With Bola A. Akinterinwa
Telephone : 0807-688-2846 e-mail: email@example.com
Day after day, Nigeria is increasingly killed softly by galloping corruption, get-rich- quickly mentality, non-sustainable development policies, and inefficient public service bureaucracy that consciously aid and abet indiscipline and gross misconduct, poor economic growth, unending power outage and growing anti-Nigerian sentiments.
But more than softly, Nigeria is currently being killed by adoption of centrifugal policies, which are capable of over-killing Nigeria to the extent of becoming a permanent death for the country. For instance, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has announced Government’s decision to cancel the post-JAMB (Joint Admissions Matriculation Board) UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination). When the JAMB was established, its cardinal objective was not only to facilitate through examinations the admission of very qualified candidates into tertiary institutions, but also to lay a solid foundation for the production of sound graduates. However, on graduation, it was discovered that many graduates with very good results could not live up to expectation. This led to the introduction of the UTME by the universities. The virus that prevented the JAMB from producing sound graduates also managed to creep into the organs of the UTME to the extent that the Government also had to cancel it.
Whatever may be the reason for the poor performances of the JAMB and whatever may also be responsible for the setbacks of the UTME, there is no disputing the fact that good education is the first and most important factor of national development in any part of the world. Education is critical to industrialization and technological development. In Nigeria, politics is played with education. For instance, in some universities, the required minimum entry point is 200 points. In some others, it is only 180 and yet, on graduation, all graduates are competing in the same market place for employment, but many graduates are not employable because they lack the educational skills required for business life after graduation. This partly but largely explains the ‘illness’ and ‘sickness’ that now characterize the polity.
In fact, religious intolerance has also taken a new dimension. In Osun State of Nigeria, the Christian Association of Nigeria, in its Communiqué issued at the end of its meeting at the National Christian Centre in Abuja on Thursday, 16th June, 2016, ‘noted with concern the recent High Court judgment in Osun State on the use of hijab in all schools, including missionary schools. This development is unfortunate and may send a very wrong signal that Osun State Government is clearly favouring one religion over the other. The Osun State Government is hereby advised to be sensitive to religious matters of this nature for peaceful co-existence.’
Today, the Muslim pupils have started using their hijabs in their schools since Tuesday, 14th June, 2016. In light of this, the Christian parents have asked their wards to also either wear their choir gowns or other church garments to their schools. Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State reportedly declared on the same Tuesday that any pupil or student wearing Christian garments to schools would be expelled. He considered that his government was not responsible for the decision for the wearing of hijabs to the school. It was a resultant of a court decision.
The viewpoint of the Vice Chairman of the CAN in Osun State, Pastor Moses Ogundeji, was quite militant: ‘the Governor should be ready to expel all students in the State. He should be ready to expel those wearing hijab because hijab was never part of the school uniform. If the Governor is fighting for the rights of the Muslims, we will also fight for the rights of the Christians.’ The implications of this position are not far-fetched: a religious war is in the making; Nigeria is gradually being killed. The CAN has complained about a ‘situation where a Christian brother is beaten to a state of coma for eating in the afternoon during Ramadan fast.’ For the CAN, this is a ‘clear evidence of the degree of intolerance of Christianity in some parts of the country, especially where Sharia law is given prominence.’ The CAN has also drawn attention to the case of an elderly Christian woman (who was) murdered in cold blood for complaining against the blocking of her shop.’
The current major concern is that Nigeria is being killed more than softly. The hitherto religious tolerance is now giving way to intolerance. Militancy is also on the increase and gaining the upper hand. In fact, Nigeria is currently fighting many battles simultaneously in different battle fields, including social, political, economic, and military battles. The fact that all the battles are being fought at the same time, by different people, in different places, and for different reasons and purposes cannot but weaken the Government and its security apparati.
Killing Nigeria Hardly
Killing Nigeria hardly can be in two ways: unconsciously and consciously. Unconscious killing is essentially at the perception level. For instance, the perception of Nigeria as a country of 419s, or of fantastically corrupt people, or armed banditry and terrorism, or political unrest necessarily shape the attitudinal disposition towards Nigeria as a country and as a people. The way Nigerians behave outside of Nigeria is particularly another dimension.
