Urhobo Historical Society


QUO VADIS NIGERIA?

 

By Akpobibibo Onduku

Department of Peace Studies

University of Bradford, UK.

 

The dwindling future of Nigeria that is a colossus of the African continent and the pride of the entire black race is quite worrisome.  Quo vadis simply means, which way forward or where do we go from here?  The statistics show that one of every six Africans or one of every two West Africans is a Nigerian.  That simply describes the nation’s significance globally.

 

Somehow in the past forty-four years, on October 1, most Nigerians all over the world remember in someway, the nation’s independence from colonial rule annually.  The events that normally take place on that day in many parts of the world amongst Nigerian societies in the Diaspora are always an interesting reading in the world media.  In the UK, many Nigerians, some despite the fact that they’ve not been home for the past one to two decades or even more, displayed colourfully the rich cultural heritage of their country.  Last year, in the USA, the street where the gigantic Nigerian Embassy stood was not open to commuters for some hours. Back home it was mixed feelings of honours for distinguished persons and reflection on the woes and acclaimed gains of civilian rule.  The highlight of the presidential broadcast was on the ‘oilified’ war in the Niger Delta, stemmed out of a peoples demand for self-determination and resource control.  The emerging oilification theory in the analysis of the conflicts in the Niger Delta is beginning to provide a deeper understanding of the state responses.  The ‘Operation Locust Feast’ declared by Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo’s Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) shot the international oil price through the fifty dollar mark for the first time.  The seemingly Acquired Dependency on Oil Companies Syndrome (ADOCS) by the oil bearing village communities has been attributed to the long neglect of the region by successive administrations.  I will try to avoid delving into the ADOCS scourge in this piece but with the central government in far away Abuja, the incessant attacks on oil facilities have been a demonstration call for justice.

 

In all these, Nigerians in the course of last year were overwhelmed with the scientific research finding that they are the happiest people on earth.  The ugly incidence of the Miss World competition in the previous year went away with the successful hosting of the 8th All African Games (COJA) and later the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) with Her Majesty, the Queen of England in attendance.  The government stated these as the two vital events that made the implementation of the 2003 budget unsuccessful.  The Charles Taylor security concerns seem to be more important to the state than that of her citizens by withdrawing the police from majority of public officers. The death of Dr. Marshal Harry and that of indefatigable Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, followed by Chief Aminosoari Dikibo never bothered the ruling cliché.  The Anambra political crisis revolving around godfatherism is being considered a PDP family affair despite its consequences to peace and security.

 

The government seems to be very comfortable with the military occupation of the Niger Delta region.  The food security problem and the entire human security dilemma in the country had not crept into the government’s agenda.  The power brokers and the 2007 Presidential hopefuls are already warming up.  The resources continued to be plundered all over the globe.  The hopelessness of the poor is of little concern to those that swore that they will serve the masses.  In all, the national legislators are busy slapping one another.  What a shame and disgrace to our respected National Assembly!  No explanation can be accepted for this unethical conduct of this class of respected people.  We must all condemn this.  If we allow this, we should be prepared in the future to accept a minister slapping another.  I hope we will not get to the point as it occurred in Ghana sometime ago when a president slapped his vice.   

 

The increase in petroleum products prices can hardly be a democratic option to improving the fuel supply situation in the country.  Most of the recycled politicians are only concerned about increasing their bank accounts.  Not too long ago a governor was caught on the streets of London with large amount of cash in foreign currency and millions of pounds were traced to his foreign account.  Some have increased their number of ‘mistresses’ as envoys stationed abroad.  That is Nigeria for us where anything can happen.  Where the bad and the ugly seem to always prevail and the good are sceptical in taking the bold decision to step into governance.  The respected Foreign Affairs Minister and his Finance counterpart have their international reputations at stake by being amongst the ‘committee of lions’.  Recently, while in Philadelphia participating in a United Nations Global Compact programme the need for people-friendly policies was re-echoed.  Let’s encourage and support the multi-stakeholder Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).  The EITI has made considerable progress to have committed to publishing information on monthly revenues to the various tiers of government.  I am tempted to admire also the hard decision of Professor Chinua Achebe to turn down the national award with the nationalist consideration that our present situation is “too dangerous for silence”.  I’m afraid if the presidency knows the implications of this to the nation’s global image.  It’s a pity that one of the presidential aides unguardedly reacted by responding that this icon is unaware of the developments in the country.      

 

This brings me to the epicentre of this piece.  In the course of planning the 43rd independence anniversary celebrations, I sought for a guest lecturer to speak at the event organised by the Diaspora Association of Nigerian Students (DANS).  With a vision to fusing the next leaders, DANS is gradually fostering partnerships and effectively building a global network of Nigerian professionals.  I was glad that despite the short notice, the Director of the Africa Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in the Bradford University, UK accepted the task. Dr. David Francis titled his lecture ‘Is Satan a Nigerian?’  Just imagine the thoughts that ran through my mind.  But one thing that marvelled all in attendance was that he was able to live up to the occasion.  Either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, he justified this in his presentation being a tested academic who has authored several scholarly works such as the ‘The Fire Next Door: Regional Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution in West Africa’.

