As a famous Russian adage goes “it is easy to turn fish into fish soup, less easy to turn fish soup back into fish”. This Russian adage best describes Nigeria’s current socio-political quagmire. It is a notorious fact that the fabrics of the Nigerian nation is currently so badly fragmented that putting it back on the right path is as complex as trying to turn fish soup back to fish. With unprecedented levels of poverty, insecurity, economic instability, impoverishment, energy poverty, environmental degradation and lamentable standard of living across the width and breath of the country, the founding visions of Nigeria have been badly mutilated, defaced, and chipped away. More than ever, the gaps between the different regions that make up Nigeria are real, wide-ranging and pronounced. The ideals of Nigerian nationhood have been eroded, while the dreams of nationalism and patriotism are at the lowest ebb in the country.
We are currently at a monumental crossroad that will require radical transformations in the conceptualization, functionality and organization of the Nigerian nation in order to guarantee a united, peaceful and progressive future for Nigeria. Nigeria and its people must face the reality. We cannot continue to ignore or down play the fierce and urgent realities of Nigeria’s dire circumstances. Most recently, a new United Nations report described Nigeria as a “pressure cooker of internal conflict”, warning that the country’s multiple security problems could soon lead to continental crises. A recent damning verdict on the state of the Nigeria nation by Agnes Calamard on 2nd September, 2019 reads as follows:
“The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern. By many measures, the Federal authorities and the international partners are presiding over an injustice-pressure cooker…The warning signs are flashing bright red: increased numbers of attacks and killings over the last five years with a few notable exceptions; increased criminality and spreading insecurity; widespread failure by the federal authorities to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, even for mass killings; a lack of public trust and confidence in the judicial institutions and State institutions more generally; high levels of resentment and grievances within and between communities; toxic ethno-religious narratives and “extremist” ideologies - characterised by dehumanization of the “others” and denial of the legitimacy of the others’ claims; a generalised break down of the rule of law, with particularly acute consequences for the most vulnerable and impoverished populations of Nigeria.
Over the course of its tumultuous history, Nigeria has confronted many challenges and much conflict, including military rule and mass killings…Perhaps it is this history that leads (some) commentators, analysts and even officials themselves to downplay or ignore the warning signs or to assume that no matter their gravity that these will be overcome. However, the absence today of accountability functionality is on such a scale that pretending this is anything short of a crisis is a major mistake. It is a tragedy for the people of Nigeria. Unchecked, its ripple effects will spread throughout the sub-region if not the continent, given the country’s central economic, political and cultural leadership role. Weak rule of law and its brewing crisis are intertwined with, result from, and come on top of: a nation-wide population explosion and increased rates of extreme poverty which characterises the reality for roughly half of the Nigerian population”
According to the United Nations, the level of poverty, hunger, insecurity, mass killings, extremisms, police brutality, deprivation, public fear, lack of public trust and confidence in the state institutions, and wanton disregard for the rule of law currently witnessed in Nigeria has reached extreme, monumental and unprecedented proportions. Nigeria is currently facing an existential crisis.
However, as damning as this report is, it does not call for intellectual surrender. It calls for serious and fundamental rethink of how to tackle the multifaceted existential problems facing Nigeria. As the United Nations report rightly warned, we cannot continue to pretend as if Nigeria’s complex problems are merely temporary and less monumental. Doing so will be a major mistake that could result in socio-political Armageddon. All concerned Nigerians must acknowledge the flashing bright red warning lights and begin to ask tough questions on how to draw the country out of its doldrums. Without doing so, the country called Nigeria may be facing a tipping point that no one could predict its ultimate end result.
The next question then is what can be urgently done to avert the entrenched existential crises facing the Nigerian nation?
In my view, Nigeria currently faces only two tough options: restructure or reconfigure. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (9th ed.), restructuring is to organize a system or an entity in a new and different way to make it operate more effectively. In political terms, restructuring refers to a complete overhaul of a nation’s political system in order to make it operate more effectively. This could be in form of adopting a new constitution, new economic model, decentralization of powers as well as devolution of powers to the constituent units. To restructure is to change an existing status quo in order to make it more functional. Just as corporate restructuring can significantly transform a moribund company to a profitable and high performing one, political restructuring, when undertaken transparently and efficiently, can also significantly transform a stuttering nation to a modern, peaceful, viable and high performing state. Like in corporate context, political restructuring is an interventionist exercise aimed at addressing complex challenges facing a country in order to make it function more effectively. It can be likened to a surgical operation undertaken to save a dying person. However, when restructuring fails, as it is in the corporate context, then the entity is heading towards corporate reconfiguration. A country that fails to restructure until it is too late may face reconfiguration.
To be continued
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D (Lond.)