In fact, on Thursday, 16th June, 2016 the House of Representatives reportedly probed the allegation of sexual misconduct brought against three Nigerian legislators by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Enwistle, in a letter dated June 9. The three lawmakers were among the ten legislators who went on official trip to participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. The three lawmakers were alleged to have solicited for sex from prostitutes (The Nation, Friday, June 17, 2016, p.37).
Without doubt, the three legislators have denied the accusation and have reportedly taken necessary measures to protect their good name. This is good enough but it does not address the more critical issues involved. On the side of the US, why would Mr. Enwistle come out to tell lies against a particular group of representatives? Have they offended the American system before and the US authorities would now want to avenge? Was the US Ambassador given wrong information or mistaken identity? It is also quite possible if the US is investigating a completely different matter to deliberately accuse wrongly with the ultimate objective of apologising later under the pretext of mistaken identity. In fact, would the US ambassador have accused anyone bearing in mind that his person could not be assaulted or violated by virtue of his diplomatic privileges and immunities?
But perhaps more interestingly, why would the US want to do so knowing well the implications at the individual and official levels? Are the three Nigerian legislators unaware of the great sophistication of the American technological system which might have enabled the US Ambassador to have a secret video recording of the alleged sexual misconduct? In other words, what justification had the ambassador that prompted him to have the audacity to challenge the integrity of the legislators? Whatever is the case, it is Nigeria’s name, integrity, and in fact, her total personality that has been soiled on the altar of allegation of sexual misconduct. Even if the legislators are cleared, the perception of them and of their being Nigerians will still remain there to be contended with for a long time to come. This is killing Nigeria indirectly and hardly.
Another example of indirect killing of Nigeria is the perception by deduction of the intention of the Fulani herdsmen in the southern part of Nigeria. Chief Funsho Ologunde, the Chieftain of All Progressives Congress, Lagos State, has noted that since 1914, the fact of the Fulani people being predominantly nomadic, ‘a culture that perfectly fits into their tradition of cattle rearing, …, had never brought them into conflict with their host communities in other parts of Nigeria, the way that we now experience it, which is very unfortunate.’
Recalling with nostalgia his experiences, Chief Ologunde, said that in the past, ‘he and other young school children would visit the Fulani abodes in their communities to view cows at close range, especially when they were being milked in gaas (Fulani settlements). Such young ‘tourist visitors’ were usually entertained with fura (boiled coagulated cow milk). We were never attacked by the Fulani hosts in those days. Neither did our parents and our ancestors confront them in their trade, because there was mutual respect in the prevailing symbiotic hegemony.’
Additionally, ‘in the pre- and early post-independence times, the herdsmen would go about with only anchored arrows, sheathed swords and double-faced knives against rustlers and attackers. Nowadays, these crude arms have been replaced with sophisticated weapons like AK-47 rifles and pump action guns, as well as petrol in jerry cans not for defence but for assault and arson. Where herders whose cattle destroyed farms were arrested and paid compensation, the herders soon staged reprisals by kidnapping such victims to extort multiple of fines as compensation’ (ibid., p.20). This submission is self-explanatory: belief that the Fulani herdsmen now have an unexplained hidden agenda, especially in light of their engagement in terrorism while grazing on farm land that is not theirs. This development is a pointer to dangers that have the potential to undermine national security and unity in the future.
The first and new way of killing Nigeria directly and hardly is the non-prevention by Government of the hardening of the Boko Haram group. While it is generally reported that the Boko Haram is on the run, it is also being reported that the group has always succeeded in re-strategising. For instance, the Boko Haram, as reported by the Hausa Service of the Voice of America, has set up a 96.8 Frequency Modulation (FM) radio station around the village of Tolkomari in the far north of Cameroon.
