The Year Nigeria Almost Disappeared

63
5137
Simon Kolawolelive!, Email: simon.kolawoe@thisdaylive.com. SMS: 0805 500 1961
It is time to confess my sins. All my adult life, I have never feared for the continued existence of Nigeria as much as I did in 2017. Anybody who knows me very well knows where I stand: I believe in one, united Nigeria. It is not that I am an incurable optimist or that I am the most patriotic Nigerian alive. It is just that after assessing all the issues that so easily bog us down, I have always come to the conclusion that we do not have irreconcilable differences that should inevitably lead to divorce. I have always believed that every ingredient, every resource needed to make Nigeria work is here with us. I’ve always concluded that we have been terribly let down by the ruling elite.

My stand on Nigeria — in the face of campaigns for its balkanisation along ethnic, religious and other sectional lines —has earned me plenty enemies. I know people who have stopped reading me because of that. In fact, one “egbon” I used to look up to accused me of pandering to certain sections of Nigeria as “a tactic for personal advancement, like Obasanjo (or Tinubu’s failed 2015 plan)”. He as much as said I was not a Yoruba “freeborn”. I was amused at the personal attack over differences in worldview. Of course, there is always a price to pay if you refuse to play the ethnic and religious card in political commentary, if you do not go with the flow — and that I know.

But I will be honest and confess that there were two events that shook my confidence in the unity of Nigeria in this outgoing year, so much so I got to the point of throwing up my hands in surrender and saying “it is all over”. One, the politics over the grave illness that befell President Muhammadu Buhari and kept him away in the UK for months. Two, the October 1 deadline issued to Igbo people to leave northern Nigeria because of the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. I had never been so scared about the possibility of another nationwide bloodshed and the risk of another civil war as much as I was in 2017.

Sometime in February, I was inside a bank when I got a call from a woman who lives in Jos, Plateau state. She sounded frightened. Let me paraphrase her: “There is a message going round in the north that Yoruba people have poisoned Buhari so that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would take over as president if he dies. They said the poison was placed on the curtains in Buhari’s office, that the Yoruba want to take power through the back door. The Hausa people here seem to believe this rumour. If Buhari dies, we are in trouble. They will start attacking and killing us. You know killing human beings means nothing to these people.”

I was confused. I didn’t know what to tell her. She spoke to me in a way that suggested I could do something about the rumours or the backlash that would follow if anything happened to Buhari on the hospital bed. As soon as we ended our conversation (I only said “I have heard you Ma and I will tell some contacts”), my head went into a spin. I started imagining things. If Yoruba were attacked in the north, there would be reprisal in the south-west. There would be turmoil again in the country. We could be back to the June 12 calamity of 1993 which effectively shut down Nigeria for five years. The damage to our economy is yet to be assessed and quantified.

In Buhari’s absence, things were happening at a dizzying pace. Different shades of rumours and theories flew all over the place. Far-reaching changes were effected in the military high command to such an extent that allegedly favoured northern officers. The word in town was that the military would rather take over than allow power to return to the south so “quickly”. Chief Bisi Akande, a senior member of the ruling party, issued a statement warning that what happened in 1993, when Bashorun MKO Abiola’s victory was annulled by the military, must not repeat itself.  There was fire in his eyes and his words were really clear, to borrow a line from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.

Akande fired: “Let me warn today that those who wish to harvest political gains out of the health of the president are mistaken. This is not Nigeria of 1993. We are in a new national and global era of constitutionalism and order. We hope Nigerians have enough patience to learn from history. My greatest fear, however, is that the country should not be allowed to slide into anarchy and disorder of a monumental proportion.” Speaking in Lagos a few days later, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu advised the military against staging a coup, warning that “Lagos will resist you”. Those who were in Lagos in 1993 would understand the implications better.

I intensified my prayers for Buhari to regain his health and come back to Nigeria alive. This had nothing to do with the fact that I am unashamedly one of Buhari’s admirers, in spite of his obvious weaknesses. My concern was for Nigeria. If Buhari had died, the crisis would be unimaginable. Killings and counter killings. We all know that the biggest undoing of President Goodluck Jonathan, for some people, had nothing to do with his performance in office but the fact that he “usurped” power when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died. Jonathan could never do anything right in the eyes of those who wallowed in this mindset. I never wish to see a repeat in my lifetime.

While we were at it, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra was marked with pomp. The cries of marginalisation by the south-east reached a crescendo. Kanu enjoyed enormous airtime on TV/radio and lengthy inches in the newspapers. He was everywhere on social media. And then a group called Arewa youth whatever came up with the reckless declaration that all Igbo in northern Nigeria should vacate by October 1, 2017. I froze. We normally don’t run reports that promote ethnic hate and warmongering at TheCable, and I remember the editor, Mr. Taiwo George, asking my opinion on whether or not to run the story. I advised him it was too important to ignore.

