This House too can Fall, By Udo Jude Ilo
On July 22nd 2014, two incendiary devices went off in Kaduna killing about 80 people, according to agency reports. One of the bombs appear to have targeted former Military Head of State and presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress- Muhammadu Buhari while the other targeted a respected moderate Muslim cleric- Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi. Both of them fortunately survived. The tragedy of this event is not just the avoidable loss of lives of innocent Nigerians, but also the dangerous polarization of the country which the commentaries preceding the events have revealed. Nigeria has not been this polarized since after the civil war.
Social commentaries around these events show that the fault lines in Nigeria are fast becoming gaping holes; the hate is palpable and the demonization of each other on the basis of religion and ethnic extraction has become rampant. These tendencies are sustained by a political class that has lost every sense of responsibility and are bent on riding to political success on the wings of ethnic and religious sentiments. Nothing could be more irresponsible than this. The truth is that it’s not just about what our politicians do or say but more about what they do not say and the silent endorsement of the rascality of their supporters.
Nigeria is a country under siege. From almost every angle, the country is facing unprecedented challenges. The enormity of these challenges have weakened our stability, exacerbated fault-lines and heightened volatility. You would therefore expect an increased sense of responsibility and patriotism on the part of our leaders to confront the challenges of now. Rather, what we get is a delusional political class that has forced itself to ignore the realities of the moment. Every fiber of our nation’s life is strained to the limits and we are responding like everything is normal.
The statistics are frightening. More than 60,000 Nigerians are refugees in neighboring countries. Within Nigeria alone, close to 4.4 million citizens are internally displaced. Since January, more than 1000 Nigerians have died from insurgency and other violent crimes. More than half of Nigerian youth are without jobs. In spite of the lofty statistics thrown around as sign of our economic growth, poverty is pervasive.
While as a nation we grapple with these grim realities, grand corruption is at an all time high, executive rascality and abuse of state resources is growing. Political intolerance and divisive narrative are the hallmark of our political class. Rather than being angry at our leaders, we are encouraged to be angry at ourselves, hence the quick decent to name calling and ethnic bashing whenever we encounter national tragedies that should ordinarily encourage us to hold our leaders accountable.
Our leaders may assume that turning us against each other; playing on our sentiments and painting the sepulcher that is fast becoming our future provides them momentary relief and political mileage. However, the reality is that these seeds of discord and irresponsible leadership are the same elements that gave us 30 months of civil war. These are the same elements that destabilized other nations and these are the same elements that are posing the greatest risk to our corporate existence as a people.
When Mali crumbled in 2012, the world was in shock. But people who had followed events in Mali were not. The leaders had failed to bring their people together as a united country. Corruption and bad governance had destroyed the fabrics of the country and fundamentals of stability were hugely compromised. It took an angry protest from a few soldiers to collapse the democratic structure of the state and plunge the country into a civil war that would have consumed Mali, if it were not for international intervention. When democratic processes unraveled in Cote d’Ivoire after years of perceived democratic governance, it became apparent that the country was indeed divided along the North and South. There was no social cohesion, and corruption and distrust had made the country susceptible to instability. It took just the smallest shove for the country to conflagrate.
One of the tragedies of the Nigerian state is this delusion that Nigeria will always find a way out in moments of deep crisis. We carry on like there is a magic wand that will pull us back from the precipice if it gets tough. This is like playing Russian roulette with our nation’s stability. We cannot continue to play politics, manage our affairs and pursue political ambitions in a manner that is oblivious to the volatilities of our environment. We cannot carry on like winning elections is more important than having a country.
It is simply not acceptable for our political leaders to put politics above working together to deal with our enemies. In playing politics without principles and falling slaves to our blind ambitions, we are creating enemies within that pose greater challenge to our state than a million Boko Haram insurgents. We need each other not just because it is the right thing to do, but because the ethnic and religious enclaves that we see as our refuge have their own inadequacies. The hallmark of a great nation is not the absence of conflict, but the capacity of the state to deal with these conflicts in frank and patriotic manner.
Sadly ours has been a myopic prism focused solely on politics and disconnected from the welfare of the state. All political parties are equally culpable in advancing a narrative that is divisive and playing politics that is retrogressive. If history teaches us anything, when we lose sight of the welfare of the whole and begin to advance our individual interests on the sentiments of a few, we may lose both the whole and our ambition. This house too can fall if we do not apply an urgent and instant reset. This country, these elections, our future must be about Nigeria and Nigerians. Nothing else counts
Udo is a Nigerian citizen and he lives in Abuja.