Nige­ria’s post-cos­mopoli­tanism and the cul­ture of the worst

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Nige­ria is be­com­ing more and more fright­en­ing. Last week’s mas­sacre of eleven wor­ship­pers and the wound­ing of 18 oth­ers at St Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu spread shock waves all over the coun­try. Con­ver­sa­tions cen­tred on the wan­ton na­ture of the killings - that the killers could not find their tar­gets so they killed those they saw. Why would hu­man be­ings kill just for the fun of it? The fact of the mat­ter is that what hap­pened is the new nor­mal. For over one year, the Badoo Cult has been op­er­at­ing in Iko­rodu where they have been killing dozens of peo­ple for rit­ual pur­poses. They are re­ported to have a pref­er­ence for killing peo­ple ab­ducted while pray­ing in churches. Since 2009, Boko Haram in­sur­gents have been killing peo­ple pray­ing in mosques and churches. Lucky vic­tims are blown up by bombs and the un­lucky ones are sub­jected to rit­ual killing in which their throats are slit. This year alone, over 80 girls have been mur­dered as they were be­ing used as sui­cide bombers. There is clearly a de­scent into bar­barism that is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand.

One of the rea­sons why ris­ing bar­barism is con­fus­ing is that a se­ries of polls, in­clud­ing re­spected sur­veys by the Pew Cen­tre have shown Nige­ria to be one of the most re­li­gious coun­tries in the world. Vir­tu­ally all Nige­ri­ans af­firm to be be­liev­ers in Chris­tian­ity or Is­lam. There are no sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of self-con­fessed ad­her­ents of tra­di­tional re­li­gions. In ad­di­tion, Nige­ria holds the world record in terms of time and money de­voted to prayers and re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties. The ex­pec­ta­tion would then be that Is­lam and Chris­tian­ity, which are based on the pre­cepts of love, hon­esty, good and moral con­duct, re­spect for the other and for hu­man life would dic­tate the con­duct of Nige­ri­ans. Read any news­pa­per and one is as­sailed about mas­sive cor­rup­tion, the rap­ing of ba­bies, steal­ing, in­clud­ing the theft of money col­lected for re­li­gious work and so on. There is a huge lie about what Nige­ri­ans say they are and what they re­ally are. The re­al­ity is ugly and fright­en­ing. Life has be­come very pre­car­i­ous and ephemeral. Ru­ral ban­ditry, cat­tle rustling, kid­nap­ping, mil­i­tancy, wide­spread pa­gan­ism, wan­ton killing char­ac­terise daily life.

What does the fu­ture hold for Nige­ria? We ap­pear to be mod­ernising. More Nige­ri­ans have been hav­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. Cities have grown all over the coun­try. To­day, over 50% of Nige­ri­ans have aban­doned their vil­lages and moved to cities and towns. Since then, the con­di­tions for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment in Nige­ria have been dic­tated by rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion. The pat­tern of ur­ban­iza­tion has de­vel­oped along cor­ri­dors - La­gos-Ibadan, Port Harcourt-Enugu and Kaduna-Kano. Over and be­yond these cor­ri­dors of mega cities, the de­vel­op­ment of states and lo­cal gov­ern­ments have led to the de­vel­op­ment of over one thou­sand state cap­i­tals and pro­vin­cial towns. As ur­ban­i­sa­tion has grown, the sig­ni­fier of so­cial trends has been the growth of in­for­mal­ity at the level of the econ­omy, so­ci­ety and above all in re­li­gion. Nige­rian in­for­mal­ity is lo­cated in poverty for the masses and ob­scene wealth for a vo­cal, crass mi­nor­ity.

The most im­por­tant con­tem­po­rary prob­lem for Nige­ria is the lack of op­por­tu­nity for the youth. We have de­vel­oped a huge youth bulge that has been grow­ing and is in­deed gal­lop­ing. This is hap­pen­ing at a time in which for­mal op­por­tu­ni­ties for em­ploy­ment are de­clin­ing, and most in­dus­tries have closed down. Hav­ing a job has be­come a mi­nor­ity ex­pe­ri­ence for Nige­ri­ans and op­por­tu­ni­ties only ex­ist in the in­for­mal sec­tor. Nige­ria’s youth has been seek­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with a so­ci­ety in which poverty is grow­ing and the fu­ture looks bleak for the ma­jor­ity. When we had a rel­a­tively high growth for over a decade, the fu­ture was bleak. Now that we have been in re­ces­sion for two years, there is no fu­ture ex­cept for the dar­ing and the wicked. Mean­while, the marginalised youth who are glued to the so­cial me­dia know we have mas­sive wealth for a few and con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion of the ob­scene wealthy is what they see ev­ery­day.

The re­al­ity is that op­por­tu­ni­ties for the ma­jor­ity ex­ist only in the sphere of dark­ness, the un­der­world, the crim­i­nal net­works and above all, in oc­cult are­nas where the devil can help the bold and needy. So blood con­tin­ues to flow as vi­o­lence grows and is democra­tised, or rather pop­u­larised. Ortho­dox re­li­gious prac­tices are dis­placed and new as well as old in­ter­pre­ta­tions that of­fer faster routes to wealth and sat­is­fac­tion be­come the or­der of the day.

