Two anecdotes, told by keynote speaker, Professor Adeolu Akande last week Wednesday, at a congregation of lawyers, drew the graph of the gripping state of the Nigerian union, in the most spellbinding manner. Two other narratives which strengthened his argument, came in the form of news stories which dominated the media during the same week. The first anecdote by Akande, Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) was one he was told by a Senator whose team had visited Somalia as parliamentary delegation to the war-torn country, some years ago. Somalia, you will recall, is mono-ethnic and bore all indices of nationhood. In 1991, Somalia erupted in a fratricidal war which led to many Somalis fleeing Mogadishu and other places in search of asylum. It was so bad that the UNHCR recorded 975,951 Somali refugees, even as at 2016, with 1.1 million internally displaced persons. They were displaced as a result of periodic droughts, armed violence, as well as other natural disasters.
The parliamentary delegation to Somalia, as part of its itinerary, went on a visit to a camp, among the camps of the 1.1 million displaced persons. Therein, the delegation beheld the calamity of war. The visit had coincided with a time the displaced persons had come for their rations. In a file, looking gaunt and scrawny, they had queued for their meal of a few loafs of bread and water. Then the delegates received the greatest shock of their lives. Peeping up the queue, their tour guide had pointed at one of the haggard-looking persons waiting to be given his own ration. “That man over there was the Chief Justice of Somali,” their guide had said. Dumbfounded, downcast and struck in an unusual way, the delegates must have left Somali pondering on the unmitigated disaster that is a war.
The second anecdote was a supposition. Or a hypothesis. Supposing a well-dressed man just walked into the hall where the legal luminaries had gathered, Akande said, gradually building the wall of his supposition, and the man asked to be given the microphone. And upon his request being granted, he informed all gathered that inside the next hall to the one where the lawyers and judges sat, a United States of America Visa process was ongoing and everyone who participated in the stress-less exercise would emerge therefrom as bonafide citizen of the USA. Akande sarcastically submitted that he doubted whether there would be up to two people who would be left in the auditorium where the legal titans gathered.
Inside the Afe Babalola law auditorium, Ibadan, Oyo State, were the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) Olumide Akpata, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, (SANs) judges, lawyers and a few other professionals. It was at the 2020 Law Week activities of the NBA and the topic for dissection was Nigeria After 60: Building a Nation That Works. In a very brilliant way, Akande had argued, with evidence, that Nigeria was not a nation but a state, or at best, a nation-state.
Then a few days after, news hit the airwaves about forty three Nigerian Navy ratings who were declared wanted for desertion and absconded from their ships which berthed in Europe.
Last week as well, Al-Jazeera did an expose on what it called the rapidly growing number of Nigerians who were purchasing “golden visas” of foreign citizenships-by-investment. Malta, a Mediterranean island, is one of the countries where these rich Nigerians acquire citizenship for a minimum investment of $947,180. Aside Malta, 92 other countries are also involved in this Citizenship by Investment Programme. Among them are Caribbean nations of St Kitts and Nevis and Grenada. So why leave Nigeria for these tiny islands in Europe?
The wealthy ones are a chip off the block of young Nigerians who daily embark on illegal journeys out across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean, to get to Europe. They are hopeless and unable to cope with how their future pines away in Nigeria. When they are given the graphical picture of the perilous risk they are about to take in journeying through the Mediterranean, their response is that living in Nigeria is enough peril.
On the ills that plague Nigeria now and since inception, Professor Akande attributed them to the country’s colonial trajectory. His argument was very logical and anecdotes supplied very supportive of his thesis. Judging by the facts of Nigeria’s coming together, he said, the colonial political architecture bestowed on the country was such that cannot allay the mutual fears of Nigeria’s component units. Upon being lumped together in a purported nationhood, southern and northern Nigeria operated a cat and mouse relationship. This primordial fear has bred many self-centered acts by successive leaders. Buhari’s own response to this fear has been a pristine cronyism that is unexampled in Nigeria’s history. While Southern Nigeria was and is apprehensive of the latter’s demographics, the North was and is afraid of the South’s exposure to western education. Till today, these fears subsist.
While the Somali Chief Judge at the IDP camp anecdote tells us that we should steer Nigeria off the path of war, in our individual and collective interest, the hemorrhaging of Nigerians from Nigeria on all fronts is a huge testament to the potential Nigerian nation turned into a feckless state in the hands of successive governments in the last 60 years and specifically in a grossly unpardonably manner by Buhari. Professor Akande refused to hold any individual but colonialism responsible for the 60 years barrenness of our projected nationhood. He also refused to apportion any blame on the Buhari government.
In this, I differ from him. Except for Lai Mohammed, Buhari’s coterie of fawners, contractors and the leeches of state who profit from this failure of governance, Nigerians and observers outside her shores are agreed that the country is a failed or failing state. All indices point at this. You do not need any economist to announce to you that under Buhari, Nigeria’s economy is kissing the canvas. Never in the history of the country are Nigerians this afraid of one another.
All what we said over the years about Buhari being a mere decorative obelisk in government, an effigy if you like, is coming to fruition now. The President is too far gone, too distant away in his own skewed world to know what operates here. Frustrated by Buhari’s absenteeism, even when he is present in Aso Rock, Wole Soyinka, last week, lamented that no one is in charge of Nigeria.
It is not even that Nigeria is adrift that is the bother. It is that there are too many palace courtiers who encircle the frozen-minded presidency of Buhari. These courtiers are now in a race to outdo one another in the binge to turn our current situation into a fawning escapade. Take for instance the recent House of Representatives’ invitation to Buhari to address a joint session of the National Assembly, aftermath the horrendous murder of dozens of rice farmers in Borno State.
In a manner that is bereft of logic, Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, spun a legal shawl to cover Buhari’s obvious inadequacies. It was outside of the parliament’s constitutional province to invite the Chief Security Officer of Nigeria to explain why security had gone to the dogs under his watch, Malami said. Only two days ago, barely 24 hours after Buhari drove into his Daura, Katsina hometown for what he called a one-week break, armed men, suspected to be bandits, stormed Government Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government, a few kilometers from the C-in-C’s dwelling home and killed a security guard, while kidnapping some students, whose numbers were yet unascertained. Yet, Malami feels comfortable spinning constitutional barricade against Buhari explaining what is amiss to Nigerians.
Apparently, we are wedged to the fate of our closet president whose minders have, for five years now, been concerned only with refrigerating him inside Aso Rock and bringing him into the open only for photo-ops. Let us even put law aside, is it not embarrassing that a man who was elected to lead this country, has been kept away from the same people who elected him, for this long? Aside reading other people’s views in prepared speeches, the last time Buhari spoke to Nigerians extempore was at the 2015 Media Chat programme. The few other occasions he tried to do off-the-cuff interviews which could have offered us opportunity to gauge his mind, he left a curious hollow or wonder about his cognition and mental state. For how much longer are we to endure Buhari?
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