I was fearful of the likely outcome of the ultimatum. If the Igbo did not quit as demanded, would they be attacked and killed in the north? Wouldn’t the Igbo also retaliate in the south-east? Would the tit-for-tat stop there or degenerate into a bloodbath that would bring back memories of 1966-67 and lead us into another civil war? My biggest fear was that even if the Arewa youth eventually withdrew the quit notice, the people on the streets might still go ahead and attack Igbo people. The group was playing a very dangerous game and toying with emotive issues whose consequences no one could predict. In all honesty, I was really, really scared.

I began to review my positions on the unity of Nigeria. In my mind, I started moving away from “One, United Nigeria” to “anybody that wants to go should go”. After all, South Sudan left Sudan. Eritrea ditched Ethiopia. Soviet Union broke up. Yugoslavia disintegrated. Deep down my heart, I still desired one Nigeria — a rainbow coalition whose strength is in its diversity. But I came to the conclusion that while ordinary Nigerians have learnt to live with, and tolerate, one another, the political gladiators — including their intellectual sidekicks — are bent on pursing the agenda of balkanisation. The political class has continued to disappoint and manipulate the ordinary Nigerians.

In the chaos though, I was comforted by the moves made by prominent Nigerian leaders to douse the tension. As a journalist, I was privy to some of the underground peace moves made by prominent statesmen. Many of them do not talk openly but are selflessly working day and night to prevent ethnic and religious conflagration in Nigeria. In the end, the Arewa ultimatum was withdrawn and Igbo were not attacked in the north. My fears melted. Well, the elites are masters of brinksmanship. Most importantly, though, Buhari did not die. I honestly can’t say if Nigeria would still be in this shape if Buhari had not returned alive. God be praised.

Okay, Nigeria has survived another turbulent year. There is peace. But the best conclusion would be that this is the kind of peace you find in a graveyard. The issues always exploited by the political elite are still there. It is only a matter of time before these sentiments are whipped up yet again in the competition for political power and patronage. We have survived yet another turbulence that tested the foundation of our nationhood. I continue to wish that the unity of Nigeria would be strengthened. I wish the agents of balkanisation would have a rethink. But I am intelligent enough to know that we have not seen the last of it. Nevertheless, I remain a believer in one Nigeria.

And Four Other Things…

BROUGHT IN DEAD

Nigerians have been having fun on the social media over the latest round of appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari. Far from the usual ethno-religious analysis, the interest this time is in the comical inclusion of names of dead people on the list. You call that posthumous national service! Something tells me most of the appointees were nominated in 2015 when Buhari’s supporters thought he would hit the ground running, but somebody did not bother to do due diligence before throwing the list to the media in 2017. If the list was indeed prepared in 2015, does it mean it took over two years to make it public? Killjoys.

OIL DOOM

The time has come for us to finally admit that Nigeria is a country like no other. It is the only OPEC member that imports petrol! It is the only country that has refineries that are not working! It is the only country that regularly spends billions on “turn around maintenance” of its refineries without results — and yet continues to hold on to those refineries! It is the only country in the world, bar warzone, where fuel scarcity and fuel queues are integral to national culture! It is the only country in the world that does not have the competence to import petrol! It did not start today. It won’t end today. That is why we are Nigerians. Jokers.

ON YUSUF BUHARI

My prayers and wishes are with the First Family over Yusuf Buhari’s motorbike accident on Tuesday night. From what we are hearing, the president’s only surviving son suffered serious injuries in the accident. Biking and car racing are dangerous sports that are not yet properly regulated in Nigeria — even though they have been with us for a while. It is usually the children of the rich who engage in these sports here. I would suggest that, if possible, the useless velodrome at the national stadium, Abuja, should be converted to a racing arena so that people can exercise their hobbies in a safer environment. Government could even earn revenue from it. Commonsense.

PRESIDENT WEAH

I first heard of the name George Weah in 1988. Iwuanyanwu Nationale had defeated Tonnerre Kalara of Yaoundé, Cameroon, 2-0 in the first leg, second round of the African Club Champions Cup (now called CAF Champions League) in Owerri. They were suddenly gasping for breath as the Liberian mercilessly terrorised their defence in the return leg. Iwuanyanwu still managed to beat them 3-2 after all the drama. Weah would go on to Europe to do great things. He has now been elected president of Liberia in the most fascinating fashion — including returning to school to get university education after his first failed presidential bid in 2006. What a strike! Sensational.

  • I feel you brother! I feel that we need to take away the constant Lowest Common Denominator that every detractors pounce on – and put the onus on each state leadership to improve the lives of their people/citizens. That will prevent a failure from England (Kanu) to come home and pounce on the so-called Lowest Common Denominator as well – accusing the country of marginalization. If the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) is removed the Kanu’s of the world and the silly Arewa boys would have no one to blame but their State Governor.

    Nigeria need two things going forward to eliminate and take away the Lowest Common Denominators that everyone resort to when aggrieved – blame your state leadership.

    1. Reform the country to make every state responsible for their economic well being. Natural resources found belongs to state and the locals. They just need to pay taxes to the federal government. At the end of the day – the federal taxes will be so high – that the natural resources should have been left to the federal government as it is now. Relinquishing the natural resources to the state would give the state and locals a sense of entitlements – they really don’t have.

