March 16, 2016

The coming anarchy

WHEN Robert Kaplan penned the highly popularised article in 1994, “The coming anarchy”, his gift of clairvoyance was vehemently criticised by various African scholars and politicians who believed strongly in the spirit of Africanism.

22 years after the publication, many of the African countries sighted in that piece are yet to reverse the dooms day prophesy hung over them. Kaplan didn’t mix words when he captured the fragility of the Nigerian state, in his words, “The country is becoming increasingly ungovernable. Ethnic and regional splits are deepening, a situation made worse by an increase in the number of states from 19 to 30 and a doubling in the number of local governing authorities; religious cleavages are more serious; Muslim fundamentalism and evangelical Christian militancy are on the rise; and northern Muslim anxiety over southern [Christian] control of the economy is intense . . . the will to keep Nigeria together is now very weak.”

The notoriety of the Nigerian state to constantly shift the burden, abdicate its responsibilities, vulgarise its institutions and politicise governance have amalgamated to produce the current harsh socio-economic reality, threatening the very existence of our nationhood. A one sided view of this national malaise as solely economic is even more frightening than the predictions of political pundits of a coming anarchy.

The reason is simple, the overlapping interests between politics and economics along with its concomitant effects in such a hugely diversified country is crucial to its growth and stability. It isn’t bad policies in itself that has ruined us, it is bad politics.

I dare to state that irrespective of the urgency in our economy, it is only a political reform that can redeem us from the coming anarchy. Nations, however resourceful can achieve very little in the absence of peace and security, it is thus safe to say that good and altruistic politics will more often lead to good economics.

One question that needs to be asked, however, is whether Nigeria is a failed state? Or is Nigeria merely a geographical expression as the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo postulated? More so, can Nigeria as currently structured make any significant leap towards inclusive socio-economic development? Your guess is as good as mine.

One hardly needs the medulla of a professor to observe the obvious, Nigeria is in a hole and would not stop digging. Nothing forces us closer to the coming anarchy more than the structure of governance and the current wave of insecurity. These two supposedly mutually exclusive issues seem to have found a point of convergence in our nation. It is the epileptic structure of governance as currently ran that feeds the growing state of insecurity. Even the blind can see that the Nigerian state isn’t held by a constitution, a shared value nor a common interest but by an annoyingly exhaustible commodity, oil.

At the risk of repetition, this nation isn’t short of brilliant ideas to galvanise it to the promise land but politics have refrained us from finding the courage to execute such ideas. One example clearly stands out; it is common knowledge that shrinking the size and power at the centre and allowing states and local government more autonomy (and resource control) is the sine qua nun for rapid economic development. This structural shift is only simplistic in theory because in practice the recommendation is dead on arrival. Why? Because politicians are either too greedy or intellectually bankrupt to allow the South-South enjoy the largess of oil wealth while they struggle with states that hardly can meet overheads.

But for politicians, why should a clearly unviable state be allowed to exist? The merger in the banking industry was pivotal in strengthening the obviously weak institution that ordinarily would have gone under. Rather than have states nag why don’t they simply merge. No they won’t, because the cake would become too small for politicians to share, the larger the merrier. Without a doubt, Nigerians have become the instruments of government and not the purpose, we have become pawns in the hands of politicians satisfying only their interests.

My exasperation about the denial of the Nigerian state and its modus operandi is nothing compared to my fear of the return of Usman Danfodio (A Fulani warlord that unseated the Hausas from the north and hijack power). Between 2010 and 2013, three thousand people were reportedly killed by Fulani herdsmen. Between January and July last year, the police reported the death of 621 people in the hands of this dreaded militia, and this year alone over 7000 people have been displaced from their homes. It is quite intriguing to note that no arrest was ever made neither have the security agencies repelled any attack. People are being raped on their farms in Enugu, displaced from their homes in Benue, murdered in Jos, held captive in Nassarawa yet there isn’t a plan of action to arrest this ugly trend.

The usual rhetoric of condemning such acts and setting up an investigative committee to submit its recommendation have only seen the issue blown out of proportion. How many more reports would we need to take decisive action? What irks me the most is that the medieval tendencies of these herdsmen hardly arrests national attention. For what it is worth, it is a national emergency, one that threatens the fabric of the nation far more than the fall in oil prices.

If we fail to address the aforementioned issues, it won’t be long before we start living in Dr. Kaplan’s world of anarchy.

In the words of Romauld Hazoume “They did not know where they were going but they knew where they came from. Today we do not know where we are going and we have forgotten where we came from.”


Ayodele Lawal Adio is the Executive Director of Become Change Institute, Lagos.