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It’s still darkness at noon: Six decades after independence (2)

By Johmn Moyibi Amoda
IT is the completion and legitimation of state building in these transitional societies that accomplishes the effective replacement of a Hobbesian state of nature anarchy with a post colonial state-organised society.

What Chinua Achebe was describing as the fate of Nigeria was not pre-colonial or colonial or post-colonial politics but the transitional politics where all want to be the next post-colonial sovereigns.

The universality of the ambition to be the next sovereign class is what is played out in the do or die politics.  Dare Babarinsa’s dispatch from Akure on that Saturday of June 25, 1983 captures the logic of the rivalry of “masterless” putative sovereigns.  We reproduce that dispatch.

“A war of words is now raging in Akure, Ondo State capital, between Federal Government-controlled media and those controlled by the state government.

The war is between the Federal Government-owned NTA Channel 11 and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRNC, Akure on the one hand and the state-owned Ondo State Broadcasting Corporation OSBC and Ondo State Television Service, OSTV on the other.

The four media houses are campaigning for the two main political parties in the state – the UPN and NPN.  National Concord learnt that the two federal-owned media stations have been barred from broadcasting or transmitting anything that could be in favour of the UPN against the NPN.  News bulletins on Radio Nigeria, Akure, usually begins with the itinerary of NPN gubernatorial candidate, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, and how he was received by mammoth crowds in every town he went.

The same is true of the NTA Akure.  The UPN is only mentioned in both media houses when the NPN is reacting to an act or statement by its opponents.  On the other hand, both the OSBC and OSTV have blacked out the NPN, except when there is bad news to be broadcast in respect of the party.

The latest NPN presidential campaign tour, led by Vice President Alex Ekwueme was not mentioned in the state media, except when the UPN Principal Publicity Officer, Mr Banji Kuroloja described the itinerary as a ‘fruitless campaign tour’.

The state-owned OSBC now ends its bulletin with the UPN party anthem while the FRCN Akure continuously reminds the people to vote the NPN, “the winning party”, to power in the state”.  That was my first taste of the Second Republic’s death race as played out in Ondo State.  It is for this now that I bear witness”.

Ondo then is Ondo now; the NPN has been replaced by the PDP and UPN has been replaced by AC or Labour Party.  The politics is then as well as now is exclusionary; it is one of scramble for the driver’s seat.  Government at the local, state or federal level is a partisan tool to be used for state making and control of government is thus “a do or die” survival war.

Karl Meir begins his preface with a quote from Claude Ake:

“We have essentially relations of raw power in which right tends to be co-existensive with power and security depends on the control of power.  The struggle for power then is everything and is pursued by every means”.

Claude accurately describes the behaviour of African politicians in the above in the same way as he adequately portrayed the post-colonial independence polity.  We quote Claude’s depiction of the post-colonial situation.

“Although political independence brought some changes to the composition of the state managers, the character of the state remained much as it was in the colonial era.  It continued to be totalistic in scope, constituting a statist economy.

It presented itself as an apparatus of violence, had a narrow social base, and relied for compliance on coercion rather than authority.  With few exception, the gaining of independence was not a matter of the nationalists’ marshalling forces to defeat colonial regimes.

More often than not, it was a matter of the colonisers’ accepting the inevitable and orchestrating a handover of government to their chosen African successors who could be trusted to share their values and be attentive to their interests.

This approach did not succeed in all places where the decolonisation was peaceful, much less where it was occasioned by revolutionary struggle.  But on the whole, political independence in Africa was rarely the heroic achievement it was made out to be; it was often a convenience of de-radicalisation by accommodation, a mere racial integration of political elite.

The tendency to reproduce the past was reinforced by the dispositions of the dominant social forces in the post-colonial era.  None of them apparently had any serious interest in transformation, and all of them were only too aware that they could not afford to broaden the social base of state power.

What changed over time was the proliferation and intensification of conflict within the nationalist coalition.  Class conflict became more salient with the indigenisation of the political elite and matured rapidly.

It was deepened by the inevitable depoliticisation of the nationalist movement to contain frustrations arising from the failure to effect the societal transformation that many had hoped for and fought for.

As is clear from many speeches and writings of nationalist leaders, such as Kwane Nkrumah’s “I Speak for Freedom”, A.A. Nwafor Orizu’s Renascent Africa” and Jomo Kenyatta’s “Facing Mount Kenya”, the language of nationalism had been radical, propounding distributive, egalitarian and democratic values.


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