Nigeria seems set for perdition unless urgent surgical severance of its offending wound is done. The offending wound is the kind and quality of its leadership. The divisions which were contained and curtailed by a federal system of government in the First Republic have exploded into unmanageable and cancerous wound of divisiveness.
A few days ago when he provoked the failed state thesis, unbeknown to him, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was stirring up attention to the medical condition called gangrene. In its manifestations, gangrene bears similarities with the political condition of a failed state. If a patient of gangrene is put side by side the victim of a failed state, the presentations in both conditions are so similar that it may not be wrong to call a failed state a gangrenous state.
Peradventure you still do not know what a gangrene infection on the wound of a state is, the horrifying incident which occurred on September 1 in Idoani, Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State will paint the picture better. The former captain of Nigeria’s scrabble team, Paul Sodje, and his friend were abducted and killed by persons suspected to be herdsmen. Their remains were found in a bush. Sodje and the friend had reportedly been killed when they went into some bush to the deliver ransom money earlier demanded by some kidnappers to set free Sodje’s brother, called Chris, who had by then been abducted for four days.
“Chris was going for his uncle’s funeral in Okwagbe, Delta State on August 28, when he was kidnapped at Ifon, Ondo State. The Fulani men demanded N100m but later reduced it to N1m. His wife Flora and friends rallied round to raise the ransom. Then his elder brother, Paul and a friend took the ransom to them, yet the Fulani men murdered the two of them. Chris has not been found and the kidnappers have stopped communicating with the family,” said the chairman of the Publicity Committee of the Nigeria Scrabble Federation, Akintunde Akinsemola, while confirming Sodje and his friend’s murder.
Gangrene is a dangerous and potentially fatal condition. It results from a traumatic wound, like gunshot injury and general crushing injuries, left untreated. Such wounds go gangrenous when blood flow to a large area of the diseased tissue is cut off. When this happens, bacteria invade the tissues within the body part, causing them to break down. They then begin to die gradually. At the outset of gangrene, the affected skin part turns into a greenish-black colour and, in most cases, surgery to remove the dead tissue is the only remedy.
Perhaps taking a cue from this fatal medical condition, the highly rated Fragile States Index (FSI), produced by The Fund for Peace, a Washington, DC-based think tank seems to have drawn the parallel between an ailing state and the patient of a fatal wound, who has been infected with gangrene. Using this index to highlight the fatal connect between the two conditions, FSI measures not only the normal pressures that states undergo, but also identifies the moments when these pressures are dragging states to the brink of failure. In its assessment of 2019, while it gave kudos to Uzbekistan, Cuba and Côte d’Ivoire as “quiet achievers” among states, for being “worthy of some credit for positive reforms fuelling overall measurable development,” FSI labels some other countries, among which is Nigeria, fatal conditions. It gives these rankings from testimonies of “individuals whose lives are reflected in those indicators.”
For instance, Yemen’s ranking came through Makiah al-Aslami, a nurse who ran a malnutrition clinic in Yemen, and who narrated a situation of “hungry people added on top of more hungry people”, and Mickerlange Noisy in Haiti, who described life in the country as, “Kids can’t go to school; you can’t find work. You go to a market… and all of sudden you are surrounded by gunfire”, as well as Zimbabwean, Morgan Tsvangirai’s famous quote against the decadent establishment that, “you can rig elections but you cannot rig the economy.”
The 2019 Fragile States Index, after scrutinising 178 countries “across 12 indicators of the risks and vulnerabilities faced by individual nations,” placed Nigeria in the High Alert category as the 14th most fragile state in the world and ninth in Africa. According to the Index, Yemen is the “most failed” state in the world, besting only Somalia. Of the 15 countries that failed most in the world, 10 African countries received the failure trophies. They are “Somalia (second), South Sudan (third), Democratic Republic of Congo (fifth), Central Africa Republic (sixth), Chad (seventh), Sudan (eighth), Zimbabwe (10th), Guinea (11th), Nigeria (14th), and Burundi (15th).”
