elite class will always try that the non- elites should not influence social, economic and political processes in any manner. And some families are building political dynasties. In this configuration is also embedded the struggle along ethno-regional lines in violent confrontations of those who perceive themselves to be along the margins of power to dislodge those considered the dominant forces and while the latter seek to consolidate their historic holdings, religious antagonists deploying their platform for ascendance and to attain partisan privilege, the national securo-military gang aligned with some the hegemonic forces against every other stakeholder in the affairs of the state.

In this context, the state and its internal processes have been rendered as instruments of exclusive capture by partisan forces. This genre of state is thus not an end in itself. That the pervasive struggles that characterize the national process are directed at partisan and exclusive appropriation is a direct result of its lack of a consensual essence as a state space. In this context, Pareto states that the elites are able to manipulate and control the masses by resorting to two methods: Force or Fraud, which corresponding to Machiavelli’s famous anti-thesis between the ‘Lions” and the “Foxes”. There is an abundance of that in Nigerian society and in the operations of the state. The national space is now inundated with exponential fraud even as violence has been a national norm at all levels.

Nigeria is not unique in this characterization. Nigeria and its dominant internal contentions reflect the situation of the vulgarity of African multi-national states with clearly no raison d’etre- a raison to be. Some have attributed this state of affairs to the inability to rise above the challenges of its antecedence. These would include the motives that drove the amalgamation of the northern and southern provinces and struggles around periodic modifications of the internal construction of the outcome of the contrived union. The almost mercantilistic underpinnings of its founding would seem to have become central to the illogic around the national operating procedures of the Nigeria state. Without consensus on what the Nigeria state stands for, the politics of total partisan appropriation of the socio-economic and political spaces has been the dominant impulse in the struggles and accordingly, the evolution of the state, its structure and its political economy.

The struggle for absolute partisan appropriation of the state space is the indeed norm in Africa-Congo Brazzaville, Burundi, Cameroun, Togo, Liberia, Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau…. Only that Nigeria’s size imbues it with a resilience that the many of the embarrassing and unviable little rag-flag totting personal fiefdoms and buccaneer enclaves that arrogate to themselves the status of states in the continent do not have. Yet, in many respects, the crippling pathologies, internal dynamics and the dominant partisan discourses of Nigeria are representative of the pervasive lethargy at interrogating conventional wisdom and, at the same time, the many struggles of a continent that has failed, continues to fail and would continue to fail as contrived to be. Change might come only if Africa repudiates the imposed false and vacuous essences, reflected in their contingent sovereignty,that have been conveniently appropriated by its elite, as well as the indiscriminate spiritual defections to strange places.

President Donald Trump

Nigeria and African political entities must address the lack of a raison d’etre- a reason to be- for their existential conditions. The internal geo-physical structure is often designed to support a peculiar political economy in the service of partisan hegemonic appropriation of the totality of the state space. In the ensuing contest, there is neither a national denominated morality gauge nor any agreed ethical boundaries in this Hobbesian national struggle for the total partisan appropriation of the spaces. The profusely contaminated and congested national spiritual spaces, as in most of Africa, are congenital. They have also been polluted almost beyond redemption. Nigeria’s on-going intensely moral crisis is thus beyond the substantive material and concrete. It is also in the metaphysical realm. It is reflected also in the poverty of ideas or the relegation of logic and profound and critical thinking in the public realm to irrelevance in national processes.

Only a few serious and objective thinkers have emerged to help navigate Nigeria’s many existential conundrums. In many African countries, as in the Yayyah Jammeh’s Gambia or in Nkurunziza’s Burundi, thinking is effectively banned. It is not that bad in Nigeria. Yet, that modicum of seminal and insightful interventions available to direct national affairs is attributable to less than thirty Nigerians in a population of 180 million. Much of the national discourse is mere amplified noise and cacophony. Often articulated by moral morons who believe that they are taking Nigerians for a ride. And the noise is often focused on fighting immediate brush fires to protect narrow partisan interests. Accordingly, Nigeria has been riled to its foundations by a complete absence of a national civic theology-a lack of a coherent ideational framework around which the nation can revolve. Nigeria has been auto-driven to the precipice by the multidimensional dissonance in its fractious society. The last dimension of this pervading paucity accounts for the absolute absence of a compelling raison d’etre for Nigeria. Most great nations and societies have explicitly codified what are broadly understood as civic theologies.

John Winthrop brought up the concept a “shining city on a hill to America”

Again, this is the case in the United States, France or even Germany. It is why in the United States today, the top echelon of the Republican party is embarrassed to find a Donald Trump emerged as its presidential candidate. With the likes of a virtually uneducated Sarah Palin and her Tea Party testing the waters in repudiating the core values of the United States in the Senator McCain presidential campaign, Trump’s current elevation of unvarnished extremism to a national presidential platform has threatened the very ethical and moral foundations of America as a nation, state and society. In other countries, national civic theology is implicitly and unshakably consolidated in historic national understandings of what they stand for, as in Great Britain, even the United States, in spite of Donald Trump, the euphemistic 45th, and, notably, Japan. Again, some societies have struggled over the centuries as in Turkey to define a national essence to direct it.