The 96.8 FM Station has been disseminating Boko Haram propaganda, and particularly challenging Nigeria’s claims of winning the war against the group. Even though the spreading of the propaganda is done within the scope of FM, it is also reported that the radio station is broadcasting Boko Haram activities in Cameroon, Niger and other parts of Africa. The challenge of the Boko Haram without the setting up of a radio for propaganda has been difficult to contain. The main theatre of boko haramism has remained mainly in the North East but its manifestations go beyond the region in Nigeria.
A second hard way of killing Nigeria is the establishment of new militant groups. Last week Thursday, a new militant group, the Utorogu Liberation Movement was established. The Movement, which supports the Niger Delta Avengers, has threatened to attack the Utorogu Gas Plant in Udu and Ughelli South Council Areas of Delta State. The plant, which is said to be Nigeria’s biggest fielding the Egbin Power Station in Lagos and other parts in the country, is also the biggest in West Africa.
What is particularly disturbing about this new group is not the threats to attack the gas plant but its declared ‘collaboration with outgas force’ and its intention to secede. In the words of the Movement, ‘it is a secessionist move. The awareness of things happening in our environment is a means to outline our course of action. The awareness is an agitation for economic balance. We have a common enemy, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, and ND Western who hate your progress and wish you die in poverty.’
If the Utorogu Liberation Movement has secession as an objective and is therefore in solidarity with the Niger Delta Avengers, which also has sympathy for the MASSOB, the challenge of how to nip in the bud the objective of secession must be seriously first addressed. Should the use of force be encouraged? Should it be the use of dialogue? If the militants are destroyed in the battle field, will such destruction also imply the end of the quest for a separate ideology and the jettisoning of the idea of secession?
What about the 14-day ultimatum issued by a group of former Niger Delta militants (Ekpeye Liberation Group) to the oil companies in Ekpeyeland? The ultimatum to the oil companies (Nigerian Agip Oil Company, Shell Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas and the Niger Delta Petroleum Resources) is that they should all leave the area within 14 days commencing from Thursday, 16th June or be faced with the ‘vandalisation of their assets. A stitch in time saves nine.’ One reason given for the issuance of the ultimatum is the ‘nonchalant attitude to the massive killings and kidnappings of the Ekpeye people. In whichever way the threats and ultimatum are seen, Nigeria’s national unity is again increasingly under preventable threats. This is gradually killing Nigeria more than softly.
The issue of grazing by the Fulani herdsmen has also become more critical than ever before. The initial problem raised at the level of the Fulani herdsmen was the destruction by them of agricultural goods, as well as their unprovoked assaults on the host farmers, raping and killing their people, all of which are taken as individual cases. Today, it is being suggested that the strategic aim of the Fulani herdsmen is to either further the cause of the Boko Haram or to also destabilize the southern states of Nigeria. In this regard, the problem of the Fulani herdsmen is not only generating much hostility between the herdsmen and their host community, on the one hand, but also much destabilizing hostility at the level of the host communities and the various governments, on the other hand.
Put differently, the Federal Government has decided to create grazing reserve for herdsmen in all the states of the Federation. But for various reasons, many states and organizations have strongly objected to the implementation of the decision. In the eyes of the CAN, government’s decision is seen as an indirect attempt to Islamise Nigeria. Some have argued that there is no more terra nullius (no land is without title). This is another way of saying that Government should not rob Peter to pay Paul. The issue of the Fulani herdsmen is therefore a major problem that must be most carefully handled.
Challenges and International Implications
The killing of Nigeria either softly or hardly necessarily creates challenges for national unity and nation building at the domestic level, and Nigeria’s image, as well as respect for, and trust in, Nigeria. With the little and non-serious attention being paid to the killing of Nigeria, there is no way Nigeria will not be carelessly allowed to be dismantled. The main challenge therefore is how to prevent the deepening militancy and dismantlement of Nigeria in the future.
To avoid a careless approach, the restructuring of the country on the basis of the six geo-political zones should be taken as a desideratum if national unity is to be sustainable. If Nigeria disintegrates, the Central and West African regions will also be destabilized and troubled. The two regions may be ridden with extreme terrorism, and by so doing, become new theatres for ideological wars. Africa will become more of a threat to the maintenance of international peace and security and therefore a new burden for the UN Security Council.