As the year of elections 2003 draws nearer and the struggle for political control of Nigeria becomes fiercer, there are fears that the country may not survive her ninetieth year of birth, following the amalgamation of 1914.
The main danger to the survival of Nigeria is the disdain of her political leaders towards dialogue and their tilt in favour of dictatorial and autocratic leadership. This led to general disenchantment, with recourse to violent reaction as the alternative to dialogue.
The brutal killing of elder statesman, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, late Chief Bola Ige, is the most eloquent testimony of the measure of violence which political actors has injected into the socio-political system.
As the various political, religious and ethnic leaders pay lip service to unity, the body fabric of the nation decays for lack of care and nurture. Instead of the spirit of give-and-take, they inaugurated the demon of possessive greed, using religious codes as a cover for prosecuting sectional and sectarian agenda.
The most potent weapon in the hands of these enemies of unity is assassination. You need not be reminded of Chief Alfred Rewane, or Alhaja Abiola of NADECO fame, or the 1993 president-elect; Chief M.K.O. Abiola. No less important are Alhaji Suliyat Adedeji, Chief Lai Balogun and lately, Chief Bola Ige.
When self-confessed evil genius, Mr. General Ibrahim Babangida, foisted himself on Nigeria in 1985, little did we know that private armies financed by treasury looters with a view of protecting their loots will be one of the gains of his leadership.
Today, Nigeria has as many private armies as we have retired military Heads of State. The role of these private but faceless armies in the assassinations that took place in Nigeria between 1986 to 2001, and the helplessness of official security forces to counter them, suggest that the Nigerian armed forces and the police may have been carved out and shared among the dangerously ambitious jackals angling to come-back to power, or seize power through extra-electoral or pseudo-democratic process.
So far, the South-West seems to have had the fortune or misfortune of being the sole victims of these assassinations. The East are content in self-immolation in the service of any of the northern potentates of the individual’s choice.
However, if in official circles, the Bakassi Boys of the East and the OPC of the West are known because they are organized in the open and meets openly, then they cannot be the same as the cult which private assassination squads have become. If attempts had been made to ban or curtail the activities of OPC and the Bakassi Boys and no attempt was made to find out the owners of the private armies, then the identity of those keeping murder squads should become clearer. Anytime there was mayhem in the West or in the East, the OPC and Bakassi Boys were often the prime suspect, in the eyes of the Nigeria Police and no efforts were spared to clamp down on them.
This is in contrast to the numerous riots in the North which were often credited to ‘hoodlums’ by the Police, as if hoodlums are ghosts that cannot be reached or touched. The irony of this hotchpotch polity in Nigeria is that it is those who operate in the open that got punished while those who actually do harm are left to go – because they operate under the cover of a religious faith.
In OPC, you find both Christians and Muslims working together in their belief that the Yoruba must be protected or defended. The Bakasi Boys also consists of members of the religious faiths practiced in Igboland.
However, the ‘hoodlums’ or almajiris are members of one religious faith only who are offended by the very existence of other faiths and whose victims are always members of religious faiths other than their own. As a matter of fact, almajiris or hoodlums do not consider you a true believer if you are not a member or their ethnic group, which makes the difference between this group and the others.
Those who possess the potential of breaking this country are the league of Ulamas, the self-appointed Aga Khans and Ayatollahs of Islam in Nigeria. They speak publicly to the effect that Shariah must be imposed on Nigeria whether we all like it or not. At least Mr. General Muhammadu Buhari, Dr. Datti Ahmed of Kano and presidential aspirant, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, all came out boldly in favour of their brand of sectarian law.
Given the enormous funds at their disposal, what with their stint or their acolytes at PTF, NEPA, NITEL, NPA, Customs, etc, their capacity for violence cannot be over-estimated.
There is also the Yar’adua ‘pikins’ led by Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who handles the knob of the ruling party, even while pretending that the knob (known as PDM) no longer exists. With their limitless Arab oil dollar funds, those opposed to their agenda will be in for a royal battle.
What of the Abacha clan of looters whose stupendous but ill-gotten riches are yet to be retrieved from all corners of the world where they are hidden? With such a war chest of dollars, they constitute a threat to democracy and the rule of law any day.
Another group that endanger democracy and who thrive only during military rule are what an analyst describe as political vultures. According to him, traditional rulers feed on the carcass of civil rule each time the military commits felony and high treason by overthrowing elected government. They remain a threat to constitutional government any day, especially as their support had always stabilized military governments.
One cannot under-estimate the hordes of generals and military retirees whose brand of political brinkmanship is might is right. It is generally agreed that one of the troubles with PDP government of Obasanjo is its military contents and background. Preferring force and orders to debate and dialogue, they are not friends of freedom of opinion or of choice and so they stifle democracy and pluralism of approach.
Who will forget the professional political contractors – I mean the cutlery politicians with chopsticks and their superlative chop logics of the twelve-two-third school? These groups recently are coming out of their shells to do justice to the delicious menu on the PDP dining table. My fear is the length and sharpness of their knives as they may end up spilling the dishes out of greedy scramble. I wonder if Chief Adisa Akinloye is still agile enough to lead this group, at least, with a touch of finesse. If not, I doubt the ability of Chief Richard Akinjide, not for lack of agility, but for the hopeful reason that he has broken rank with the team lately.
It is not as if Baba himself pose less danger to the corporate existence of the country than these other groups; it is just that he is always a willing tool in the hands of a particular group and so, has no need of a group of his own. Many people credited Chief Obasanjo with political naïveté so high that it is a wonder how he survived thus far. His tango with IBB may lead to the abrogation of a pact between them as the evil genius is ingeniously twisting the knife in the wounds of Uncle Sege.
The real fear is that the vaulting ambition of these individuals or their groups transcends religious and ethnic affiliations even while inseparable from them. Their insatiable indulgence in pilfering the treasury instead of productive governance remains one of the banes of stable polity in Nigeria.
As long as oil remain the golden pie, which everyone must relish, so long as there is no equitable system of sharing the commonwealth such that each constituent unit benefits more from the resources in its soil, so long as we run government as a monopolistic cartel, so sure it is that this country will be suffocated to death.
The politics of re-election of incumbents is a vicious one. We cannot forget or ignore he who is bent on marking his 62nd birthday in power, if only to equal the record of Chief Obasanjo. Remember, he manipulated Nigerians to remain in power for eight years, trying to equal or surpass the record of Yakubu Gowon.
If the rules of the game remain unfair, unclear and disadvantageous to the various nationalities of Nigeria, the death of the mistake of 1914 – I mean the amalgamation of Lord Lugard – may come to an end at its 90th anniversary. You are free to call this the work of a prophet of doom. The will of God will be done as Nigerians deserve.
Culled from Our VISSION magazine, Vol.3 No.12, March/April, 2002