 

On that day, the guest speaker began by saying that while on his way to the programme, he was intercepted by a Nigerian doctoral student who told him that “if Satan is a Nigerian then Lucifer is a Sierra Leonean”, for the lecturer being from that war torn West African country that Nigeria saved from total disintegration and collapse.  Sierra Leone is currently undergoing post-conflict restructuring.  Dr. David honoured the 2004 invitation again by speaking on ‘The African Century through the Prism of Nigeria’.  My knowledge of international diplomacy and security studies enables me to appreciate the role Nigeria has continued to play as a regional and rising continental power.  I hope our efforts will be rewarded someday with a seat in the UN Security Council.  Today, many Sierra Leoneans too consider Nigeria as a true ‘Big Brother’.  They appreciate the role played by ECOMOG despite the shortcomings and are very thankful to all Nigerians.  This was demonstrated in the way and manner many Sierra Leoneans cheered the Super Eagles during the last African Cup of Nations competition. But they couldn’t comprehend why Charles Taylor should be provided a palace in Calabar despite all his atrocities even against Nigerians.

 

Both Independence lectures reminiscence on the efforts of our early nationalists like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Chief Anthony Enahoro. They all used their education as a tool towards actualising the independence struggle.  The present generation too was urged as a matter of urgency and commitment to nation building to use the education that is being craved for as a tool to liberate the people from the destructive self-rule and campaign against poor governance and corruption.  Most importantly, leaders that would not want anything good coming out of the country should be denied political power.  The Nigerian professionals in the Diaspora have a key role in the emancipation of the people and are therefore to awake from their slumber for it’s not yet ‘uhuru’. 

 

Furthermore, both forums provided an opportunity for an overview of the divergent perspectives of understanding the African political economy beyond Nigeria.  While acknowledging the inherent problematique in Africa and the extent to which these have stunted development, the conclusion is on the optimistic note that the future of Nigeria and Africa is very positive.  As such there is the urgency to query the intellectual poverty and status quo complicity amongst African academics who are the agents of change of the continent in this era.  To make a remarkable progress the current generation must promote a Pan-African identity in character and confront the ills facing the African continent.  This must be done in broader coalitions with other progressive forces in the global civil society to engage the governments in Africa and by identifying the Afro-pessimists and engaging the Afro-optimists and the Afro-pragmatists.  That is the solidarity that is needed and the leaders especially in Nigeria must be aware that many in the Diaspora are keenly watching with interest.  Just like Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said “Africa will one day surprise the world”.  In Nigeria, it’s all about recognising the prebendal instincts of its society for the nation itself is for now still a contraction and at the best a paradox with much wealth but no commensurate progress.  The state needs to come up with alternative perspectives and legitimize its actions.  Nigeria’s role in the formation of the African Union should urge the people to re-examine the quasi-federal system considering its multinational society. 

 

In all, my knowledge of war economics reminds me that to achieve peace we don’t have to change societies that much but we have to change economies.  Today, the ruinous effects of civil wars are more experienced socially, economically and politically after the conflict.  A typical post-conflict country has about fifty percent probability of going back into chaos.  Nigeria today manifests almost all what it takes to go back into war if we are to appreciate the ideas of Paul Collier, author of ‘Breaking the Conflict Trap’.  The level of per capita income, rate of economic growth and the total dependence on oil are indicators for the likelihood of civil disorder and war and not the country’s multiethnic and religious colouration.  Nigeria seems to be gradually getting to that point as was boasted by late President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo that in Zaire, rebellion is easy for with 10,000 dollars and a satellite phone, you can easily destabilize a ruling government.  The recent events in the Niger Delta, the Taliban activities in the north and the absurdity in Anambra State should urge us to consider this seriously.  I do have some fears as regard the likely aftermaths of the 2007 presidential elections.  Should the next President emerge from the south-south geopolitical zone, effort should be made towards genuine reconciliation for no society in the world can progress without peace.  The Niger Delta people should be prepared to live, forgive and forget the many years of second class citizenship.  A post-2007 Nigeria under a Niger Deltan leadership can learn from the post-apartheid South African experience under Nelson Mandela.  According to Professor Johan Galtung, the father of modern peace research, a one word definition of peace is equality and until we appreciate this, echoes of injustice will continue.  Equality in the sense that an Edo, Ogoni, Itsekiri, Efik, Urhobo or Ijaw has the same right to become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.  Equality that gives a Moslem same and equal right just as the Christian and an equality in which the Niger Delta has same right to be developed like other regions in the country.  An equality in which all citizens have equal social, economic and political rights.  In the UK, this is taking into cognisance where a disabled blind served as the Home Secretary.   

 

So where do we go from here?  Our president, in his monthly media chat just after the killing of Chief A.K. Dikibo said that the aim of governance is to do best for the majority of people and that leadership must have a vision and a mission.  Leadership is not picnic.  He said if you are going to be a leader, you must be prepared to put yourself in a position where you are attacked.  The world is watching on how Nigerians will encourage and support the charismatic leadership of the current FCT Minister and NAFDAC boss.  Most importantly, Nigerians have a duty to prevent any action that will lead to another civil war which normally lasts more than an international war even as we should continue to seek diplomatic options on whether or not to concede the Bakassi.  This is true if we consider the case of Ethiopia and Eritrea in which the civil war lasted for more than thirty years but as an international war, it lasted not more than thirty days.  I hope Nigerians are prepared to do the right thing in the right way.  The judiciary means a lot in getting us right.  Nigeria needs transparent and God fearing judges.  Nigeria also needs unbiased umpires in the electoral commission.  But we can only have such when we have genuine leaders and representatives and not the types that will visit Okija for the sake of acquiring political power.  It is high time we also got rid of the dictatorship khaki mentality in the peoples’ agbada. Nigeria owes her citizenry a duty to give her prosperity a greater purpose, a purpose of peace and freedom and hope.  There is no better time than now to start it.



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