By Ademola Araoye
It may seem odd, after six decades of statehood and pretend nation being, to propose that Nigeria should undertake a realistic and holistic reappraisal of its fundamentals. With its clear state of paralyzing dystrophy as state and society, such soul searching is compelling at this critical juncture. If for no other reason, redressing the ruinous complications of the wobbly project of the experimental statehood has become imperative for the sake of a Nigerian humanity that again, barely a generation after a horrendous civil war,is precipitously looking down into a dizzying abyss. In the dire circumstance, contrived oversimplification of the complexity of the situation, central to incoherent official accounts for the good of the political elite, is abjured. We therefore proceed in the acknowledgement, even if contrary to official narratives, that the configuration of the status quo; in its structural, inphysical and ideational terms, ethical and normative expressions, constitute a deviation from universalistic precepts undergirding stability in multi-national political communities, either as states or societies. A first step in redressing the ruinous situation is the courage to face the realities of the Nigerian longitudinal experience, warts and all. There is thus neither room for political correctness, status quo dissembling, nor placating euphemisms that obfuscate the gravity of current circumstances. The quotidian comprehensive horrors of life across the breadth of the Nigerian space impels a brutal discursive and practical engagement by all. The current noises in the land, mostly irrational, may be a starting point.
The cacophony of incendiaryvitriol that the uncivil brick bat of the mainly political elite,interspersed by a few concerned sane heads,has generated is illustrative of the dystopian realm of contemporary Nigerian affair. The hoarse decibels of the vuvuzelasin the public space have notably been over an unnecessary faux contention arising from an unnecessary election that was unnecessary for the good of the public. Very Nigerian in its provocations, some might say. This has however been astounding in reflecting the predictable outcome of the comprehensive dilapidationof a corrupted Nigerian state, its society and, worst still, its mangled humanity bereft of ethics and any sterling humanistic values. Along with this, beyond structural and institutional deficiencies, at the unit level of individuals, is the complete de-robbing of the myth of sanity, restraint, wisdom and reverence ofsupposedly leading lights of society across the wide spectrum of the hitherto respectable professions. That revelations of the utter ugliness of a whole people is what happens when the supposedly calm, methodical, knowledgeable and honorable join riotous ranks of stinking ghetto mouths in dragging iconic personages in the land in the mud of thenoxious public space. The crime of the wizened grey hairs is daring to remind society of compelling uncomfortable imperatives. But theodious throw backsshould come as no surprise. It is consistent with the coded protocols in the pervasiveness of a Nigerian rat race with ill demarcated boundaries: shameless and limitless sycophancy across the board both horizontally or vertically, unstinting and provocative opportunism, mindless and unbridled partisanship, at all levels of interactions. These are reflections of anunwholesome national crisis of rational thought processing and decision making, both at the systems level and percolations to the unit level of individual irrationality. Convenience thus motorizes all. In the multi-dimensional theatres of statecraft and social management, there exists no consensual ideational premise, common values or sentiment around the notion of common nationality that serve as organic glue holding one and all together. All structures and institutions are merely frail mechanical contrivances to be exploited for personal gain. In this disjointed society of disparate pretentions and objectives, statehood is assured as a rootless floating concrete myth. The state is upheld only by massive deployment of untiring coercion that elicits political correctness of all beneficiaries of its eternal falsehoods. The beneficiaries live in eternal denial of the stark realities. Simplifications and rationalizations are thus abundant, especially from the stable of duplicitous operators of the systemic rot.The bridges are however falling.
The operation of every facet of the life of this fragility, the pretend nation, is tenuously underpinned by a deviation from universally sanctioned protocols of the natural order. Such deviations constitute high end and high order corruption. High end and high order corruption is beyond mere fiscal thievery as it constitutes an unmovable impediment to the development of a constructive mindset as well as the wholesome sanity and health of the whole system. High end and high order corruption is holistic in its impact, upending all values in an ethical miasma it has given rise to. It spares absolutely nothing in its way.The further the system moves away from the natural order, the more insidious the fabricated reality, and the totality of devastation it wreaks on society. This corruption of the very axioms motorizing the logic and thought process of both institutions and the individual citizen has been from Nigeria’s very inception. This still birth was not long in coming. Nigeria was literally midwifed into a comatose into the waiting laps of its wounding fathers. The shenanigans andfuture troubling contestations featured prominentlyin the early hours as the flag was raised in a still air. Everything to vitiate the integration of the various communities into a nation was rigged into its foundation.