    2. End federal allocation to state – citizens of each state should make sure they elect State Governors that knows how to create jobs, create IGR through taxation from employment, reform education in line with what the citizens of State wishes, build state roads, provide healthcare, water, fix roads and power to and for their state.

  • Kayode Abegunde

    SW politicians are like the Elulu bird that has no nest but always called on the rain to fall.
    If Nigeria should restructure today what will WS depends on for income? Only Lagos and Ogun are viable
    Is anybody planning for the SW?

    • Uche

      What do you mean by Your submission? An average Yoruba will disagree?

  • “Nevertheless, I remain a believer in one Nigeria” Thank you Simon!

    • ychukwuka

      That’s a ‘sinking sand’ belief. A country built on deprivation, criminality, injustice and quota system will never last. You can take it to the banks.

    • Obi Ike Sorres

      You guys up north don’t get it. One Nigeria is still possible under restructuring. It’s very possible. One Nigeria and we are still like a world class village ghetto. Don’t you get it. We are not progressing. Building roads and the vehicles that pile it is not made by you or steel or fibre glass used making it is not made by you or the engineers that build the road not by you or the technicalities not by you. Is not progress my brother.

  • John Paul

    ” Anti-government protests spurred by economic woes hit Iran for a third day Saturday, news agencies and social media reported, in what has quickly emerged as a significant challenge to the administration of President Hassan Rouhani”

    “Demonstrators protesting price increases and high unemployment turned out in cities and towns across the country, defying police and voicing anger at the cleric-ruled government, in an extraordinary display of public dissent” – The Washington Post, December 30, 2017
    ————————————————————————————————————
    This is a country that produces 77,000 MW of electricity for a population of 80 million, in contrast to Nigeria’s 5,000 MW for a population of 180 million. Has a maternal mortality rate of 25 deaths per 100,000 live births, in contrast to Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate of 814 deaths per 100,000 live births. And has an infant mortality rate of 37 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to Nigeria’s 71 deaths per 1,000 live births

    Iran tops Nigeria in every single developmental indices but their youth still have the zeal to protest Iran’s “economic woes”

    Meanwhile, the Nigeria’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has just announced the result of audit, that they conducted on Nigeria’s oil industry, between 2011 to 2015. The years of the locust

    NEITI’s audit revealed that between 2011 and 2015, Nigeria earned a staggering $268 billion from the sales of crude oil. $268 billion with nothing to show for it.

    This money, which could have developed Nigeria, if Nigeria had leaders that were human beings, was looted by the idiots that were in power during that era. Thereby effectively destroying the future of millions of young Nigerians

    Interestingly, these are the same people running helter skelter trying to find the cause of our problem. They mouth platitudes like restructuring, etc, while still sitting on their loot, that is the primary caused of our malaise

    The next step in the war against corruption, is for the FGN to set up a fully-publicized truth and reconciliation commission.

    Nigerians deserve to know all the vermin that looted most of that $268 billion from our country. What caused them to loot the money that was meant for our development. Is it that they came from very poor and wretched families.

    Was their looting caused by infant malnutrition, as some experts have posited, recently. Did their mothers not give them a hug when they were babies. How do we bring an end to this sociopathic behavior of our public office holders.

    Where is the money

    • FrNinja

      The money is in London and Dubai.

      Yes Iran beats Nigeria on every single indice of development. The so called fundamentalist Islamic Republic of Iran is more progressive than the Caliphates of Northern Nigeria. You forgot that with their 80 million people they have a literacy rate of 93%. That the average Iranian woman has 2 children and not 7 malnourished beggars like Northern Nigeria or pure water hawkers like Southern Nigeria. That 70% of Iran’s Science and Engineering students are women. That they have 5 million university students compared to Nigeria’s less than 3 million. That 99% of their population have access to potable water and electricity.

      • Uche

        Delightful piece of information. You forget to add that they’ve achieved all this under the stranglehold of western sanctions spearheaded by USA.

      • Fidelis A.

        Thanks for this. Happy new year.

    • Grelia O

      Why do you always limit your anti corruption crusade to a narrow window? While nobody should absolve whoever looted and mismanaged during your targeted period, there’s nothing sacrosanct about those who looted and mismanaged before and after that period, and there are plenty of them even as of this very blog. You risk being guilty of the same selective enforcement in the war against corruption in which this administration (including several others before it) is mired. That is a form of corruption. It dents your otherwise excellent blog.

      • Uche

        You have time to respond to that “asshole” ( my apologies as l tend to avoid insults in my commentary). I stopped since l figured him out.

        • tobias

          Uche, I don’t think john Paul deserves that insult in anyway.

      • Fidelis A.

        Dear Grelia, it’s difficult responding to him. His narrow perspective on corruption, limits his otherwise intelligent post. Happy new year to you and yours.

        • Grelia O

          Best of the new year to you and yours, too, dear F. A.

