2023: Our Self-Inflicted Ides and Tides

femi Akintunde-Johnson

Let us indulge in a rehash (wherever you see 2013 (or 2015) simply substitute our current 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.

  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 12 August, 1963, the Mid-Western Region was born. Nigeria also received her republican status on 1 October, 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 12 June, 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….

  Just like we had our fears about how the government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) appeared to be working furiously to breathe life into the lurking demons that evidently ruled the years towards 2013… what with the cold, disparaging realities of 2011/2012 as expressed in the great revelations of incredible larceny and gargantuan pilferage that toppled the then political actors, and led to the resounding crash of the ruling party during the 2015 elections…the wind is again blowing the backend of the preening hen. As it is becoming clear, the same prognosis that afflicted the Jonathan misadventure is being stubbornly copied by the current Muhammadu Buhari administration.

  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 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. But, look around you, the same nonsense is being repeated: The self-inflicted national agonies of ‘fuel scarcity’ queues, and inability of folks to have access to their funds trapped inside banking vaults and ATMs because the so-called distribution of new naira notes falls abysmally short of the crying demands of the people. 

  All these have combined to make discerning people wonder why a government would aim a loaded gun on its own head, especially in an election year. 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!” Welcome…2013.

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