“If I had the money to go, I wouldn’t stay in this country… I have three children, all of them been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan’t be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas” – April 20, 1968 (Enoch Powell, 1912 -1998)
The statement quoted above aptly describes the Nigerian situation but many would be sad to know that this was an infamous statement made by a maverick British politician in his attempt to whip up racial sentiments in his fight against what he perceived as his country’s “liberal” immigration policy. This speech was made by Enoch Powell on the 20th April 1968 and it became the watershed speech for stirring racial sentiments in the UK. To this day, the British National Party finds solace in this infamous speech. That this unfortunate speech holds so much relevance to the Nigeria of today demonstrates the depth of our descent into the abyss. In a polished form and with some modifications, it appears as if Powell had Nigeria in mind when this speech was made. This is the sad state of affairs we have found ourselves in. The basis for our continued existence within this poisoned chalice called Nigeria, indeed, calls for urgent review.
The sufferings in Nigeria are monumental and mostly unnecessary. One is not unconscious of the significance of our moribund state, that so-called nation state Nigeria, as the pathogenesis of most of these socio-political sufferings. I have often tried to avoid delving too much into frank political discourse on Nigeria. This is not borne out of cowardice but of the painful reality of a paradigm shift; a shift from collective survival borne out of unparalleled patriotism to separation borne out of pessimism and perpetual retardation in national progress. The plight of this country fills my heart with pains. I shed tears thinking about the perpetual waste we have made of our association together as a nation. However, events in the past few months and weeks call for a serious discussion on the options we have as a nation, if we consider Nigeria as such. In the light of cumulative events in our “dear country”, it is perhaps appropriate at this stage to sing the dirge for our abortive experiment.
Nigerians have never ceased to discuss about the failures of what once promised to be a state with potentials. The other day Pat Utomi was lamenting the absence of the “Servant-Leader” from a crumbling edifice at a crucial period of internal turmoil, national insecurity and international mockery. Nigeria’s President abandoned a distinguished gathering of world leaders to attend the opening of a “local” university in Saudi Arabia. The mockery of the journey is that this misfit of a leader left his country’s universities closed for so many months but sees no harm in jaunting out to celebrate a better organized educational system in a foreign land.
The conspiracy theories on the delicate health of our president have not been much helped by this rather curious visit. Nigeria, since her formation, has existed in the midst of scheming, machinations, conspiracies and what have you, but never sincerity and truth. While the main purpose of Yar’adua’s journey seems quite obvious to majority of Nigerians, we wonder at the stupidity of those who think they can befuddle us. While the nation is still reeling from the impact of the assassination of Bayo Ohu, the Guardian political reporter(this being just one more case in a growing legion of unsolved killings), another of the failures that characterizes the Nigerian state, those who swore to protect our rights and ensure our security are busy protecting clique. The attorney-general of the federation would spare no expense or energy in rolling the guns out in defense of James Ibori. That the exalted office of the attorney-general of a state could be so mired in controversy, distrust and ridicule tells a lot about the success of our experiment with statehood. A rot that has crept in so irreversibly can only breed nothing but maggots, worms and vermin. The current attorney-general is only symbolic of the pathetic low Nigeria has sunk to. He is nothing but an odious entity not fit to exist in decent environment.
Nigeria is supposed to be a country in peace, but it has shed more blood than it did in the course of the ill-fated civil war. Nigerians have died from everything imaginable under the sun. Political banditry, organized crime, repeated insurrections against the state, religious uprisings, police foolishness, neglected roads, neglected environmental disasters, preventable diseases, poverty and so on. Nigerians’ have died from the sustained irresponsibility of those who thrust themselves on us as leaders.
Ogaga Ifowodo in his article titled “Nigeria, the Unimagined Nation- State” reflected deeply on fundamental and structural flaws in our nation state and postulated reasons for the inevitable demise of Nigeria. In particular, Ogaga believed that our:
“unwillingness to grapple with the trauma of Nigeria’s stillbirth as a nation is the great political unconscious, the implacable repressed, that returns at will to haunt and mock the state-of-denial. This repressed truth, being political, hides as it were in the open. It can be seen in the headlines and by-lines of the newspapers. It is volubly declaimed in bars and every public forum where two or more Nigerians are gathered. It defines the so-called “national question,” so cacophonous that the prodigious expense of political and psychological energy needed by Nigeria’s self-appointed rulers to repress it produces such frightful spectacles as compel the verdict of a failed or rapidly failing state”
Obviously, deceit about our failure as a nation state lies with those benefiting immensely from the disaster called Nigeria. The retrogressive elements that started the race to annihilation and complete dismemberment initiated a race whose momentum can no longer be halted. Perhaps as if reading my thoughts, Philemon Adjekuko in his article titled: “Is there a blind spot ahead” used his Urhobo ethnic premonition to raise ominous concerns about the state of affairs of our sad country especially in recent times. Of course, Philemon could not have put it any better:
“When a volcano wants to erupt, it never does so suddenly. It whispers its intentions to those who live around it usually for a long time. Long enough for even the wary to take note and get out of harm’s way. When a river with alternating current wants to change direction, it slows down gradually and eventually stops movement, giving everyone a chance to wait for their favourable tide.”
