By Obi Nwakama
Pay attention folks: Nigeria is in a spin. This has never happened before. Not even during the civil war did Nigeria as a nation experience the kind of internal stress that it is currently passing through.
Biafra’s bid for secession, if it did nothing else, unified the rest of Nigeria against one section of the country, which it fought to return to the fold. But now, the rest of Nigeria is up in flames, and there is now, as we speak, violence and rebellion sans frontiers! How did we get to this point? I have been keeping tabs on Nigeria’s daily newspapers and reports in other media. There are no reports of commissioning of roads. No new ports are being opened. No new industry created. No new advances in technology.
The Nigerian Armed Forces Engineering Corps is not constructing new barracks or helping to build new power stations. No startling new researches are going on in Nigerian universities and research institutes. Nothing really is going on, just one thing: Boko Haram has just planted a flag at Shiroro Dam. Very symbolic. Assassinations here. Burning of police stations there. Killings of university students by so-called ‘bandits’ there. Up and down, Nigeria is in flames. Nigerians are saying “we no longer want this Nigeria.” The voices of this kind of rebellion, which started in the East, is growing in every part of Nigeria, North and South.
Meanwhile, President Buhari sits presidentially hidden inside the protected caverns of Aso Rock. Whenever he says something, it is relayed through his ventriloquists. And it is often some ridiculous thing like America should transfer Africom Headquarters to Africa, or sending irrelevant condolence messages to people he never met or cared about. People say he is out of touch. He is overwhelmed. Not really. He is fully in touch, but it is not where it really matters.
The Vice-President, Mr Osibanjo, former Professor of Law, was reported this past week as saying, “it is difficult to police Nigeria.” Duh? Why did he take the job? It was always difficult to police Nigeria. Others before him did. In spite of the very serious and palpable limitations of previous administrations prior to this one, there was some evidence of coherent national leadership and imagination which is sorely lacking in this administration. Perhaps the truth is a little starker: when a population is roused by acts inimical to their well-being by a sitting government, they are difficult to police.
The police service of any nation is as good as death when a nation slips into anarchy. This President and the party that brought him to office, the APC, have betrayed the trust of Nigerians. Nigeria’s foreign and domestic policy is in freefall. The economy is in shambles. In fact, many economists are predicting that the Naira will soon turn to toilet paper because it has been in inverse ascent under this administration.
There is no real economic policy. Nigeria has been radically and strategically de-industrialized. Unemployment is no longer in double digits; it is in triple and quadruple digits. In fact, people are no longer taking about employment. They are talking about security and survival. Nigeria is in trouble. Nothing underlines the situation of Nigeria more seriously than the call last week by the Playwright and Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, for the President to seek “external help” given that Nigeria now seems helpless in the face of widespread insurgency and insecurity.
Soyinka made the suggestion on Friday. By Monday, Buhari was calling on the United States to transfer the headquarters of its Africa Command (AFRICOM) to Africa to help stem insecurity during the Zoom “visit” by US Secretary Blinken (even official diplomatic “trips” these days have gone virtual, and it is indeed a new world!) First, these appeals to America all seemed orchestrated, finely choreographed, and harmonized: Soyinka calls, Buhari responds. No smoke without fire. Second, I do wish to register my disagreement with Soyinka on this matter; on his call for Nigeria’s President to seek external help. Nigeria does not deserve to be a nation if it cannot secure its borders and its people.
Period. Perhaps what Soyinka is basically calling for is for Nigerians to take a practical look at the matter, and accept that the nation, Nigeria, has finally gone belly-up and is no longer viable, and must, therefore, be handed over to another entity to be re-colonized. “Seek external help” is a subtle call for Nigeria to surrender her sovereignty. The question, therefore, is, should Nigeria willfully relinquish all claim to sovereignty? For that to happen, the National Assembly must close down. All the members of the National Assembly should then resign, go home, and hand Nigeria over formally to the highest external bidder, who will then formally appoint Buhari or whomever they choose, Proconsul.
There should be no pretence about it any longer. The parliament is the highest sovereign entity of the republic. Not the office of the Head of State. But the Nigerian National Assembly often seems unaware of the power by which it is established and for which it is established. No treaty with a foreign power becomes a treaty, including a defence pact, until the National Assembly ratifies it. Buhari cannot just go invite “external help.” That is why the call by Buhari for the United States government to establish the HQ for AFRICOM is considered irresponsible in certain quarters, both in the National Assembly and among certain officers of the Nigerian Defence Forces.
In any case, it is not up to Nigeria alone to invite AFRICOM. Under the African Union Convention, which determined this question when it was first raised years ago, the African Security protocol of which Nigeria is a signatory forbids nations in Africa from hosting AFRICOM. When this proposition was first mooted, Nigeria, under President Goodluck Jonathan, on advice from the Nigerian Defense High Command, rejected the idea of sitting AFRICOM in Africa. Many Africans, with a long memory of slavery and colonialism, and the effects of the Cold War, still feel intensely repulsed by this idea. Many Africans also feel more in line with the original proposal to develop and build the African High Command to defend Africa from any threats, external and internal, and secure African sovereignty.
The call by Buhari does mark a shift and a most momentous break with the general view of Africans about African continental defence policy and its sovereign implications. In the eyes of many an African, Nigeria has turned from the so-called ‘giant of Africa’ to a huge ball of shit! There is no question about that any more. In any case, perhaps, the Nigerian National Assembly, which has not yet authorized the President to go into any treaty or defence partnership, might still wade into this, but whatever happens, there is bound to be some serious rustle inside a normally proud; highly sensitive Nigerian Armed Forces, which have very certainly, recently, become the laughing stock of African militaries, with its inability to defend Nigeria’s sovereign walls and contain the Boko Haram insurgency under President Buhari, a former General of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
And the question most folks are asking is, why? What has happened to the Nigerian Armed Forces? Is it the same Nigerian Armed Forces that formed ECOMOG and secured and stabilized the West African region, and contained the civil wars and the insurgencies in Liberia and Sierra Leone? Is it the same Nigerian military with a distinguished history of serving in peacekeeping operations in many theatres of conflict? Just what happened to the Nigerian Armed Forces? The answer to this question is not actually too far. There are growing speculations that the Nigerian Armed Forces have a standing order straight from its Commander-in-Chief to “stand down” against any serious operations against Boko Haram and the so-called bandits. In other words, for political and other reasons, the Nigerian military has its hands tied at its back. It has been operationally degraded, deliberately, and the end goal is still fuzzy.
Secondly, to understand the constraints of the Nigerian Armed Forces in containing these external and increasingly domestic threats, look at the leadership of the Nigerian National Security system. In his appointments of the leadership of the National Security Apparatus, Buhari has created an ethnoreligious doctrine and a dangerous schism in the Nigerian Armed Forces. A fierce and silent battle of loyalty is playing out, and Nigeria is no longer the idea to whom many men in the Armed Forces are loyal.
As the facts of the doctrinal and operational degradation and divisions among the ranks of the Nigerian Armed Forces under this President dawn on us, Nigerians must brace up to the fact of the eternal warning of the poet of Labyrinths, “Thunder can break,” and that “obduracy is the disease of Elephants.” And we must brace up to the fact that Buhari’s final rise to the presidency might just indeed be the Sunset for Nigeria as many a perspicacious Nigerian warned in 2015.