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Comment on reply to Amb. Princeton Lyman

By John Amoda Moyibi
THERE is clearly a great divide in the reading of Ambassador Lyman’s evaluation of Nigeria’s current relevance in the world. Of the many comments two are particularly personal. Olusegun Lawal’s my former student says “I’m disappointed”.

The other is from a friend who has served Nigeria well, long and at all levels of diplomacy. I will share his views with the reader.

“A common friend has drawn my attention to your rejoinder to Ambassador Lyman’s piece at Prof. Achebe’s conference. I do not comment on views expressed on such matters by our nationals. On this occasion I am waiving that principle because you are a friend who I respect.

Moyibi, you are completely off the MARK. The views expressed by Ambassador Lyman tally completely with the views of the top leadership in various African countries about Nigeria. It also tallies with the views of other countries that wish Nigeria well.

The question that I am consistently being asked in my travels to different parts of the world is why Nigeria is sleeping and snoring. I don’t want to go into other details. Can anyone deny that we are in deep slumber? The simple fact is that if Nigeria does not have its domestic situation sorted fast and right, its emerging irrelevance will become permanent.

You should thank Amb. Lyman for being so candid and forturight in his views. Unlike you, I see him not only as someone interested in Nigeria’s affairs but a committed friend of Nigeria”.

From the above, it is clear what the objection to my position is namely that I am denying that Nigeria is in a deep slumber; that I disagree that Nigeria should get its domestic situation sorted out fast and right. Why was my response read as an apology?

And not as an appreciation of Amb. Lyman’s critique of Nigeria? The answer is obvious. There is so much disaffection, alienation and anger about the current situation in Nigeria, and this seem to justify any and every condemnation of Nigeria.

I do not buy into that sentiment. In my reply to Amb. Lyman I did not disagree with him on the failings of our national leadership. I disagreed with the inferences he drew from the audit of our national leadership. From the start I made it clear that a distinction should be made between Nigeria’s relevance to the United States and to the world. Was there a need to make that distinction in Lyman’s piece, I believed there is. Let’s begin again with his critique of the Nigeria elite.

“I know all the arguments. It is a major oil producer. It is the most populous country in Africa. It has made major contributions to Africa in peacekeeping and, of course, negatively of Nigeria were to fall apart, the ripple effects would be tremendous, etc.

But I wonder if all this emphasis on Nigeria’s importance creates a tendency to inflate Nigeria’s opinion of its own invulnerability.

Among much of the elite today, I have a feeling that there is belief that Nigeria is too big to fail, too important to be ignored, and that Nigeria can go on ignoring some of the most fundamental challenges they have, many of which we have talked about; disgraceful lack of infrastructure, the growing problems in the Niger Delta, the failure to consolidate democracy; and somehow feel it will remain important to everybody because of all those reasons that are strategically important”.

There is no disagreement with Lyman on the above itemized problems. I strongly disagree with his inferences. I characterize Ambassador Lyman piece “a trenchantly argued call to order”, I highlighted his postulation that the governing elite in Nigeria have blinded themselves to the consequences of their profligacy, hiding as it were, behind a reputation of importance and relevance that are now brittle and may crumble in the hand of hard and objective review” there is no disagreement in these detailing of the present failings of Nigeria’s leadership. There is however a disconnect between this statement of facts and the conclusion that:

“So the handwriting may already be on the wall, and that is a sad commentary. What it means is that Nigeria’s most important strategic importance in the end could be that it has failed”.
There is a difference between the statements:

—“So the handwriting may already be on the wall, that Nigeria’s most important strategic importance in the end could be that it has failed” and that “Nigeira’s most important strategic importance in the end could be that it may fail”.
The first is a verdict, the second is an admonition. According to the Ambassador, South Korea was once considered a basket case and in today’s parlance may have been adjudged a failed state. But a leadership emerged that effected a turn around.

No one reading Nigeria’s dailies can conclude that there is no concern about the Abuja establishment. There is apprehension that Nigeria may already be in a process of failing. But to say it has failed is to predetermine the end.

Princeton Lyman cannot predetermine Nigeria’s end; he can warn like any friend of Nigeria can warn, but he cannot rule out change, nor the “audacity to hope” for change.

My Nigerian friend who point blank stated that I was off the MARK apparently sees no value in the issues I raise about the prospects of Africa’s post-colonial security challenges. All of Africa’s 53 countries face the same problems; namely:
—The determination of who is the successor sovereign to the departing imperial power;
—The security of the successor sovereign within and without its realm.

These two problems are contexts of and condition Africa’s domestic and international polities and politics. Have we therefore asked ourselves what is the primary interest of an African politician? If democracy is the prescribed system of governance in the world, have we asked how the African politician’s commitment to the democratic ethos plays out in the context of the politics of contestations for sovereignty and the security of such sovereignty?

It is the issue of sovereignty contestation in Nigeria which informs calls for a National Conference, which is behind resource control agitation and the Niger Delta crisis. We require Nigeria’s politicians to accept elections as the means for changing the administrators of government when their priority is the control of government a rational policy where who is sovereign is still an issue of contestation.

The West and the United States prescribe electoral constitutionalism for Nigeria and the rest of Africa where the issue of state and the security it provides the government within and without is still the frontal challenge. My friend is too disappointed to see the merit of this point- but I must prevail on him to read Africa’s post-colonial history and show me any country in which the matter of who is the sovereign and the security of the sovereign are made subject of the vagaries of elections. Will my friend agree to the proposition that it will be put to referendum that Nigeria be independent or return to colonial rule? Bad as things are, we all agree that Nigeria be independent.

But do we all factor into the fact of independence the dual challenges of the institutionalisation of sovereignty and of the state that secures the sovereign?  Not really, for the process of the resolution of sovereignty conflicts and the legitimisation of these conflicts through a constitution made by the parties in conflict is not the same as electoral resolution of inter-elite factionalism or centrist power sharing.

Yet we have agreed with the international community that Africa resolves its sovereignty conflicts and legitimise its resolution of these conflicts through the electoral process. The late Professor Billy Dudlley applying games theory to Nigerian politics drew attention to the rules defining a game and the rules regulating how a game is played. Thus the rules regulating rugby cannot be applied to American football, because the two games are different.

In the same way the rules governing the formation of sovereigns and securing the same are different from the rules governing change of sovereigns, or the administration of the powers of the sovereigns through governments, or the intra-elite factional contestation for control of government or inter-class struggle for influence or change of governments.

The international community have prescribed rules appropriate for intra-elite factional contestation for control of government as the rules that should govern the politics of contestation over sovereignty and the security of the same.

The Nigerian politician like his counterparts in the other 52 polities have agreed to apply these electoral processes for resolving the sovereignty and security issues. Their adaptations of this “one size fits all” rule has resulted in electoral malpractices, violence, corruption etc.


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