Nigeria, under Buhari, coming from another global assessment – the Global Terrorism Index 2020 – is the third most terrorised country in the world, coming only after Afghanistan and Iraq, with the lots of war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen being better than hers. Already, multiple afflictions like terrorism, violent militia operations, wanton killings, a lamentable level of corruption, divisive sectionalism, as well as other social challenges are afflicting Nigeria.
Like gangrene, whose risk indicators include the ceasure of blood supply to certain tissues of the body when an infection or injury occurs which harms the circulatory system, indicators of a fragile or failed state used by FSI include, “security, group grievances, economic decline and brain drain, state legitimacy/human rights and rule of law, demographic pressures and internally displaced persons or refugees.”
Part of the indices of failure used to assess Nigeria are, according to it, “mounting demographic pressures and tribal, ethnic and/or religious conflicts; massive internal and external displacement of refugees, creating severe humanitarian emergencies; widespread vengeance-seeking group grievances and chronic and sustained human flight.” On the economic level, it the assessment pointed to “widespread corruption, high economic inequality, uneven economic development along group lines and Severe economic decline,” while on the political level it highlighted the, “delegitimization of the state, deterioration of public services, suspension or arbitrary application of law; widespread human rights abuses, security forces operating as a “state within a state” often with impunity; rise of factionalized elites and intervention of external political agents and foreign states.”
Like gangrene, whose risk indicators include the ceasure of blood supply to certain tissues of the body when an infection or injury occurs which harms the circulatory system, indicators of a fragile or failed state used by FSI include, “security, group grievances, economic decline and brain drain, state legitimacy/human rights and rule of law, demographic pressures and internally displaced persons or refugees.” With these, the FSI was able to evaluate “the vulnerability of states to collapse.”
Last Thursday, while delivering a speech at a consultative dialogue entitled “Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over”, which specifically dwelt on the security and economic situations of Nigeria, Obasanjo said he has never seen Nigeria this divided and accused Muhammadu Buhari of dragging the country to the precipice of a failed state.
“I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to (becoming) a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country. And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere,” Obasanjo said.
It is hard to fault the above grisly epistle from Obasanjo. The morale of Nigerians is at its lowest; the economy, miserable and in tatters; while, social standing-wise, Nigeria has lost its worth and respect in the eyes of the world. When you size up the psyche of the leaders, it looks like they are not bothered.
That being the case, I however disagree with Obasanjo in his deployment of semantics. It is an unnecessary euphemism to situate Nigeria as a country in a state of becoming, as far as the fragility of a state is concerned. Nigeria is already a failed state. The Fragile States Index did not equivocate as Obasanjo did. In that report, FSI didn’t mince words. Nigeria is not wobbling. Nigeria is Karl Maier’s house that has fallen. The Index began the narrative from how territorial gains recorded by the Nigerian military troops against the jihadist Boko Haram insurgency in its North-East area were trampled under the feet, apparently by a combination of governmental insincerity and the connivance of top government functionaries to thwart the gains for monetary benefits.
FSI narrated how bandits squeeze people’s blood on a daily basis in the North-West of Nigeria, and the lamentable, “bloody clashes between farmers and pastoralists in the centre.” It is so bad, in the words of FSI, that the Nigerian army literally ceded control of the countryside to Boko Haram. Army patrols were routinely ambushed, hundreds of helpless and hapless soldiers were killed by the superior fire power of insurgents, while the billions of naira voted for armaments ended up in the rapacious throats of government officials and military Generals. The rest of Nigeria is under siege of general insecurity, said the FSI, and kidnapping today had become what it called “a growth industry”; the type that led to the horrifying death of Paul Sodje and his friends. Indeed, a report said that a total of 1,165 people have so far been killed, while 113 people were abducted in Nigeria’s North-West in the last eight months.
FSI also articulated the vindictive nature of Nigerian leadership and its hostile disposition to criticisms, as reflected in the “hard-charging” erstwhile theater commander of Operation Lafiya Dole in Borno State, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, who in March 2019, messaged the principalities and powers in the Nigerian Army, via a dramatic viral video, on how “he was outgunned and (is) being outflanked” by insurgents, simply because he did not have enough weapons to fight. The wicked recompense from the architects of Nigeria’s failed state, said FSI, was General Adeniyi’s immediate posting to Siberia.