          J. P. has the unfortunate habit of allowing his hatred of GEJ to becloud him to objectivity. That’s a shame.

  • Don Franco

    Dear Simon:

    This article must be a harbinger of your impending sycophantic op-eds for the APC and the Certificateless One in the new year leading up to the 2019 election. Your sanctimonious recollections of the past is useless because it doesn’t inform the future in any way. You’re telling us what we already know about our third-world banana Republic of a Zoo.

    Here are five questions and comments for you to ponder as you subserviently strategize for appointment as a Presidential spokesman if the APC rigs itself to victory in 2019 :

    1)If Buhari had taken steps to restructure and devolve power; would there have been any apprehension about the peace and stability of Nigeria during his health tourism in the UK?
    2) Is your vehement opposition to restructuring not responsible for your anxieties about IPOB and the repercussions and consequences that would have attended the Dullard’s demise in his London hospital?
    3) Aren’t you aware that Nigeria will not endure, unless it is restructured into a confederacy; that the North isn’t viable or self-sufficient, would be more backward than it currently is but for the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta?
    4) Your trite, hackneyed, clichè that failure of leadership is the problem in Nigeria, not restructuring, is all the ammunition that the forces of evil and the bulwark of our oppression needs to not reform and reposition this country for greatness; your untenable position on this issue squarely put you on the wrong side of history.
    5) 2019 is a referendum on President Buhari and the status quo that compromised columnists,like yourself, seek to impose on hapless Nigerians, we shall see whether the farm animals will continue in sin that grace may abound; or if enough is enough in the Zoo.

    All in all, Simon, with the punishing fuel queue and power failure this yuletide, I’m convinced that Atiku Abubakar is a President in waiting, all that remains is the physical manifestation of it.
    #Atiku2019

    • Olisa

      Franco, the North is very much viable. More than 20 products could be made from cashew alone, that means up to 10 to 20 potential industries built on one produce. What they need are viable self-respecting political leaders.

      • Full blooded Nigerian

        Arable land for agriculture and over 20 different types of mineral resources including the “yellow cake”.

        We are a blessed confederate of regions. The country has abundance of resources that can sustain each of the states. The only thing missing is leadership; I would term it as abundance of poor leaders and the less of this is what we need.

        • Olisa

          Thank you.

        • Uche

          ” The only thing missing is leadership” Wrong!
          The only thing missing is structure, structure, structure…..!

          • Olisa

            Leadership and structure are both necessities, just that, in our case, the call for the latter should be of the highest priority.

      • FrNinja

        The problem with the north is not resources but a very backward leadership that cloaks behind religion. Yet 90% of the Arabian world where the same Islam started and spread are not baby making factories like Northern Nigeria. They have less than 3 children per woman. They marry one wife on average. Most of their children go to school and do not wander the streets begging for alms as in the time of Prophet Mohammed. So the north will remain wretched until their leadership behave responsibly.

        Same goes for the South by the way. Compare Southern Nigeria with any sane country even in Africa. Southern Nigerian cities are filthy, haphazard and primitive. So much for christianity and western education. Little Rwanda with zero natural resources is more organized than Lagos or Abuja built by crude oil. Compare the airport of little Mauritius to the rubbish called Murtala Muhammed. Do you see streets teeming with children carrying pure water or drinks on their heads or pushing wheel barrows in Accra or Nairobi as you see in Southern Nigeria?

        • Fowad

          When you allow population explosion in a country where people are averse to change, what you get is little or no progress like we have in Nigeria. Conversely, China has more population than Africa put together, but they are willing to do things differently. No wonder their population is not a hindrance but a blessing.

          • FrNinja

            China started family planning in 1979 around the time they embarked on economic reform. Less children more quality education, more money for infrastructure.

            Nigeria is ridiculous. From 1999-2017 its population grew by 60 million. Meanwhile what has been put in place to create a more productive workforce? Nothing. Education is still crap, infrastructure has barely changed. No power throught the country. Little manufacturing. Nigeria is basically creating an army of the poor and desperate living in physical and mental darkness.

            Kolawole is celebrating too soon. 2016 was the year Nigerian government saw that oil can no longer save Nigeria. That Nigeria is essentially now a beggar. Because the 4 trillion govt revenue is less than half of what Nigerians spend to feed themselves. 2017 and the Libyan slavery episode should have put things in perspective. Nigerian leaders have created a nation ready to be enslaved.

      • Don Franco

        Dear Olisa:

        Hasn’t the Middle Belt told you that they’re not part of the “North”? What economy anywhere in the world is predicated on the derivatives of Cashew; and you really believe that anybody up north is interested in applying themselves innovatively other than in wasting NNPC revenues in exploring for oil in Sokoto and Bauchi?

        • Middle – Belt is in Nirthern Nigeria.

          • Olisa

            That ought to be for the Middle-Beltans to decide. Referendum will be a wonderful thing.

          • Don Franco

            Dear Olisa:

            Ahmed Omar said “Nirthern” Nigeria, not “Northern” Nigeria. .. methinks he knows what he’s talking about. The benefit of a Kaduna education.

          • American Abroad

            Don, that’s beneath you. You know it was a typo.
            Happy New Year.

          • Don Franco

            Greetings, AA:

            I wishould you and yours a happy 2018; we’re all edified by your cerebratonic contributions on this forum. May God bless and keep you.