Amilcar Cabral

In this regard, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde were lucky with the principles of holistic cultural integrity as the foundation of multi-racial /cultural society advanced by Amilcar Cabral. It worked until some bigots, led by General Bernndino Viera, overthrew that order in 1980. Tanzania had the Ujamaa of the eternal Mwalimu Julius Nyerere that was another worthy try. Without these historic strivings, there is no civic theology to serve as a compass to transcend the deleterious historic challenges of Nigeria’s antecedence. Nigeria is thus a physical and metaphysical jungle where brigands and charlatans thrive. And they strenuously seek to consolidate this character of the Nigerian polity. Even though we seek to romanticize the past to assuage our sanity, with a few exceptions here and there, look at the caliber of Nigeria’s national leadership since independence. Interrogate the reasons for the almost insane acquisitive propensity of Nigeria’s political class, both in the thoroughly de-professionalized military strand and equally in the dominant circuits of the ethical vandals on the civilian aisles- the professional politicians.

Nigeria is thus a state groaning under the weight of a lack of civic theology. It has no transcendental values distilled into a moral and spiritual foundation essential for any modern society. Historically, civic religion was intended simply as a form of social cement or an organic glue, as an instrument to unify the state and society by providing it with civic sacred authority. The end result of this void in Nigeria is the cyclical nature of confused national debates and contentions around the constantly shifting fundamentals, including the basic structure of the state. A vacuum on the fundamentals of a non-existent national consciousness or an attempted consciousness based on a rot of nothingness has percolated down to the grassroots through equally deceptive elite self-serving rationalizations. What is, after all that cacophonous clatter on its dissolubility or non-dissolubility for example, the essence of a Nigeria?

The historic contentions around the expression of the Nigerian state is about revenue allocation and who is placed to appropriate, legally and through other means, not the largest share but the totality of this revenue at the institutional, community and personal levels. Hegemonic and partisan pretenses become instrumental to favorable placement to assure a large morsel of revenue. The acclaimed institutional protectors of the integrity of the Nigerian state, the Executive, the Judiciary, including the Bar, and the military, as with elsewhere on the continent, have always all proven to be false redeemers. The allure of stealing and corruption is central to the internal dynamic of the state. Against this background, it is legitimate to pose the question of what Nigeria, as with the modal African state, is about beyond sharing and stealing money? And why so?

Leopold Senghor

The internal political configuration and entrenched socio-political dispensations in Africa, just as in Nigeria, were designed to advance a certain extraneous cause and causes far removed from the interests of the peoples of the continent. In the final analysis, the evolution and devolution of the Nigerian state has been driven by illogic that are rational ad interim logics only within specific contexts and challenges in time that place and limit these important developments within particularistic historical loci. In a longitudinal frame of time they prove ultimately short sighted. A fundamental flaw is seen at work here. The critical challenge is ideational. The common denominating void in the challenge of Nigeria and practically all the non-nation states in sub Saharan Africa is the historic incapacity to formulate anda prevailing lack on a broad consensus on transcendental ideo-philosophical foundations that define the new political space to which all its constituent socio-political communities ascribe.

There is a litany of attempts in this regard. And they may sound paradoxical. Mobutu’s Authenticite is an interesting example. As an iconic representation of the very worst of Africa’s governance paradigm in his capacity as an unrepentant murderous stooge and proxy of neo-imperialist West in Africa, a percursor of life Presidency that preceded copycats like Pierre Nkunrunziza in Burundi or Paul Biya in neighboring Cameroon or even Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of Congo, or I might even add locally Olusegun Obasanjo’s attempt at term elongation, Mobutu Sese Seko had the good sense to attempt to institute a rallying fundamental creed of Authenticite to ground his dubious enterprise of keeping Zaire under his belt. Leopold Sedar Senghor’s strand of Negritude was tragic. His position was consistent with that of his compatriot Blaise Diagne who in 1919 subsumed the salience of the unity of Africans under assimilation into French culture and national life. In 1921, at the Second Pan-African Congress that met in several sessions in London, Paris and Brussels, the only dissenting voices on African Unity were those of Blaise Diagne and Gratien Candace, both French politicians of African and Guadeloupian descent, who represented Senegal and Guadeloupe in the French Chamber of Deputies.