The deliberate infusions and riggings into the body at birth were to undermine progressivism and a steady development required to fulfil the nascent nation’s potential as the envisioned leading black nation-state in the world. Progressivism and a steady development in this black state portended mortal threats to the enduring tangential role planned for the new nation. That was a feat contrived by the very mischievous creators of the novel project of a Nigerian statehood.With prominent leaders with pivotal roles in steering the trajectory to the future fixated in provincial sensibilities or attached to destructive vast personal egoistic and petty proclivities and rivalries,Nigeria consolidated the illogical precepts inherited at its birth. The situation was rendered more complicated by contradictory perspectives on the character of the universe that impacted understandings of the centrality, criticality, or otherwise, of the human element in that universe. That ideational and philosophical gulf seems to remain unbridgeable today. With the determined repudiation of honest and dedicated visionaries to distil the disparate inclinations into a coherent workable formula, the chances of greatness was slim. Nigeria was thus condemned to strategic irrelevance at birth. Opportunists and opportunism in that dangerous quagmire have thrived at all levels and have since held sway.
These fallacies constitute the unconventional ethos of the operational principles of Nigerian statehood: the centrality of coercion in national affairs, the constant dissipation of the thoughts and energies of visionaries and repugnant institutional intolerance of such visionary programming in their regional constituencies, meritocracy was conveniently repudiated, even asinter-communal relations were instantly adversarial. Inter-communal adversarial relationship has been structural and a preeminent motive in unvarnished and decoded narratives of the evolutionary retrogression of state and the fractious society. Every so often, the reality of intensely bitter inter communal relations extrude in unabashed antagonistic public discourses and engagements that are neither so civil nor very pacific. The sad confrontations of the Igbos and the Yoruba in the wake of recent elections is indicative of underlying tensions in the structural configuration of the state space. It is a sticking thumb in the reality of the country. Careers, in the military, civil service, academia, and, prominently, in politics and everywhere in the Nigerian firmament, throughoutthe national system are all made by the individual cleverly riding the back of the tiger. Successful coup making by the military adventurers is founded on implacable ethnic allegiances to promote ethno-regional and religious struggle for ascendance. Generals are manufactured in process based on their ethnic antecedence and or their loyalty to the dominant group as third tier elements in the contractual power circuit. The first eleven in Nigeria has never been the best eleven.
Politicians, often morally degenerate, curry favor of the ethno demographic centers even at the expense of the interests of the constituencies they purportedly represent. Consistent with the stiff adversarial contestations that has impelled political interactions,forward looking social policies in progressive constituents were sabotaged by constant, even if shifting, conspiratorial coalitions of conservative forces of each and all against progressivism of all hues. Unfortunately, these anti-progressive confederates are potently aligned with social activism along ethno regional blocs in pursuit of asymmetric partisan objectives. Progressivism was anathema to the dominant orderin the ostensible nation building process.Conservatism was enshrined as a national hallmark congenial to the emergence of the hegemonic core of the guardians of the conservative order at the center. The national structure, physically and in its dominant ideas, was gerrymandered to assure the continuity to the emerged order. Accordingly, integral to the functioning of the Nigeria state has been, at the subterranean level, a tension traceable to the permanence ofseemingly irreconciliable confrontation of the progressive ferment and forces and the entrenched conservative underpinnings of the Nigerian polity.This confrontation is manifested in numerous expressions. They include the ominous rise, through incremental manipulations of policies within the ambit of the Constitution, of the murderous religious fanatical terrorist groups seeking to move the entire state to the extreme Islamic ideological and conservative right against the resistance of more centrists and liberals of significant socialist bent in the South. In the context of the persistence of the security dilemma, such programs as the RUGA and Water bill proposed by a federal administration reputedlyled by a Fulani possessed of implacably provincial mindset, was naturally met with justifiable suspicion that the projects were motivated by an overarching ethnic agenda to consolidate the subsisting hegemony in the long term.
