Thursday, April 19, 2007

What more do we need?

Yesterday I called my mama and said, "I'm just calling to find out how you guys are doing, seeing as the country is imploding on itself." But you know Nigerian mothers, resilient as ever, "It's not imploding, anything. We're still here!" She went on to entertain me with a story about Abia state's PDP entourage getting into a fracas with INEC officials over "letting" Orji Uzo Kalu's PPA win the governorship. "What will I tell them in my village?", said the PDP man, before one of his people slapped Mr INEC...

The trouble with Nigeria... is that people have lost all sense of incredulity. There's an army of militants in the Niger Delta, trying to make Nigeria bleed in all manner of ways. There are parts of the east where the Biafran pound is being used as legal tender. Biafran flags fly brazenly in streets, youths affiliated with MASSOB "agitate" for a Biafran state. Isn't much of this called treason? In northern states, Sharia law is used where there's already federal or state law. Saudi sponsored conservative Wahhabi Islam is becoming incredibly influential in an area that's traditionally mainstream Sunni. People calling themselves the Taliban make forays into cities and kill policemen. After 40 years of independence we can't even organise a hitch free election. Armed robbers run the highways. When was the last time a Nigerian called for an ambulance and it came? Those who are paid to serve and protect are too busy waiting to be "settled". Planes landing at airports run the risk of crashing into cows. Power is almost non-existent. What are the state functions that work? Where? Someone show them to me.

This isn't about being Nigerian. It's about looking at the facts on the ground. Nigeria has all the hallmarks of a failed state. What needs to happen for people to admit that things are at their lowest? Another military coup? Another civil war? When will people say, enough is enough? Our incredulity lasts but for a second, and then it's on to, "that's Nigeria for you". The "na so we see am" mentality.

We need to wake up and smell the gunpowder...

ps Listen to the World Today podcast, there's a special part on the Nigerian elections.


uknaija said...

Nkem, I beg to disagree- don't buy into the BBC/Western media-think here. I'm no Naija right or wrong defender and yes by all Western standards Nigeria is a mess and should be imploding but the flip side is that it isn't.

Western commentators have been predicting Nigeria's implosion for years, I remember living in Abuja and watching broadcasts from abroad during the Abacha years with incredulity and I'm sure you remember This House has Fallen.Yet Nigeria totters on- I'm not sure why. Perhaps we should examine the reasons why in more detail, taking a different perspective from the West.

Your mum's right- I had similar conversations with my brother and friends and many of them were bemused by my calling to ask if they were okay...

I'm as frustrated as you are by the "wetin we go do" attitude or the outsourcing of civic responsibilities to a divine presence, but that said the reason why in spite of all this it persists hasn't really been addressed

To cut a long story short, it's complex (a cop-out I agree) but in my view Nigeria is no closer to imploding than it has been in the last two decades

Chxta said...

Nkem, the answer is very simple, patience. Nigeria seemed to be held together under Abacha simply because it was held together by brute force. Were to country going to implode, it would have imploded a long time ago (sometime between 99 and 03), but it didn't.

As things are, what is happening right now isn't nearly as bad as it was in 2003, but is happening again because in 03 people didn't speak out against the disenfranchisement.

In my humble opinion, it is time for people to speak out, but like I said, speak out in the right manner. The solution to our current problems is in the rule of law, not in anarchy.

? said...

You may all be correct. May be we should picture Nigeria at the time Achebe wrote his first novel "things fall apart". Did Nigeria really implode? Did things actually fall apart? We are still in the aftermath. It isn't just happening. Current events have been repeated over the years. Can I safely say Nigeria has been imploding hitherto?

Unknown said...

Nkem - despite its difficulties, of which there are many (I am not completely blinded!), Nigeria does have an atmosphere that just seems to suck you in. Can't explain it, its just interesting.

ababoypart2 said...

