Reflecting on Flawed Nationhood (4)

femi Akintunde-Johnson

Today, we wrap off our excursion into the unflattering bowels of our national malaise, and the critical remedies that should be administered if indeed we desire a great nation capable of exploiting her tremendous resources – human, natural and incidental – for the benefit of her wearied and worsted citizenry. 

  Our final piece is taken from the 15 May 2021 article titled “Nigeria and Her People: The End Is Near?” We wish you ‘happy’ reading as we roll back the years…:

  “We have now come to the last leg of our marathon ‘wishful thinking’ – an exploration of ideals, actions and attributes that the people of Nigeria can embrace to produce and promote a truly great African country with global aspirations and commanding stature. Eight weeks ago, at the beginning of this column’s journey (April 3, 2021) under the banner ‘Great Nation, Poor People’, we laid down some markers guiding our interventions. In ending this journey, it is advisable we peep at those markers to affirm our fidelity to the assignment. The future will attest to its impact or futility.

  Few quotes will suffice for now: “While we admit that it will take much more than whining and lamenting about our poverty of civic aptitude, occasioned by sundry inter-locking incidents and failings of our nation-building actors, we must find the means and occasions to alert our people to the slippery paths we currently travel… In every area of our influence and authority, we must lead by examples, both in thoughts and deeds; in private and in public.”

  “In taking this position, we are conscious of the enormity of our assignment, if indeed we want to get to a level where politicians will be afraid to make hare-brained campaign promises that can never be fulfilled; where governments, at all levels, know that their citizens will insist on holding them accountable for the successes or otherwise of their vaunted policies; where persons elected or invited to positions of authority and prominence understand that their stewardships will be thoroughly scrutinised and weighed based simply on performance and application, not on any base sentiments.

  “However, we need to own up to our failings, and understand that current perplexities are not merely the handiwork of irresponsible and incompetent leadership; that many leaders are currently enabled, endorsed and actively lionised by vast sections of the followership. Even standoffish, siddon-look followership should not see themselves as immune or beyond reproach in this current dilemma….

   “We will attempt to explore some of what we believe are the root causes of our present anomie; such as: the family and the home, our educational system and policies, politics and governance, public service and infrastructure, sociological perspectives, erosion of ethos and values, broken communication practices, and crimes as cornerstones of our informal economy.”

 Today, and finally, we hone in on the enthronement and glorification of criminality as a veritable business and political attitude. The sickening and frightening speck has ballooned to a massive log in our nation’s watery eyes. By the way, those eyes were initially ravaged by glaucoma, or whatever diseases imperil vision. Now, we have escalated crimes to the level of making some maniacal political statements and putative socio-economic re-engineering. 

  Our people no longer trust the speed and seed of the judiciary, and are even more distrustful of the police in enforcing the law and exacting justice. So we resort to jungle justice. Ordinary Nigerians maiming, stripping naked, lynching other ordinary Nigerians accused of stealing petty stuff. Unforgivable errors as a result of hasty conclusions of lynch-happy idlers or mischievous calculations of miserable elements have led to terrible deaths or permanent brutal disfigurement of many a Nigerian. 

  We put tyres on the neck of a suspected thief or kidnapper, pour petrol on them; then stand by in morbid satisfaction, and watch as they writhe, and burn – perhaps thinking that a part of our problems has been solved? And as soon as the unfortunate victim dissolves into putrid gore, the mob disperses into ‘thin air’ – waiting for another ‘alert’! Yet, the chief destroyers of our commonwealth sit comfortably in the bubble of adulation and envy of the unknown mob – immune to the desperation of their existence. They are the ‘unlynchable’ – because what they steal is too much for the mob to wrap their petrol-and-tyre-loving mind around it.

  One of the major igniters of criminality is the poor handling of crises all across board, especially by governments and their point men. When bandits begin to identify and associate with certain persons as preferred negotiators; when one governor rightly insists he would not negotiate with bandits (also loosely known as terrorists), and others sheepishly kowtow to demands after demands of these insolent fat cows; the signal is clear to the criminals: it’s time to put on the squeeze. Is it not evident that all over the country, the crime lords are holding court; over running police posts, and wielding weapons that mock the guns in the hands of our officers? And you wonder, why are criminals getting heavy ammunition, seemingly with ease and regularity, and the state appears left with crumbs?

  The season of anomie is upon us, signaling that the end is near for this nation. Unless our government and legislators wake up “shaperly” and deal sensibly, effectively and immediately with these existential threats, we may find ourselves in an unfortunate quagmire that will take decades to overcome; if we indeed survive it. Kidnappers, like wire transfer fraudsters (euphemistically called ‘Yahoo-Yahoo boys’) have mutated and expanded boldly into every region, challenging the might of the government and the safety of the people. 

  They go on rampage; reclaim their seized property from the legal custody of law enforcement agencies; sack police stations and chase ill-equipped policemen away from their duty posts. Stories abound in the media about entire settlements overrun by bandits or terrorists, foisting new regimes on the innocents, putting our people in harm’s way. And there have hardly been any repercussions to deter recurrence. The theatre of crises is like a huge field pork-marked by a thousand tongues of blazing fire – how many can our overworked military and police forces put out? How quickly? How judiciously?

  The consequence of these upheavals may explain the current separatist or secessionist demands across the country. Frustrated by government’s inability to arrest the spiralling crime rate, lulled by wrong-headed ethnic profiling, emboldened by the seeming invincibility of bandits who make some governors quake with fear; and perplexed by the failure of our intelligence agencies to identify, expose and prosecute sponsors of crimes and terrorism; the cries to renegotiate the corporate MoU of the nation state have become more strident, more urgent, and more pervasive.

  The logic is skewed but apparent: if bandits can display villainous wickedness by kidnapping and killing the innocents, and government run helter skelter to appease them, and spiritual leaders work hard to champion their ‘causes’; if blatant and consistent insurrectionist acts force the government to react by sporadic force of unguided arms, and later resort to political carrot and stick rapprochement – it seems clear to current agitators and frustrated Nigerians that inaction is tantamount to ignoble dismissal…that civility is an invitation to dishonour and stoic contempt… especially in this current climate of indifferent antagonism and misplaced aggression.”

  So, we ask again: What sort of Nigeria shall we see in years ahead? 

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