Nigeria’s slide into anarchy, by Prof. Abubakar Liman

Professor Abubakar Aliyu Liman
Professor Abubakar Aliyu Liman

Although Nigeria has come along way as a colonially constructed nation, things are however not working due to some factors. Understanding reasons why the country is not working differs from place to place. There are people who think that the colonialists have cobbled Nigeria out of irreconcilable sub-nationalities, plural identities and territories. In the argument of such people, decolonization therefore only means one thing, and one thing alone, that is, the need for Nigeria to unwind itself from the shackles of its colonial legacies. At least, those people that are currently arguing for restructuring Nigeria have in a way drawn most of their inspiration from this view. There are also those Nigerians that think the problem of Nigeria is purely and simply that of ethnicity and religion. As far as these Nigerians are concerned, Nigerians cannot forge a solid bond of nationhood because members of different faith communities see their brothers from other faith groups as their problem.

Therefore, in the ensuing identity contests and toxic relationships, and as members of major ethnic groups slug it out with one another, minority groups have in their attempts at bonding across patchy boundaries see themselves as oppressed silent majority of some sort. Despite the blotched cleavages in the constellation of ethnic pluralities, people still ascribed their problems to others outside their own ethnicities. Thus, if members of Hausa and Yoruba ethnic groups, two of the three major ethnicities in Nigeria, are not tugging and wrenching one another, the Igbos are elsewhere engaged in tug of war with either the Hausa or the Yoruba, defending on the political mood of the moment. In this form of scrimmage over the control of the soul of a nation, the biggest casualties are those who are treading the middle position, those that believe in Nigeria and are struggling to see that it evolves into a strong viable country worth earning the accolade of the giant of Africa.

Religion is yet another cruncher that is elsewhere threatening to pull down the bridges of unity in the country. Apart from the sectarian fault-lines that are fueling conflict and disharmony, the relationship between Islam and Christianity in the Nigerian context is largely strained due to the politicization of access and opportunities in the distribution of resources and privileges. Such contests are either waged from the prism of Muslim-Christian unholy divides, which influences the actions of their large adherents in the public sphere, or on the basis of geopolitical locations in which individuals belong. This is the sense in which we need to come to terms with religion as positive or negative force in Nigeria. As a result manipulation of religion, the two faith systems have become de-spiritualized, politicized and vulgar. Again, this ill-fated orientation has somehow implicated religious institutions in the teeming problems afflicting Nigeria. But these reasons are by no means the only cause of our slide into anarchy. These centrifugal forces threatening to bring down the whole house have become emboldened with the dwindling of state institutions, values and national idyllic. All these building blocks of nationhood have been gradually weakened.

The steady collapse of the Nigerian project has come along with its own fresh challenges. Some of the root causes of the dysfunctional nature of the system have to do with widespread doubts and skepticism over the viability of the Nigerian project itself. This has created a situation in which large chunk of individuals and communities opted to delink themselves from Nigeria by expressing their loyalties only to their ethnic and religious cocoons. In his The Trouble with Nigeria, Achebe has prognosticated that for Nigeria to evolve into a modern nation it has to discard those old habits that hampers its progress, development and evolution into a modern nation. In that book he also identifies the failure of leadership in Nigeria as one of the critical issues that accentuated the perennial crises of nation building. Indeed, outside the promising outing of the first generation of post-independent leaders, subsequent leadership cadres were made up of self-serving individuals that could not even manage their families, let alone diverse and complex polity like Nigeria.

The chain of military rulers that succeeded the civilian leaders could at best be described as incompetent and self-serving. Either they did not understand what it takes to provide quality leadership to the people by ensuring the creation of strong and sustainable institutions and values, or they deliberately chose to follow their caprices in handling the affairs of the nation. In fact, most of the policies and programs they implemented were to say the least whimsical. In most situations, the best interest of the people is never taken into consideration in the processes of taking decisions that directly affect their lives. Many a time policies that are toyed with were those that have been designed and shoved down the throat of Nigerians by global institutions and agencies of imperialist control via visionless and low quality leadership. In the midst of these weaknesses, the culture of corruption was institutionalized.

In Nigeria today corrupt officials are celebrated while those that abhor corruption are treated with contempt. If you lavish people with proceeds from corruption they would sing your praises to high heavens, but if you resist corruption you are seen as a tightwad. Regime after regime have recorded mind-boggling cases of corruption, yet, apart from paying lip service to fighting corruption or using the fight to witch-hunt political opponents, concrete measures have never been taken to make corruption unattractive in official circles. The two institutions saddled with tackling official corruption, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), have been turned into mere tools for fighting opponents. However, the effectiveness of those institutions has been compromised. Political office holders have now developed their own nefarious mechanisms to circumvent the laws empowering the anti-corruption mandate of both the EFCC and ICPC. In this respect, those occupying powerful political offices have rendered the anti-graft laws ineffective. In Nigeria only ordinary folks are expected to observe law and order. To this extent, breaking the laws enshrined in the statute books, negating due process, and abandoning laid down procedures in work places have been turn into normativity by especially government officials.

Over the decades, as Nigeria totters precariously under the weight of its existential angst from poor leadership, bad governance, corruption and avarice, society merely becomes corroded due to moral decline, political instability and economic collapse. The pervasive difficulties arising from existing social circumstances are pushing ordinary folks into acts of lawlessness, crime, violence and anarchy. A situation in which majority of Nigerians are rapidly losing confidence in the capacity of the State to protect them from creeping disorder, insecurity and inhumanity is unacceptable. Fear and anxiety breed insecurity. As it is, non-state actors are cropping up elsewhere to occupy the vacuum created by the absence of state in remote locations of the country. Parallel authorities are beginning to emerge all over the place, especially in our rural areas that have been turned into no man’s land with minimal or no government efforts to reverse the ugly trends. The long hand of law enforcement agencies could not reached those remote corners of Nigeria where lawlessness have become the order of the day.

As a result of this ugly development, two irreconcilable systems are beginning to emerge. On one hand, there is the Nigerian authority that scarcely covers urban locations. On the other hand, there is another form of authority that is emerging to compete with the authority of government that have evolved from criminal gangs and bandits rapidly populating Nigeria’s country sides and uninhabited expanse of land across some parts of northern Nigeria. As stated earlier on, these parallel mini criminal lawless hubs that are sprouting in the forests are now becoming the biggest security threats to Nigeria after the menace Boko Haram insurgency. Clearly, cases of rampant kidnappings, rural banditry and wanton violence are increasingly traced to the emergent outlaws that are becoming very daring and bold from the way they unleash violence, death and destruction to law abiding citizens. Some security analysts have already reached conclusions on this sticking issue. Not minding the problems bedeviling the security architecture in Nigeria, these experts also think that this form of lawless could not persist without the collusion of criminal elements that have infested Nigeria’s security agencies.

In this regard, the government needs not just to overhaul the security architecture in the country, but to redefine its understanding of security, which must be holistic. It must indeed encompass economic, political and cultural variables rather than narrow understanding of security in terms of force and resort to instruments of violence.