It is like we are back on a familiar terrain. In January 2005, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) of United States of America (USA) convened a one-day summit on Africa. Focus of the summit was to look at Africa in the next 15 years, 2005 to 2020. From the summit, NIC agreed that Africa’s fate would be determined majorly by what it called “local factors”. This eliminated possibility of external factors in determining Africa’s fate. Local factors include military coups, tribal conflicts and wars, bad leadership and other forms of violence, including terrorism and banditry. Participants at the conference also agreed that “the level of violence in Africa is unlikely to change appreciably in the next 15 years.” It added that “most conflicts will be internal.” Wrong?
Part of issues the conference identified as constituting a problem for Africa, which may lead to internal conflicts, include marginalization and differentiation, wherein it stated that “over the next 15 years, sub-Saharan Africa will become less important to the international economy.” In concluding thus, the report stated that “the high growth rate projected for the global economy in the NIC 2020 study will not be matched by African countries, which will fall far below the rates projected for the fast-growing East Asian nations.”
One would say that though the COVID-19 pandemic slowed this projection for the global economy, it worsened Africa’s projection, making it more beggarly than before the pandemic.
However, relating its projections to Nigeria, the NIC 2020 report stated thus: “Other potential developments might accelerate decline in Africa and reduce even our limited optimism. The most important would be the outright collapse of Nigeria. While currently Nigeria’s leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not to leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja. The most important would be a junior officer coup that could destabilize the country to the extent that open warfare breaks out in many places in a sustained manner.”
The NIC 2020 report also painted a scenario of what could happen if its prediction happens. It said: “If Nigeria were to become a failed state, it could drag down large part of the West Africa region. Even state failure in small countries such as Liberia has the effect of destabilizing entire neigbourhoods. If millions were to flee a collapsed Nigeria, the surrounding countries, up to and including Ghana, would be destabilized. Further, a failed Nigeria probably could not be reconstituted for many years, if ever, and not without massive international assistance.”
In its conclusion, the report said: “Perhaps, the central message of this report is that in an age of globalization, local factors will determine Africa’s fate. Geography, decisions by governments past and present, the presence of trained professionals, the strength of civil society groups promoting democracy, and the capabilities of the local police and security forces all have potentials to decisively affect performance of individual African countries in the next 15 years.”
Well, there hasn’t been a military coup in Nigeria since 2005 when the report was written. That does not however indicate that it is now completely an anathema. There has been one in neighbouring Mali and the response of West Africa’s leaders suggests that, with adequate negotiation, Satan may meet with God. Also, as predicted, ‘local factors’ have been prevalent here. Bad leadership, terrorism, tribal conflicts have remained constant. In all, we may have glossed over the details of this report and the interpretations given to it at the time, but I recall that it was a veritable tool in the hands of the opposition then (today’s ruling class). In fact, this report was twisted to mean that the United Stated government had predicted Nigeria’s break-up by 2015. President Olusegun Obasanjo had to hand it over to the National Assembly to study and work with. However, not much has changed.
Fact is that Nigeria is on the precipice. The country is so deeply fractured by poverty of leadership – one of the local factors listed by the NIC 2020 report. This is accentuated by a mindset that is locked in degeneration and focuses only on impressing a cocoon while overlooking the structural and social defects that could aid a break-up.
When Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo spoke at the 60th Independence anniversary nondenominational church service, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, he made use of the analogy of Nehemiah and the need to fix the cracked walls. According to Osinbajo, “…the wall signifies peace, security, contentment and prosperity. It signifies the essence of the state of the nation”. The wall is cracked and falling apart. Civil engineers will tell that a wall will fall apart if its foundation is, or becomes, weak.
While I agree that the wall was broken long before Muhammadu Buhari became President in 2015, there, however, wouldn’t have been any need to hand him the reins of power, if there was no need to fix the wall. But, rather than fix it, his administration has expanded the crevices by refusing to creatively manage the country’s best gift, its diversity, and rather took the country to a point where the voices screaming break-up have become more deafening.
Pastor Enoch Adeboye has added his voice to the call to mend the wall before it caves in. Governor Samuel Ortom has also called for another national conference to plot the graph for a more united Nigeria. The Arewa Consultative forum (ACF) is also calling for a referendum for Nigerians to determine if the wall should be fixed or dismantled. Nigeria’s governors are also making the call. Diverse interest groups are voicing out.
Hear ACF, through its secretary-general, Murtala Aliyu: “The North is not afraid of restructuring. What we want is let’s define what it is that we want, If we want to be Nigeria and if we don’t want to be in Nigeria. Let’s sit down and agree. If you want to be in Nigeria, you cannot suffocate me and take advantage and say we must be together. So, the North s looking at all options. We can restructure. We can become a confederation. We can devolve power. We can have state police and all that we want. But I can tell you that the thinking of the North now is that we should actually have a referendum, if we want Nigeria or not. If we want a Nigeria, then we must sit down and see how Nigeria will work. If we need the country, let’s sit down and decide that we need a country first. Then, we can sit down and decide how our country can work for all of us. If we decide that we don’t want the country as it is, then… I mean countries like Czechoslovakia and quite a number of other countries, including Sudan, have gone apart. We don’t want to go to war. Well, the North is not going to be intimidated again to accept anything. We have to sit down and resolve whether we want this federation or this country as it is.” He said that in an interview with The Punch.
Before these voices, the South-East, South-South and Middle Belt leaders have been unrestrained in their call for a restructuring of the country such that each component unit will have a sense of belonging and also manage its resources, human and material, for development. Their calls were to stave off what is now a deafening call for Oduduwa Republic and Republic of Biafra out of Nigeria.
Those who do not see the possibility of a break-up are, however, convinced that a restructured Nigeria will serve the interest of all component nations that were forcefully amalgamated in 1914 to form Nigeria. Perhaps, it is time to revisit the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference on the devolution of powers, the compulsory rotation of the presidency among the geopolitical zones and mining rights.
If this cacophony of voices, and fingers pointing at the wall, are a gauge of the public mood, then there is every reason to believe that those on the streets are not as convinced as those shielded from reality by public office and masquerading as agents of progress that the wall will not eventually cave in. If it does, the NIC 2020 report would have come full circle not as a result of a military coup, but as a result of the decision of Nigeria’s leaders to plug their ears with iron rod.