          • American Abroad

            Don: you are a good man, and I am glad to have made your acquaintance, even if only virtually, on this forum. The fight for justice is long and hard, and I recognize that my perspectives on Restructuring, which I view as a red herring, is diametrically opposed to nearly everyone else’s. Regardless, that needed debate, I believe, will make us all better men.
            An apology though: I wrongly inferred that Thompson Iyeye was being dishonest. This was based on my inaccurate conclusion that he had altered a question AFTER I had responded to it. That was very churlish and ignoble of me, and my father would not have approved. My heartfelt apologies to Mr Thompson if he is reading this.
            Happy New Year again.

          • Thompson Iyeye

            Thanks for your apology. I responded to it in your direct post to me.
            Have a happy and prosperous New Year.

          • share Idea

            lol

        • Olisa

          What economy anywhere in the world is predicated on the derivatives of Cashew
          My dear Franco, it is possible. The North can be the first; and that is just one crop out of many. Also note that the Jews will not agree that a desert is non-viable.

          …and you really believe that anybody up north is interested in applying themselves…
          At least we can agree that its the viability of the people not the land that matters. The problem of the North is their religio-political culture. What is needed is leadership with modernist paradigm and regional autonomy that will box them to an innovate-or-die corner — Saudi Arabia is case study.

          The everyday people of the North are naturally strong and efficient with menial jobs. Add education to the mix and they are good to go.

          • Don Franco

            Dear Olisa:

            In what endeavour of life has the North ever been first; you can’t believe in them more than they do in themselves, have you been to Maiduguri and Kano lately? The Jews don’t need to agree; if you saw endless baskets of tomatoes along the Magama-Gumau road in Bauchi; being left out to rot, (instead of slicing it up and letting it dry in the sun) you’ll understand how uncommon common sense is in those parts.

            Where will the “leadership with a modernist paradigm” issue from when an entire population is embued with Sunni fundamentalist religiosity; when caliphate conquest is still highly encouraged through the instrumentality of Fulani herdsmen? Maybe you should speak with the Agatu and Berom.

            Were a Mohammed Bin Salman to appear in the North today; he’ll be stoned. Maybe you should ask El Rufai and Lamido Sanusi.

            Your everyday northerner maybe strong, but his intellectual indolence and religious fanatism are twice as strong. It’s a mindset, Olisa; try to engage your Maiguardi and a fresh northern NYSC graduate in a conversation about personal freedoms, equality of all Nigerians and our civic institutions; and see how bizarrely similar and identical their answers will be. I wish I share your optimism, but I don’t.

  • Olisa

    Painful to read. I could not survive a third paragraph before letting go.

  • Country man

    Dear Simon,

    For all your write up you still failed to answer the pertinent question bugging this nation down which is:- What SYSTEM of governance would we practice that will take away balkanisation agitation PERMANENTLY?
    It’s ok not to go with the flow, but when the flow is in the RIGHT DIRECTION, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with going with it. It is very obvious our system of governance has not worked for the majority of the masses and while I agree with you that “The political class has continued to disappoint and manipulate the ordinary Nigerians”, they are just a reflection of what the average Nigerian will do in their position.

    Till we entrench a merit based system where the people can take their destiny in their own hands- just the way it is in western nations- the agitations, the looting, the mediocity, the buffoonery, the charade will continue with us irrespective of the people or persons who become the ruling class.
    We will continue to crawl instead of taking real developmental strides.

    This is the truth YOU and other members of the fourth estate should be shouting from the rooftops instead of flowing with the tide of political correctness that satisfies only those profiting from the warped system.

  • American Abroad

    As Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong activist pointedly reminds us, all democracies are fragile, the fight for freedom is never finished, any regime in power will do (almost) anything it can reasonably;y get away with to remain in power, and all men- regardless of their culture or nationality or religion or status- desire dignity and self-determination. In the spirit of the New Year’s promise of renewal, I’ll let you in on another secret: even the Almajiri desire Resource Control, or Restructuring, if you will. It is its presentation by its many wayward advocates that set off all the alarm bells, and triggers the inevitable push-back.

    But I digress.

    The truth is that Nigeria only barely dodged a bullet. We are a transitional democracy, which is by definition, inherently unstable. In our case, it is made worse by the absence of usual ingredients of participatory democracy, the so-called Jeffersonian democracy, an anomaly that has persisted since 1999, but has always come to the fore during times of national crisis: Presidential ill-health, an Islamic insurgency, political upheaval of regime change, low transnational oil prices, the IPOB apostasy, ministerial appointments, threatened membership of IOC, any one of a million fissiparous ignitors. The Nigeria of 1966, when we wildly veered off the road to redemption, is so vastly different from the Nigeria of 2017: one had an aspirational middle class, based on a robust meritocracy, where felonious conduct was not routinely excused; the other is an Anything Goes culture, where each citizen expects excellence from their neighbors/leaders but nothing from themselves. Hence, the bloodymindedness of our warlike (and reliably ignorant) internet commentariat, daily manifesting all the malediction and feral instincts of the unwashed. As with water- or energy- nonsense most easily flows downhill, and sooner or later, mayhem is sparked amongst the lowliest and dispossessed, who were only responding to another WhatsApp depiction of Igbo/Hausa/Yoruba massacred by the Other. Sadly, neither government, Police, the military, Clergy, or Commonsense seem able to brake these periodic spasms of bloodlust.