Our so­ci­ol­ogy has been trans­formed pro­foundly. From the 1950s to the 1980s, mi­gra­tion to ur­ban cen­tres was based on the ac­qui­si­tion of mod­ern ed­u­ca­tion and skills. That was the era of cos­mopoli­tanism. The pat­tern of mi­gra­tion there­fore left the poor­est in the ru­ral ar­eas and the adop­tion of ur­ban life sig­nalled so­cial mo­bil­ity. How­ever, as pop­u­la­tion in­crease con­tin­ued and a sig­nif­i­cant youth bulge de­vel­oped in the pop­u­la­tion pro­file, the poor youth in the ru­ral ar­eas have also moved to ur­ban cen­tres. In this con­text, these cities have be­come the new fo­cal point for the ag­gre­ga­tion and ag­gra­va­tion of poverty amidst mas­sive ac­cu­mu­la­tion by a tiny elite. The most pro­found poverty has there­fore been mov­ing from the ru­ral to the ur­ban cen­tres. The era of post cos­mopoli­tanism has ar­rived.

Since the 1990s there­fore, ur­ban poverty has been grow­ing more rapidly than ru­ral poverty. In­deed, the main fea­ture of ur­ban life in con­tem­po­rary Nige­ria has been the pre­car­i­ous­ness of life. Daily sub­sis­tence needs such as food, hous­ing, health­care and ed­u­ca­tion are lack­ing for a large pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion. There is se­ri­ous pres­sure on liveli­hoods, both for­mal and in­for­mal. More and more peo­ple are be­ing pushed into the in­for­mal sec­tor. The break­down of the so­cial fab­ric and fam­ily bonds is pro­duc­ing a lumpen cul­ture char­ac­terised by delin­quency, vi­o­lence and re­li­gious ex­trem­ism.

The con­di­tions cre­ated by ur­ban­i­sa­tion and so­cial trans­for­ma­tion is pro­duc­ing a new post cos­mopoli­tanism. It is not based on the spread of mod­ern ed­u­ca­tion and the de­vel­op­ment of knowl­edge and re­fined cul­ture. Di­ver­sity and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism has lim­ited im­pact as many of the shan­ty­towns in the cities are char­ac­terised by the ag­gre­ga­tions of the vil­lage in ur­ban cen­tres. Glob­al­i­sa­tion is a ma­jor player for these com­mu­ni­ties. The vil­lage is trans­ferred to the new ur­ban cen­tres but it’s a new vil­lage whose cul­ture is be­ing trans­formed through satel­lite tele­vi­sion, cas­settes, then video and now the so­cial me­dia. Cell phones have ap­pli­ca­tions with ring tones that call the Mus­lim faith­ful to prayer and the Chris­tian to the lat­est fiery ser­mons of the pas­tor. The Hausa vil­lager in the city has a world­view that is daily in­formed by com­plex news anal­y­sis in their lan­guage from the United King­dom, Iran, Egypt, France, Ger­many and China. Global con­flicts and in­ter­pre­ta­tions of re­li­gion, pol­i­tics and so­cial life are con­stantly on the ears of our peo­ple. Ob­jec­tively, what our govern­ment is say­ing, do­ing, and above all, not do­ing, be­comes a small part of the uni­verse. Yes it’s small, but it’s im­por­tant be­cause it pro­duces anger.

On the eco­nomic front, the in­for­mal sec­tor with all its in­cer­ti­tudes is the ba­sis of pre­car­i­ous liveli­hoods. The pre­car­i­ous­ness of life has cre­ated ideal con­di­tions for the pro­lif­er­a­tion of in­for­mal as well as for­mal re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties. Sufi and Wa­habi or­ders and Pen­te­costal churches pro­vide many sur­vival func­tions - shel­ter, med­i­cal sup­port and eco­nomic net­works - that nei­ther the fam­ily nor the state can se­cure in these times of cri­sis. In­creas­ingly, it is the re­li­gious ac­tors who are the so­cial agents that pro­vide mean­ing for the new and dif­fi­cult con­di­tions of life in the squat­ter towns. It is true that the vil­lage has been trans­planted into the city but at the same time, new forms of bond­ing and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion are be­ing cre­ated - new so­cial net­works are needed to pro­vide com­fort and emer­gency relief to those in dis­tress; new lu­cra­tive spheres for ac­cu­mu­la­tion, both le­gal and crim­i­nal, are be­ing cre­ated - and for all of these and more, the re­li­gious sphere pro­vides the most ef­fec­tive frame­work. As this new so­ci­ol­ogy takes root, I won­der who is watch­ing and study­ing, not to talk of plan­ning and tak­ing ac­tion in these in­ter­est­ing times when the vil­lage has moved to the city but the logic of the city is firmly con­trolled by glob­al­i­sa­tion. Would we con­tinue to watch the mas­sive pro­lif­er­a­tion of di­vin­ity that is oc­cur­ring and the run­away in­fla­tion in the pro­duc­tion of re­li­gious move­ments, lead­ers and char­la­tans with teem­ing fol­low­ers? As our so­ci­ety trans­forms god into a fran­chise that can be repli­cated by ev­ery bud­ding en­trepreneur with vir­tu­ally no ini­tial cap­i­tal out­lay, what does the fu­ture hold for us?

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