The coming of the Leviathan
The obvious public spiritedness in the discussion of the prostrate state of Nigeria particularly regarding the extent of the damage to our national psyche with respect to the galling policy hollowness and emptiness so far displayed by both the APC and the Muhammadu Buhari administration is underscored by the effervescence which trails the subject matter any time it comes up for discussion.
Despite the pervading gruesome realities, the subject matter of the crass irresponsibility of persons in authority regarding their charge over us is discussed light-heartedly without being irresponsible. This approach should however not be taken for granted.
Memories of past hardship, of brutality, bestiality and impunity stalk the land menacingly. The nation is terrifyingly afflicted by the scourge of insurgency, brimming militancy, a restive agitation for self-determination, an all-time low crude oil price, irritable upsurge in price level, plummeting exchange value of the national currency, unbridled unemployment, etc. Going by the general or pervasive sense of malaise or insecurity, it seems, with the value of hindsight, highly unlikely that Nigeria emerged or arose out of an explicit social contract; the chief motivating factor for her creation appearing to be simply economic. All conjectures regarding the motive for Nigeria’s creation point in the direction of the seminal theory that states are usually so much better organised and powerful than tribal-level societies.
Hence the intellectual underpinning of the British policy of circumscription of the numerous ethnic-based communities just to establish a formidable frontier country. There is truly a confluence of other factors which can only be tangential to the main proposition that Nigeria’s founding was predicated on an over-riding economic consideration, simpliciter. So the Nigerian state, conceived as an economic leviathan, would not brook any threat to the “diminution” of her power by her constituent parts’ demand for a fair or equitable share of proceeds from the abundance of the natural and other resources contained within the country’s ecology.
Even as strident demands and plaintive pleas are made by exasperated stakeholders every time respecting the requirement for a just and morally fair administration of the polity particularly concerning devolution of power to constituent parts, the Nigerian state manifests tendencies that are in-consistent with tactical adroitness or pragmatic flexibility. Her managers’ swan-song is the impious “Nigeria’s unity or territorial integrity is not negotiable” refrain. Such vituperations in the face of stark or glaring official disdain for order, propriety or of downright disregard of set rules irks the sincere or patriotic agitator for fundamental reforms. Happily, in the light of a steadily-growing radicalisation of consciousness among the people, the threat to the unearned power and prestige of Nigeria’s “hereditary” nobility is palpable or real. The state itself is threatened with the spectre of the de-legitimisation of her processes.
Whereas the necessity for change or indeed its inevitability was visible for all to see by the end of 2014, there was no consensus as to the nature and character of the change that was envisaged or desired. The failure of the ensuing Buhari administration, for instance, to maintain the vexed North-South balance in the making of key federal appointments and the lopsided disbursement of federal patronages opened the administration early to the charge of being representative only of the narrow interests of Northern hegemony.
In the case of top military appointments which is decidedly northern, the facile excuse or explanation that the military does not see itself as belonging to “regions” or religion but to the nation begs the question and is utterly self-serving even as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 prescribes an involuntary application of the “federal character” principle. The Buhari government has invidiously dispensed with the requirement of a North/South Muslim-Christian “balance”, even as a token gesture. It has, instead, replaced it with what Arthur Nzeribe summed up as “the philosophy of Northern hegemonistic fundamentalism” – which truly has been at the root of North-South dichotomy in Nigerian politics.
The style and posture of the Buhari government regarding its anti-corruption war are ominously co-terminous with a similar policy position at his first coming when preferential treatment was accorded certain anointed suspects. In an interview with editors of the now defunct National Concord newspaper on the 12th of February, 1984, Buhari said of President Shehu Shagari, “… materially, up till now, I haven’t seen anything against the former president.”, adding ex-cathedra “… you cannot say the same thing of the former vice president.” Buhari explained the military junta’s reluctance to put Shagari on trial as he had “not been found” to be involved in any specific corrupt practice.
On Ekwueme, Buhari intoned that the former vice president was “consistently involved in contract deals on Abuja, on petroleum and certain sectors of the economy.” The self-same scenario of invidious justification is playing out in the present war against corruption. Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, has been extra-judicially acquitted regarding the petition against him concerning alleged purchase or ownership of choice properties in the U.A.E. His petitioners had reasoned that his just earnings as an officer in the Nigerian Army could not possibly justify his possession or ownership of the properties in question. But the administration has given him a clean bill of health concerning the accusation.
An economic recovery programme, popularly so conceived and based on the widest consultation, is the key to exposing the extent of our economic nadir and morass and an open invitation to anyone who can make meaningful contribution to a comprehensive recovery strategy. Mr. Harold Wilson, a former British Prime Minister, is reputed to have pin-pointed or identified “a profound sense of history” as the single, most important attribute or possession of an aspiring British Premier. An intuitive sense of history is deemed an invaluable tool. Our reputation for a collective lack of a profound sense of history in Nigeria is both a significant credit and a damning fault line for us; it is a credit because as we cannot easily recall what went before, we are suffused with innocent, if naïve, confidence for the future.
Even though President Buhari is reputed to enjoy a good public image or profile regarding incorruptibility, there is wide-spread discontent being loudly expressed concerning a perceived favouritism or un-even handedness with respect to dealing with many of his political associates who are believed to be reeking in stupendous ill-gotten wealth amassed during their tenures in office. The root of the decay in the Nigerian body politic includes double (or multiple?) standards of public morality or behaviour.
So much was expected of the Buhari Presidency. The hope of the people that the “Sisyphean task” in the assignment has been made less irksome by the general or public sense of revulsion at the excesses of a marauding, buccaneering political ruling class, the plaintive pleas of a distraught people, and the proverbial Spartan will on the part of President Buhari himself is waning rapidly.
• Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, wrote from Abuja