Nigeria’s 55 Years of Independence: Fact or Myth?

     Man has dominated man to his injury

                     – Ecclesiastes 8:9

   Man is a social animal who dislikes his fellow man

             -Eugene Delacroix

Today, the 1st of October, 2015, the Federal Republic of Nigeria clocks 55 years as a sovereign state. As has become the tradition, Nigerians are celebrating their “INDEPENDENCE” from British rule with much pomp and pageantry, momentarily forgetting the asphyxiating challenges they have had to grapple with over the years – a fleeting escape from the suffocating realities facing them. However, in the midst of the whole razzmatazz and fanfare accompanying the celebration – or marking, as the case maybe – of this yearly ritual, one compound question remains unanswered: Is the Nigerian State and its citizens truly independent, fifty five years after supposedly gaining freedom from British rule?

questionTo answer the aforesaid teaser, this piece profile’s the origin and nature of the present post-colonial order in Nigeria, and how its operation bears a striking resemblance with its predecessor – the defunct colonial regime; that is, the manner the Nigerian state has been configured to function, the character of the elements responsible for this arrangement, and why things have remained the same for so long. It answers the following questions: What are the dynamics and dimensions of the one-sided relationship between the Nigerian ruling elites and the citizenry? How has this relationship evolved over the years? Why have the rules of engagement between these two mutually antagonistic forces remained the same 65 years after the country supposedly gained political independence from Britain?

The Tom and Jerry relationship between the Nigerian people and the ruling political elites go back to the origins of the Nigerian State, but 1960 was a real watershed, so we’ll proceed from there. The old order had just ended and a new one was beginning. The Nigeria that emerged out of the dark clouds of colonial rule was stupendously rich. While some of the other countries that attained independent status with Nigeria during the same period had been devastated by the violence that accompanied their independence struggles, the country was largely unscathed. Nigeria did not go the way of countries like Guinea Bissau, Algeria et al, who fought very bitter, destructive wars to gain their freedom – rather, hers was a peaceful, diplomatic transition that was devoid of all the rancor and violence associated with other countries’ march to independence.

On gaining, independence, Nigeria had seemingly inexhaustible agricultural and mineral wealth, an educated crop of professionals and an industrious population rearing to spearhead revolutions at all sectors of national life. All that was required was capable leadership at the various levels of government to arrowhead and jumpstart the process of national development; a dedicated group of patriots committed to the realization of the “New Nigerian Dream”. All was set for this much anticipated transition, when some unforeseen challenges reared their heads; the emergence of Jackasses in the newly independent state bent on sabotaging the success of this young, promising project; scavengers who had developed the penchant for feeding-off the hard work of others; gatecrashers who came to the party uninvited.

Aware of the enormous wealth the newly independent country possessed and the power she would wield in the committee of nations during the coming years, the emerging ruling class individuals, before and after the years following the country’s independence struggles, shrewdly schemed on how to shape the fledging state to favour them and their individual constituencies politically and economically. They were committed to restoring the traditional structures of dominion and appropriation inherited from the departing colonial master. In the same fashion as the savage events of 1884-1885, when the competing colonial powers of Europe – at a conference convened by the imperial Chancellor and architect of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck – met in the German city of Berlin and formally partitioned mother Africa among themselves, the new heirs of Nigeria partitioned her in exactly the same manner as their Western cohorts. Nigeria’s purported independence was intended for just a minute fraction of the populace from the onset.

Now, a lot of raucous noise have been made about how Nigeria’s political independence in 1960 supposedly freed its people totally from the chains of colonialism; of how Nigerians finally won their liberty from a foreign power that had held them captive for several decades, and how the newly won autonomy ushered them into a new era of hope and prosperity. But this was not totally the case from a practical point of view. What actually happened was that the emerging set of ruling elites, who inherited the administrative structures of the new state from the departing colonial masters turned out to be an unruly clan of self-seeking “royal majesties” who were not ready to share power with the people.

The sad events of the post-independence years ultimately set the stage for the ensuing drama that has come to define Nigerian politics. The emerging ruling class simply retained the traditional order of exercising power without authority in order to ease the exploitation of the people and their resources to satiate their vanities. The colonial order was retained in all its defining characteristics, except in personnel. Nigeria simply transited from one form of colonialism to another. Nigeria was still a slave colony, as far as its new operators were concerned, judging from how it has been administered since then. The new political class metamorphosed into the ruling nobility, while the larger population retained its vassal status. Nigeria went through the empty motions of independence but remained even more dependent on another crop of rogues – Scions of the Feudal oligarchy – who retained and maintained the enterprise system established by the departing British. It is interesting to note that while the British colonial system could be said to be inordinately driven by racism, greed and criminality, the succeeding post-colonial regime has perfected this sadistic order and taken it to more monstrous heights.

