By Obi NWAKANMA
Nigeria can now, properly speaking, be described as a mafia state. Its
national ethic in other words is structured by a distinct disregard for the rule of law.
This disregard for laws and the absence of enforcement or the inadequacy of sanctions has led to the emergence of a buccaneering mentality at the highest realms of state.
The â€œnational eliteâ€ model criminality and this has seeped into the common fabric of nation, and it seems clear that a generation has observed that a life of crimes pays; thatÂ mostly antinomic elements â€“ those who can steal or pillage â€“ now amount to much in Nigeria.
Once you establish enough â€œpowerâ€ – meaning, once you have some money, you can bribe your way through the security system, and you can acquire invincibility, and you can become pretty much untouchable.
In Nigeria, honest people are â€œmumu,â€ violent people are â€œwise men.â€ A generation of Nigerians grew up watching the mafia filmâ€œGodfatherâ€ with the anti-hero, Scar-face, andÂ reading the cheap, paper back crime novels by James Hardley Chase, and watching the characters and fictional figures in these imagined texts come to true life in the public life of the nation. Nigeria is better than fiction.
Crime is serious business for serious people. When the criminals themselves take over the structure of the state â€“ its bureaucracy, its parliament, its judiciary, its police system, its national security apparatus and its military , in short, its key state infrastructure â€“ what you have is a mafia state to which no man must owe any obligation or allegiance. A key characteristic of the mafia state is â€œprivatizationâ€ – the Friedmaniac move to transfer all national means of the production of wealth to a few private hands.
This has been so with the economic and social policies that have been introduced to Nigeria starting from 1985 with Ibrahim Babangidaâ€™s surreptitious adoption of the IMF policies and its expansion under Obasanjo of the extreme laissez-faire methods of Milton Friedman, thanks to his international advisers like Jeffery D. Sachs and his Nigerian ventriloquists, proteges and Greek gifts like Oby Ezekwesili, all of whom must be regarded as the undertakers in the eventual funeral of the Nigerian state.
Nigeria is exhibiting the classic symptoms of economic shock therapy â€“ both in its engineered form and in the sum of its effects. The result is that the population is too frenzied; too â€œbrain-damagedâ€ to think clearly,Â orÂ too exhausted to muster the capacity to react to the extreme conditions imposed on them. That is one important way of looking at the situation in Nigeria.
Take the rash of kidnappings now taking place in the volatile East of Nigeria. It is in part shock therapy. Perhaps, we must look at a more sinister dimension of this reality, which is that these kidnappings are orchestrated terror campaigns or an imposed and sustained state of siege masterminded by the mafia state itself and overseen by its highly corrupt security services as a means of sustaining and maintaining the siege mentality.
There is a school of thought in Nigeria that strongly advances this argument of the involvement of possibly rogue elements in the Nigerian security services.
There is also another dimension that we must consider: although the mafia state may indeed have introduced kidnapping as a deliberate act of state terror for the purpose of creating the kind of psychological shocks necessary forÂ the economic shock therapy, but Nigerians learn quickly.
Non-state actors have taken over the initiative beyond the expectation of the state. Kidnapping is thus, finally, a deliberate act of subversion undertaken by Nigerians who have had it up their noses, and have been driven to extreme acts of infamy.
It is inverted self-help. It is theÂ privatization of terror. The logic is simple: since government has privatized and deregulated every aspect of national economic and social life, and created a market economy, human security is no doubt a marketable commodity.
It is low tech. It requires only an underground network of old and complex kinship, alliances and affiliations willing to take risks. It is of course dangerous business, but the pay-off is enormous. Insecurity is big business.
Kidnapping is private venture driven by the same greed that drives the venture capitalist and the hedge fund manager, and undertaken with the same boldness and risk-taking that animates the trader on the floor of the stock exchange or the smuggler of illicit diamonds or drugs.
It is of course no worse than the police Commissioner who allegedly asks a man in one of the South-Eastern states who came to Police HQ to report death-threats and extortion letters written anonymously to him, to first make a goodwill deposit of N20,000 before his complaint could be addressed.
It is lucrative business, insecurity, and everybody is in it. The various tiers of government are in on it too.
Of course government will pretend to be stumped by the activities of the kidnappers, and so it is not inconceivable, neither is it beyond the realm of possibility, that not long from now, the Nigerian government will officially announce its privatization of state security and policing business on the pretext that it wants to bring some efficiency into the business of managing insecurity, just as they are likely to use the excuse of the alleged insolvency of the NNPC to break it apart soon enough, and privatize it, and sell it in bits and pieces to â€œprivate investorsâ€ and finally hand over Nigeriaâ€™s oil infrastructure to â€œforeign investors.â€
They are likely to use the excuse of the kidnapping in the East and the continued volatility in the Niger Delta to open state security to â€œforeign investors.â€ It is classic.
Nothing drives this home to me more succinctly than the demand by senator David Mark for the declaration of a state of emergency in the South East, and by Nigeriaâ€™s Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovoâ€™s visit to the East with the personnel of MOSSAD, as reported by the press.
The excuse for this remarkable brazenness is the kidnapping of officials of the Nigeria Union of Journalists on the road from Aba. It is doubtlessly a dastardly act to kidnap journalists.
But there is a point that Mr. David Mark, former Brigadier of the Nigerian Army and currently President of the Nigerian senate fails to understand: the South East is already under a state of emergency. It has been militarized since 1967. Besides Markâ€™s mindset is a throwback to a failed barrack mentality which never solved Nigeriaâ€™s problem under military rule.
An important backdrop to this must be seen in the psychology that shaped children born between 1965 and 1995, who saw nothing but military brutality and jackboot mentality.
All those public firing squads and spectacles of public violence to which they were exposed only helped to mess the minds of generations of Nigerians.
Firing squads did not drive fear into them, it made them more violent, and for the more sensitive, they still have violent nightmares.
David Markâ€™s suggestion of emergency rule in the East will only drive the kidnappers momentarily underground, but they will resurface with greater temerity in other parts of Nigeria. Besides, kidnapping is already taking place in those parts too. Perhaps Mark should suggest a national emergency rule.
Then he would have his real excuse to bring in â€œforeign security investors.â€ It is already happening folks, with Nigeriaâ€™s Inspector General of Police traveling with MOSSAD agents to the East.
The introduction of the security services of another nation to Nigeriaâ€™s internal problems finally ought to tell us that the Nigerian police, theÂ State Security Service, and the general infrastructure of Nigeriaâ€™s National Defence is no longer of consequence.
We have entered an intriguing era and it is clear that Nigeriaâ€™s national leadership is no longer in control. It is a proxy apparition, and it has basically given up its functions and obligations to Nigerians.