“For every folly of their [leaders], [Nigerians] feel the lash.”
Horace, 65-8 BC (slightly amended).
“In every community, there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don’t mean the criminals. For them we have punitive sanctions. I mean the leaders. Invariably the most dangerous people seek power.” Saul Bellow, American, 1976 Nobel Prize winner.
It is the season of quit notices and the beginning of national madness indicating the absolute loss of political leadership nationwide. An announcement by a group calling itself Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators last week gave Northerners and the Yoruba a quit notice by October 1, 2017. They were told to leave the Niger Delta. It is not clear if the so-called Agitators expect the Yoruba to leave Ondo State which is in Yorubaland also. That was not all. They ordered all the major oil companies as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC to relocate to the Niger Delta; failing which they will resume attacks on oil installations. The statement was signed by five individuals – John Duku, Osarolor Nedam, Henry Okon, Asukwo Henshaw and Ibinabo Horsfall. It is highly probable they are all hiding their real identities. Identity theft is common in Nigeria. But, their intentions are quite unmistakable. They want to heighten the political tension in the land and promote insecurity nationwide in the hope that they will benefit from the bedlam created.
It is difficult to blame them. After all there was a former quit notice issued by Arewa Youths to Igbos to leave the North by the same date and IPOB has also issued its own for October 1, 2017 to non-Igbos. That date is rapidly becoming the date selected by angry groups no longer waiting for peaceful resolution of our differences which the political elite had long ignored until it has now reached the boiling point to dismember Nigeria. It should be a laughing matter; but it is serious. The demagogues are inciting nitwits in their domains who will strike without considering the consequences.
All over Nigeria, unelected groups have now seized the initiative and are now issuing ultimatums to other Nigerians or else violence will follow. They reject the approach taken by elders who favour a gradual process for the instant gratification of wish which their demands represent. They uniformly don’t even consider the practicability or the consequences of their demands. October 1 is a mere six weeks away. Yet, the groups expect those receiving the quit notices to comply in that short period. Igbos must leave the North and Northerners and Yoruba must exit the Niger Delta. All the oil companies must also relocate to the area and replace the Chief Executives with indigenes of the Niger Delta – all in six weeks. Why anybody thinks it can be done is beside the point. The fact that such groups have sprung up issuing such absurd demands is clear evidence that Nigeria’s political leaders have lost control and the nation is heading for chaos.
Even the two largest political parties exhibit evidence of break down. The All Progressives Congress, APC, still pretending to be united, held its first congresses which were hotly disputed in several states. Kogi, representing states which have not held their own is already a combat zone. Thugs invaded the State House of Assembly a few weeks ago, despite policemen posted to the premises, and assaulted the members with the sort of impunity which presages more violence in the future. So tense is the situation that the Commissioner of Police had to appeal to the politicians against violence. In Kaduna, APC members opposed to the state governor and journalists were openly battered by thugs. The victims will not be caught unawares the next time. Blood will flow. When those who aspire to govern the country adopt violence as their weapon for victory they are setting bad examples for others to follow. Yet, that is precisely what politicians are doing right now. They fund and promote violence. That is what they have been doing since 1998/99.
Obasanjo remains an apostle of do-or-die politics. His “boys” have not forgotten the lesson. The demons they create when vying for elective positions invariably turn around to haunt them and innocent Nigerians for years after. They transform to armed robbers and now kidnappers.
Meanwhile the unelected vocal leaders like Kanu, the Arewa Youths and now the Niger Agitators have taken centre stage; aided by the Devil which always finds work for idle hands. The political parties from 1999 till today have created millions of those unemployed hands among the youth of Nigeria and the predictions of imminent calamity are gradually coming true. The young people everywhere who previously took a “wait and see attitude” are no longer waiting; because they have seen enough. They no longer see any political leadership which can convince them to wait a little bit longer to fix the problems of the nation. The emergence of two Presidents at this time has only made matters worse. If truth must be told, nobody knows who is in charge of the country now. So, the youths are turning to other leaders.
Does that mean the youths are right? No. In fact, most of their demands and quit notices constitute recipes for chaos beyond their imagination. Like most revolutions which end in the hands of mad men, the demands for quick fixes for Nigeria’s problems by IPOB, Arewa Youths and Niger Delta Agitators will lead millions of the people whose interests they claim to champion into great difficulties if accepted. The quit notice by the Agitators would serve proxy for the rest in this regard.
The assumption that the owners and operators of oil wells in the area will meekly surrender the oil wells to anybody and go home on or before October 1, 2017 is about the most absurd thing anybody can imagine. If the Niger Delta Agitators can bomb them why can’t the owners under duress render them useless by bombing them too before their departure? Furthermore, most operators have developed international clients for their production. Will the new “owners” from the N/Delta have access to the same clients? With the current keen global competition for sale of crude, how much of the crude will they be able to market on their own? But, that is a minor point to make.
If the Agitators have paused to think about their quit notice they would have noticed that for every Yoruba in the Niger Delta there are at least one hundred of their people in Lagos State alone. Reciprocity is a word they probably have not heard about. Tit for tat they have. In local parlance it means “do me I do you”. In their obvious naïveté they must have assumed that they have a monopoly of issuing quit notice. The Yoruba people of the South West can also issue a quit notice which will create more hardship for the people of the Niger Delta than the one issued to them by the mindless Agitators. That precisely is the problem.
Nigeria now is in the grip of demagogues; people who shout first and think later. If they ever think at all. But, the rise of rabble rousers had coincided with the decline in leadership. There is no part of Nigeria today which has a generally acknowledged leader. Leadership deficit is apparent East, North, South and West. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the two political parties. None of them has a candidate with less than twenty months to the next elections. APC has an elephant in the china shop making it impossible for anybody else to move and not willing or able to move itself. Mugaberisation of Nigerian politics has occurred right under our eyes leaving us to wonder if this is the change we were promised before the election of 2015. The PDP is worse. The Supreme Court judgment paving the way for Senator Makarfi to act as the interim Chairman has only opened the way for the second round of conflict which will drag on for months making unity virtually impossible.
Abuja can be aptly described as a battleground where the Executive and the Legislative branches are at war over a range of issues despite being members of the same political party. What the ruling party stands for depends on who is talking. Even the Executive branch is a house divided against itself. There is no unity of purpose on anything fundamental to governance and credibility is low. The government promised to be subject to the rule of law but is selective in observance setting a bad example for the people and encouraging disobedience to law and drawing the country closer to chaos everyday.
The trillion naira question now is: how do we pull back from the brink of disaster? One could write several volumes of books to answer that question. But, few people will read it and we don’t have time on our hands. The first and most critical step is for the APC to tell us who is our President and who will lead us from now till May 2019. Without that, the demagogues will lead us to the chaos we don’t deserve as a nation.