NNAJI JEKWU ONOVO
Chants of war from ethnic leaders nay tribal warlords, ethnic profiling especially of the Fulani, blame games rent the air; as the wave of violent crimes across the country rises. The tribal warlords especially from the major ethnic blocks keep issuing orders and counter orders as ‘trouble’ commanders to the country, Nigeria. You hear such inflammatory statements as: ‘defend yourselves,’ ‘enough is enough,’ ‘we are ready to defend ourselves,’ ’30-day ultimatum,’ ‘return to your mother land,’ etc. They are all mischief makers clamouring for the break-up of Nigeria. I make bold to say that Nigeria will never, never, never break up.
You never hear them make reasonable suggestions for short, medium or long-term solutions. The suggestions you hear from some of them are: ‘rejig the security apparatus,’ ‘change the security chiefs,’ ‘the security operatives should rise up to their responsibilities.’
The major cause of insecurity in Nigeria is acute poverty ravaging the masses of the people. In a country with over 25% unemployment rate— criminality fills the gap. When the Lake Chad basin dried up, sending millions of farmers into the labour market, the obvious consequence is rise in criminality, because these unemployed farmers must survive one way or another. When the military ‘technically’ defeated the Boko Haram terrorists and chase them away from the Sambisa forest, they took refuge in other forests across the country, infiltrating the Fulani herders who have been rearing their cattle in those forests.
The various arms and levels of government have been working hard to mitigate the problems. The Federal government is suggesting community policing, while some state governments are setting up varying security outfits. The state governors of the South West took a step further by forming a regional outfit known as “Amotekun.” Weeks after the establishment of “Operation Amotekun” by the South West, the Coalition of Northern Group proposed the formation of “Shege-Ka-Fasa” as counter to Amotekun; promoting the division in the country. It took the intervention of the Sultan of Sokoto and the firm stand of northern governors on community policing to stymie the rat race. The South East governors in their wisdom continue with the forest guards, neighbourhood watch; as they agree to integrate these with the community policing proposal of the Federal Government. The decision of the governors didn’t go down well with some spirited defenders of Ndigbo nay the ethnic warlords who want regional outfit to be called “Ogbunigwe”. The nature of the security threat varies from region to region, even as the modus operandi of the criminals differs; so the solutions should be different. I commend the South East governors for being original in their approach.
The national assembly are equally doing their best to deal with the myriads of problems besetting the nation. The Senate inaugurated 56-member committee to review and amend the 1999 constitution of the country. But some Nigerians are kicking, saying the agitation for restructuring implies having a new constitution instead. Those cynical elites would not allow the elected representatives to do their works.
There appears to be widespread concerns especially among the elite that something fundamental is wrong with Nigeria as presently constituted, not only in terms of perceived political marginalisation, but also in terms of socio-economic exclusion and ensuring justice in all spheres. Few, there are, who maintain that nothing is wrong with Nigeria and that all that is required is attitudinal change on the part of the political leadership. For many elites, Nigeria simply needs a rebirth, a fundamental rebirth. While there appears to be widespread consensus about the need for a rebirth, there is a lack of consensus on the type of rebirth and the process of bringing about the desired change. Convening a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) has been advocated as one of the steps to be taken towards an attempt at fixing the problem with Nigeria. Unsurprisingly, the expectations of what a National Conference can or cannot achieve range from the pragmatic to the utopian. As usual, the debates are laced with the poisonous sectional prejudices which normally characterise the country’s public discourse.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong or inherently obnoxious in convening a national dialogue or national conference. Serious countries continuously and continually renew themselves through robust dialogues and contestations meant principally at putting their countries on a sound political, economic and social footing and projecting ahead and having a head-start on future and futuristic challenges. The current national obsession for or against a sovereign national conference or national dialogue is hinged on the fear of the unknown and the true intentions of the major actors and players in the conversation.
Resentments and discordances are part of Nigeria’s political history. In her post 1960 independence political culture, Nigeria has witnessed upheavals associated with the announcements of the election results; there have also been military mutinies, coups and even a civil war. All infamously fuelled by divisive speeches and rumours that now easily lend themselves to ring higher and at much frightening pace within the real-time digital culture offered by Nigeria’s thickening social media.
I am not a believer in conspiracy theories. Nor do I subscribe to the view of those philosophers of history who believe nothing significant happens in our world without some conspirators lurking behind it. This is not to say that conspiracies don’t exist. Conspiracies abound, just in line with what the philosopher Isaiah Berlin terms “the crooked timber of humanity” which still defines the character of our sinful world. But I say no to cynical conspiracy theorists who read ulterior meanings to every statement, action and deeds of elected officials and other leaders across the country. In the past few years, conspiracy theories have been omnipresent on the internet and in social media. These modern forms of communication allow conspiracy theories to spread faster than ever, and make it easy for like-minded people to connect and form online echo chambers. By their actions, they heat up the polity.
Onovo writes from Lagos