Like Amer­ica like Nige­ria?

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS -

The old say­ing, ‘Like fa­ther like son’, would have been true of Nige­ria in re­la­tion to Amer­ica but for the fact that Amer­ica is not Nige­ria’s fa­ther. When you con­sider how the Amer­i­can and Nige­rian so­ci­eties have been torn into shreds by big­otry and po­lit­i­cal par­ti­san­ship, you are left to won­der who is copy­ing who.

Amer­i­cans used to be sin­gle-minded about their na­tional in­ter­ests. In spite of ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, they al­ways found a way to build bridges of un­der­stand­ing to ad­vance pos­i­tive causes which had im­pli­ca­tions for the rest of the world. Now, Amer­ica is re­coil­ing into a shell of nar­row na­tion­al­ism which is so nar­rowly de­fined that the world’s num­ber one po­lice­man now has its own Jews and Gen­tiles.

Ev­ery na­tion on earth has a son or daugh­ter with Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship. Amer­ica used to be a mini-UN among na­tions. Not any more. Some racist na­tion­al­ists even con­sider the na­tive In­dian pop­u­la­tion out­siders - that, in a coun­try where all cit­i­zens, ex­cept the na­tive In­di­ans, are de­scended from im­mi­grants!

Africa used to be the con­ti­nent of max­i­mum rulers: Idi Amin Dada, JeanBedel Bokassa, Mobutu Sese Seko, Sani Abacha, Ali Bongo Ondimba, Omar Hassan Ah­mad al-Bashir, Muam­mar Mo­hammed Abu Min­yar Gaddafi et al. Now, Amer­ica’s new­found na­tion­al­ism has thrown up its own fledg­ling max­i­mum ruler in the shape of Pres­i­dent Trump, a self-con­fessed ad­mirer of Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin and North Ko­rea’s Kim Il Jung.

As Amer­i­cans grap­ple with the long­est gov­ern­ment shut­down in his­tory caused by their pres­i­dent’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to black­mail Con­gress to ap­prove $5 bil­lion to build a wall along the US bor­der with Mex­ico, Nige­ri­ans are sim­i­larly ma­rooned in the is­land of bit­ter re­crim­i­na­tions be­tween the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal ten­den­cies. In­stead of ar­tic­u­lat­ing de­liv­er­ables, what we have been hav­ing is a cock­tail of black­mail, dis­in­for­ma­tion, ten­den­tious vi­tu­per­a­tion and a re­sort to mi­crona­tion­al­ism.

As Nige­ri­ans tear each other apart in the name of pol­i­tick­ing, ter­ror­ists are inch­ing their way back to the re­al­i­sa­tion of their sick dream of a caliphate in the North-east­ern part of the coun­try. The re­cent resur­gence is not like any­thing we have seen be­fore. More so­phis­ti­cated weaponry and for­eign fight­ers are be­ing de­ployed to thwart the gal­lant ef­forts of our mil­i­tary. Armed herds­men have spread their ten­ta­cles all over our ma­jor cities, killing, maim­ing and kid­nap­ping. Yet, we fid­dle while our coun­try burns.

Al­haji Bashir Tofa, the man who lost to MKO Abi­ola in the an­nulled June 12, 1993, elec­tions re­port­edly au­thored a warn­ing to Nige­ria’s ‘big men’ via so­cial me­dia re­cently:

“… Keep on feel­ing less con­cerned when our na­tional ter­ri­tory has been in­vaded by for­eign mer­ce­nar­ies and we keep on pre­tend­ing like all is at peace… Nige­ri­ans are be­ing slaugh­tered like cat­tle, and their cries are hit­ting the ground. Hearts are hurt­ing, souls are rav­aging for Re­venge and they’re gath­er­ing storms of war…

“The ear­lier our lead­ers drop their eth­nic and re­li­gious dif­fer­ences and come to­gether to de­mand an end to the killings mov­ing from one vil­lage to an­other to slaugh­ter our peo­ple. Speak out now for no mat­ter how small your voice may sound, our col­lec­tive voices will sound like a big mega phone to help stop the loom­ing dan­ger”.

By now, one would have ex­pected the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties to show­case what they would be do­ing dif­fer­ently if they were trusted with power. What is their mas­ter­plan for de­feat­ing ter­ror? What are the de­tails of their plans to rev­o­lu­tionise food pro­duc­tion, power, job cre­ation, and in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment? How would they de­sign the se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture dif­fer­ently to en­sure that polic­ing is lo­calised rather than cen­tralised? What are their plans to un­bun­dle those as­pects of our na­tional life that are too un­wieldy to be pros­e­cuted with the cur­rent uni­tary struc­ture?

Rather than chart an al­ter­na­tive course, what we have been hav­ing is an at­tempt to draw the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion, INEC, into the fray as if it was one of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Nige­ri­ans have been re­peat­edly de­ceived by the po­lit­i­cal class for so long that the peo­ple are wary of find­ing them­selves in a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to that of the US elec­torate who were told that, “Mex­ico will pay for the wall” - but the tune has now changed to “Con­gress must fund the wall”.

Rea­son has taken flight in our own ap­prox­i­ma­tion of po­lit­i­cal de­bates.

The so­cial me­dia is awash with sala­cious in­sults be­ing traded by foot sol­dier­soft­he­var­i­ous­po­lit­i­cal­tenden­cies. The peo­ple who con­sti­tute the elec­torate are their own worst en­e­mies. In­stead of seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity of this pe­riod when politi­cians are go­ing on their knees for votes - to com­mit them to spe­cific pro­grammes and de­liv­er­ables, they are prop­a­gat­ing fake news, cloning pho­to­graphs to make op­po­nents look bad and ra­tio­nal­is­ing the in­ad­e­qua­cies of their pre­ferred can­di­dates. No one cares about pro­grammes.

Maybe the United States, ar­guably the world’s num­ber one na­tion, can af­ford the lux­ury of self-in­jury in­flicted by its pol­i­tics. Nige­ria can’t.

In the Sec­ond Repub­lic (1979-1983), Nige­ri­ans knew by heart the pro­grammes of the five po­lit­i­cal par­ties and how those goals were to be achieved. Can we say the same to­day?

If it is not al­ready too late, can we be­gin to de­mand the how’s why’s, when’s and other de­tails of the pro­grammes of the var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties? These cir­cus­like ‘mega’ ral­lies where the wretched of the earth dance Ajasco for their car­pet­bag­ging lords is be­gin­ning to give the im­pres­sion that it will take some do­ing to sep­a­rate the peo­ple from their chains.

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