Thus, from where the old brigade stopped, the new Managers of Nigeria picked up the gauntlet and ensured that she remained a two-tiered society, consisting of the excessively rich and miserably poor; a society that is stratified on the basis of how rich you are, how much financial stake you have in government, and how much money you contribute to the appointment and remuneration of the directors of the enterprise – political office holders. Forget about talk of a middle class having ever existed in this country. It is cheap propaganda fabricated and sold to the ever impressionable public to shield the merciless class war that has raged between the rich and the poor since the commencement of the “New Nigerian Venture” in 1960.

Try as hard as they did, founding fathers such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Anthony Enahoro, et al, of blessed memory, who spearheaded the independence struggle proper, and could be said to be exceptions to the rule, could not contend with the new currents of power – the emerging Tsunamis which ultimately consumed some of them. That was why the few of them who succeeded the Hurricanes of the sixties, failed in their later bids to captain the vessel of the Nigerian state before finally passing on. The exit from politics of the purest statesmen Nigeria ever had – the truest champions and defenders of the national course and bearers of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of Nigerians – opened them up to the witcheries of the new ruling class who saw the country’s founding fathers as old school; as men whose ideas had become bland and obsolete.

The emergence of oil and the interests derived from its exploitation, coupled with its assumption as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy in the later post-independence years worsened issues, as the elite forces further burrowed their bloody fangs into the economy. To control this highly priced resource, the oil producing areas and other raw materials-bearing parts of Nigeria were transformed into something in the mould of what Noam Chomsky (1993: 11) calls a “Grand Area”, which was subordinated to the requirements of the Nigerian economy. This Grand Area eventually came to be dominated by the oil-producing communities in what is today’s Niger Delta region; a region that has suffered incalculably from the destructive cum disruptive exploitative exploration activities of the oil multi-nationals, backed by the double-crossing interests of the reckless drivers of the Nigerian State. The Niger Delta was to fulfill its service functions as a primary source of income for the ruling impostors who were allowed to exploit it for their mutual benefit. This has inadvertently resulted in cut-throat competition among the elite forces for the control of this single supreme resource. Politics and business go hand in hand in Nigeria as members of the political class are simply oil merchants who are ready to dine with Old Nick himself for profit. It is a conspiratorial order, for where there is big money, there are conspiracies. The various well documented oil-related conflicts in the Niger Delta are fallouts from the extreme struggles for the control of this black gold by the country’s oil barons.

Nigeria is constructed to operate as a corporate enterprise, without a sound productive base, with Abuja as its headquarters and other sub-units constituting a vast network of branches. Abuja serves as both the commercial and political nerve centre of the Nigerian enterprise from where policies are crafted and dished out to other constituent units which are expected to implement them to the letter, no questions asked. This might surprise most pundits who have always seen Lagos as Nigeria’s centre of commerce. But the plain truth is that, compared to Abuja, the volume of trade that takes place in Lagos on a regular basis is child’s play. The businessmen in Lagos are small timers compared to the moguls – the big players – in Abuja, who have the financial wherewithal and political leverage to go with it. Abuja is where all crucial national decisions – political, economical etc – are taken. These decisions have serious bearings on the country as a whole. Like Wall Street in the United States of America, Abuja is the center of buying and selling in Nigeria. Just imagine operating a country as huge and rich as Nigeria as a business concern; imagine the capital available to the traders in Abuja and the amount of products they can obtain and dispose of at will with all that cash. From the ceaseless lobbying for political positions by different interest groups, awarding of mostly over-bloated contracts to the bankrollers of the party in power and other parasitic elements, dishing out of personal favours to government loyalists, payment of compensation claims to aggrieved groups of different hues, and other forms of influence bartering, Abuja is a constant beehive of commercial activities. The rule is that “if you want to buy anything buyable in Nigeria, just go to Abuja”. Once you have the cash and the necessary contacts, all other things will naturally follow. Just press the right buttons, say the magic words and Sesame will open up. That’s all!

The Nigerian system supposedly operates with an enterprise philosophy: Profit-making at all costs. But unlike a core capitalist system that is based on the principles of open, free market competition, the Nigerian version is a pre-industrial, superficial commercial system that poorly apes the original model; a system in which free enterprise is a supposition; an arrangement in which operators having no financial, material, moral, legal nor any base whatsoever, take over the running of the machinery of governance in order to guarantee the steady flow of the commonwealth into their private treasure chests; “Counterfeit Capitalists” in every sense of the word, or what ace columnist, Tunde Obadina (Africa Today, June 1999. 36-37) calls “Pretender Capitalists”.