    But what is actually the underlying problem with Nigerian democracy?

    Democracy is a relatively recent human invention. Most societies moved from patriarchy to plutocracy, then authoritarian dictatorships, and got stuck there. All functional democracies are roughly predicated on that Gallic revolutionary war-cry of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. That tripod is impossible bro achieve in transitional societies, such as Nigeria, which are not free. No society or citizen can be free without a livable income: enough to satisfy the basic needs of survival, namely food, shelter, clothing and basic medical care. To satisfy those, there has to be either an aspirational (read: educated & well-informed, which are not necessarily synonyms) middle class or a benevolent dictatorship, otherwise communal resources will always be purloined for private use in the name of the State or her Agents. Until any of those prerequisites take place, to nurture a republican democracy, we must return to First Principles: formulate a new constitution based on consensus and plebiscite; uproot the ancien regime (i.e. vestiges of military authoritarianism and all their silly, reprehensible strictures, from creation of unviable states to Land Use Act to local government “reform” to the outrage of unaudited security votes); nurture an opposition based on ideology, not personalities (as it is, APC is simply PDP opposed to Jonathan, period); protect our Rules of Engagement (there must be a free, vibrant Press, unafraid of its own shadow, and here, government should lead by example by resuscitating Daily Times as an official mouthpiece dedicated veto journalistic excellence; in like manner, foster credible avenues for debunking falsehoods and pepper-soup theorems); cultivate inspirational and intelligent leadership, dedicated to legacy, not personal wealth; ensure free & fair elections, under international observership); and, above all else, reform our schools. We desperately need an informed, thoughtful, educated citizenry. Then, we wouldn’t have to pray too much for our citizens to accept the inevitable mortality of their leaders: Churg-Strauss (which was what killed President Yar’Adua) is probably not as complicated as it sounds.

    Finally, I will end with one of my favorite philosophers, Al Ghazali: To get what you love, you must first be patient with what you hate. Do you think our Restructure-Or-Nothing crowd will heed this injunction?

    I wish all those who read these BackPages an insightful New Year. I will see you all, Deo Volente, sometime next year.

    • Daniel Obior

      Tend to agree on those things you say make democracy work, particularly with the educated middle class; quite vital. Your contribution is though flowery, but rather verbose and tedious. You definitely can say all you have said with one third of the space. Good point to be patient with what you hate, to get what you want. But for how long should one be patient? Certainly not until there is nothing left to be patient for, as things are tending, in the case of Nigeria. Nigeria should begin to restructure, to survive.

      • American Abroad

        Thanks, Daniel.
        I have always focused on my character, not my reputation. The two are often diametrically opposed. A wise old man, back in the swamplands of East Anglia in the day, once told me that the things to be concerned about, being those things worth being patient for, are the things you can take along with you in a fire mishap: usually your insight, your limbs, your sense of justice, not crude oil.
        As for the language thing, one can’t help repeating oneself on that score: we need a better educated citizenry. One man’s tedium is another man’s animation.
        Happy New Year.

        • Daniel Obior

          Follow you? How immodest! The beauty of this forum is the latitude to respond to any comment, which we all do, including you. To see that as following you is rather silly and childish. Cheers.

        • John Paul

          My brother, do not pay any attention Daniel Obior

          On several occasions, on this backpage, Daniel Obior has premised his comments by admitting that he did not even read the essay that he was commenting on.

          He makes comments like – I stopped reading after the first line. I could not read the nonsense, etc. If someone does not have the time, the attention span, or the intellectual discipline to read an essay, you will think that they will not comment on the essay, but move on.

          No so

          Having not read the essay, he goes on to set forth his boiler plate comments. Which are always the same. Blasting PMB, defending PDP , and spewing negativity on anyone who condemns the decadence of the idiots – his paymasters – that brought us to this place

          By the way – and apologies if this puts you in a spot – several months ago, in response to a comment by Don Franco, you confidently proclaimed that if you are in a position of power in Nigeria, you will not loot the money that is meant for our development, because you are staying true to how you were raised

          You explained that your father did not steal even one kobo from the public till. He raised his family from the income he earned as a lawyer.

          That was the most touching comment on Thisday’s backpage in 2017

          Had you father, or people like him, managed the $268 billion that Nigeria earned between 2011-2015, not to talk about the billions more that we earned between 1999 to 2011, etc, we would not have been where we are today

          Nigeria would have been able to distribute, at least, 70,000 MW of electricity by now. Most of our roads will be well paved. Kidnapping would not have entered our reality and lexicon. We would have been just fine

          Instead, we had vermin, sociopaths and reprobates, as leaders, who destroyed almost everything that was put in their care. They where given expo – oil wealth that was produced without the sweat of any Nigerian – but somehow still managed to fail they examination.

