Nigeria, Your Karma Speaks to You

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Karma, or the law of sowing and reaping, never fails to take its pound of flesh; provided you nurture whatever seed you have sown. It is the nurturing that makes the “seed” to blossom. Today the Nigerian state stands in the season of harvest for all of its many carelessly sown seeds. The sowing and nurturing went on diligently for decades. Some of those who used the days of their youth to sow the wind in Nigeria are facing the whirlwind today. Some of them also, fortunately, have the chance to make amends. The person who, as a young man in the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), created a militant and mercantilist medical position is now Health Minister. He is struggling today to drag his misguided colleagues back from the wrong road he paved with great energy and enthusiasm decades ago. May help reach him.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, Dr. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Late Gen. Shagaya and many others in our national history joined hands to create the Nigeria we are living in today. Most of them are stupendously wealthy. They are also among the main drivers of Nigeria`s Old Boys Association in power. They have been elder statesmen for decades, but their eldership and statesmanship were largely self-proclaimed. Their presumption, in always stepping forward to chart new courses for the nation, but without taking responsibility for the misfortunes they consistently inflicted on the nation in the past, verges on the legendary.

But the sowing of the seeds that birthed present-day Nigeria goes far beyond that. The quasi militia force with which the British controlled the locals defined “effective service” in terms of total disregard of traditional norms, filial loyalties, cultural values and extant notions of propriety. The immediate harvest from this small seed was values disorientation. Our current national political reflexes show the same thing. The bifurcation of values created by the British and nurtured for the decades by successive leaders is seen in the disposition, conduct and living habits of our current political and military leaders.

The seed sown by the creation of Northern and Southern Protectorates in Nigeria, initially to improve colonial control of a confiscated cash cow, was harvested and replanted as state creation; also initially in order to gain greater administrative control of political Nigeria. It is in the same way that the Amalgamation of 1914 joined the Protectorates and not the people, that the creation of more states re-carved the land but without eliminating agitation, or ending marginalization. It is in the same way that the formal declaration of independence did not end colonialism that the formal declaration of end of the civil war did not end the continuous and sustained conduct of that war by other means.

The fiat that created one Nigeria, did not also create “Nigerians”. The merger of the administrative units made of confiscated territories by a trading company and its home government is not the same thing as the birthing of a nation. That is why the Nigerian State still wears all the trapping of a child of questionable ancestry; or at least one that was begotten in controversial circumstances. The Nation of Israel was created in 1948, because the people had a shared heritage of family trees, related experiences, verifiable historical and cultural antecedents. This is in addition to thousands of years of habitation in spaces around and contiguous to the decreed homeland. That is different from our Amalgamation, which guaranteed Britain a mightier cash cow for merciless milking.

Just as the Treaty carving out Cattle Grazing Route was proposed, marked out and approved without recourse to peoples and communities affected by the “route”, British, and not the peoples of the Protectorates, that proposed, agreed to and signed the Amalgamation document. Dr Nnnamdi Azikiwe was ten years old in 1914. He was then not a politician, a leader, but another local boy, probably battling with domestic chores and whatever challenges his small world inflicted on him. The same must be said of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, (2 years old), Sir Ahmadu Bello (4 years old) and Sir Tafawa Balewa (2 years old). Dr. Michael Okpara Okara was even born at the time. Where was Okotie Eboh, Margaret Ekpo, Ransome Kuti and others?

The fact that the British created Nigeria, but could not create Nigerians, stares us in the face today. The fact that we have invested heavily in further reinforcing everything wrong, including the lopsided demographics and keeping the regions at loggerheads, also stares us in the face everywhere today. The seeds of perfidy have been watered, nurtured and allowed to blossom for decades. Some of these foundational seeds, the main ingredients and raw materials sown in our past that helped to create our present (and is forming our future), explain our rolling national crises. Harvest time is here and Buhari stands as the ultimate expression of it all.

While President Muhammadu Buhari, his government and the Ruling party can be described as probably the most incompetent, perfidious and roundly unconscionable government Nigeria has ever produced since 1960, we must be honest enough to admit that neither the present actors nor their immediate predecessors are solely, or even largely, responsible for the crises before us. They are also victims of a subsisting political economy and political culture, which had a long gestation.

As I had cause to say on this page on 28th October 2016: “We have been building a mansion on quicksand and with pillars of straw. The soil, quicksand as it is, is further infested with two species of ants, called presumption and nepotism. These ants, which feed exclusively on straw, have been nibbling away for decades. They have left us with a hollow and painted frame that conceals a lie. This lie has been on parade for decades. It is described as an architectural masterpiece by casual observers. An architectural masterpiece that is not designed to withstand the wind? Now that the whirlwind has come, and the elements are in their element, radical modifications (in design and material) have become necessary.”

I also said: “It is not right that a nation should be undergirded by untruth. It is also not right that a nation should be under a political economy of decay and corruption, warehoused and propagated by a business and political elite that lives in denial. When old lies are told afresh by those who know they are lying, a time comes when even the liars themselves won’t be sure whether they are lying anymore. Reason? Others would be repeating the same lies with great aplomb everywhere.”

The further observation in that piece was this: “Now that we have brought up children who have seen shielded criminality as leadership, we have a nation wherein hiding under the instruments of state to violate natural justice, equity and good conscience makes you not guilty of any crime. Look at Nigeria today! The dominant motifs are (1) skewed values, (2) a flawed national psyche and (3) an aberrant leadership recruitment process”.

We should not forget that the Kaduna Nzeogwu military coup of January 15, 1966 made an act of murder an instrument for leadership recruitment and transformation. It sowed the seed of impunity, violated Service Discipline and ruined esprit de corps in the armed forces. It also bore the fruits that blossomed into subsequent murders and abominations. It damaged the armed forces, made the existing crop of national leaders and their ‘replacement generation’ to stagnate for 12 years, until 1979 when Zik, Awo and Aminu Kano (very old men at the time) sauntered out in their walking sticks as presidential candidates. That is why, today, we have a backlog of leaders with unfulfilled historical missions struggling to be youth leaders.

Nzeogwus coup and subsequent follow-up actions and inactions, eventually created a corps of persons who boldly replaced responsible national leadership with perfidy, nepotism, misuse of office and titles and general confiscation of the state. In no case was this better manifested than during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. President Buhari has only upped the ante.
Many of our current elders became elder statesmen without actually being either elders, or statesmen. Today we are a nation that celebrates its Armed Forces Remembrance Day on the very day that arbitrary exercise of discretion led to the death in cold blood of some highly respected senior citizens, and some of our best senior military officers. We are celebrating Armed Forces Remembrance Day on the day families of some of Nigeria’s greatest leaders are in mourning.

Then look at our armed forces. Many prematurely retired military are frustrated and unfulfilled professionals. Some senior military leaders of today belong to the crop that joined during the triumph of military regimes, when he military was seen as a short cut to wealth. That is, perhaps, why Boko Haram is thriving with embarrassing luxuriance.

Going back to the question of sowing and reaping, it is clear that the seeds sown by the years of plunder gave rise to our current democracy of leaders with miraculous, massive and unexplained wealth. They are hailed by the priests, traditional rulers and other supposed custodians of public conscience. They are honoured as “illustrious” sons and daughters, at least until they are either arrested or jailed. Even their relations see them as thieves who got away with their loot!

The present government is a product of our history. So was the lousy Presidency before it. Karma is at work here and resolutely so. Doing the right thing is the only way for us not to miss the intended lessons. Nigeria is in a hole today. Let us stop digging.