Nigeria is simply structured to serve the interests of some superintending grandmasters; a pantheon of the gods; a crop of self-styled cognoscenti full of their own importance; deities who want to be seen but not spoken to. Just like the emperors of ancient China, these human divinities act like the forces of nature. Like the legendary Greek gods on Mount Olympus, they assume that air of extreme pomposity, regality and immortality that sets them apart from common earthlings.   These individuals see the state as a robot customized to attend to their kleptomaniac urges; a machine that should be tuned to do their perverted biddings. They are driven, unflinching, calculating machines, who live in a world beyond the ordinary; a world where everything is seemingly within their reach. That is why they think they can take whatever they want, whenever they want without scruples. But in their arrogance, they ignore the existence of a more powerful force than them; a group with a better claim to authority; a majority from whom their own authority should normally flow and on whom their continued existence depends: the people without whom there would be neither state nor government. They forget that even the gods without people to worship them soon loose relevance and wither away.

The pre-independence order of serfdom has been fully restored and restructured to serve the whims of native supremacists who cut across all the ethnic, clan, religious and other sub groups in Nigeria; the few ones within the populace who are involved in the reprehensible business of commandeering the national -“our collective”- wealth for “their common” good; the self- ordained illuminati – supposed enlightened ones – of Nigerian politics. You find them in government, as members of the diplomatic corps, as top brass of the armed forces (serving and retired), as members of the council of state, as party chieftains, as contractors, as traditional rulers, as heads of organized religions, as heads of big businesses, as commanders of militant groups, as heads of organized criminal consortiums, and in other contrived capacities. They constitute the legendary “Establishment”. These set of people pose as representatives of their constituencies, but are murderous backstabbers who should be avoided like killer diseases. They represent no one but themselves and their lapdogs. This assemblage of bounty hunters, form the soft-landing base that eases the business of corrupt enrichment, especially during times of national crisis when they take up the mischievous roles of “Peace Ambassadors or Emissaries”, “Citizens Diplomats” and other contrived nomenclatures that are meant to cloak their self-aggrandizing missions. They are always around; always recycled to keep the subsisting order of deceit in place.

An axis of evil runs the affairs of this country; an alliance of cheap opportunists who have ganged up against their own; a league where the darkest and crankiest minds to have ever traversed this plain habitually shoot poisoned darts at their brethren. Forget the hollow myth of how the British supposedly left political power in the hands of Northerners and economic power in the hands of Southerners. This has never been the case as the only homogeneity that exists in this country is the one among the elite forces who constantly struggle to maintain their hold on the reins of power because of the several doors it opens to them, for the possession of political power in Nigeria guarantees its wielders control of all ramifications of national life, especially the economic sphere which has remained the centre of attraction for the seekers of political office, and is largely responsible for the criminal system of corruption and the various intractable conflicts bedeviling this country, some of which have manifested as ethno-religious – or others of similar derivatives. “When you seek first the Nigerian political kingdom, and all its accoutrements, you are guaranteed access to the country’s wealth”. Power is all that matters to these Chameleons, not the people’s welfare, which comes’ last on their scale of preference; It has become a currency that must be obtained by all costs. This “get and keep power by all means syndrome” has traditionally defined the behavior of Nigeria’s ruling classes over the years.

Consequently, all the various transitions – civilian to military, military to civilian, military to military et al – that Nigerians have been forced to be spectators to over the years have been replays of the exchange of personnel that was formally enacted in 1960, and have been continually reenacted in the political graduations of succeeding years; an unending “Democraduras” – a revolving door of transitions – that has led the country to a dead end. Forget it when politicians promise change in the course of campaigning for political positions, or when after taking over the reins of office, make fake shows of carrying out reforms; they are mere publicity stunts. It is the same senile, visionless system operated by the same set of yapping yahoos, with the same guiding principles that has been the subsisting order. That is the sad fact about this skunk of a state called Nigeria. Nothing has changed.

