By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Nigeria is edging towards the precipice. The long history of scant regards for the rules of engagement has caught up with us. There is loss of faith in the ability of Nigeria to protect its citizens. There is despair. There is frustration. The managers of the federation take steps daily, carry out actions which threaten the existence of the country. Ensconced in the opulence of filthy power, they do not feel the pulse of the nation. If they do, they do not show it. Individuals have become more powerful than the country. Self help has become the order of the day. The brutish state of nature which we escaped from is here.
Those who are in power are helping themselves with the national cake before the house crumbles. The anti-corruption mantra of the incumbent government is a joke. The party primaries offend our sense of collective dignity. The people are angry with the politicians in Abuja and the State capitals. But there is nothing they can do. They will still vote for the clowns in 2023! Some have taken their share of the national delegates at the party primaries. They have sold their conscience.
Religion and politics have mixed to destroy the country. There is lip service to the ideals of religion. Religion has not defined life in daily encounter with reality. But it has become an ego bank. A fence. A wall. A protectorate which is conveniently deployed to stress difference. It has not stopped stealing. It has not stopped corruption. With State funds, men can build Mosques and churches. The religions preach against stealing. Yet adherents steal funds to feed religion. It is odious. It is a contradiction. Looting the treasury is a dent on character. These characters go to the Mosque on Fridays, to the church on Sundays, visit the Holy Lands in pilgrimage. Yet, when a man as much as criticize their proclaimed religion, they are prepared to kill.
The young man who boasted on social media that he murdered Deborah Yakubu played a script, written by the powerful men in the corridors of power. Disobey the tenets of the religion. But kill the next man who utters a word against what they hold sacred. It is barbaric. It is destructive. It is atavistic. Yet, governance, if it qualifies to be so called, is all about blasphemy against the morals and ideals of the great religions. This is a paradox that the leadership class luxuriates in. thus, we have no reports of men who reject eating the stolen pie on account of religion. That is a no-go area. Paradise is preached. Paradise is believed. But the paradise of here and now created rom pilfered funds at the expense of the lives of God’s own children is more attractive.
The federal government promotes a dangerous narrative. It proclaims a federation in words. But it practices oligarchy of a sort. This oligarchic disposition is woven into ethnic statis. Power belongs to us. There is a veneer of population advantage. But anyone who has lived in the north wonders where the huge population figures come from. The British who promoted the ascendancy of the north in governance helped to create the myth of superior population. The successor government sustained the myth. But within the vaunted superior population is the existence of a minority group. This group has seized power. Ruthless in power acquisition, they are yet to learn how to deploy power to the development and growth of their own people. What is power for if it cannot change the circumstances of the people?
We are on the precipice. The journey to doom started long ago. Through wrong-headed economic and political policies, the rulers started the decimation of Nigeria. If the people had their way now, they would dissolve Nigeria. Perhaps what has somewhat held the nation together is the reluctance of state officials in aggrieved regions and areas to take on the federal government as Emeka Ojukwu did in 1967. Non-state actors have filled a vacuum. These non-state actors hold the elected and selected state officials in great contempt. In the north, Boko Haram, bandits, and Islamic terrorists terrify state officials. In the southeast, non-state actors control the first day of the week. The South-south once held in the jugular by militants is the only region free of control by non-state actors. Indeed, there is no guarantee that if another rebellion of the Ojukwu shade were to start today, there will be no national consensus for the rest of the federation to bring back the rebellious region. There is too much disenchantment with the terms of the federal union. Away to your tents is on the lips of most southerners, in and out of government. Who will bell the cat, appears to be the restraining factor?
Before the civil war of 1967, there was a dingdong between state actors and the federal government. But there was a patchwork going on. The back of the camel got broken after the coup and countercoup. It was a turning point. The centre could not hold. The arrogance which Abuja currently displays, the attempt to seize power in the north, to jettison rotation of power between the two main regions which patently suggests a rotation between practitioners of the two rival religions, is a threat to peace. To retain power in the north in 2023 is the equivalent of a coup against the people of the south. Through bulldozing and intimidating methods, the north could hold on to power. But the seed of splitting the nation along regional lines is going deeper and deeper into the soil of time. Let us not allow the heat in the nation to reach breakpoint. No one will have a tea party if there is a conflagration.
It takes no rocket science to surmise that we do not have an Army that can overrun Nigeria if there is widespread rebellion. Pushed to the wall, the people will have no choice but to go into martyrdom. It is not the way we should go. Yet, if we continue along the current path, the day of an implosion is just a matter of time. It will be inevitable.
So it was that a car that was parked by tourists in a park was swarmed by a troop of monkeys. They took control of the car and chased away the real owners. But they could not drive the car. A man who seizes power anywhere and fails to use it for the betterment of the people who are the ultimate owner of power is like the monkeys in the anecdote. Except we put the national car on reverse and stop the descent into anarchy, the conflagration of 1967 to 1970 would be a party of jollof rice and fried chicken!
Professor Hope O. Eghagha teaches at the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka.