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More of the centrifugal than the centripetal

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By Banji Ojewale

THE theories of the physicists and mathematicians of the 17th century concerning the dynamics of the motion of objects best illustrate the condition of the Nigerian state of the 21st century. The two striking figures of the age – the English scientist, Isaac Newton and the Dutch mathematician, Christian Huygens – led man into their complex findings in their study of the force that drives the movement of inanimate bodies, terrestrial, stratospheric or ionospheric.

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Nigeria has failed’

Newton said the centripetal engine was responsible for the push of an object towards its centre or source or origin. All its energies willy-nilly would be concentrated on “seeking the centre,” hence the term, centripetal, from two Latin words, centrum for centre, and petere, to seek. Centripetal potency is the centre-searching capacity.

There is yet another law that worked in a distinctly opposite fashion, according to Newton. He called it the centrifugal force, again from its Latin home, centrum (centre) and fugere (to flee). It simply means ‘centre-fleeing.’ The physicists who studied the principle said it entailed the ‘spinning or travelling’ at great speed of an object from its centre, the ‘tending away from centralisation, as of authority.’

Scientists who came after these pioneers have arrived with the discovery that as powerful as the centrifugal force is, it “has no independent existence. It comes to play with the action of the centripetal force.” Today, social scientists borrow these principles from physics to gauge the mood of organised society. Man and his institutions are at the mercy of centrifugal and centripetal dynamics.

It has been revealed, for instance, that “the division of Europe into warring blocs produces ever-increasing centrifugal stress”. Hong Kong at the moment is at its own phase of the centrifugal fever. Hundreds of thousands of its citizens no longer want anything with the ‘centre’ in China, as represented by their government in Hong Kong. Every insurrection, revolt or attempt at them or challenge to the authority of the state is an expression of, or obedience to, the centrifugal call.

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In Nigeria, we seem to be under the unyielding spell of the centrifugal curse. Our young men and women are fleeing the land for the proverbial greener pastures. The jobs and opportunities we promised them aren’t forthcoming. They believe they would be wasting their prime if they continue to build their hopes on those they consider selfish and avaricious leaders, who are accumulating the resources of the society for their families alone.

According to some analysts, those succumbing to the music of the modern Pied Piper and have found home away from home boast of statistics threatening to outnumber their hosts.

Other cynics say our people out there are capable of forming more states outside Nigeria to bring the number close to 50 states. A significant number of the centrifugal exiles, however, insist they’ve cut all links with their motherland, given what they call the cruelty meted out to them by their leaders that moved these compatriots to bow to the irresistible pressure to flee.

How about those refusing to be lured to go abroad? There is a reason, according to those who claim they are faithful watchers of the Nigerian scene. They say those staying behind are only waiting to understudy those in power as they ‘chop’ the national cake, so they can outdo them later when they get the baton. So, their decline of the overtures of the powerful wanderlust isn’t nationalistic as they tend to suggest. They are biding their time to shine in the culture of corruption and treasury pillage in place. They understand the philosophy of the patient dog; it is waiting to devour the fattest bone. Read: to bilk the society out of its seemingly bottomless petrodollars.

But the most incommoding or troubling aspect of the national discourse at the moment is the takeover of the conversation by centrifugal forces and the near disappearance of their centripetal counterparts. Most are calling for an outright abrogation of the ties of our unity. This is frightening as it amounts to going our separate ways, the way it was with the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Another centre-shy demand is the request for restructuring, to reduce the powers of the centre.

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Some of our fellow countrymen and women want us to go back to the pre and post-independence arrangement of regionalism. They have romanticised that era. They refer to the great strides the vast Western Nigeria took under a cohabitation with less federal watch and control.

Some European nations and Asian Tigers which are numbered among the 20 leading countries of the world today didn’t have some of the smart indices of development which the Western Region had. We’ve never had peace and real progress after the military abolished the system and turned a federation into a unitary set-up.

I don’t think the problem is that we are inundated with more of a centrifugal cacophony than a centripetal noise. Where is the joy of having sepulchral peace in a stagnant ‘united’ nation? Why would Nigerians not want a return to the past which powered phenomenal prosperity for the people?

Why would we not demand a system that would guarantee justice, peace, socio-economic progress and prosperity for our people to enable us fulfil our destiny as the hub of the planet’s Black peoples.

We need to accommodate these centre-despising forces that would free us from the funereal vice of a system preventing unhindered socio-economic march. That is the constructive nature of the centrifugal forces. They enable a cathartic process that reduces the unwieldy weight of the centre. A balanced structure emerges where the states or regions with their independent police formations along with their MDAs and constitutions are at liberty to dig deep into their natural and human resources for all-round development.

No limitations dictated by the centre. Nor is there any artificial requirement to slow down the speed of your race because other states are laggards.

What obtains now is a killer atmosphere. Atop it is an indolent centre breeding equally indolent outposts in its own image across the land. This machinery has turned us all into beggars in a land literally flowing with ‘milk and honey’. It is a monster of government bureaucracy now challenged by the strong currents of centre-defying outcry.

Therefore, what we are witnessing, the uproarious call all over the land to unbundle the centre, is, according to the scientists of the 17th century, a reaction to the inertia of the forces at the centre.


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