Fatigued Sovereignty: Nigerian Nationhood in Despair, By Nimi Wariboko
Now is the time for all patriotic citizens to rise up and repair Nigeria’s fatigued sovereignty. Yes, the set time has come for all of us to make unprecedented sacrifice and show unparalleled devotion to the nation to help it avert the potential crisis of disintegration.
This moment calls for unprecedented sacrifice and devotion. Nigeria is threatened by the forces of non-being. The affective bonds between the nation and its citizens are under titanic stress. Its sovereignty is driving to the point of breakdown. Subversive herdsmen are threatening to dismember the nation, powerful men from the east are calling for collective self-defense, and some ex-generals in the North are calling on their ethnic folks to standup and fight like hell. Some rulers in the West are predicting civil war, and ex-militants in the South-South are thinking aloud about preparing to defend their own land. Now is the time for those of us who believe in one integral Nigeria to stand up and also fight for own land, from the Sahara-kissed Sokoto to the Atlantic-washed Niger Delta.
Nigeria is in despair and its sovereignty is fatigued. Her sovereignty is diminished and dispersed into armed and arming power centres and brigands. Moments such as this call for sacrifice for sovereignty, sacrifice that can stand the test of time. The nation is hurtling toward catastrophic crisis and we need to get ahead of the potential disaster. Time is running out! This is the time to defend the Union. It stands between life and death, abandoned and exposed to the vulnerability and sudden demise by the very sovereignty that should have power over the forces of chaos and violence. Nigerian citizens or groups fear that the nation is losing its grip on its sovereignty. They fear that the nation cannot actually win its struggles against the passage of time and chance; they fear that it might actually buckle under the weight of uncertainty and forces that are threatening its existence and continuity.
Our nationhood is in despair because our national sovereignty is fatigued. What does it mean for a sovereignty to be fatigued, exhausted? This is when it becomes obvious that it is getting too late for a nation to forestall disaster. It is an awareness of the citizens that their country’s sovereign power is no longer able to fittingly hold its uniting parts together, and they long for a new sovereign power to seize the critical moment and turn things around. A sovereignty is fatigued when it is losing its power to hold together its “federating” or “associating” units, when it can no longer justly hold together the nation’s past and future, presence and absence, conflicts and agreements, and when it fails to help the nation transcend the passage of time.
As our country loses control over how the associating units maintain their territorial, political, and moral boundaries, its sovereignty finds sanctuary in dispersed social orders or margins of its associating units. The units experience the threat of abandonment, and individuals within feel ontological anxieties. They now see their nation’s sovereignty as tired and tiring. The fatigue of sovereignty leads to despair; and the living experiences of citizens prompt them to search for a final solution to relieve them of its burden.
The fatigue of sovereignty reduces all recollections of the goodness of the Union to mere reminiscences of ethnic protections, rivalries, or favouritism, and the Union’s future becomes a prediction of darkness. The past of the Union and its collective goodness are at best seen as intensely personal; the difference between the personal and collective has collapsed. Individuals or associating units no longer see themselves as a hybrid of the personal and collective, private and public; only in personal, private terms. Citizens do not feel that there is something in the existence and continuity of the country that is capable of connecting them to the national order and its promise. Members of the Union — individuals and groups — begin to fall apart.
There are at least three ways to re-energise a fatigued sovereignty. First, we can demand for a strong leader, one who is charismatic, decisive and effective; a person capable of rescuing the nation’s sovereignty. Second, we can craft an ethos of strong commitment to fairness, equality, and social justice for all…
Nigeria is losing the capacity to fuse the authorities of various groups together. We face the total disintegration of our inherited social system, not to talk about generating the power to build a coherent and morally relevant social order that can subsume and transcend our ethnic and group differences. We are now acutely realising what we always knew that the sovereignty of Nigeria has never been a sanctified representation of ourselves to ourselves. Thus, this nation cannot legitimately call on a majority of its populace to make sacrifice for its survival at this critical moment. Too many citizens believe that Nigeria has never sufficiently embodied the whole aspirations of its federating units to nationally call for commitment and sacrifice; something it needs today to stand the test of time. This is painful, but it should not be end of the story.
There are at least three ways to re-energise a fatigued sovereignty. First, we can demand for a strong leader, one who is charismatic, decisive and effective; a person capable of rescuing the nation’s sovereignty. Second, we can craft an ethos of strong commitment to fairness, equality, and social justice for all. If we know that our governments and institutions will treat us with fairness and according to merit, then there will be less interest to run into the embrace of ethnic enclaves.
Third, in the period of fatigue of sovereign, there is usually an intensified longing for a sacred myth, a kind of mythical “colossus” which can stand for what the nation is all about, its innermost identity. This is a shared meaning framework, purpose, or vision that can create a bridge between the nation’s past and the future, preventing whatever is happening in a critical moment from creating an irreparable damage. This mythos will hold the country together as it deals with its inevitable tensions and conflicts. The mythos is a shared meaning or story that would have made the present crisis eventful and transformative; that is, turn it from an end into a new beginning. Mythos helps to create a sense of unity, forging various differences and divisions into a common vision of collective human flourishing.
The problem is that Nigeria has never consciously invested in any of these three options. But now is the time to consciously develop them if we want to keep the nation that our fore-parents handed over to us as one integral body. Now is the time for all patriotic citizens to rise up and repair Nigeria’s fatigued sovereignty. Yes, the set time has come for all of us to make unprecedented sacrifice and show unparalleled devotion to the nation to help it avert the potential crisis of disintegration.
Nimi Wariboko is a Walter G. Muelder professor of Social Ethics at Boston University, USA.