If I am to lay my cards…and I normally try to keep them close – I have never had faith in democracy working in Nigeria, and possibly Africa on the whole. For all the failings of democracy, it requires discipline to be successful. I don’t think we have the discipline to become democratically successful.

So in its place, I think we need a coup, but a coup with a difference. What we need is to impose a clued-up civilian (backed by the military – if we can call ours that) on Nigeria. I am pretty sure that if we search we may just be able to find that person. Let’s dump this expensive exercise called democracy, we simply can’t hack it. Let’s get someone in – someone to at least build the foundations required to possibly give democracy a try in 20 years time.

Anonymous said...

Very funny. Nigeria has "all the hallmarks of a failed state"? You need to get your facts and criteria right. If you really want a failed state, visit current Somalia and the DRC of two years ago.

No. Nigerians have not lost all sense of incredulity. Not at all. We loathe the system and we sincerely know that things don't have to be this way. But to categorically use Western hegemonic conceptions to label our problems doesn't hold water. People lumped very diverse people together, called them a country and equiped useless rulers who started manipulating ethnic and religious divisions from day one...

Nigerians are prone to secessionist ideas and religious autonomy simply because those are the lociwhere they seem to find credible leadership. But with all this, the Nigerian state remains strong. Isn't that telling of the fact that the state won't self-implode? And does that not indicate that the problem can be solved by helping people build confidence in the Nigerian state and not the current ethnic and religous cleavages (it is not an easy task).

Yes, we have a leadership crisis. And yes, people need to be able to relate with the government (note, I didn't say the 'state'. Unlike what you frequently assert, MOST Igbo people believe in Nigeria and not Biafra. Given a choice, they will stay with Nigeria. If you want, organise an informal referendum using the people you know.). And yes, yes, yes, our current leaders are pathetic. But we are not smelling any gunpowder. Maybe you need to wake up and smell hope.

Anonymous said...

I see you have not left "HeadBoy Mode" after 11 years. Your statements are still oozing with the smug arrogance of someone who thinks he is more intelligent than other people.... but you are not.

You say:
If you really want a failed state, visit current Somalia and the DRC of two years ago.
That, first of all is complete nonsense.
If somebody gets 10% in an exam will you argue that he hasn't failed because another person got Zero?
You have to define what is a pass mark before you know what is a fail. You cannot look for the lowest mark and say anybody who did better than that has not failed.

Let's try a short test shall we?
1) Is the state providing security for its citizens? NO. Everyday Nigerians go missing, are murdered, kidnapped and used for ransom or even worse ritual murders. Nobody knows what happens to them, nobody investigates, only their families care. Every single one of us knows at least 3 people who have been victims of armed robber. This is not normal or acceptable.

2) Everyday, those in power are stealing and raping the so-called state and does the state try and punish those who are trying to destroy it? NO.

3) If the government of the state is incompetent, can it be easily changed or replaced by the citizens in whose name they are acting and who theoretically have given them the power to act? NO.
The state has been failing since 1960. Anybody who says otherwise is delusional.

These are 3 BASIC requirements of a state. WE HAVE FAILED ALL.
Let's not even get to the power supply, water, healthcare, education, infrastructure maintenance etc as you can even argue that individuals can take care of these in the private sector.

Somaliland and Palestine are not even recognised as states, and yet they provide emergency healthcare services for their citizens that we can only dream of.

All this talk of "hegemonic" conceptions and loci is just defending the indefensible with grammar. Grammar is not logic, that seems to be one lesson you haven't learnt all these years.

Get real, A viable state is not just a piece of land with a flag and an airport. A failed state does not have to be in civil war. How low can your expectations be? Even during the Biafra war, Nigeria was not as wasted as it is now. So this whole talk of war being the lowest a country can degenerate to is wrong.

The first step to dealing with a problem is to admit you have one. The longer people resist the notion that Nigeria has failed the longer it will be before we get ourselves back on track.

Anonymous said...

Excellent comment Kemi. You on form. No abuse and no insult. clear and coherent argument.

ijebuman said...

