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Nigeria - It's time to talk

31 August 2013, 13:18

Over the years, the thoughts expressed here have been on my mind, but events of recent years have prompted me to pen down a few lines for posterity and to add my voice to the growing need for us all in this God blessed country to sit down and discuss as reasonable people do.

In his essay titled “Rouseau’s Theory of the State” Michael Bakunin stated -

“According to the theory of the social contract primitive men enjoying absolute liberty only in isolation are antisocial by nature. When forced to associate they destroy each other’s freedom. If this struggle is unchecked it can lead to mutual extermination. In order not to destroy each other completely, they concluded a contract, formal or tacit, whereby they surrender some of their freedom to assure the rest.”

In this union the consenting members of the state known as citizens unanimously set the term agreeable to them on how the state should be run. From this foundation it is easily deducible that core of the foundation of the state is agreement, mutual agreement.

As other thinkers began to expand the thoughts of the original theorists, such concepts like democracy and the like began to enhance the running and functionality of the state for it to serve the original purpose. In essence the state and its authority exist for the common good of all, or practicably the obvious majority.

Before the arrival of the Europeans the entity Nigeria was inhabited by people in their different grouping mostly held together by language, customs, heritage, history, conquest etc. However for the exigency of governance and the convenience of exploitation which was the original motive of the colonials, forced unions were entered into, in absolute negation of the original idea behind formation of states.

This forced marriage could not last, the colonialists were wise enough, they plundered until they were forced out. An igbo adage says ‘you first chase away the kite, then turn around to blame the fowl’, buttressing the fact that some issues were more important than others, but they are all issues and must be attended to, if not they must rare their heads.

A story was told by President Thomas S. Monson, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A young boy was coming home from the farm accompanying his father, when he approached home and out of exhaustion, he hacked his axe in the middle of two branches of the tree near their home hoping to remove it the next day, but he forgot. Over the years the tree grew and his axe was covered as a natural result of growth.

Before his father died he willed the home to him, which he happily accepted. One fateful day, there came  a stormy rain, which it’s dangerous wind and this fully grown tree was being carried about with the wave of the wind, until the pressure became so much that it cracked exactly from the point where he inserted the axe, and your guess is as good as mine the branches pulled apart. But that was not all, the heavier part of the tree reduce a magnificent house that has survived years of rains and storms into rubble.

The Ibo says “remove the hand of the monkey from the soup before it turns to the hand of human.”  Hoping that my thoughts are properly synchronizing, the fact has become so obvious that we need to talk about our country Nigeria. We must talk, not in the fashion we have been pretending to be doing all these years, but real, serious, binding talk.

Over the years many have suggested names for this over-due parley, some christened it sovereign national conference, some would prefer to shorten it by calling it national conference, some pretenders have tried a mimic of the reality by organizing constitutional conference, national conferences etc. all well and good, but the reality must be face that this union needs some reworking if it must survive the recurrent stormy wind.

Why are we shy of facing the reality, why can’t we have leaders who can take the bull by the horn and save us needless bloodshed, wonton destruction, deep seated hatred, mutual suspicion anarchy and the likes?  Hasn’t it been obvious enough that we can save ourselves this perpetual “living in bondage kind of life” and for once live as decent people?

I have carefully decided not write as a writer with styles, but to discuss, because that is what we are mostly afraid of in Nigeria, yet the most needful thing to do.  One of my first treat to reality happened the day the House of Representatives voted on the contentious oil dichotomy bill, as I sat at the gallery of the House of Representatives, I wept for my country.

I wept because many voted not because they understood the issues at stake but because their tribesmen/women have taken a particular position. And that has been how many questions in Nigeria have been settled. While I am not against ethnic patriotism, but why can’t we resolve those issues that generate these mutual distrusts and further destroy the foundations of statehood.

What got the promoters of the bill in trouble was the subtle but later bold argument of the opposition that the whole issue was about resource control. Resource control was one phrase that sounded like music to some while sounding like poison to others.

Then come to think of it, the big question is, is resource control wrong? If we all felt safe in the “state” why would we argue over the resources, if the “state” was initially established to serve common good, if we trusted the “state” should we be scared of resource control?

Conversely, if we felt safe in the “state”, why would we suddenly begin to clamour for resource control? These are all signs pointing to the fact that the “state” needs some reworking, some discussion, some dialogue, some jaw jaw. The thorny point has always been about equity in administration of the resources and not really about control. But since we avoid discussion, we muddle things up, hoping that issues will sort themselves out. Obviously we have not been right with that kind of mindset.

The question of control has been a very real issue in our national life, because many issues in Nigeria have been resolved in the light of those in control. And those who have not their own in control have been left with the short end of the stick. But for how long can we hold on to this pretension.

I wish for too long, but the signs are not encouraging. For how long must we continue to oil our unity with the innocent blood of our citizens, climbing on the shoulders of others hoping that we will keep them glued to the ground under such excruciating pain?

Is it not time we addressed the fundamental issues like citizenship, rotational presidency, devolution of power, resource control, rights of citizens, etc. While we are yet to face the facts of these fundamental challenges emerging issues like unemployment especially among the youths, power, lack of supporting infrastructure, crime, violence, terrorism etc. stare us in the face.

Unfortunately rather than face the reality of these daunting challenges our leaders bemused by their lack of will and ability, continue to compound the problems thereby postponing the evil day.

The fact remains that none of these surmountable challenges would have grown to the magnitude we now witnessed if we ever stopped to take conscious look at our situation and do the needful, talk, talk, talk. Ethnicity and even the hydra headed octopus- corruption would not have been our major challenge had we done the needful-talk, talk, talk.

The infighting within the ruling political party and the mudslinging by the pretentious opposition would not solve our problem. The practice has always been that once a ruler joins the list of ex-s, he “becomes a converted modern-day saint”, and begins to throw his own stones at those he handed over to, while his successors refer to him as the cause of their nightmares.

In all these, one thing remains very obvious, we have contrived a faulty marriage that needs reworking, the earlier we embrace this truth the better for us all.

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