          They disgraced us completely

          On behalf of the masses of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Seven Gbosa ! – to your father and people like him

          • Tony Ezeifedi

            Why do many people talk as if life or governance in Nigeria started in 1999? Why do people like to forget the ravages of prolonged military dictatorship: political, economic and psychological. Up till now. Nigeria is still recovering money stolen by Abacha, almost, 10 years after his death. The post- 1999 regime had a lot of carryover problems from the military which many people pretend not to remember: collapsed economy with low oil prices, institutions that had been destroyed or desecrated, demoralised citizenry, etc. I don’t accept this facile and puerile impression that all our problems started after 1999.

          • John Paul

            It is all about awareness.

            By 1999, after the Kleptocratic years of Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubaka and Sani Abacha, Nigerians were already aware of the damage that corruption was doing to our country, by that time. So they believed that no Nigerian, in their right senses, should put us through that nonsense again

            Nigerians were wrong
            ———————————————————————————-
            “Since the late 1990s, corruption has reached such an extent that some governments resemble glorified criminal gangs, bent solely on their own enrichment” – Foreword , “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security”, by Sarah Chayes
            ———————————————————————————–
            Being fully aware of the devastating effects of corruption on our country, the same way people are aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes, some idiots still did not have any qualms, at all, to keep on looting our commonwealth, and plunging us into an even deeper malaise

            At the time the military handed over power to civilians in 1999, there was no kidnapping in Nigeria, save for the Otokoto saga, Port Harcourt road Aba was motorable, Aba to Ikot Ekpene road was motorable, Enugu to Port Harcourt Expressway was motorable, and power supply was not as erratic as it is today

            Between 1999 and 2015, Kidnapping became a plague in our communities. And all those roads – Port Harcourt road Aba, etc, became unmotorable.

            Meanwhile, during that same period – (1999-2015 ) – Nigeria earned more revenue than between 1960 to 1999, combined

            So the people that ran the show, when they should have known better – 1999 to 2015 – deserve more blame for our malaise

            But true to their character – from 1960 to today – anytime Nigerians demand for accountability, these same group of vermin start playing the tribal card

            They argue that Northerners were in power between 1979 and 1999, and looted Nigeria to their fill. And conclude that now that the Southerners had their “turn” to loot – 1999 to 2015 – Nigerians should not complain about their looting

            They fail to see their illogical argument. The people that looted Nigeria into penury are no more than 75,000 people, out of a population of 180 million people, and drastically moving towards 400 million people. And they did not loot on behalf of their tribe

            They looted for themselves and their families, betrayed their tribes, States, regions and Nigeria. And brought Nigeria to its knees

            The bottomline is that the FGN should continue to fight corruption as much as they can, recover as much of our looted funds as they can, and set up a truth and reconciliation commission to record for posterity, what caused those government officials to loose their souls, and what we can do to make amends

            For those of them that are ready to rehabilitate themselves, they should start bringing their loot back to Nigeria, as fast as they can, and start remedying the life threatening problems that they caused for us

            They should invest their loot is sectors that are in desperate need of investors, like the electricity sector. They should heed Richard Branson’s advise and invest in off-grid and mini-grid electricity

          • American Abroad

            Dear John Paul:
            I am much indebted to you for remembering. Much more than you can ever imagine.
            The point was that I responded somewhat acerbically to Thompson Iyeye, whom I was sure (indeed, I could have sworn) altered a question he had posed to me, only after I made my response. Indeed, several other commentators had pulled that same “trick” on me before, which is an annoyance, given that I daily have to write several opinion pieces as part of my day-job, making each needless re-write an unwanted imposition on my time (and sanity). On review, I discovered that I had absolutely no proof, that my initial assumption was most probably wrong, but even more galling, that I had deliberately tarred an innocent man.
            That was not only an egregious act, but unforgivable: the sort of misconduct that would have made my own father wince in physical pain. I not only bore false witness against my fellow man, which is as unconscionable as it is unforgivable, but I had fleetingly become, even by default, the epitome of WB Yeat’s dystopia, where his apocalyptic poem warns of a world were the worst of us are full of passionate intensity whilst the best of us lack all conviction. Giving rein to my worst instincts in a moment of ennui only dishonors my father’s memory.
            We can’t ask for a better Nigeria if we can’t become better and more gracious citizens ourselves, even in little things.
            This ends my contribution on all matters 2017. Happy New Year, my friend.

          • Daniel Obior

            I read your apology to Thompson Iyeye and I was touched. I was inspired to start contributing to this forum by the views and restrained style of Thompson. To have accused him of dishonesty was indeed unfair, given his track record in the forum. It was admirable to apologise on realising your mistake. I must confess I do not have Thompson’s calm and restrained temperament, as I tend to give as much bile as I am given. Now, my comment on your style of writing, was a suggestion for brevity, which I truly believe will produce better clarity. My “silly and childish” comment was me hitting back at you for what I considered an insult by you, saying I follow you like a fly to a corpse. The sum total is that we all need to exercise restraint. Warts and all, I think we all still get good conversations going in this forum. As for John Paul, please feel free to choose your company. However, a barefaced liar is beneath your moral uprightness.

