We have got to a point when we can ask the salient question of whether “Team Buhari” can fight and win the war for the soul of Nigeria. He has been the President and Commander in Chief of Nigeria since May 29, 2015. As a retired army general and one who is not unfamiliar with Nigeria’s political terrains as a former Military Head of State, reorganization of pitfalls in Nigeria shouldn’t be a big deal. The team he put together may not be the major problem either, although we thought that they could have been younger in age and more professional. His team is where a journalist is in charge of Ministry of Education, a lawyer in charge of Ministry of Works, a political scientist in charge of Minerals and geological matters, and so on. Having watched this team played for over a year now, there is a need to assess their performance and consider injection of new dynamism in the game, if the team intends to win. Their game is simple; namely, to provide the necessary moral and legal leadership for the socioeconomic and political development of Nigeria in a humane way. The team has the entire natural and human resources available in Nigeria to carry out their assignment, subject to the Nigeria constitution.
Going through a memory lane it can be observed that the very beginning of the battle for the Soul of Nigeria can be traced to the Berlin Conference of 1884 that formalized the conquest and merger of pre-colonial territories. This battle gave the then British Empire ownership of what we now call Nigeria. It was however administered by Britain in segments as East, Lagos Colony, North and West. Every territory won by the British, either in Africa or elsewhere, was supposed to be additional economic enhancement process for Britain’s domestic economic affair and political land space. It gave them freedom of exploitation and no interference from other outside powers of the time. It didn’t include obligation to develop Nigeria economically, politically or even socially.
The first set of weapons and schemes the British brought into Nigeria territories then consisted of (a) divide-and-rule tactics, (b) working with existing traditional systems by all means to maximize the exploitation, (c) training and favouring a few indigenous Nigerians to help their record keeping, etc. This type of weapons is divisive and discriminatory, doesn’t recognize merit or specialty, and unprogressive. The Nigeria constitution has inbuilt elements of these factors. The amalgamation of Nigeria that later came was not different from “furthering the economic process of the colonial masters”. There was no agenda or master plan for Nigeria’s socioeconomic development. The battle was left for independence seekers themselves. Hence we had expected the Presidency and the National Assembly, working together in a bipartisan way, to have drawn up a time base master plan as a “National Development Plan for Nigeria”.
Another area of socioeconomic development is in our mutual coexistence and harmoniously living together. This is where we may need some understanding of each other and the value systems inherent in each region and people. We would recall that there had always been a great difference between the activities and objectives of colonial administration on one hand and the missionary working that came along from the same source. The missionary actually came, and as they were sent, not to conquer but to spread their religions. Islam came much earlier to Nigeria than Christianity. Islam may not have penetrated the present South East and South -South Nigeria as they did the Core North, North Central and Western Nigeria. When Christianity eventually came it attempted spreading all over Nigeria but met more resistance from the core north that already had well established and competing Islamic culture. The Western Nigerians were accepting, seemingly by trial and error, both religions just in case one is right and the other is wrong, in their own wisdom. A father could ask some of his children to worship with that group and the other with the other group. Unfortunately this division in religion, ethnicity, regional division was to cost Nigeria all it stood for and bringing the entire nation to its knees at so many points in time; Emerging leaders capitalized on ethnicity and religious differences rather than building the unity in our motto.
For example, following the bloody military coups of 1966, that ended the First Republican, and the persecution that followed, the people constituting the Eastern Region especially the Ibo, thought that they had had enough of the selective persecution. With Col Ojukwu being their military governor they returned en masse to the east and united along historically fragmented communities to form the independent state of Biafra in May 1967. The essential tap roots of the civil war were unresolved ethno-political, cultural and religious conflicts and differences, points still prevailing. The quest of an ordinary Ibo man to date is how to “sell and buy” , whereas a typical Hausa Fulani’s perceived major objective is “spreading of Islam and trading only secondary”. Recognizing our differences and our different aspirations would improve our mutual cohabitation. How can we peacefully coexist when we differ significantly in objectives and aspirations? Similarly the aspiration of our youth is to get some education and be gainfully engaged to build their own society; after all the future and the nation are theirs. We are not too sure if Team Buhari has drawn up any programme to develop the youths or one to improve our coexistence.
It appears to some groups that Nigeria is worth protecting and to raise a battle to defend it. Those who want to fight for one Nigeria may have realized that it is richer keeping a collective purse, more enterprising acknowledging and living with our differences, more rewarding being our brothers keepers. But a few that would not may also like the common union but have had enough of the national betrayal, persecution and disadvantages and disappointments living in one country. Some regions have no ambition or goal in mind beyond occupying a national stage for stealing and promotions of ethno-religious, ethno-political regional aspirations. They have no qualifications or intentions for human development, society organization, growing national wealth. They can be described as people who won’t enter heaven’s door but prefer to block others who would have entered. This might be a reason why some people described the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the “Best President Nigeria Never Had”. Nigerians are people who “knowing what to do but refusing doing the correct”. Why should this be the case?
We may erroneously be rolling everything in the battlefield in Team Buhari as simply “a war against corruption”. Corruption is only a symptom or a byproduct of ineptitude government, or non existing check and balance in the system, a society that has no culture of accountability, or decaying inherent cultural value system. The battlefield must be identified as such and the correct weaponry deployed with correct ready to fight soldiers. Nigeria is a leading world power by all standards and we must not allow the present set of people masquerading self as politicians be cloud our vision. Nigeria as an entity has some parameters in our favour like human resources, location, climatic conditions and size for economic market, pluralism, etc. These are no longer our battlefields.
The battle confronting Nigeria is not even the inadequacy in the adapted foreign constitution, superimposed on the unschooled society without test running it, but the individual hijackers. The battle includes fighting against those “intriguing so called leaders” who have always been there and recycling themselves in one form or the other. This includes the dark clouds in our system that have connotations as “godfathers, ex-head of State, ex-this and ex-that, and those who know how to steal and where the money to steal is”. They masquerades that intimidate our collective will too often. They stand against our commonwealth and our national objective. These are comedians who can’t operate in an ideal environment and where integrity abides. They call themselves tugs, people that seem ready to celebrate ignorance and undeserved ceremonial attires with pride. The war against such a class can be fierce because intrusion into the den of lions has never been a dinner party but big theatrical risks for intruders. Nevertheless there is no going forward for a community who may refuse to fight it’s own battle and always ready to surrender to threats of the opponents, even camouflages. Nigeria only needs to learn from its own history by refusing to take steps that brought her down this low. We have come to stay as a united country, and must be armed ready to defend our collective freedom.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria