BY OBI NWAKAMA
Without a doubt, many Nigerians have given up on Nigeria. For these Nigerians today, there is really nothing left of Nigeria to aspire to, defend, promote, love, or protect. Every institution that normally creates value in a nation has collapsed or rendered pointless in Nigeria.
True nations are ones to which the citizens without compulsion rally to the flag with pride to defend her honor, her value and her standing.
But what is left of Nigeria to honour or defend? What is the great value of Nigeria? What is her mission? What is the purpose of Nigeria? Those are the questions. Nigeria does not appeal anymore to the imagination.
The condition of Nigeria hurts the psyche of Nigerians. No one wants to be a Nigerian today because Nigeria has no purpose; a reason for being unless you are a beneficiary of the rot in the system. Currently, most Nigerians feel alienated and constrained by their nation. It is not a very good feeling – this sense of being locked into a dead end – and led by the blind. When a blind man leads the way, everyone falls inside the ditch. If the blind man is terminally ill and has nothing to gain or lose, well, God helps us all.
That is the state of Nigeria today, as we speak. Even as Nigeria is overrun by violence and poverty, and is breaking apart as it seems, the image of an absent President on a long medical leave pervades the Nigerian sensibility. Many are now loudly asking the question, “Is this all to it? Is this the democracy we fought for?” Many are now even asking openly to be re-colonized: “go get external help!” they say. These folks have never enjoyed the “dividends” from “democracy,” or more precisely, civilian rule, since it was re-launched in 1999. “Democracy” was sold to Nigerians as the silver bullet to all their historical sufferings.
Prosperity and freedom will come galore, we were told, once we have “democracy” and that illusory, “fiscal federalism” that comes with it. But is this the “democracy” Nigerians had in mind when a group of us young, idealistic men and women pushed and pushed on the streets, on the newspapers, and in various theatres of intrigue, until the military rulers were forced back to the barracks? Perhaps the trouble is that those soldiers did not leave. The brass led the subalterns into the barracks, locked the gates, and changed their clothes. They had amassed great resources through the years, enough to overwhelm every other interest and recruit surrogates to national power.
Also read: Religious crisis threat: Apologise to Nigerians over attempt to undermine DSS, Group tells CAN
The fact is, military service and military training prepared a very small group for political power between 1967 and 1999. A number of factions emerged within that rank, funded both by internal and external forces and factors. One looked mostly West, and the other looked mostly East. They have been on a relentless relay holding Nigeria together by all means for the interests that have also propped them. A great picture of these men playing checkers, constantly recycled at the helm, powerfully demonstrates the Nigerian story of power, its anointments, and its current conundrum. First, these interests forced Olusegun Obasanjo down the throat of Nigerians.
Straight from prison, he was made – well, elected – President of Nigeria. He was an odd choice. But Nigerians were prepared to give Obasanjo the benefits of the doubt, and cut him some slack on the excuse that, Nigeria’s democracy was still a learning phase. Democratic infancy required that we gave some time to teething problems. Well, since that phase passed, and power grew some teeth, the kind of “democracy” Nigerians permitted and tolerated has come back to bite us all. The great outsiders to that program were Mr Umaru Yar Ardua, who stood in the stead of his late brother Shehu, and Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who replaced him when Umaru died from a terminal condition.
Jonathan arrived in power without a Rolodex and was naïve. He did not know where all the bodies were buried. Jonathan’s greatest undoing in power was that he was too cautious and seemed too tentative and indecisive. The hawks noticed that soft underbelly and went after him. They viciously mobilized their local and international resources and alliances and hounded him out of power.
Today, Muhammadu Buhari – another odd choice for the presidency of Nigeria – has smashed up whatever is left of Nigeria. Nigeria, as a nation, hangs thinly on a balance. A slight push and it will tip over the precipice, and like Humpty-Dumpty, no one will be able to gather its shards, or survive the consequences of the looming crash. Unless Nigerians saved themselves by impeaching Buhari today, Rwanda looks like a very poor dressing act. Mass alienation is not an option. Giving up on Nigeria is not an option. Even if we break this country into eight nations, the roofs will still cave in, and it will only rain on us. What we must do frankly is to return to the dream of the true nationalists – and I am not talking about the “official gallery” of nationalists. I am talking about the true founding imaginations of a united, prosperous, just nation. Buhari does not belong in that category. His time is up, otherwise, we are all doomed.
Last week, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President’s Chief Ventriloquist “raised the alarm” of a plot to “throw the country into a tailspin which would compel a forceful and undemocratic change of leadership.” Adesina wrote: “Nigerians have opted for democratic rule, and the only acceptable way of changing a democratically elected government is through an election which holds in prescribed times in the country.
Any other way is patently illegal and treasonable.” First, inside which rock has Mr Adesina been living all these while to make him not see that Nigeria is already on a tailspin?! The fact that he is compelled to issue this statement is very direct evidence that he is inside a headwind already. Second, it is patently ignorant and false that seasonal “elections” are the only constitutional means by which a change of leadership can be affected democratically. Not true at all. The President can be impeached, and that is also legal, constitutional, and democratic.
In fact, the Nigerian Constitution spells out the process and conditions for which a Nigerian President can be both investigated and impeached by the National Assembly. That is an option that the legislature must quickly use in fact. But it is an indication of the terrible level of ignorance and presumption inside this very incompetent administration that the spokesman for the Nigerian President writes, not only in such sophomoric terms but also in sheer ignorance of very elementary conceptual ideas of civics. The office of the President is not inviolable. The only permanent institution of executive power established by law is the Civil Service.
Politicians come and go, but the Service, the bureaucratic arm of the state, remains and watches them go. A President can be impeached and the heavens will not fall. In fact, the impeachment of a President is the easiest means by which an elected parliament may forestall the breakdown of the state, the protection of the rule of law, or the risk of some external force, say a military force, or an organized band of non-state actors, to storm and take hold of a weak, compromised, and ineffective presidency. It is time to save Nigeria. The National Assembly has a democratic choice to make. If things continue this way, this nation will implode sooner than we imagine.
It is time to save Nigeria and give it a new lease of life: one, a reform of the Nigerian Armed Forces is urgent. Perhaps it should now be a law that every Nigerian with a minimum of high school certificate must pass through compulsory military service of no less than five years. It is time to reform, rebuild, re-quip, re-program, re-orient and re-direct a Federal Police system for a more effective internal security operation.
The Criminal Investigations Directorate of the Police must absorb the EFCC and must be placed under the oversight of the Prosecutor-General in the Attorney General’s office. And the office of the Attorney-General must be appointed by a joint council made up of the Speaker of the House of Reps, the Chief Justice, and the President, and must be independent. And above all, Nigeria must rebuild a merit-based Civil Service; reverse Nigeria’s de-industrialization, and send its young, highly trained population back to work. This nation must fully and urgently contain Boko Haram and other insurgencies within the next year, secure Nigeria’s borders against the conduit of terror and rebuild the nation’s intelligence-gathering capacities, and systematically contain its subversion.