Meanwhile, against the background of unresolved security dilemma, social justice and equity werethe first casualties. Social injustice and inequity were institutionalized as convenient normative principles and branded in various legitimizing national clichés. It gave room to the massive abuses of the Federal character principle in appointments to strategic state offices. In practice the federal characterprinciple dubiously drove everything else, including admissions to tertiary institutions. The principle was operationalized in a manner that violated the very seemingly legitimate intentions behind its formulation. Despite official attempts to obscure the facts, the principle has been instrumentalized to consolidate hegemonic control of the totality of the national space. The principle drove the system evaluation needle from high competence and meritocracy aground to point zero. These constituted the legitimation of the corruption of the national system. Politics revolved around this nebulous systems of validated corruption. Politics thus validated corruption as a national attribute. Excellence has been relativized as the badge of the state. The pursuit of politics by the individual, comfortable with these debilitating conditionality, was the assured path to relevance in the mainstream of national encroaching maelstrom. The pipelines to national leadership and relevance were laced with these unspoken anemic oaths.
These all informed the pernicious national dynamic that was in the service of a struggle and the often implicit but also explicit project for partisan totalistic appropriation of the social, economic space by all scheming contending forces.The outcome of the permanent schisms is a constantly prostate state of mutually antagonistic nationalities peering over each other’s shoulders in dangerous divinations of the planned treacherous schemes of the opposite other.That fact has remained the preeminent static drawback in building a national society, who, as a reward, confers legitimacy on the state. Thisfundamental human and institutional pettiness has been at the heart of the crisis of national rationality. It is singularly responsible for the incremental retrogressive structural ruination of Nigeria over time till the present day. The fundamental architecture of inter-constituent relations in the domestic setting, and thus, policy making in relation to the management of the commonwealth, that is who gets what, have often hinged on these inanities and imponderable human frailties. In front of a mirror, Nigeria is ever rationalizing its failure in a constant futile attempt to clothe an ugly nakedness beforea bewildered comity of more serious nations. Nigeria has been unable to transcend its significant birth defects.
In the permanent melee marked by a complete absence of any attempts at constructive cognitive contaminations to build the foundation of a nation, a security dilemma that is implicit in all multinational social and political entities, especially those states mechanically cobbled with no rationale other than the interests of an external order, was wittingly in persistent small doses exacerbated. The security dilemma sums up the classic multi-dimensional crises of integration, legitimacy, distribution, identity and others that many post-colonial states confront at birth. It is instructive that Jurgen Habermas has also drawn attention to some of the other crises associated with the capitalist system. He has delineated four types of crises: economic crisis, rationality crisis, legitimation crisis, and motivation crisis. These have also all been manifest in the complexities of the management of the Nigerian state and society. The escalations of suspicions were implicit in policies that were consciously formulated in the political calculus of subduing those constituents defined as threats and perceived as adversaries in the all against all struggle for dominance in the polity. The lack of constructive cognitive contaminations at the level of ideas in the context of unaddressed, or increasingly wide disaffect from the system could only result in widening chasms of fears and antipathies across the many realms of the state and societies. Expressions of these chasms along numerous inclines of cleavages have been manifest in the brouhaha over the non-issues of truly irrelevant elections that has engaged the maddening crowds across the national territory. The silver lining to this aberrant folly of a stateis that it has provided the opportunity for the unimpeded and raw extrusion into the public realm of ethno-regional emotional delink of various sections from first, each other, and at a more profound level, of various ethnic groups against the system or state as a whole. Some charitable sophisticated minds use the expression of disenchantment with national paradigm of governance. The foolish elections have also abundantly revealed the intensity of alienation of various people from the concept of a common whole.It has blown open the falsehoods around officially toutedincontestable givens of a Nigerian nation. In truth, there is none.