You've actually answered your own question
Its quite simple, all the reasons you've listed for Nigeria imploding is the reason why Nigeria is no where near imploding. The place is chaotic. It would take a lot of planning and the training of a large 'disciplined' group to create a situation where Nigeria starts to fragment.
What we continue to have in Nigeria is 'low level violence' with no obvious (or achievable) agenda, today its islamists attacking a police station in Kano, tomorrow its area boys unleashing mayhem in Lagos, day after tomorrow its Mend kidnapping foreign oil workers in the delta.
There is no co-ordination between the various groups so it's quite easy to deploy the Army around the country to deal with the various incidents because they don't happen at the same time.

Now if these groups were to co-ordinate their attacks to happen at the same time so that the army is overstretched, then you can start talking about the end of Project Nigeria. But i seriously doubt if the Islamic militants of the far north and groups like MEND have anything in common..

So in reality the only group in naija capable of causing the country to implode is the military. And the military has to turn on itself for that to happen (like in 66 and in 91 during the Orkar coup when attempts were made to excise the far north)

Another thing you also need to remember is the absence of any real "ethnic" leader, since Awolowo died the yorubas don't have one. The North doesn't have one (hence we have 3 presidential candidates contesting from the north) and even in the east i doubt if ojukwu has the sort of influence he had 40 years ago.
So none of the major ethnic groups holding the country together has a ‘Jomo Gbomo’ that will lead their people out of Nigeria??

In the end Nigerians are just like other Africans, better to stick with what those all 'knowing oyinbos' have created than to try something else...

Jeremy said...

excellent post Ijebuman. The lack of ideology will stop Nigeria from 'imploding' in the hard sense of the word (implosion like a house falling from a cliff). The soft implosion, of people's lives being violated and frustrated to the extremes, will continue on regardless..

Quest said...

I think most nigerians would admit things are bad, but are reluctant to "predict" doom upon their country. And for those of us who are at home, what are we supposed to say if our country is indeed imploding?

You're in the UK so you have the luxury of pointing out "the truth." But for people who can't just up and leave for better places, what are we supposed to do? Nigeria is imploding, but what are we who currently have to live here supposed to say or do?

? said...

further to my earlier comment, let me attempt to address the questions posed by everchange

those of us at home ought to do what everchange just did - an admission - and in addition:

(i) admit wholeheartedly that we do not know what is true or what to say or do?

(ii) admit that we do not understand the true meaning of the following concept: partnership?

Anonymous said...

A very interesting academic but unfortunately obtuse exercise in the definition of "failed state".

Of course, the definition is relative! It depends on how high or low our standards are. Having a low standard is a "constitutional sin" and one of the problems facing Nigeria.

Must we compare ourselves to Somalia?

Is it until we have a total collapse of law and order nationwide that Nigeria has failed as a nation?

How should we tag a nation where leaders jet out to treat simple ailments and medical cases of breathlessness and uncomplicated sprains and bone fractures?

What would you call a nation where its cities are filled with area boys, and armed robbers and bandits rule the streets in broad day light?

How should we describe a nation where people spent hours waiting to cast their votes just to see their gangster deputy governor arrive to hijack the ballot box with soldiers shooting into the air?

If these are not traits of failure - they are certainly not signs of a successful nation!

People "shine your eyes well-well"!!!

Don Thieme said...

Hello, Nkem. I am not Nigerian, although I did live in Nigeria as a child. I do not think that Nigeria is a failed state. Nor do I think that it is in your best interest or that of other Nigerians or citizens of the developing world in general to apply this concept to your home governments.

As noted in the "Wikipedia" article, the concept derives from American imperialist foreign policy. The political and military implications of labeling a state as “failed” are that the proclamations and laws of that government may be ignored. The concept is a pretext for violent action inside the borders of that “failed state” by agents from other countries. Noone wants that to happen in Nigeria again. You had enough of that before you threw the British out and then took in “adivsors” during the Biafran conflict.