Nigeria: Are things falling apart…and who is balancing the center?

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Fellow Nigerians, I’m very sorry if my question sounds a bit discomfiting today. But the reality on ground suggests that Nigeria has fallen into the hands of competing warlords and there is no controlling or central figure in charge.

Each warlord is acting bigger than the laws of the land while the supposed central figure is only pretending to be holding what has fallen into pieces together. Nigeria has suddenly found itself in the kind of precarious condition Sudan was before the referendum and its eventual collapse.

Only wishful thinkers like me still believe in one INDIVISIBLE Nigeria. Everyone now talks openly of the impossible workability of a nation of many nationalities forced together. If we are not divided along tribal and linguistic lines, we are dangerously polarised along religious beliefs and inclinations. No one can say precisely where we are headed. Some of those we expected to give us true leadership and a sense of direction have since abandoned the pedestal we placed them as gentlemen and statesmen. They have become totally transfigured into local champions who are only interested in fanning embers of disunity.

The chicken of Federal character and zoning has finally come home to roost. A nation where appointments and promotions are not based on merit but on some primordial considerations is doomed. In our country, it is no longer the survival of the fittest but that of the most ruthless. This is why every ethnic group has to fight for its own. The country is seen only as a giant cake that must be shared at all costs, and it is a matter of life and death. When a nation is reduced to material entity, trouble must surely raise its ugly head.

All you have to check to see what is going on is to read our newspaper headlines and the many blogs on the internet these days. You would instantly be transported to far-flung places that you only used to read about in newspapers, or watch incredulously on CNN. The Nigeria that confronts you would not be the same country you used to know, where we stood in brotherhood, though tribes and tongues may differ. The new Nigeria is a disfigured country where all manner of strange spirits are colliding at the combustiveness of a nuclear reactor. The centre has virtually collapsed while a fragile line is just holding everything together. It won’t require much effort to dismember it. And it should be obvious to every discerning mind that we are not too far from Armageddon.

Some of the mind-boggling news we read these days simply imply that Nigeria is as terrifying as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. I read about the arms and ammunitions that were seized in Awka, Anambra State, and I shuddered.

Otunba Dele Momodu

According to the report, 653 live rounds of ammunition, plus another 416 live rounds in chains, plus three pairs of hand gloves, were recovered from some dare-devil criminals. The gloves were meant, ostensibly, to cover their finger-prints, an indication of their level of sophistication.

As if that was not disturbing enough, there came reports that some ex-militants coming from God-knows-where were travelling in a long convoy to storm the Federal capital territory of Abuja when they were stopped around Lokoja, or wherever it was in Kogi state. As usual, no one explained how they managed to travel all that distance undetected and, but for providence, Abuja would have witnessed an unprecedented conflagration again. These were the same guys who purportedly laid down their arms and got heavily compensated for their kind gestures. Not just that, an entire Ministry for the Niger-Delta was created pronto. Now that the Boko-Haramists have superseded others in words and action, it won’t be too long before our ingenious leaders would come up with a fresh Ministry for them. The true challenge is, there are militant groups spreading their wings everywhere.

Elsewhere, in Nigeria’s most densely populated city of Lagos to be precise, another theatre of the absurd was playing out, the same day the ex-militants were poised to over-run Abuja. And it was a spectacle never seen before. The irrepressible Oduduwa People’s Congress, a militia which came into being to protect the socio-political interests of the Yoruba nation came out powerfully to put its military arsenal on display. It was in the same manner that China and Russia would carry out a military parade in order to show the world why no nation should monkey with them. If the accounts I read were true, then the proliferation of weapons in Nigeria is indeed scary.

As a politician who contested the recent presidential election, I should know a thing or two about this subject. It is impossible to go through that experience and not be taught a lesson or two in the art and science of violence because politics in our country is a theatre of war. You must be prepared for every eventuality, good or bad. There are experts in the field who would voluntarily approach you and tell you how it is done. They would even reel out names of big and powerful men and women who passed by in search of protection. As the proverb goes, you cannot buy the wind and not know how to faint! Nigeria is a land of principalities and you cannot be the President without consulting the oracles. It is not a joke, I was told repeatedly. You are expected to combine the marabouts with the Evangelists and diviners. And there are other hurdles.

Twice I wrote letters to the office of the Inspector General of Police for protection, twice I was politely ignored. Every attempt to trace the letters, or get someone to act on what was my legitimate right, proved abortive.

All manner of characters enjoy police protection in Nigeria if you know the right buttons to press, and especially if you are a friend of those in government and power.

Nigeria is not such a rational country where those who qualify for certain privileges can naturally get what they deserve. Those privileges are usually reserved for the highest bidders. But for the benevolence of the Lagos State Police Command, and the intervention of my party’s National Chairman, Mr Femi Falana, it would have been virtually impossible to visit certain places.

This type of excessive bureaucracy is what has led many frustrated people into forming their own parallel governments. There were those who told me to seek the services of OPC. The OPC operatives are believed to be much more disciplined than government agents, and they operate in seriously organised cells.

They obey a chain of command structures and are ready to die for the cause of Yoruba irredentism and the beliefs of their group. It has been established that they are very trustworthy, the reason many homes are now protected by them.

It has also been suggested that they are also very well-armed and are battle-ready at the slightest provocation. If their efficacy was ever in doubt, the recent parade has demonstrated to all doubting Thomases that OPC is in serious business.

The OPC openly took to the streets of Lagos last Thursday in an attempt to send stern warning to contending militias not to cross into its boundaries. It was said that no police man was seen in sight to keep them in check as they fired warning shots into the air.

Thank God no lives were lost in this awesome parade. It must be obvious by now that Nigeria is on tenterhooks and it is only a matter of time before the country explodes in an orgy of violence if care is not taken to heal the nation and reduce the degree of human suffering in the land.

Our revolution would be worse and far more disastrous if we allow this terrible situation to deteriorate further.

What then is the way forward? I will make a few suggestions to our leaders. President Goodluck Jonathan can heal the wounds by bringing every Nigerian together.

The impression that a particular region is now in charge and can do whatever it likes must be jettisoned. No matter what you may have against President Olusegun Obasanjo, he was able to give a semblance of neutrality.

Even the Yoruba people complained more about his government. President Jonathan should reduce the profligacy of the people around him. Nothing is ever hidden in Nigeria. We all know the new billionaires in town who were near-paupers before this government came into being.

They are buying up properties in Dubai and other places. This can only heighten the unhealthy competition amongst the members of the political class.

The level of unemployment in Nigeria is unacceptable. There is no serious effort on the part of government to create jobs. The only people making money are politicians and contractors. And the contracts are hardly awarded on merit. All manner of huge contracts are going out to even foreign girls that have invaded Nigeria in droves.

A lot of our citizens are watching as politicians wreak havoc on their nation. You cannot blame these Nigerians if they come to the conclusion, and decision, that violence is the only language understood by our leaders.

The battle for the soul and body of Nigeria is all about milking the cow with the juicy milk. The forces at play are desperate enough to slaughter the cow if that is what it would take to get the milk.

It is difficult to tell who’s winning this war. President Jonathan needs more than good luck to succeed. Everyone is asking if he’s truly in charge of every land space in the country.

It is so bad that moving out of Aso Rock Presidential villa has become a security nightmare. For how long can he run a nation without actually being in charge?
Only time can tell.

Source: Thisday