Nigeria And The American Prediction


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Nigeria And The American Prediction



Edwin Madunagu



culled from GUARDIAN, June 23, 2005


An American intelligence agency recently predicted that Nigeria might cease to exist as a united country, or might become a "failed state", in about 10 years from now. The Nigerian government and its institutions and functionaries, as expected, protested vehemently. I remarked that many of these official protesters were being hypocritical, that they, and indeed many professional politicians voice American-type predictions from time to time. Several ordinary Nigerians also protested - some sincerely, others less so. However, there were several others who, while also protesting, suggested we look inward to see the bases, if any, for this prediction and what might be done to prevent it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Naturally, many Nigerians, including myself, would support a retreat to honest "soul-searching". We should do this whether or not the American agency concerned has retracted the prediction and whether or not the American government, through its Nigerian embassy, has also denied that the intelligence agency in question had any ulterior motive in looking into the "crystal balls" and revealing what it saw. But I would wish to preface this effort with two propositions. They are simple and potentially non-controversial, but nonetheless irreducible.

My first proposition is that American rulers, their institutions and their agencies - including those that call themselves, or are called "democratic" - do not love Nigeria as a nation or Nigerians as a people. They love only our oil resources, and other natural and human resources that are required for their use. Indeed, in their calculation, our oil and other resources that are still untapped are part of their strategic reserves. The Middle East oil is on the same side of this strategic equation. Hence, we can go to hell, provided the oil is left behind. Nigeria may remain a single (not necessarily united) country, provided the cost of extracting oil therefrom does not rise above what is considered economically rational. On the other hand, Nigeria may break up provided the oil-flow to America continues unimpeded, that is, provided the section or sections that eventually control the oil fields are secure and are prepared to allow the oil's unimpeded flow at reasonable prices to where the "black gold" is really needed and appreciated and where nature ought to have located it in the first place, that is, America.

Left to the rulers of America, the present crop of Nigerians may vanish - in the literal sense of the word - provided the territory known as Nigeria remains together with its known natural resources. New inhabitants from the southern Hemisphere or the newly "independent" countries of Eastern Europe can always found to take over the territory under the "protection" of American marines. Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has shown the way. The best scenario, however, is the disappearance of a substantial fraction of Nigeria's population (say 60 per cent) by any means whatsoever - civil war, ethnic cleansing, natural disaster, disease, etc.

The survivors, whose number will probably correspond to what is regarded as a reasonable population for Nigeria will then be re-organised and educated to play their proper role in the contemporary division of labour as prescribed by globalisation. Anyone who thinks that I am exaggerating or joking here should refer to the history of America's foreign relations since the end of the 19th century, and particularly since the second half of the 20th century.

My second proposition is directed at Nigeria and Nigerians; and it relates to the prospects of defending the "national unity and territorial integrity" of the country if and when the battle-cry is made. My proposition here is that, even if we disregard the superstition that no country survives two civil wars, any future civil war or generalised break-down of "law and order" cannot be prosecuted or resolved the way the last civil war was prosecuted and resolved. In particular, there will be no single "villain", no single "rebel leader", no single or contiguous "rebel territory", and hence no credible or unified central authority to summon Nigerians to defend their country's "unity and territorial integrity".

Genuinely patriotic, nationalist, democratic and humanist voices - many with credible antecedents - will rise, but they will be hopelessly marginalised. There are simply too many spheres of discontent and disaffection in contemporary Nigeria. These spheres are active and can easily go into fighting alliances for objectives which may not be well defined, or not defined at all, at the beginning.

Given the background described by these two propositions, the American prediction on the future of Nigeria can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in a number of ways. Put differently, and more directly, there are several political flashpoints each of which is capable of producing a severe national crisis from which anything can happen. We may recall that the uprising which led to the overthrow and execution of Romania's president, Nicolae Causcesu and his wife on Christmas Day, 1989, started from some skirmishes at a police road block: skirmishes between the local people and police who were, perhaps, asking "wetin you carry", or a similar question in the Romanian language. It used to be a "normal" question, and "normal" answers were nearly always given. But on December 25, 1989, the community replied with stones; some other people, with better weapons, joined the rebellion and, as far as the fate of the old regime and its leadership was concerned, it was all over in 24 hours. World War 1 started from the scene of an assassination in Sarajevo; and the 1994 Rwandan genocide started from a plane crash. In other words, given a background of deep disaffection and discontent, an "ordinary" incident can become a spark. In discussing the American prediction, it is necessary not to forget this.

The fate of the National Political Reform Conference, the subject of an intense national debate when the Conference was being set up in February 2005, is now known. As some Nigerians insisted, and as President Olusegun Obasanjo admitted in a televised media interview early in June 2005, the Conference is a presidential commission. The report of the conference, according to the president, will not be subjected to a referendum, as demanded by some Nigerians. Rather, it might lead to governmental policy changes or amendments to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the latter case, the recommendations by the Conference will be considered by the government; the latter will then formulate its position on this recommendations, perhaps, in form of a "white paper". The government's views will, thereafter, be formulated as proposed amendments to the Constitution and sent to the National Assembly as an executive bill. The passage of the bill, or its definitive rejection, may take the remaining part of Obasanjo's tenure as President. Even if the National Assembly passes the bill before President Obasanjo leaves office, the remaining hurdles will take up the tenure. This means, in practical terms, that Obasanjo's National Political Reform Conference is not, afterall, the road to the future. It may not even provide a "road map".

What, by the way, were the main political issues the Reform Conference addressed and tried to resolve? I may isolate six of them: geopolitical restructuring; true or fiscal federalism, revenue allocation and resource control; the ethno-regional movement of the presidency and, to some extent, the movement of the chief executive offices of the states; "presidential" versus "parliamentary" systems of government, or their amalgam; citizenship and indigeneity; the electoral system, elections and political parties. These were the issues which dominated the proceedings of the Conference and may dominate its Report. Nothing about the effect of globalisation on the masses; mass impoverisation which they call poverty; or unemployment. Even then each of the "areas of concern" considered by the Conference can be given either a popular-democratic formulation benefiting the "common people", or an elitist formulation, benefiting the ruling classes and their power blocs and, of course, the new imperialism otherwise known as the international community". All these "areas of concern" are flashpoints, as described above.

Why, I may ask, was the system of collective presidency, which may resolve our rulers' concerns, not tabled, or seriously debated, at the Reforms Conference? The summit of Middle Belt and South-South political "leaders" has proposed that states should remain the federating units "for the continued political stability, unity, peace and progress of Nigeria". But they said nothing about the current mass impoverisation in the country; they said nothing about real democracy and self-determination for the masses. The summit also proposed "rotational presidency amongst the six geopolitical zones on the basis of equity, justice, fairness and historical antecedents", and "recognition of zones for the purposes of political, social and economic cooperation and the provision of common services".

My question is: Why not proceed from the concerns expressed in these two proposals, merge the proposals and arrive at collective presidency whereby all the zones (or rather, all the leaders of the zones) and, by extension and logic, all the states, will exercise power together at each given point in time, and hopefully, forever? Why not replace "rotational presidency" with "collective presidency"? The point I am making here is that the ruling classes and power blocs in Nigeria, and the Nigerian state, are simply not serious in formulating and resolving their problems. That is what is known as political bankruptcy.



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