Despite the efforts of many Nigerians to brave the current harsh economic condition and worsening security situation in the country to maintain the peace, the silence of many Nigerian elites in the face of poor governance issues and wait for the UK-based Financial Times and a Catholic bishop to remind them that their country was drifting and might soon become a failed state is unacceptable and unpatriotic.
By Goddy Ikeh
THE faulty political structure of the country has unfortunately been the bane of most of the challenges facing the 60-year-old nation. Apart from running a constitution foisted on the nation by the former military regime with its inadequacies, the presidential system of government is too expensive for a nation that relies solely on a single and volatile commodity, crude oil, for over 80 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.
Nigeria, which turned 60 on October 1, 2020, is still struggling with the basic rudiments of nation building. Speaking to Nigerians in a nationwide broadcast on October 1, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari noted that the country’s institutions such as “the civil service, police, the judiciary, the military have all suffered from a general decline”.
“We need to begin a sincere process of national healing and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are.
“The stereotype of thinking of ourselves as coming from one part of the country before seeing ourselves as Nigerians is a key starting point to project us on the road to our deserved nation’s evolution and integration,” he said.
According to Buhari, the nation has what it takes to start this healing process. “We are already blessed with the most important asset any nation requires for such – OUR PEOPLE – and this has manifested globally in the exploits of Nigerians in many fields.
“It has been demonstrated time and time again that Nigerians in the diaspora frequently excel in science, technology, medicine, sports, arts and many other fields.
“Similarly, the creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Nigerian at home has resulted in globally recognized endeavours.
“I am convinced that if we pursue our aspirations TOGETHER we would be able to achieve whatever we desire. That informed our adopting the theme TOGETHER to mark this epochal event.
“Together we can change our condition for the better and more importantly together we can do much more for ourselves and for our country.
“I chose the path of self-reflection because this is what I do on a daily basis and I must confess that at most times, I always felt the need for a collective reflection as I know that the foundation for a solid future which this administration is laying can only be sustainable if there is a collective commitment by Nigerians,” he said.
But the activities of the leadership, government officials, ruling party and security officials are not in consonance with what President Buhari espoused in his broadcast and barely a month after, the nation witnessed the most organized and popular protest, #EndSARS, which was a youth protest against police brutality and poor governance in the country.
Apart from the number of fatalities recorded and damages to public and private assets which has been put at over N600 billion, the protests exposed the lack of trust which the citizens have on the government and its officials. The same scenario played out in the nine months of national strike by university teachers, who are members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which has been suspended lately in December.
After the suspension of the #EndSARS protests and the setting up of special panels of enquiry to look into the grievances of the youth and other persons, who have suffered any form of brutality in the hands of the police and recommend compensation, there have been several calls for the sack of the Service Chiefs and the rejig of the security architecture of the country since the nation appears to be losing the fight against Boko Haram terrorists, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of criminal activities in the country. These calls were subsequently followed by calls for the resignation of President Buhari.
But reacting to these calls, Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, described the calls for the resignation of Buhari every time there was a setback in the war against terror as needless distraction and cheap politicking.
Mohammed also dismissed claims that Boko Haram fighters were collecting taxes from the people and that the occupation of territories by the insurgents was now “a thing of the past.”
The minister said at the meeting with the Newspapers’ Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, in Lagos, that Nigerians should stop playing politics with national security.
The minister also disclosed that the federal government was meeting with different stakeholders nationwide in the wake of the #EndSARS crisis with a view to reviewing what transpired and taking necessary lessons from it. According to him, the series of meetings were being held in order to forestall a recurrence, especially of what he described as the mindless violence that followed the hijacking of the peaceful protest.
But these consultations did not stop the powerful editorial from the Financial Times of London, which x-rayed the activities of the federal government and the Christmas message from Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Sokoto Diocese of the Catholic Church.
In its editorial, the Financial Times of London described Nigeria as a country going backwards economically and plagued with terrorism, illiteracy, poverty, banditry, and kidnapping and risks becoming a failed state if things don’t take a drastic turn.
