Beware of the Ides of 2023

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COUNTERPOINTS

By Femi Akintunde-Johnson

It began as an itch…the sudden urge to look at old cuttings and riffle through ‘filed’ articles of many years ago. Then, I stumbled on an article published in the opinion section of The Nation on August 17, 2012 (“My Predictions For 2015… Beware of 2013”)… It was an attempt to juxtapose our socio-political conditions on the dynamics of the number ‘3’, especially with the prospects of 2013 and 2015 creeping in. It seems rather eerie that the article may well have been written this week in the shadows of the political and socio-economic significance of our new magic number, 2023.   

  So, let us indulge in a rehash (wherever you see 2013 (or 2015) simply imagine 2023; and swap equivalent names and offices from then with now):

  “Let me quickly introduce myself. I’m not a clairvoyant, a prophet or seer. I however do believe that if things remain as they are (and there is nothing in the past 30 years to indicate that we will change for the better, or even resist the temptation to over-reach ourselves), my predictions have a good chance of coming true. 

  The following are the scenarios I believe may occur before 2015 – “the great anxiousness”, when Nigeria (was) expected internally to change government through an improved national election (by incurable optimists), and externally, when we (were) supposed to self-annihilate (according to prophets of doom).

  My prescriptions are, of course, predicated on the obvious facts of our current existence, and really do not take much intelligence to articulate that the consequence of the ongoing actions, inaction and serial perfidy of politicians and public officials can only mean one thing: near total collapse of all democratic and state structures. 

  For those who understand their history, and appreciate the influence of numbers in the natural order of inevitability, figures matter. They really do matter. Crunch these for instance… In Nigeria, our fate appears to be intertwined with figure ‘3’ in every decade, even long before our 1960 independence. Not in the mould of being the third largest economy in Africa. No, rather in a more draconian way – we tend to unravel politically around that number, and then spiral into series of bungling and fumbling missteps and misadventures; which over several decades have prevented us from progressing speedily and sensibly as a nation, in spite of the quality of our human resources and the (quantity) of God’s deposits upon our soil. 

  If in 1953, the Nigerian politicians had positively received Chief Anthony Enahoro’s call for “a primary political objective (for) the attainment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956”, we would have embraced a fairly more Nigerian constitution rather than the Lyttleton contraption of 1954; and Nigeria would have been independent four years before she did in 1960. We would have avoided the Kano Riots of 1953, precipitated by deep ethnic and partisan divisions within the polity. We missed the chance, and were reduced subsequently by sundry setbacks. 

  The post-independence crisis between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Samuel Ladoke Akintola led to the Western Region crisis of 1962/1963, and of course all the intrigues, skirmishes and conflicts were the harbinger of the first military coup in 1966. Though, something good came out of 1963, the Mid-West region was created in spite of prevailing agitation in the West that it was more of a back-stabbing castration (masterminded by) the eastern and northern governments. On August 12, 1963, the Mid-Western Region was born. Nigeria also received her republican status on October 1, 1963.

  The blight of the first set of indigenous political leadership reared its head essentially from 1963, in preparation for the 1964 Federal general elections – a fool-hardy, self-serving politicking that completely ignored the prevalent dangerous tension and anger in the land. But the real detonator for the Wild West’s “Operation Wetie” fiasco was the dubiously arranged Regional elections of 1965. Its vitriolic over-flow swept in the military adventurers. More importantly, the unreasonable weakness and confounding indecision of the Tafawa Balewa-led Federal government to deal decisively with bare-faced hooliganism and lawlessness in the western region persuaded the coupists that the politicians had no clue on how to rule their rich country. Does that sound like a deja vu? 

  However, after surviving a couple of quick-fire coups and a mindless civil war, Nigeria sort of straddled into some peacefulness. But about 1973, the young Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, strangely began to drop hints of amnesia concerning his hand-over date and programme. He was no longer sure if Nigerians needed civilian rule any (more). That indolence bought him a bloodless palace coup in 1975.

  And in fits and bounds, we staggered on until 1983, when the putrid cup of purposeless politicians came crashing down with the rude entrance of the Buhari/Idiagbon bloodless intervention. The military’s return was arguably excusable because of the bastardization of politics and demonization of honesty in the conduct of public affairs. In a now usual climate, a prostrate (civilian) president appeared clueless while his subordinates traversed the entire country looting public till and flaunting their perfidy across national countenance with despicable impunity – and all the while, Nigeria drifted about in rudderless and meaningless meanderings. Deja vu?

  1993 brought out the big lie in our much-vaunted claim of the giant of Africa, as rulers of that period, driven by their Lilliputian sense of self-importance and inordinate grab and greed for power, truncated what, until then, was our best attempt at national political transition. The only profit we derived from the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, truth be said, was a great and incessant devastation on the body polity and psyche of the nation…a dull pall from which we are yet to unfurl. 

  Of course, we also remember 2003 and its emblematic presidential election, internationally regarded as the worst election ever organised by any human society. The fissures of that election will take political anatomists many years to correctly and fittingly dissect and categorize for edification of the next generation. 

  Therefore, on these precepts, let us proceed in streams we are now familiar with….

  My major fear is that the government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) appears to be working furiously to breathe life into the lurking demons that potentially may rule the coming year, 2013. The cold, disparaging realities of 2011/2012 as expressed in the great revelations of incredible larceny and gargantuan pilferage indicate that the cup of our current political actors is aiming for resounding crash in the two years leading to the 2015 elections. 

  As it is necessary in matters predictive, the elements of cause and effect are pronounced and self-evident… therefore, we may say if thus and thus are allowed to emerge or continue, then such and such may occur or intrude. The possibilities for reinvention are vast, and (also) opportunities for success (which is) dependent on the will and desire of political actors to follow the honorable and responsible path. We basically choose how we want this present political drama to terminate. But enough of putative generalities…now to brass-tacks.

  If the President and his cabinet, the incumbent legislators and state governments across the board do not revert from their current “I-don’t-give-a-damn” posturing, and they continue to do little or no work, and take unsightly remunerations; if they continue to transfer national wealth to private accounts with scant regard for retribution; if they continue to caress indicted thieves and cavort with determined criminals…the year 2013 (read 2023) is a potent number that may herald tremors and terrors that will suffocate corrupt leadership and up-end despotic do-little mandarins who purport to be selfless stewards of our commonwealth. 

  As predictions go, there is no absolute in this crystal ball. There is nothing to show that a change of heart and a reversal from current insensitive direction may prevent untoward consequences.  

  However, deeply ingrained traditions and human predilection for selective amnesia may lull the current political players to underestimate the inevitability of centrifugal forces that have plagued this nation right from the first Lagos election of 1923!”