          • Fidelis A.

            I initially thought you were Thompson iyeye, using other moniker. Interesting to know. Happy new year to you and yours.

          • Daniel Obior

            Wish indeed I was Thompson; admired him lots. Are you the same Fidelis Arumala? Enjoyed his exchanges with Thompson those days past. Happy New Year.

          • Daniel Obior

            You John Paul are a notorious pathological liar, in this forum. If your claim is true that I do not read essays and comments I respond to, how come my contributions are largely relevant to the issues discussed? Going be even the upvotes I get to my contributions, which may be considered a form of peer assessment, you have once again exposed yourself as the liar that you have always been. I have regularly criticised the Buhari administration for its obvious failures, rarely mentioning PDP in my contributions. Fatally obsessed with PDP, you see every criticism of Buhari as tantamount support for PDP. Yes, I see PDP as the better compared to APC, but my arguments have not been rooted on a PDP versus APC basis. It is dumb and shameful to consistently tell lies, particularly in a public forum.

      • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

        I treasure what you call AA’s ‘flowery’ contributions.
        As I do your direct and relentless pursuit of the discredited journalists who write these backpages.
        And why can I not enjoy both?
        I trust AA will not dilute his style and you of all people should protect his freedoms to do so.
        All magic writing is valid and welcome – yours and his.

        • Daniel Obior

          Thanks. We all can always improve. My suggestion is for the improvement that should come with clarity from brevity. Happy New Year.

    • FrNinja

      Nigeria is a pirate state not a transitional democracy. A pirate state exists for robbery and looting not development. The Nigerian state will collapse because it has built little or nothing in 57 years of existence and the sources of robbery are drying up.

      So one should be talking about a post-oil future for Nigeria. What will it look like? Fundamentally, Nigeria is unstable because without oil there is nothing to tie the conservatives as represented by the Northern feudalists and military looters with the liberal democrats represented by the Lagos business elite and the Igbo character. Unless the latter did not learn lessons from 1966, the next time around they will implement the Ojukwu mantra – “better we move slightly apart and survive, it is much worse that we move closer and perish in the collision”.

    • FrNinja

      Nigeria is a pirate state not a transitional democracy. A pirate state exists for robbery and looting not development. The Nigerian state will collapse because it has built little or nothing in 57 years of existence and the sources of robbery are drying up.

      So one should be talking about a post-oil future for Nigeria. What will it look like? Fundamentally, Nigeria is unstable because without oil there is nothing to tie the conservatives as represented by the Northern feudalists and military looters with the liberal democrats represented by the Lagos business elite and the Igbo character. Unless the latter did not learn lessons from 1966, the next time around they will implement the Ojukwu mantra – “better we move slightly apart and survive, it is much worse that we move closer and perish in the collision”.

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      Have a blessed New Year and here is to staying in your magic!!

      • American Abroad

        Thanks, Michael.
        Your unflagging optimism and good graces has been a personal blessing and source of joy to me.
        Happy New Year.

    • Fidelis A.

      Your ink will not dry up just yet. You inspire me. Happy new year to you and yours.

  • Mayo

    …..I intensified my prayers for Buhari to regain his health and come back to Nigeria alive….

    Simon has once again put the the cart before the horse. By default, the average person was praying for Buhari to return alive so there was no need for Simon to intensify his prayers for this. The proper thing should have been for Simon to agitate (publicly and privately) for Buhari’s family and handlers to release information (at least a high level summary) of what ails (ailed) Buhari so that if the unthinkable happened, people would be able to say – ah, he had X major sickness and probability of survival is x%. It’s like John MCcain who has an aggressive form of brain cancer, the same one that killed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son (who was much younger than McCain). Everybody is praying for McCain, praying that he survives it but everybody is also aware that this is a very aggressive form of cancer, that a lot of people don’t survive it and that McCain is old, coupled with the torture he endured as prisoner of war.

    This is the problem with Nigeria and my problem with Simon. We know what is right, yet we keep on dancing around issues. Simon has been a journalist for a very long time and has his own paper and yet he always dances around issues.

    • Jon West

      My dear person, we cannot escape our genes, our DNA. It is an impossible proposition, this escape from destiny. Simon belongs to a genre of his ethnicity that revels in doublespeak and treachery, even to self. He cannot help himself, hence the perceived dancing around issues. He cannot do any better, because he stands for nothing, absolutely nothing. Happy New Year to you and yours.

      • bigdaddy

        You forgot to add to hell with Nigeria. Lol. Happy new year all the same.

        • tobias

          Yeah, may be that’s sign of good tidings to come in 2018. Or may be Jon west was in a very good mood after just finishing a big bowl of ofe owerri soup! You can see that that his ‘happy new year’ wishes were genuine and not sarcastic. Lol

          • bigdaddy

            Lol. Very interesting and plausible theory.

      • Mayo

        Happy New Year to you too…

        • Cleansignorance

          But still, to hell with Nigeria sha!