This is an illegitimate order; an order of coups and counter-coups. (A coup within the context of this discourse refers to the illegal takeover of government by any individual or group, not only the military.) This might sound surprising to some as the mere mention of coups reminds them of the military putsches that have punctuated the country’s political transitions over the years; interruptions that have slowed down the country’s growth and stalled its match to nationhood. But contrary to traditional definitions of coups, the coup being referred to in this discourse is a take-over orchestrated by the elite forces; a palace coup launched against Nigerians by, first, the British colonial masters and, secondly, the post-colonial hegemonic forces – homeland colonialists. These two groups of Orangutans masterminded the coyest, cockiest design in the political history of this country, starting from 1914 when the first coup was staged and have zapped the citizenry’s most essential rights to self-determination, as is normal in coups, setting the stage for the macabre dance of death that have become the hallmark of Nigerian politics. Nothing separates the several fraudulent takeovers of government by these mercenaries in mufti from the inglorious actions of their military cohorts – both usurp political authority under the flimsy pretexts of political expediencies; both are exploitative; both are illegitimate; both deny human rights and; both rely on the use of brute force.

In this order of force, the security forces – military, police etc – constitute the strong arm of the state: enforcement agents of the state’s iron will and shield from threats of any shade. They are used in beating any form of opposition – real or imagined – into line, especially during crisis situations, when they expose their murderous fangs for all to see. Their main job description is to repel any attack on the political and economic foundations of poverty in this country and to ensure the continued existence of this exploitative system where a minute percentage of the population continues to enjoy a larger proportion of this country’s wealth. These trigger-happy goons shoot first and ask questions later. They live outside the ambits of any known law, and thus, act arbitrarily, without recourse to any form of censorship; outlaws, who are laws unto themselves; masters of the law, who believe that peace should be projected through force; that conflict, can only be avoided through the projection of fear. They are professional killers who delight so much in their sadistic chores that they close their ears to all entreaties to pause in their bullish strides. Just like the notorious British Rangoon’s and Redcoats of the colonial army, these bloody scallywags habitually lap up the instructions of their commanding officers to unleash mayhem on defenseless civilians, cutting down many in their mad fury, under the sassy pretexts of keeping the “peace”. They represent the monstrous face of this arrangement; modern day replicas of the legendary Attila the Hun, whose only language is fire, brimstone and sulfur – which they ceaselessly rain down on those bold enough to stand up to the imposturous prescriptions of their masters. They are the vicious hit-men who are used in maintaining this order of inequality where the mad quest for dominion and profit takes pre-eminence over other considerations; the supposed sworn protectors of the realm. They are simply imbecilic robots in whose psyche the use of terror is deeply ingrained.

This illegal, disjointed and monstrous order of mediocrity has ensured that the governance of Nigeria has remained in the leprous hands of people who, having failed in their private lives, see politics as the last resort; yokels who should be living in their natural abodes, the country sides; yetis who have come down from their mountain habitats to rub shoulders with human beings; graspers from lowly backgrounds with several talents for mischief. From failed doctors, failed architects, failed pastors, failed imams, failed bankers, failed lawyers, failed businessmen, failed armed robbers, failed fraudsters, failed academics, failed occultists, failed husbands, failed wives, failed drug barons, failed parents, failed traditional rulers, failed farmers, to countless other failures too numerous to mention, Nigeria is an empty entity dominated by harebrained nonentities; a system of mediocrity where excellence has since taken a backseat; a failed country run by failed rulers who refuse to leave the stage until they are disgraced off it; a pride of proud, pompous, gluttonous, wild beasts; a colony of wild rascals and invalid jackals. That is why Nigeria still operates a stone-age political system in modern times. That is why despite being extremely rich in choice resources, she has remained generally underdeveloped. No wonder there is a general systems failure at virtually all facets of national life. What a shame!

That is sadly the natural order of things in Nigeria: a chaotic order in which the cruel domination of man by his fellow man has been injuriously executed with the kind of callousness rivaled only by the bestialities of the Visigoths, Vandals, and other Barbarian tribes. It is simply a contemporary order of slavery run by a pack of loathsome Hyenas. It has ensured that Nigeria remains a business centre run by political merry men and women; the happy-go-lucky ones who prevent “others” from joining their party. It is a merry-go-round customized to accommodate only a few privileged ones. This personalization of the Nigerian State, which is meant to suit the fancy of the country’s political journey-men, formally laid the faulty and quake-prone foundation that has continued to define citizen-state relations in Nigeria till date.

In all, despite the loving intentions of the Almighty Creator in weaving this enormous plain of milk and honey together for the mutual enjoyment of its inhabitants, a fraction of the larger population have traditionally subjected the vast majority to subsisting under conditions that are comparable to those depicted in Charles Dickens’ 1838 classic, “Oliver Twist” – largely stratified, hunger-infested, crime-ridden and chaotic. It is a classic case of modern-day slavery – that vast moral evil that must be loathed in its entirety. That is the bitter truth of the matter, fellow Nigerians. I rest my case!

Written by
Jude Obuseh
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