Hunger, as a result of bad economic policies over the years and heavy stealing of national resources, has made money our god. Nigerians sacrifice themselves hourly at the feet of this bloodthirsty god. The country is one huge jungle where restless carnivores and herbivores race for each other’s jugular and the ecosystem. Neither now under Buhari, nor even 2023, holds any hope for Nigerians.
However, while every state has the tendency to fly off the handle, gauging the fragility of a state is actually in the presence, availability or absence of government to curtail the slide into dysfunction. In FSI’s estimation, Nigeria, under Muhammadu Buhari, is rudderless. The report accused the Buhari government of “inability of the state to perform its core function of protecting its citizens.” Confronted by the effeminacy, inability or the weakness of the government, FSI said individuals have resorted to self-help, reflected in the “resurgence of vigilantism,” an example being the six South-Western states which, having lost confidence in the Nigerian state’s ability to secure them, set up their own security outfits. “Ageing Buhari’s promise of change,” the Index said, “seems hollow” as “Nigeria is home to the wealthiest men and women on the continent, but has the most extreme level of poverty in the world.”
Again, while Obasanjo, at that above event, believed that the Nigerian situation is remediable, there doesn’t seem to be any scientific hope of a healing of the Nigerian gangrenous wound. He had said: “With what I have seen, read and heard from the rapprochement that you are forging together, I see a ray of hope that Nigeria can be saved from disintegration. If we are ready to live together in understanding, mutual respect and love with equity, justice, inclusiveness, while engendering sense of belonging and unity of purpose and all hands on deck, we can deal with internal issues of terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering and corruption. We will then be able to deal successfully with any incoming attack of terrorism, organised crimes, etc; from outside.”
Healing will come only when the patients acknowledge that they are sick. Buhari and his travelers in this boat of perdition are not aware that the Nigerian ship has hit the rock. No wonder their response was to see the alert as an alarm. Recruits of their army of lickspittles have been sent to strategic parts of the public space to battle this narrative of Nigeria’s collapse under Buhari. One Niyi Akinsiju, chairman of the Buhari Media Organisation, reacting to Obasanjo, accused him of being a “distraction” and not behaving like a statesman.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is doing what every sensible leader should do – put the interest of the majority of Nigerians first. Most of our fault lines which Obasanjo is talking about today are creations of the selfish interests of the elite which have no economic consequences. Most of our elite advance these fault lines to further their interests,” the Buhari lickspittle had said.
Obasanjo, it seems to me, earned that ukereb. He and very many Nigerian leaders cannot pretend not to have known Buhari’s limitations and inability as at 2015. Yet, they handed a country, which by then was already gasping for breath, on a platter, to a man who absolutely lacks the capacity to administer even a local government and whose refrain and self-confessed ability was hinged on “fighting corruption.” They inflicted Buhari on Nigeria.
Nigeria seems set for perdition unless urgent surgical severance of its offending wound is done. The offending wound is the kind and quality of its leadership. The divisions which were contained and curtailed by a federal system of government in the First Republic have exploded into unmanageable and cancerous wound of divisiveness. Such divisiveness, mostly reinforced by the Buhari government, is also responsible for the heavy heists in government because Nigeria is an alien construct in the lives of the Nigerian. It also bred the quality of leaders inflicted on us.
As the FSI had rightly said, Nigeria is at a terrible crossroads. The Nigeria that was once the pride of the blackman has sunk to becoming his shameful nemesis. Its leadership is like a swarm of locusts and those it leads are ravenous wolves seeking to feast on the next blood-dripping flesh. Hunger, as a result of bad economic policies over the years and heavy stealing of national resources, has made money our god. Nigerians sacrifice themselves hourly at the feet of this bloodthirsty god. The country is one huge jungle where restless carnivores and herbivores race for each other’s jugular and the ecosystem. Neither now under Buhari, nor even 2023, holds any hope for Nigerians. The same ravens responsible for our gangrenous wound have placed themselves at vantage points to elasticise the people’s woes. Only a surgery to remove the sore on the Nigerian foot can provide the needed succour.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.