They both soon abandoned the idea of Pan-Africanism because they advocated equal rights inside the French citizenship and thought the London Manifesto declaration too dangerously extreme. In effect, they effectively denied the unity of Africa as a fundamental condition for black emancipation. Reports of 1919 conference note that it took the combined efforts of Blaise Diagne and W.E.B. Du Bois to navigate around the obstacles by the French government and organize the Pan-African Congress in Paris in February 1919. Diagne’s role was crucial to the convening of the Congress. A Senegalese, Diagne was the highest-ranking African in French politics, having assisted France in recruiting African soldiers. As a Senegalese deputy to the French Parliament, French Prime Minister Clemenceau approved the Congress as a political favour to them; nonetheless he disapproved widespread publicity for it. Then came Cheikh Anta Diop, a foremost African philosopher, physicist, sociologist and chemist- a rounded intellectual-issued from Senegal, who later formulated the seminal work on the economic and cultural basis of a federated continental African state, adumbrated that national problems in Africa were still being met with bureaucratic mentality. He was prescient in noting that the lack of cultural policies worthy of the name and none of the new states then had adopted a systematic policy of restoration.

Finally, in 1987 he observed that there had been no political work accomplished in Africa that might radically have transformed consciences or prepared them for the austere tasks required by true independence. Refusing platitudes and political gratifications, he was thrown into jail by Sedar Senghor. Mwalimu Nyerere’s Ujaama, Ivorian Ivorite (as an intellectual rallying point and not the corrupted political deployment of the concept) to hold all constituent nations in the state together, have been attempts at formulating civic theological precepts at the national level. Yet, Nigeria has been uniquely placed to develop a national civic theology around a truly emancipatory Afrocentric template. A failure to do this, just like Ghana, has had tragic consequences.

Despite Ghana’s historic failure at consolidating its acquired foremost credentials as a country mobilized by core tenets of pan Africanism, despite the oscillations between pan-Africanist progressive forces exemplified in the Nkrumahist political traditions and the nativist Akancentric conservative Danquah legacy, the constructivist progressive tenor of most of Ghana’s administration puts it in a different class from Nigeria. Ghana had clear advantage in pan continental progressivism with Nkrumah’s pan African vision and leadership. Nkrumah was central to the convening of the Fifth Pan-African Congress that was held in Manchester, United Kingdom, 15–21 October 1945. The congress was jointly organized by George Padmore,  the influential Trinidadian pan-Africanist,  and Kwame Nkrumah. The Congress was attended by 90 delegates, 26 from Africa. Participants included scholars, intellectuals and political activists who played influential roles in various African independence movements such as the Kenyan independence leader Jomo Kenyatta, American activist and academic W. E. B. Du Bois, Malawi’s Hastings Banda, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, prominent Jamaican barrister Dudley Thompson and Obafemi Awolowo and Jaja Wachuku from Nigeria. It also led partially to the creation of the Pan-African Federation, founded in 1946 by Nkrumah and Kenyatta. The 1945 Congress followed the foundation of the Pan-African Federation in Manchester in 1944.

Kwame Nkrumah.

It is therefore clear that the pursuit of pan-Africanism expressed in a dedication of a national commitment to the holistic emancipation of black humanity provided one very potent idea to ground the raison d’etre for the Nigerian state. Nigeria is also by virtue of not just its population size and by the sheer diversity of its internal constituents of over 250 nationalities and splay of indigenous and imported hegemonic faiths is best placed to codify the essence of its large presence and stature in the firmament as the central continental motor to drive the development and the overall transformation of the place of black humanity in the global scheme of things. Snippets of this have featured in the Afrocentric foreign policy but the average Nigerian is yet to understand the critical place of Nigeria in the historic challenge of black humanity. These represent a potential mine of ideas and ethical imperatives on developing a raison d’etre for the Nigerian state. If Nigeria would be the shining exemplar of the black nation state, it would then refuse to accommodate and worse still validate the kinds of moral morons, ethical monstrosities that have laid siege on the state space and polluted and clogged its social and political firmament. The kinds that comfortable sit in the dock of infamy today all over the place.These ideas were integral to Obafemi Awolowo’s vision and the renaissant Africa thesis of Nnamdi Azikiwe.

If championing the challenge of pan Africanism is unappealing to Nigerians, Nigeria must then craft a more ingenious reason why it must continue to exist as one indivisible state. This is a basic minimum requirement in an era when minorities everywhere, driven by an assortment of primordial sensibilities, seek self-expression in geo-political terms. Some have concluded that a nebulous agenda of forceful partisan expansion of territorial claims by an aggressive minority hegemonic forces is at the heart of the bloody war of herdsmen and farmers, especially in the traditional confluences of ethnic boundaries in what used to be parts of the old monolithic North.

