Monday, July 4, 2016

The Avengers As Nemesis Of A Nation’s Hubris

By Alade Rotimi-John  
These are testy times for the Nigerian nation state. She is variously buffeted on all sides by the scourge of insurgency in her North-East geo-political zone, the murderous ogre of Fulani herdsmen in the north–central axis and in the southern states of Enugu, Ekiti, Oyo and Delta, the brimming militancy in the South-South exemplifying itself in incessant bombings of oil and gas pipelines in the Niger Delta, the revamped agitation for self-determination by restive youths in the South-East, an all-time low crude oil price, the irritable upsurge in price level, the plummeting exchange value of the national currency, unbridled unemployment and the abysmal failure or non-functioning of public infrastructure e.g. electricity, etc.
Of all Nigeria’s contemporary difficulties, however, the Boko Haram attempt to take control of the country by force to foist on her its own brand of rabid or unconventional Islamism and the Niger Delta militancy directed at the nation’s economic jugular have understandably taken the centre stage. Both militant agitations must be understood as natural human responses to a perceived unfair or unjust political or social order even as they are a stark reflection of how remiss successive administrations have been regarding the requirement to resolve the contradictions inherent in the Nigerian pastiche. Only half-hearted attempts have been made to interrogate the Nigerian national question.
The socio-economic injustice in the Niger Delta finds unrefreshing or disturbing parallel in the criminal neglect of the fortunes of children and young persons in many parts of Northern Nigeria. Generally, the Nigerian state manifests smug indifference to the plight of her people even as the people are consequently provoked to question the legitimacy or appropriateness of those who have been put in authority over them to resolve the crisis of the status of their stake-holding.
Self-help is resorted to as government marshals state security and military resources to combat the “audacity” of the aggrieved people. For instance, the hubris or overweening pride of the state often displayed by her power wielders defines the response of the state to the people’s protestation of the environmental degradation or ecological scandal that is the plight of the residents of the Niger Delta. Troops are promptly mobilised and deployed just to put out or “crush” any protest. 
The people may be quietened but the rumbles remain loud. The Adaka Boro and Ken Saro-Wiwa memorabilia fore-shadowing today’s restive agitations in the Niger Delta region offer a ruminative opportunity for the present occupiers of state offices. The impending battle in Oporoza is the a la carte or regular response of government: make no distinction between the culpable and the innocent, the young or aged; lump all together for violent punishment or mauling as they have not been able to restrain their children or wards from becoming threats to the national economy. Afterall, “All have sinned…”

The Boko Haram insurgents and the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) are not faceless organisations judging by the way they openly identify with affairs and events which they claim they brought about. Boko Haram often claims responsibility for bombings, abductions and killings in the North East region just as the NDA is quick to stop anyone guessing wild that it is responsible for attacks on oil terminals, pipeline bombings, platform or tank farm destruction or the blowing up of electricity feed pipeline in the Niger Delta.
They have in fact made public a body of demands which, in the case of the NDA, includes the serious consideration of the report of the 2014 national conference. That conference has, in its report, suggested the restoration of some of the tenets or elements of federalism as was practiced under the 1960/63 federal constitutions e.g. the reduction of the Federal Government constitutional responsibilities, restoration of the services that the states can offer, giving affirmative seal to the right of ethnic nationality communities to merge with their kith and kin in neighbouring states, taking key elements like policing, mining, minerals, oil fields, etc. from the Exclusive to the Concurrent list, etc.
If the truth must be told, the main cause of the respective agitations or restiveness all over the country today is the iniquitous official abandonment of the ethos, values or practice of true federalism. Since 1966, Nigeria has rudely shunned the practice of true federalism but has, instead, imposed on the people a quixotic or strange version of that governance ideal.
Military interference in the affairs of state and a sworn regime of hegemonic power play have self-gratifyingly versioned an unworkable unitary form of government. But a true and sustained federal structure is as desirable as it is imperative. It seems to this writer, granting our peculiar circumstance and our collective yearning for prosperity, optimum utilisation of resources, competitive development, peace, brotherliness, etc. that federalism remains our best management option. 
The aversion for or the reluctance of the Buhari administration to have a look at the report of the 2014 National Conference with a view to establishing the machinery for the adoption of some of its salient provisions is disdainful of the public weal That the President openly confirmed that he has never read the report or asked for any briefing on it exposes him to the oft-repeated charge by his adversaries of a lack of capacity for civil constructive engagement of issues.
We conclude by concurring with Francis Fukuyama that once a society fails to confront a major material or philosophical crisis through serious institutional reform, it is tempted to resort to a host of short time fixes that erode and eventually corrupt its own institutions. The reluctance of the Buhari government to confront the Nigerian national question will lead to bankruptcy in the amplitude of its moral, material and fiscal significations and the delegitimisation of the state itself.
*Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, contributed this piece from Owerri via rotimijohnandcompany@gmail.com


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