It just seems like a national emergency everywhere you look. The despondency seems matched only by the desperate sense of helplessness. The curiosity about this pall of disquiet led me to put my ears to the ground.
I have been navigating Whattsapp groups. Saying little but feeling the temperature and letting the Barometer gauge. Despair reigns in the land. Most think the economy is in free fall. Some think band aid is being applied where even bandage may not do the job. A band of outliers even pronounce Nigeria dead.
Thank God some people of faith believe that dry bones have been known to rise and walk.
The poor are stunned but voiceles, sometimes with a feel of being castrated. They turn to texting for begging in desperation and hope. But it is the Middle Class Professionals and intelligentsia that bother me the most. They seem to think the Buhari era was wholesale looting and borrowing to steal. But they sound genuinely ignorant that what the ancient regime inflicted on Nigeria was that deep a cut of the artery of life for the economy.
Really?. I am so surprised that people are so surprised by the scale of the damage. I thought it was so obvious from long ago.
Some are calling for the Saudi Crown Prince treatment of locking all the prominent up in a hotel until they vomit the loot. Hmmmmn.
Others suggest instant Japa for those who do not want to go down with the ship.
They turn to the fuel subsidy and crude oil theft and wonder what corner of Hell those who have been running Nigeria come from. I chuckle because I know some of the people expressing frustration, and I remember when some whispered behind me that I was crazy speaking up. And they tangoed with money and power. Now, they turn to prose to lament.
But the beat goes on. Even with the mess, so complete money is still borrowed to give to Legislators to enjoy the weekend, and those feigning anger at yesterday still say nothing. At best, they murmur among friends lest they get in the bad books of those with the largesse of the public treasury, even for a near bankrupt state. They make it seem like Misgoverning and malgovernance were invented by Buhari. He may have been the champion, but many more are guilty. They also forget they were promised continuity by the APC and they just may be getting it.
I have become more cynical with age and the nature of the times but what gets to me is depth of the hypocrisy of the AGIP ( Any Government in Power) business elite and quasi intellectuals converting social media to books of lamentation and intellectual masturbation. Sure the roads are immotorable across the country, the young cannot find work, power is not there to produce or live decently , insecurity has driven the farmer off the farm into IDPs camps, the courts signal to the world that justice cannot be found in Nigeria so investors local and international keep away, and we wonder why we produce so poorly that the Naira has passed the 1000 rate against the dollar and the price of a liter of petrol is in hot pursuit. Will we soon be like Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe?
Where are the patriots. Did someone line them up and use them for shooting target practice..
Everywhere you look, an undeclared state of emergency holds sway as getting confirmed LCs become matters of miracle and manufacturing buckles down as foreign reserves shrink. It seems all bleak but in a culture that has lost a sense of shame who cares but the poor, the vulnerable and the weak who are discovering conditions people are suffering through like in the time of Biafra when Kwashiokor came to many who were unable to pronounce the word, Kwash..or..kor
and their neighbors whose hands were too weak to find sources of protein exhibited the ugly side of being malnourished.
In most countries the angry poor would have poured unto the streets, but this is Nigeria, the country where Professor Ikenna Nzimiro gave the same lecture every week during my days at UNN and for a generation after. ‘ The unfinished revolution’ was offered for a generation of students who were either tired of listening or found it comic relief.
This may be cold comfort to those who grab power for self aggrandizement, but they should not rest too easily. It takes just one straw for the proverbial Camel’s back to be broken. Even mass affliction of the Stockholm syndrome, where the victims identify with the oppressors, can yield to a singing of Bob Marley’s Redemption song in a massed Choir.
My problem is not whether the Nigerian revolution is imminent. It is knocking on the door. The burden on my soul is that it could be the dawning of Robert Kaplan’s Coming Anarchy that may be a chauffeur driven passage unto the road to Somalia.
This is why if the patriots have not all been shot at target practice, and the Citizen wannabes have not all fallen to the ranks of tribesmen and idiots, a clarion call must go out for a gathering of tribe of patriots for a salvage operation to reclaim a technically bankrupt economy, morally collapsed political order and paradise lost where the dream of the founding fathers are traded for hubris.
We need to begin again with a constitution that enthrones the people as sovereign and not, as Prof Fr Anthony Akinwale suggests about the extant grand norm, one that elevates agents of those who grab power as sovereign. We must in that document enshrine the right to secede so that politicians who know the people can pull out, in exercise of their fundamental human right to self determination, will strive to serve the people and not their own greed which we can see from the Buhari looting knows no bounds.
As I think of the urgency of this grand document of our modus vivendi I can understand why the British historian Niall Ferguson sees the making of the US constitution, which recognized these norms as one of the greatest exercises of institution building in human history.
Once the moral tribe of patriots arise, we will find that countries have overcome the deep hole into which the political class has sunk Nigeria.
India was in a deeper hole in terms of its foreign reserves when in 1991 what was supposed to be a placeholder ‘transition’ government of Natsima Rao who was well advanced in age and was expected to do nothing unveiled Manmahon Singh as Finance Minister and the foundations of India Riding were laid.
Ditto for the first coming of Instio Lula Da Silva in Brazil.
Nigeria is salvageable, but new values, stronger institutions, and a place for a meritocracy must be advanced by these patriots. In many ways, a key role exists here for the Nigerian Diaspora, who live with the evidence of a better way and the confidence of succeeding in the global north. They deserve a special place at the table of the remnants of patriots as the tribe gathers for a rescue mission.
The patriots whose tribe must arise urgently can be found among these judges the youth want to feed to Lions, the Soldiers tired of chasing terrorists and the Businessmen who currently will dine with politicians whose horns are more evident than the devil has at Halloween.
People need to search deep inside and find the patriot inside.
To save Nigeria is to look at the coups in the Sahel and realize that Africa has gone full circle back to the 1960s. The young are rethinking the state in post colonial Africa and sounding like they have just read Walter Rodney and Fran’s Fanon on how Europe underdeveloped Africa and created the wretched of the earth.
Here I owe a full apology to the International political economy scholars of the 1970s, Immanuel Wallerstein, Osvaldo Sunkel and even Henrique Fernando Cardoso who acquitted himself well in latter years, as President of Brazil when he saw the promise of globalization for his country and embraced it as against prescriptions of some traditions of the Dependency thesis school he led which called for selective de-linking from the international capitalist order. Some of his fellow depedistas would have found Cardoso’s practical shifts treachery.
Back in those days I had been impatient with the Dependistas as I looked for a quick path to overcome poverty and so embraced quickly the Asian Tiger models just them emerging. I complained that Dependency theory was elegant theorizing with limited redemptive value.
But today as I watch a legitimacy drought-stricken Abuja rush to do what it perceives as the desire of Paris and Washington DC against the interest of the people of Nigeria and Niger, I have new respect for the Centre-Periphery thesis where the interest of elite at the periphery is aligned to those of elite in the Global North to subjugate the poor lumpen proletariat, the masses at the periphery of the periphery. The Nigerian masses from which Abuja is alienated and seeks to use force to keep down. These International Political economy models clearly have explanatory power and suggest why Nigeria drifts aimlessly as transactions driven titans of state capture trade favours that cannot solve the problems of the economy in a sustainable way or allow for nation building.
The big challenge is that progress is improbable until governing becomes about these people, the people, and not those the 1979/99 constitution wrongly identifies as sovereign.
The duty of the tribe of patriots is to help people find their voice. Stephen R Covey already celebrated this as the key habit of the 21st century in his 8th habit. The patriots have a moral duty to help the voiceless find their voice.
Patrick Okedinachi Utomi is a Political Economist and Convener of the Big Tent.