False presences and political correctness, especially in the narratives, is the Nigerian order. This is to hide the reality of a divided country. In the subsisting scenario, the toxicity of the public realm was suffocating for the best and brightest that are required to serve as motor development and fuel national greatness. These human asset, the most decisive for any country, defected to other realms. These emigrations were not driven by the search for greener pastures per se as generally believed. The infinite hemorrhageof the most precious national asset is rather,more often than not, motivated by the search for personal fulfillment of the best bred and finest.These best bred and finest Nigerians are not equipped to thrive in the strangulating environment of the Nigerian state and society.The corrosiveness of the Nigerian public system, constantly hounding out its very best, is the perfect playground for the conscienceless hardened and often mediocre. Like unfeeling human predators,these system orcashang on to the state as a life-long prey. As dominant actors in the institutions, what has mattered most to them as a class is the survival of the status quo. This is in order to protect their ludicrous privileges at the expense of the continued impoverishment of everyone else. A case in point is the determination of the federal legislature to frustrate any attempt to reorient the trajectory of the Nigerian state from its course to apocalypse. And yet, at the apocalypse, the political class are assured sanctuaries abroad. Except, of course, those of them, and they are in significant numbers, who have criminal records and may be unwelcome as fleeing refugees from the conflagration that they have sparked. In this manner, the Nigerian public realm is infamous for harboring individuals certified as wanted in decent societies. An asylum of sorts.
Meanwhile, where else in the world does a legislator earn 300 per cent or more of the salary of a professor??? Why would a public servant in a declining developing country earn anything close to to the wages of a President, Senator, or even any public servant on a similar grade, of a developed country with solid economic fundamentals?? It is the same crisis of rationality that applies given the context of the dubious elections beginning with those of 25 February, 2023: with a country bursting beyond the seams with armed religious fanatics snuffing out lives of innocent people for over a decade and still standing despite periodic assurances of a wearied military, with daily murderous invasion of hapless villages in the Benue by so-called Fulani herdsmen, with hundreds of thousands of Yoruba refugees fleeing murderous attacks of marauding gangs said to be externally imported as back up political militias of an ethno regional candidate, with awar ragingin major constituencies against those that seek to out themselves of the gulag, with unending clashes between imported foreign terrorists and indigenous people in their ancestral lands, with daily confrontations between the Hausa and Fulani in Kaduna and Sokoto, with the deployment of other state agencies against the leadership of nations seeking peaceful exit, with millions of helpless citizens in refugee camps, with the value of the national currency on a steady trip to the South pole, with politically motivated dubious monetary policy with ruinous implications for many poor citizens, with the educational system virtually collapsing into a heap of merely dignified mediocrity, with Nigeria emerging as the poverty capital of the world. With these with and with, what sane rationale is there to hold elections instead of pausing the system and pressing the red button of a state of emergency for the required immediate attention?
Against this background, the problems of Nigeria is more profound than the resolution of controversies that have been artificially brewed around the outcome of intra-factional schisms of a largely discredited political fat asses with odious and loud farting in public. The outcome of the constancy of theirexcremental controversies has salience neither on the instability of the country nor to the ultimate wellbeing of the citizenry. Whatever the outcome, the controversial elections would merely entrench Nigeria in its old ways of infamy, indignity and the potential of a real actualization of a tottering collapse of the political community and its disoriented society.This madness is to the benefit of the political class of just less than 1500 individuals among the estimated 210 million Nigerians. The small political class are determined to perpetuate the status quo to perpetuate the immoral harvest from the contrived misery of a forsaken society.
But all be rest assured that the schematic incubus of the political fat asseswould not long possess the sky.
Professor AdemolaAraoye is a retired official of the United Nations and former Director of Abuja Leadership Center, a TETFUND Center of Excellence in Public Governance and Leadership at the University of Abuja.