Wednesday, August 10, 2016 8:00 pm
By Ademola Araoye
Nigeria and its dominant internal contentions reflect the situation of horrendous African multi-national states with seemingly no raison d’etre- a raison to be. Some have attributed this state of affairs to the inability to rise above the challenges of its antecedence. These would include the motives that drove the amalgamation of the northern and southern provinces and struggles around periodic modifications of the internal construction of the outcome of the contrived union.
The almost mercantilistic underpinnings of its founding would seem to have become central to the illogic around the national operating procedures of the Nigeria state. Without consensus on what the Nigeria state stands for, the politics of total partisan appropriation of the socio-economic and political spaces has been the dominant impulse in the struggles and accordingly, the evolution of the state, its structure and its political economy.
The struggle for absolute partisan appropriation of the state space is the indeed norm in Africa-Congo Brazzaville, Burundi, Cameroun, Togo, Liberia, Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau…. Only that Nigeria’s size imbues it with a resilience that the many of the embarrassing and unviable little rag-flag totting personal fiefdoms and buccaneer enclaves that arrogate to themselves the status of states in the continent do not have. Yet, in many respects, the crippling pathologies, internal dynamics and the dominant partisan discourses of Nigeria are representative of the pervasive lethargy at interrogating conventional wisdom and, at the same time, the many struggles of a continent that has failed, continues to fail and would continue to fail as contrived to be. Change might come only if Africa repudiates the imposed false and vacuous essences, reflected in their contingent sovereignty, that have been conveniently appropriated by its elite, as well as the indiscriminate spiritual defections to strange places.
Nigeria and African political entities must address the lack of a raison d’etre- a reason to be- for their existential conditions. The internal geo-physical structure is often designed to support a peculiar political economy in the service of partisan hegemonic appropriation of the totality of the state space. In the ensuing contest, there is neither a national denominated morality gauge nor any agreed ethical boundaries in this Hobbesian national struggle for the total partisan appropriation of the spaces.
Only a few serious thinkers have emerged to help navigate Nigeria’s many existential conundrums. In many African countries, as in the Gambia or in Burundi, thinking is effectively banned. It is not that bad in Nigeria. Yet, that modicum of seminal and insightful interventions available to direct national affairs is attributable to less than thirty Nigerians in a population of 180 million. And they are often focused on fighting immediate brush fires.
Accordingly, Nigeria has been riled to its foundations by a complete absence of a national civic theology-a lack of a coherent ideational framework around which the nation can revolve. Nigeria has been auto-driven to the precipice by the multidimensional dissonance in its fractious society. The last dimension of this pervading paucity accounts for the absolute absence of a compelling raison d’etre for Nigeria. Most great nations and societies have explicitly codified what are broadly understood as civic theologies.
This is the case in the United States, France or even Germany. It is why in the United States today, the top echelon of the Republican party is embarrassed to find a Donald Trump emerged as its presidential candidate. With the likes of a virtually uneducated Sarah Palin and her Tea Party testing the waters in repudiating the core values of the United States in the Senator McCain presidential campaign, Trump’s current elevation of unvarnished extremism to a national presidential platform has threatened the very ethical and moral foundations of America as a nation, state and society.
In other countries, national civic theology is implicitly and unshakably consolidated in historic national understandings of what they stand for, as in Great Britain and, notably, Japan. Again, some societies have struggled over the centuries as in Turkey to define a national essence to direct it. In this regard, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde were lucky with the principles of holistic cultural integrity as the foundation of multi-racial /cultural society advanced by Amilcar Cabral. It worked until some bigots overthrew that order in 1980. Tanzania had the Ujamaa of the eternal Mwalimu Julius Nyerere that was another worthy try.
Without these historic strivings, there is no civic theology to serve as a compass to transcend the deleterious historic challenges of Nigeria’s antecedence. Nigeria is thus a physical and metaphysical jungle where brigands and charlatans thrive. And they strenuously seek to consolidate this character of the Nigerian polity. Even though we seek to romanticize the past to assuage our sanity, with a few exceptions here and there, look at the caliber of Nigeria’s national leadership since independence. Interrogate the reasons for the almost insane acquisitive propensity of Nigeria’s political class, both in the thoroughly de-professionalized military strand and equally in the dominant circuits of the ethical vandals on the civilian aisles- the professional politicians.