Saturday, June 11, 2016 8:33 am
By Ademola Araoye
Nigeria, like most post-colonial states in Africa, is an orphan state. The trouble with such state spaces is that they are characterized by an unending struggle for partisan appropriation of the totality of the state space by all its internal potentially hegemonic forces. The turbulence implicit in the struggle for appropriation is the source of the fundamental malaise of this traumatized polity. The often validated illogic driving the internal processes of appropriated spaces-across political, social or economic realms- is permanently in confrontation with another more liberal and rational logic associated with a comprehensive and constructive political settlement based largely on rationality and logic.
This alternative orientation is derived from a people’s complete identification with a nation as the concrete expression of an abstraction that is the founded on a common understanding, a sense of common ownership and popular heritage by all or at least a preponderant size of the constituent groups in the state space. Some may refer to the process as nation building. The multidimensional tensions in Nigeria arise from the perpetual struggle for partisan, or more bluntly hegemonic appropriation at all levels, rather than a search for genuine joint and common commitment to joint and common ownership of the national and state space.
The end result has been the continuous territorial fractiousness and diminishing holdings of the ever micro spaces in the nation-state space to satiate agitations for enhanced local appropriation. The agitations fit in the context of a permanently contentious structure of the macro space and the illogic driving it. These challenges, unending factionalization of the national territory, with current proposals aiming at 54 micro-states, and limitless struggles dating to the 1960s, Agbekoya and Operation Wetie in the wild West, Biafra, Yerima’s Sharia and the agenda to keep women in servitude, Maitatsine, Boko Haram, the Avengers, Odua Peoples’Congress, MASSOB, etc, are complemented by institutionalized impunity to advance the illogic of the national disorientation.
The history of impunity and contrived national amnesia is not young. It spans a considerable time space while traversing a broad swathe of fields and spheres: fossilized villainous deceptions around the conduct of the civil war, the massacre of over 500 unarmed university students and innocent civilians across the nation on Black Friday in 1978, the state murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni nine, the destruction of a cultural iconic Kalakuta Republic and associated murder of Funmilayo Kuti, the matriarch of Africa’s foremost family preeminent in constructive service in the public domain, by state sponsored vagabonds (officially dubbed as unknown soldiers).The lawlessness continued with state inspired mass murders by the military of unarmed civilian population in Odi and its hideous replication in Zaki Biam. All of these but for the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni nine, that goes to the account of Abacha, were singularly perpetrated under only one man, Olusegun Obasanjo, a self-declared life co-President of the state.
Ibrahim Babaginda stood out in deploying mass corruption as the institutional carrot and incentive. He was not averse to the use of all necessary and any other means to dispatch those who had alternative ideas on state morality. The daylight bombing of front line investigative Dele Giwa and the disappearance of Gloria Okon remain unresolved mysteries. Abacha was a class on his own. What a snapshot of Nigeria’s revered leadership. These moral liliputs have odious big monuments dedicated to their selfless service to the Nigerian state in their local communities!! General Pinochet of Chile would be envious of the glorious fate of the Nigerian members of their exclusive club. To further compound the situation in Nigeria is the rather more recent rampage of Fulani herdsmen who openly claim unbounded liberty and dominance of the totality of the national space. These all make sense, albeit a grim one, within the operative principles of the illogic of the Nigerian state space.
The defining struggle for partisan appropriation of the state space has thus entailed the institution of many unbridgeable gulfs in the imposed contours and the entrenched operational principles of the polity. The state space has been run in temporary navigations of the almost inhuman and inhumane labyrinth with most choices made as pragmatic irrationalities in the context of entrenched dichotomies and harrowing dilemmas defining the polity. The acclaimed search for national excellence or competence is shackled with many derogatory impediments, a la federal and religious character, so that at the end of the day, Nigeria has developed its unique parameters of its own internal gauge of the concepts of excellence and competence. Except that the world, with more universal understandings of the concepts, is not deceived.
Meanwhile, the narratives of contemporary Nigeria half a century and a decade into the life of the country have been consistent with the histrionic historiography embedded in a contrived falsity of the true character of our dear nation. In this current narratives take a cue from a now conveniently revised historicity of our first and foundational republic. That history in the mainstream airbrushes from national memory the inanities, mis-happen stances, apprehensions, controversies, the ideational void and contentions, as well as the betrayals that eventually led to 1 October, 1960 that launched this ever rickety contraption of a presumed nation state. This sanitized codification of a peoples trajectory is always the handiwork of self-proclaimed patriots, who as is well known, are also no better than petty and glorified scoundrels in longitudinal perspectives of national histories.
The emotional and sometimes physical torturers of a nation are also the self-interest inspired formulators of the strands of the nation’s fragile contending memories. These dominant charlatans, often mummified in enviable spots in the accursed national pantheons, dubious national honorees clutching faked medallions cast in mud, have always won the constant and unwavering ethical and value contest for the soul of Nigeria. These characters preeminently bestride the Nigerian firmament. They are constituted by plain and simple minded murderously human Ebola vectors entrenched in high and low placements, abductors and organized killer raids of Fulani herdsmen proclaiming their hegemonic order everywhere you turn,validated, brusque and unrepentant military dictators of all hues and their baby generals, recycled thieves and robbers,unruffled and arrogant scions of venerated shameless invaders of the common wealth flaunting their sense of entitlement, Colonels in distinguished careers as torturers in establishment garbs and death fatigues, opportunistic and state licensed looters, poor sergeants and foot soldiers as foils to the corruption of the voracious military hierarchy meet their doom against their opposites in asymmetric ethnic militias and frontiers men, secessionists, violent national security agents and their Boko Harams and their all-pervading blind religious ideologues, megaphone blaring crusading Christian spiritual conmen across the aisle. These all pose a true challenge to any long term change mantra.
All are encapsulated in the Bukola Saraki road show. Saraki, the Senate president, supported by a battalion revered Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) versus the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, howling in the name of the Republic. Here ensconced are the protagonists for the status quo and the endowed gladiators against the people. These are the malcontents of a pantheon of nation’s heroes validated and flaunted in the public realm, who can operate with impunity in an enabling environment outside a national consensus on the very essence of the state and society, the ethics and morality of the public space and indeed the ideational underpinnings of the Nigerian state and society. The calculus of power is thus simplified in the Nigerian scenario.
If the President is Muslim, the Vice President must be Christian. If the former is from the South, the latter must be from the North. So, within these constraints the oracular mediator of national affairs conjures up a formidable duo of Umar Yar’adua and a luckless Goodluck Jonathan. The rest is the glorious historiography of our era. The cookie palace historians would do the photo-shopping of the nostalgic era of the unending summer of their times. Meanwhile, the Vice President, a truly respectable and decent articulate intellectual, must never lose sight of his true political constituency-the Church. His professorial intellectual power is a mere irreverent bonus-not particularly salient in these matters. It derives from the operative illogic of the Nigerian state.