Of course, the handwriting has been on the wall for a long time. The wheels of the decadent structure are gradually rolling to a halt. It is becoming obvious that the centre can no longer hold. Anarchy has been let loose on the land, discontentment and apathy has become the key words. Hopes have turned to despairs and aspirations to sorrows. Patriotism has been replaced by defiance. The rats have been let loose upon the land. This is the situation that makes Philemon warnings so relevant. Nigeria has grinded to halt, now is the opportunity for us all get out.
The options before us are simply two. One is a journey we once tried and hopefully will not be foolish to try again. This is the “Yugoslavia Path”. Nigeria experimented with this between 1966 and 1970; the locust years of the fratricidal civil war. It is a path filled with thorns, sorrows and agonies. The other is the “Czechoslovakia Path”. Obviously, this is a more attractive path, the path to peaceful dissolution. The habit of moving to favourable tide as Philemon postulated. Which choic
e we make and how we go about it is left to Nigerians.
Was Nigeria ever a nation? This is a question that has been answered ages ago. It has been well documented that a founding father from the old Northern protectorate referred to Nigeria as “the mistake of 1914”. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not mince words in describing it as “a mere geographical expression”. So many epithets have been used thereafter, none too complimentary. Nigeria was created in deceit and thrived on deception and falsehood. It remains a country that could have been. It is a dream never achieved, a concept never brought to fruition. It is a mirage; one that has no basis in reality. We are all living a dream, albeit a bad dream, one whose end has finally come. What has defied arguments so far is that Nigeria remains a nation only in the minds of bigots and despots who have fed fat on its resources. Surely, an end would be heaven-sent.
At this stage, it is essential to warn hijackers of our fate and destiny of the consequences of further imposition. A selfish choice would unleash terrors unimaginable. It would be a costly mistake. Less they fail to perceive it, defiance has gained upper hand in the land and patriotism has gained flight, ably replaced by rebellion and resistance. The hand writings are definitely on the wall. If out of unprecedented foolishness, they failed to heed the masses desire, I see no other option than the persistent echo of the ominous words of Enoch Powell:
“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with so much blood”.
This time around, it would Rivers Niger and Benue with their tributaries spilling blood. It is a nightmare not worth contemplating, hence the warnings to the corrupt impostors to let go.
The soothsayer’s skill is no pre-requisite to the obvious consequences of the refusal to dissolve the moribund federation. Rebranding is a futile effort while disbanding should be the norm, there seems to be no other option at this stage. The mess has gone on for far too long. A trip to the Niger Delta would convince one of the potency of defiance. It is further spreading like a rapidly fermenting wine. Indications are here and there for those who care. Take a trip to Jimmy Embaife’s article to have a taste of intellectual defiance – “The forceful overthrow of Yar’adua’s illegitimate regime cannot be treason”. Need I say more?
We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to allow this state of slavery and imposition to continue. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to continue to moan and cry in the face of continued misrule, mismanagement, monumental corruption, demonstrated incompetence and suffocating injustice. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to continue to groan under bad leadership and political ineptitude. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to continue to fold arms hoping for miracles to fall from the sky. It is obvious that the time is now; the tide is favourable and appropriate. Failure to embrace the provided opportunity would make Powell’s prediction appear like a child’s play. Blood will flow and rivers will swell with it. It would be nothing but rivers of blood.
Let us embrace the Czechoslovakia option and go in peace. The wheels have grounded to a halt and the change should be now. We do not have forever. A fool at 49 would definitely remain a fool for ever. Nigeria as a nation has come to a full unfruitful cycle, we must move ahead in our individual ways. It is definitely not a happy independent ceremony for millions of suffering Nigerians.