In the editorial of Tuesday, December 22, 2020, titled, ‘Nigeria at Risk of Becoming a Failed State’, the UK-based newspaper said that the abduction and subsequent rescue of over 300 schoolboys in Kankara, Katsina State, revived memories of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls abducted in Borno State in 2014.
According to the newspaper, while the Nigerian government’s claim that no ransom was paid to the abductors of the schoolboys remains doubtful, other acts of criminality could not be overlooked.
“The government insists no ransom was paid. Skepticism is warranted. In a country going backwards economically, carjacking, kidnapping and banditry are among Nigeria’s rare growth industries. Just as the boys were going home, Nigerian pirates abducted six Ukrainian sailors off the coast.
“The definition of a failed state is one where the government is no longer in control. By this yardstick, Africa’s most populous country is teetering on the brink,” the newspaper said.
The newspaper, however, questioned the claim by the President Muhammadu Buhari that Boko Haram had been technically defeated and that contrary to the government’s claim, Boko Haram remained an ever-present threat
It recalled that the deadly clashes between herders and farmers have spread to most parts of Nigeria. “In the oil-rich, but impoverished, Delta region, extortion through the sabotage of pipelines is legendary,” it said.
The newspaper noted that security is not the only area where “the state is failing”, adding that Nigeria has more poor people than any other country even as Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children on earth
It said as oil continues to lose its value, Nigeria’s economy would worsen and that Buhari, who has less than three years left in office, should use the remainder of his term, to redouble efforts at improving security, and restore trust in key institutions, among them the judiciary, the security services and the electoral commission, which will preside over the 2023 elections.
The newspaper also said that the #EndSARS protests led by Nigerian youths, signaled a glimmer of hope for Nigeria’s teeming youth population
“The broad coalition that found political expression this year in the EndSARS movement against police brutality provides a shard of optimism. At least Nigeria has a relatively stable democracy. Now Nigeria’s youth — creative, entrepreneurial and less tainted by the politics of extraction — should use that system to reset the country’s narrative,” it added.
The newspaper concluded that that it was time for Nigeria to restructure its political system and concentrate on security, health, education, power and roads
“At the present trajectory, the population will double to 400 million by 2050. If nothing is done, long before then, Nigeria will become a problem far too big for the world to ignore,” the newspaper warned.
In the same vein, Bishop Matthew Kukah in his Christmas message lamented the spate of insecurity in the country, saying that Nigerians have nowhere to turn to.
In his message titled, ‘A nation in search of vindication’, on Friday, December 25, Bishop Kukah said the country’s inability to feed itself is one of the most dangerous signs of state failure and a trigger to violence.
“As our country drifts almost rudderless, we seem like people travelling without maps, without destination and with neither Captain nor Crew. Citizens have nowhere to turn to,” he said,
According to him, Nigeria’s inability to feed itself “is one of the most dangerous signs of state failure and a trigger to violence”.
While he accused President Buhari of nepotism, he said that there could have been a coup if a non-northern Muslim president does a fraction of what Buhari did. He also accused President Buhari’s administration of institutionalising northern hegemony by “reducing others in public life to second-class status”.
Despite these criticisms, which are geared to bring about a change in the way the government is handling the affairs of the country, some milestones were recorded this year the conduct of elections. Although 2020 was not a major election year, the two gubernatorial polls conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, recorded some appreciable results.
For instance, peaceful conduct of the two polls and the victory by Governor Godwin Obaseki, who joined the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, late after the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, denied him a second bid for reelection through the party, clearly showed that the people of Edo State voted for the governor and not the party. That election demonstrated that independent candidates can win elections if the electoral law is amended. In addition, the role played by the use of electronic devices to transmit results showed that the nation might soon embrace electronic voting.
The other key political events in the country in 2020 include the ongoing move to amend the country’s constitution, the continued defection of politicians from either the PDP to the APC or from the APC to the PDP. The case in point was the defection of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State from the PDP to the APC. The plan to remove the Local Government as one of the tiers of government, reappointment of the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu for a second term and his move to get the amended INEC bill signed into law. Another development worthy of note is the statement attributed to Prof Ango Abdullahi that the North was now ready for restructuring of the country and the fact that the current presidential system of government was too expensive for the country to sustain.
– Dec. 31, 2020 @ 23:10 GMT |