Do you know Somalia? I will tell you a few things about this failed State. It is difficult for me to even say that it is one of the countries forming what is referred to as the Horn of Africa. Unless one is generous, it does not even pass for a country presently. For easy talk however I will say that it is a country that was patched together by Italy and Britain and granted independence of some sort in 1960. It shares borders with Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. It depended on Cattle and Bananas for its foreign earnings before it hit the rocks. If you can speak Arabic, Italian or English then you can transact business, especially gun running and narcotics, in Mogadishu and a few other places. Some inconsequential individuals in the Military seized power in 1969 and Mohammed Said Barre subsequently elbowed his colleagues out of power and stayed put in power until he was ousted in 1991. From that moment unto now, there is no effective government in place for the country and many parts are claiming separate independence. In a nutshell Somalia gives a dictionary meaning of a failed state. It currently exists in name only. It has no single feature of a modern state. No government, no judiciary, no police and no army.
How did it come to this pathetic situation? Said Barre did not only overstay but also eliminated those he considered to be in opposition to his dictatorial rule and collapsed the entire structures and institutions of state. He made himself the sole and absolute ruler of the country. Opposition to his rule took the form of armed conflict in 1977 and from that moment to 1991 when the combined forces of Mohammed Farah Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, forced him out of government, civil armed conflicts became a familiar road for the Somalians. Said Barre was sacked but the rebels could not agree on whom to form a national government. Instead, the country started to disintegrate. The UN and America made failed efforts to keep the country together. By 1995, when the UN pulled out, it was obvious to the whole world that the state and country of Somalia had died, but make belief transitional governments were put in place to fulfill some imaginary righteousness. As the country got to wrack and ruins, so the warlords helped themselves into power, each carving a personal niche and area of influence. Mogadishu gives a very clear picture of this anarchy. With no authoritative government, tribal chiefs and warlords became powerful and influential.
In between the anarchy, Muslim fundamentalists were able to organize themselves to an outward appearance of government and establish some form of order and authority among Muslims. They imposed Sharia laws and established Islamic courts to try offenders under their political influence. Besides the warlords and ethnic leaders who feel affronted by the Islamists, America had been watching Mogadishu with suspicious eyes. Washington has the uneasy feeling that it might soon fall under the dangerous control of Al Qaeda. In fact America believes that the Al Qaeda had launched its attack against American interest in Kenya from Mogadishu. Bush believes that the Islamists in Mogadishu are living on al-Qaeda funds. To counter this fear, it is believed that America has launched an offensive against the Islamists through the Alliance of Somali Warlords. Ostensibly, the warlords are united to root out terrorism from Somalia but the true position is that America is returning to the fray through the back of the warlords.
Recently, war broke out between the suspected al-Qaeda backed jihadists and the Washington backed warlords for the soul of Mogadishu. Before a ceasefire was signed by the parties a couple hundreds of civilians had been killed and many more displaced. Keen observers however believe that the parties may have just returned to their trenches to reorganize and strategize. With no government in place, Somalia is a jungle and an easy prey for regional destabilizers who do not want to see peace in the Horn of Africa. The fear of al-Qaeda in Somalia is real and should be a concern to the continent. Kenya has already had its more than fair share of the evils of sharing a boundary with a failed state. But the fear of America igniting another round of bloodletting war in that region should be of higher concern to the continent. The majority of the able youths and educated elites have fled the region and it is therefore no wonder that it is wreathing under perpetual rounds of wars, hunger and disease. The necessary human capital for economic rebirth is lacking and those that have stayed are not there to brave the odds but because they could only leave there for refugee camps. They are people that are literally already down and are ready to pull down any semblance of structure or institution of law and order.
Somalia may be kilometres away but it is reality just next door. Nigeria is fast heading for its own Somalia. The state structures are getting weaker by the day and the disconnect between the government and the citizenry is widening. There have been efforts to consolidate absolute powers in President Olusegun Obasanjo. These efforts eclipsed all other political endeavours in the country. In fact there was for a long time no other politics in the country other than the politics of extending the president’s tenure. The forces behind those efforts seem to be coming from outside his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party. The reaction of the National Assembly seems to be saying that the PDP is not behind it and that the move was not part of the party. Outsiders however saw the project as that of the PDP. The party is having a conclusive majority in the National Assembly but its rank and file is divided on the matter. Two things are coming out very clearly from this. It is either the PDP has lost its essence as a party or that the legislators are not bound together by party principles or morals but by their consciences and convictions. There loyalties are now outside the party and the party seems to have lost them to other forces that are equally angling for power.
This time the outcome of that rebellion is a resounding victory for Nigerians who do not want an elongation of the tenure of the executives in the land. But the flipside of which is that the parties are not as useful to the democratic process as envisaged by the constitution. In a situation whereby every legislator is an independent candidate drawing solely from his or her convictions to take a stand on public issues is to say the least the beginning of the path to Somalia. That is the very meaning of legislative anarchy.
This is not a condemnation for the National Assembly that has for once done something quite representative of Nigeria. What I am sounding a warning for is that the country is presently rudderless and there does not seem to be any one single moral or legal authority than can mediate or pull this country out of any major crisis. God forbid, if any political crisis broke out, Nigeria can hardly come out of it unscathed. America, Britain, India, France and all major democracies are dependent on their political parties for the sustenance of democracy and the upkeep of public morality and conscience. Seven years after the start of its democratic experiment Nigeria is yet to have a political party strictly so called. That is why the entire polity is sitting on the kneading hands of the President and look at where it has left the country. Yes, the third term has been beaten to a coma and may not come back with all its senses but the question is where to go from here. The obvious answer is of course to where we derailed from. But where are those structures that can transit Nigeria safely from this precarious situation? The parties would now have to fast track conventions and chose Presidential and Gubernatorial candidates
. INEC would have to work twentyfour hours a day to prepare and be ready for credible elections.
When we have May 2007 to conclude this process, I know why I have my fears and why I believe somebody out there should also be afraid. It is my belief that now is the time for us to start thinking about what happens if the entire process fails? The indications are that the third timers would not want to take the defeat in good faith. They may want to turn to plan B. President Obasanjo is a great General and he knows that a good General does not go to war without a Plan B. The question is do the anti third timers have a Plan B. What happens if the third timers ground the entire political process and place before the citizenry the choice between absolute anarchy and the elongation of the tenure of the executives, even if it means achieving that outside the ambit of the constitution? At that point political expediency and necessity would be on their side and the anti third timers and the generality of Nigerians would then realize that theirs at this moment is just a temporary victory.
The message here is clear, third term would only be dead and forgotten when those in opposition and the entire citizenry place before the third timers a fait accompli. How they would do that may not be clear but the necessity for that is absolutely clear. Many of those grandstanding now or climbing on the wings of the media to launder their images are not sincere and may soon run out of steam. Many of them are political chameleons that are attracting the political colour of the moment. They cannot be relied upon to secure and sustain this political tempo.Many of them were yesterday’s villains desirous of becoming later day born agains. I would not be fooled and I am hoping that I am not alone.
If I am to sum up, I see anarchy creeping into the polity and I am fearful that the reality of the past undemocratic years is starring us in the face. We need to be vigilant and recruit real political armies against those bent on having their way at all cost. Nigeria cannot afford to shatter in the manner of Somalia. The implications are to grave and I do not want to imagine them.