“Political and Economic Survival Strategy” is a common game in the intricate world of Middle East Government and Politics. One plays this game in order to remain in power, or allow others to remain in power at your behest so you make them do what they otherwise wouldn’t do without force or the threat of force. The player cannot and must not be coy about using force or other forms of inducements to attain the desired objectives; otherwise, one would be at the mercy of his or her adversaries. This is the quintessential power-game in the rat-race world of Third world politics. And it happens to be the game President Olusegun Obasanjo has perfected.
For Survival Strategy to succeed, according to Daniel Brumberg, the regime or the player must be able to do two things: (1) Be able to pacify as many groups as possible without taking measure that would undermine the basic interests of any one group; and (2) Be able to play one group against another (divide and conquer) so as to be able to put a check against any group who dare to violate the “rule of the game.” Here, you have the “stick” and you have the “carrot,” this in addition to possessing the hammer. And this Obasanjo has been doing for years.
In a recent article (The President, the Colonel, And the Columnist) I posited: “President Obasanjo…is the grandmaster. How do you suppose he was able to remain relevant and almost indispensable in our national affairs since the war years? Can anyone think of Nigeria, in the last thirty years or so, without Olusegun Obasanjo? He is the custodian of political-goodies; he is the man with both raw and refined power and unbridled influence…This is not a man one toy with…this is a man who gets the better of his enemies and would-be executioners at every turn by being smart and by being forward-looking, and by making them desire what they otherwise shouldn’t have and by giving them what they needed…”
I concluded that article saying: “We have a corrupt country and a very corrupt group of ruling elite. From Maiduguri to Bauchi to Markurdi and Ilorin down to Enugu, Port Harcourt, Akure, and Ikeja — these elites wants more and more of everything. And in their decadent pursuit of power, influence and money, they want a certain amount of order, stability and predictability. This is what President Olusegun Obasanjo can give and has been giving them. And because everybody knows who, when and how their bread gets buttered — they will “take it easy” on the president.
Well, the central thesis of that article remains true. What I am beginning to doubt is the President’s political survival. I am beginning to doubt if his assorted bottles of consecrated water will remain potent long enough to deliver him from all evil. I am beginning to think his crew of Imams, pastors, and spiritual overseer will disappoint him this time around; and wonder also if he will continue to ride the tsunami and the tiger without any mishap. I am beginning to doubt the President’s invincibility. My fear and misgivings are anchored on four poles.
First, President Obasanjo’s alleged and perceived hubris and dictatorial tendencies is vexing both his allies and enemies and especially the democratic forces. With no avenues to air their grievances these forces are converging and working in unison to plant the notion of strike, strife, and commotion in the hearts and minds of the populace. Second, we have a President that seems not to be aware of the security and economic implication of the seething sociopolitical instability that is brewing in the Niger Delta region. Third, the President seems to have lost the backing of the people. He seems to have lost all the goodwill and prayer of his constituency – including the military might of the barracks. What’s more, his constitutional and moral authority is gradually eroding. And finally, diseases, hunger, hopelessness, depression and despair are pervasive in our youths, the middle class and the elderly. Sad, unhappy, and frustrated souls who have nothing to lose usually find a wall, an ocean or a person to vent and unload all their collective anger and resentment.
That is the state of our nation-state; and the report card of our president. What follows is part-premonition, and part-dream that lasted seven days and seven nights occasioned by thunder and lightning: Nigeria will burn because of the President’s hubris and dictatorial tendencies. Nigeria will burn because of the president’s sinful neglect of the Niger Delta crisis. Nigeria will burn because of her exploitation of the Ijaws. Nigeria will burn because of the simmering anger of some sections of the armed forces. Nigeria will burn because of the thick sadness that has enveloped the nation. Nigeria will burn because of the pervasive hopelessness, poverty, disease, hunger, and death that are now widespread within the Nigerian society. Nigeria will burn because of the convergence of these factors. It will burn and then be rebuilt; or it will burn then disintegrate; in which case the mistake of 1914 would be corrected so we all can go our separate ways.
I had a premonition in which this government did not survive its constitutionally allotted time.
There is anarchy and lawlessness. There is wanton disregard for human life and property. There is unbridled theft and mismanagement of the nation’s resources. There is corruption, misadministration, clientelism, nepotism, and regionalism. We are at the beginning stage of warlordism with bands of gangsters roaming the streets unchallenged. We have schools of assassins who market their skills just as stockbrokers market their skills in a free market economy. It is becoming easier to come by AK-47 than to come by a laptop computer. If nothing drastic and immediate is done to rectify the situation, my premonition may come to pass!
In my dreams, I saw secessionist movements; the torching of oil wells; increase in kidnappings and cold-blooded murder; the looting of oil and gas and other resources; and the formation of alternate governments. The current level of squabbles, maiming, destructions and killings between the Ijaws, Urhobos and Itsekiris will rival the killing-festival of the Balkans. I saw millions of refugees and displaced people coming out of the Delta region and its environs. Once that region is touched, well then, the government of Nigeria, Shell, Chevron and all other oil companies and various multinational corporations in Nigeria can kiss their investments and sources of revenue goodbye. All these I saw in my dreams which lasted seven days and seven nights.
Nigeria has everything the Canadians, Germans, Americans, the French and the British, and the Australians have. Unfortunately, we lack forthright and courageous leaders imbued with vision, moral and ethical sensibility to take us to the mountaintop.
At this point in time, President Obasanjo seems to have lost the backing of the people and of the military. His moral authority is gradually eroding; and so is his constitutional authority. For a man from who so much was expected; nothing good is now expected of him and he seems to be despised the way people despised Abacha. How did things get to this point? Not too long ago, history was on his side. Today however, I am not sure history and future generation of Nigerians will be kind to him.
My dreams and my premonition points to one salient fact: this government and this President is courting disaster. This government and this President are courting a coup. Not just a rumored coup or aborted coup; but a big-bang-bloody-roaring kind of coup! And it will happen soon according to the premonition and dreams I had seven days and seven nights ago.
In my dream state, I also saw a “nationalistic but disenfranchised” group of people waiting impatiently to see if the military will step in. Otherwise, they are ready “to change the course of history.” These people see Nigeria as one giant slum in a vast necropolis; a vast wasteland full of sad, unhappy, and frustrated souls. They see Nigeria as a country that do not know what do with its almost bottomless pool of talents, and vibrant youth; a county that has perfected the art of encouraging self-exile. It is a country that cannot promise its youths a better future; and is also unable to guarantee a safe and restful retirement for the aged. The youths are in disarray; their mothers and fathers are dying long before their time.
For how long is this going to continue before someone oil the bonfire? In a country replete with resources; the people are hungry, unkempt, unfed, unclothed, and uneducated! For how long is this death-inducing state going to last before Nigeria starts to burn? Well, I personally don’t know; all I know is the subject of my premonition and the contents of my dreams: that the Political and Economic Survival Strategy game will not last for ever; and that this president and this government will not last its constitutionally allotted hours. This is just a premonition, folks…all in my dreams!
Norman, Oklahoma 73072
April 4, 2004