Saturday, May 13, 2017

Is Nigeria Really Too Weak to Break Up?

By Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo
One common trend which I have noticed in human beings is the inability for people to leave their comfort zones and confront the hard facts of their existence, even when such facts of life are so pressing and yearning for attention. It is like the rodent which was consumed by an inferno when it failed to leave its comfort zone despite being warned earlier by the fleeing lizard. At a point in the history of the Jewish nation, the people abandoned the statutes of their God in pursuit of other gods. Every warning issued by the prophets of old seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.
*Dr. Nwankwo 
God in his infinite mercy raised Amos, the shepherd of Tekoa to call the nation of Israel to order and warn them of the divine judgment that must fall upon the nation unless they turn from their evil ways. But even with all the warnings by Amos, the children of Israel refused to leave their comfort zones - they had fallen so deep into apostasy and deluded themselves that all was well. In the 6th Chapter of the Book of Amos, the prophet bemoaned the inability of the Israelites to leave their comfort zones and embrace righteousness, and in a state of exasperation he declared “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came”.
This has been the nature of man since the ages. Even in the family setting, when we are confronted with what I may describe as uncomfortable truths; it is convenient for us to deny it. We derive joy in deluding ourselves and pretending that all is well. We refuse to face the reality because we are afraid that the truth will destroy our comfort zones and deny us the grandeur which falsehood brings. We are always happy to indulge in such denials rather than confronting squarely those problems whose existence we deny. Because of this, we hardly make any move forward. 
If you situate the foregoing to Nigeria, you will begin to appreciate the relevance of this discourse. In Nigeria, we delude ourselves that all is well even when the facts on the ground suggest otherwise. We dismiss all suggestions to restructure the country as the ranting of a misguided few, yet the country draws closer to the precipice daily. We dismiss any alarm of cataclysmic uprising in the country because we are too consumed in enjoying the luxury of our loot; and have perfected the art of using the machinery of the state in pauperizing and oppressing the vast, helpless many. We trust in our wealth and chariots and in the security we have placed around ourselves and our mansions. If this were not so, Sule Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa State would not have had the courage to assert that Nigeria is too weak to break up because according to him “members of the elite are united in preserving their advantages over the masses irrespective of their differences of tribe and religion”. It was for this kind of mindset that Amos declared “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion…” 
*Sule Lamido

One of the last turns which a nation takes on its way to perdition is to allow its value system to be set by the ravenous elite; the type of which Lamido and his likes depict. The implication is that it is this elitist cabal which has run Nigeria in the last fifty years that has resulted in the squalid and wretched existence of millions of Nigerians. Whereas we may see the ruling elite quarreling and calling themselves names, the truth is that this scenario is just a peep into the complex theatrics involved in elitist looting of our commonwealth.
Lamido’s assertion, revelatory as it is, is indicative of the paucity of intellectual content of Nigeria’s ruling elite. For if there is any grey matter in what they regard as brains, somebody like Lamido should have been abreast of the reasons for the French Revolution in 1789. But for his crass and supine understanding of historical currents underpinning the death of nations, he would have known about the Aristotelian maxim that inferiors revolt that they might be equals and equals that they might be superiors; and that such is the mindset that creates revolutions. 
The French Revolution of 1789 represented one of the greatest uprisings of the ordinary people against the autocracy of the ruler, which generated the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. This revolution was a defining critical juncture, not just for France, but also for the entire Europe because of its ramifying consequences for the whole of Europe. The revolution not only changed the political, social and economic life of the people but also affected the entire course of world history.
It will be recalled that in the 18th century, France was a feudal society under the authority of an absolute monarchy. The Bourbon monarchs lived in splendor in the royal palace of Versailles. The finances of France were in a deplorable condition. The treasury was practically empty after the numerous wars that France fought. King Louis XVI was incapable of guiding France through the political and financial crises. Queen Marie Antoinette, an Austrian princess, was blamed for squandering away public money. The administration was corrupt and autocratic.
In addition to the foregoing, the social conditions of France were as distressing as its political organization. French society was divided into three classes or estates. The privileged class comprising the clergy and the aristocracy formed the first estate and the second estate respectively. These two estates enjoyed many privileges under the government and did not have to bear the burden of taxation. The nobility monopolized all important positions in the French administration and lived a life of luxury. 
The third estate comprised the common people. It consisted of middle class people, peasants, artisans, workers and agricultural labourers. Even the rich middle class, consisting of merchants, factory owners etc., fell in this category. The entire burden of taxation fell on the third estate. But these taxpayers had no political rights. The condition of the artisans, peasants and workmen was miserable. The peasants had to work for long hours and pay separate taxes to the Crown, to the clergy and to the nobility. After paying all these taxes, they hardly had enough money to feed themselves. The wealthy middle class had to pay heavy taxes and resented the privileges enjoyed by the aristocrats and the higher clergy i.e. the first two estates. The workers, the peasants and the middle class who suffered under the social and economic system wanted to change it.
Apart from the other contending issues in France at that time, the common people of France, inspired by the ideals of liberty and equality, had decided to revolt against injustice. Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Paris on July 14, 1789, and broke into the Bastille, the state prison. They entered the prison and released the prisoners. The Bastille, the symbol of a despotic monarchy, was destroyed. The fall of the Bastille is an important landmark in the history of the French Revolution and indeed the world over basically because it shows, contrary to Lamido’s theory of elitist exclusion, that the ordinary people can be united by their common suffering to destroy the narrow elite class. 
Perhaps, if Sule Lamido has any sense of history, he will realize that all the ingredients that spawned the French revolution as present in Nigeria and pedantic comments such as the one made by Sule Lamido only serve to provide the tinder to ignite a restive population traumatized by elitist oppression. Obviously, Sule Lamido and his estate have been hand-in-glove in the faux pas committed against the people of this country. 
For instance, I know that the last time Sule Lamido dominated the airwaves was when his son, Aminu, was arrested by the EFCC at the Aminu Kano International Airport for attempting to travel out of the country with cash of $50,000 in defiance of the legal limit of $10,000. He was convicted by the Federal High Court, Kano. That arrest and subsequent investigation led to the alleged discovery of a web of money laundering running into billions of Naira involving Aminu, his brother, Mustapha, and their father. That was about four years ago. Now out of power and reckoning, Sule Lamido has gifted us with one of the most incisive truths about the divide and rule tactics of the political elite in Nigeria and how poverty is used as a tool of keeping the people down while the elite help themselves to all the goodies.
But this trend is the signature tune for the collapse and death of nations. One issue that political and economic philosophers have correctly addressed is the violent change from extractive to inclusive institutions in societies like Nigeria. Historically, institutional change often takes place through revolution. In many documented cases extractive institutions replace inclusive ones; while in others one group of extractors is replaced by another; but as scholars have noted, the key, always, is whether revolutions are broad-based or narrow-based. An important example is the broad-based French revolution of 1789. 
Another case of a broad-based revolution is the Russian revolution. A particularly simple revolution is the Italian “Risorgimento” that led to a more open political regime than those pre-existing the country’s unification and to substantial economic growth. 
In effect, and in answer to Sule Lamido’s assertion, the truth is that Nigeria is not too weak to break up. As a matter of fact, the realities on ground in Nigeria today suggest strongly that the country is in its last lap to total disintegration.

 *Dr Arthur Nwankwo is a publisher, award-winning author, political scientist, historian and chairman of Fourth Dimension Publishing Company, the largest publishing company in Sub-Sahara Africa with over 1,500 titles.

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