The good luck with Nigeria is that the global strategic imperatives demand a bulwark against the potential expansion and conquest of black Africa by radial Islam in its historic confrontation with the West. Yet, the very fact of being perceived as pro West and Christian exacerbates Nigeria’s problem. As the Boko Haram phenomenon has demonstrated and highlighted by Zbigniew Brezinski, Western secular democracy is a particularly troublesome concept for Islamists as for them it implies an essentially atheistic society and state. Islamic fundamentalism also feeds off anti-Western xenophobia. Africa is not now allowed to choose, because by repudiating its own authentic spiritual essences and consigning its self to alien spiritual spaces in its massive defection from the self, Africans may have lost the freewill to choose to be itself. There is always a price to pay for choices made. That is why El Shabab and Boko Haram cannot operate in India or Japan. These societies have sustained the integrity of their spiritual essences. There is thus no vuum in the spiritual realm for exogenous hegemonic faiths to fill.

So, Nigeria is caught in a dilemma of how best to repudiate the script of the main gladiators of coopting Africa as willing proxies in the contemporary and millennial edition of their historic fight. Boko Haram and its affiliation with the Islamic State and El Shabab are good pointers to this danger for Nigeria. The continued repudiation of black humanity of its own spirituality in favor of hegemonic imports does not augur well for the future. As we have witnessed in my state of Osun of all places, those who have nothing to die for, would die for anything. It is doubly tragic coming from the cradle of Yoruba in Ife. But what to expect where the “Igbakeji Orisha” abandons tradition and goes kneeling in the temples of alien gods. May Nigeria not go the way of Osun, because then it would ultimately be a disastrous confrontation on a catastrophic scale. Without any such raison d’etre, Nigeria is pilotless in terms of ideational pivots of its continued survival. A cynical perspective would then be that Nigeria would survive only because it serves the interests of the historical rapists of the continent, and not because of its intrinsic value in itself.It is going to be an unpleasant survival for all.

Cheikh Anta Diop

It is against this background that every so often, Nigeria has acquired, in an almost seasonal and a boring mechanical character, the ritual of going through the umpteenth national conversation regarding the structure of the state. The motif driver of the engagement of the same national elite is in relation to the sharing of the national resources. By implication, it is never to formulate common understanding on the ingredients of an organic glue to hold together the many clashing and disparate interests in this multi-national and multi religious state. In the absence of what some have described as a civic theology to undergird the concept of the nation-state, personality cults emerge in many African rag-flag states and the ethnic and religious become the dominant emotive parameters in all. But in Nigeria has emerged a deep rooted national consensus among its dubious elite how to bleed the country to death. And they seem to have succeeded, so far. Less than a hundred families have brought Nigeria to its knees. The consequences are the rise and daily rise of grass roots based militancy and irredentism outside the control of a discredited elite. These bodies represent a final repudiation of the status quo, including the odious miasma of unethical axiomatic foundations of the Nigerian non-nation state and society and the entrenched illogic of the standard operating procedures governing the national process.

Every serious nation thus rests on a certain transcendental idea or uncontested national ethos defining its essence. It drives the national process. That is the big lacuna in the badly riled and unviable African 56 nation state system where only one or two states, if any, are mobilized on some almost transcendental notions of their concrete being driving the state and serving as the organic glue holding its multinational society together. Beyond the full and suffocating throttle of dedication to corruption and mediority, what is the essence of Nigeria? Extrapolating from the odious character of its public realm ,what is its secular ideology or, if you may, its civic theology? A physical throwback to the Hobbesian jungle where anything goes?

So the last national constitutional conference proposed the further devolution of the state into 54 micro states. The conference seemed oblivious of the obvious lessons that the current thirty-six state structure has proven unviable. The reality of a limping economy and the perennial aggressive militancy to stop the flow of oil at the heart of the Nigeria illogic, about time Nigeria found some good raison d’etre. This is an urgent task before the Nigeria state space is shredded and joins the litter of the many hopeless small fiefdoms in Africa. These fiefdoms are led, as in the Gambia, Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and others by petty minded or out rightly mindless illiterate dictators. In aftermath of the death of Nigeria would emerge many more unviable pretend state spaces on the continent. Therefore, warts and all,the permanence and longevity of Nigeria is still the best bet as the nucleus for the struggle for the holistic emancipation of Africa. Just perhaps, this simple idea fortified by rigorous expatiations has a potential to galvanize and give meaning to sacrifices required to sustain a Nigerian state worthy as legacy to bequeath to future generations.

* The piece is dedicated to Kunle Ajibade on his attaining 60 and acquiring the status of Senior Citizen.

• Ademola Araoye is a former Nigerian diplomat and a retired official of the United Nations. Currently a Visiting Professor associated with the SARCHi chair on African Diplomacy and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg, Araoye is author of critically acclaimed books including Cote d’Ivoire: The Conundrum of a Still Wretched of the Earth and Sources of Conflict in the Post-Colonial African State. He is a regular contributor to TheNEWS magazine

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