Recent happenings in the country raise fundamental and critical issues about the future of the country. Unfortunately, this concern is not being sufficiently addressed in the uproar that followed the alleged plot to Fulanise and Islamise the country with the Ruga policy, which is a guise for the previous proposals of cattle grazing route and reserves, and cattle colonies by this government. Although awareness of this challenge is growing but it should be put on the front burner of the discussions so that there can be a lasting solution, because the issues go beyond the policy.
The public outrage and opprobrium that greeted the Ruga plan from across the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria is indicative of the deep distrust and mutual suspicion inherent in and existing among the different peoples that make up the nation and it is important to deal with such animosities openly and frankly to avoid a recurrence. Nigeria cannot survive as a divided and ethnically exclusive entity; without finding ways to cement its bond of unity in diversity, which former president Obasanjo in his famous open letter called an asset – based on mutual respect, justice and equality – peace, progress and development will be elusive.
So which way Nigeria? Indeed, this question should be troubling to any patriotic Nigeria, as it signifies how abysmally we have performed as a nation after 60 years of independence. Like a human being, a 60 year old man who does not have a clear understanding of his identity is totally lost. But we may console ourselves with the fact that 60 years in the life of nation is only like a wink in the night as nations usually exist in perpetuity. However, our inability to deal with the teething problems of nationhood is a time bomb that can go off anytime as the Ruga crisis demonstrated.
Nations have been known to disintegration or disappear in their old forms after several years together. Former USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Sudan, etc have broken up after several decades together. Even Nigeria have had a taste of this challenge but escaped by providence. But it will be deep delusion to assume that it cannot happen again, because the signs are there and no nation has been known to fight two civil wars and still survive.
Instructively, Nigeria’s fault lines have been accentuated by the divisive policies of this government. President Buhari came to power on massive public goodwill and trust to bring change to the perceived bad governance and corruption of the past administration, but he has continuously, in action and words, pushed the nation to the precipice. There is no historical precedent on the policies and actions of this government in the past four years. He unabashedly gave all the strategic security and economic positions to his ethnic group without even regard to his partnership group in power.
With this situation in mind, it is time and appropriate for the different groups that laundered his image to make him electable to come together and extract from him an alternative narrative for advancing the future of this nation; because as it is today with insecurity and threat of ethnic and religious domination by the Hausa Fulani, the basis of nationhood may have been badly ruptured.
As others have argued, it is foolhardy for one group in a multi-ethnic group society to push its interest under any guise in exclusion of others and hopes to succeed; that can only happen by spilling needless blood of the innocent as we have done lately. Every grievance by any group should be brought to the open and discussed.
On all indices of development Nigeria has slipped downward, indicating the country is not only being badly managed but is also being hindered by existential factors that make unity and development unattainable. Most countries that were at Nigeria’s level of development in 1960 such as South Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia etc are all ahead of her in every material particular in spite of its huge oil resources that may have become part of the problem. The problem is that successive military government destroyed what our founding fathers bequeathed to us in pursuit of group interest and domination; forgetting that peace, unity and progress cannot be built on injustice.
However, all these issues pale into insignificance and indeed, aggravate them, in the face of looming population catastrophe. The inability to resolve our multi-faceted existential challenges is holding down our economic growth and social development, making it difficult to keep pace with population growth which is now at the annual average of three percent, while GDP lags at 2.1 percent.
Education, health, poverty, unemployment, infrastructure, debt etc are all in bad shape, and worse, nothing is being done about it. Instead it is politics, politics and politics… Simply put, Nigeria is an accident waiting to happen!
The issue of past government failing is true but that is past now and in fact irrelevant because it was the reason Nigerians voted for President Buhari for the second time. So it is not about what happened in the past but the way forward. The major threat in Nigeria today is insecurity; therefore, the issue is how to reform the security architecture to ensure the protection of life and property, because a government that fails in this responsibility has lost its legitimacy to rule.
For instance, the police structure is anomalous and could never provide effective policing system. A situation where state governors do not exercise oversight of the police and other security agencies is colonial in nature and hardly suitable for a modern democracy. But we have refused to see this contradiction on the altar of sectional interest and hegemony. This factor is also responsible for the dysfunctional political structure that has become an albatross for the nation.
President Buhari must bear responsibility for the heightened political tension and ethnic unease in the country orchestrated by the murderous squad of killer herdsmen unleashed on the south for a preconceived agenda. He is not a monarchy and should be answerable to the people. In the past, National Assembly had been distracted and incapacitated; the present one is already intimidated and co-opted which does not instill any confidence of a promising future. The National Council of State, which is the most credible body, because of its apolitical nature, has been redundant and docile because of its ethnic dominance by one section.
So generally, this newspaper is perturbed by the unfolding developments in the country, more for the lack of practical solutions to the issues given the fixations in addressing them than the problems themselves. Without changing our attitudes by all concerned to the emergent issues toward finding objective answers to them, it may just be a matter of time before these issues come to a head; and everybody will be losers.