Africa: The Ontology of Failed States


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Africa: The Ontology of Failed States



Franklyne Ogbunwezeh  - 3/27/2005


Never in the history of human reality, was an ode ever commissioned to celebrate failure. This flows from a conventional metaphysic. In the halls of reason, only perversity strives to roll out the drums, in honour of failure. Eulogising failure is not an employment proper to the orchestra of optimism. Failure gets a burial; never a funeral. Burial is for realities doomed to the isle of the forgotten. What we want to forget, we bury. But funeral celebrates a life, to immortalize a memory. Man naturally hastens to forget failure and its bitter pills. But he glories in success. It is normal. He is primed that way by default. Only a perverse appreciation of existence, celebrates failure amidst pomp and pageantry. That is what we see, at least on superficial level. But underneath our pretences lies an insurmountable paradox; namely: that success is predicated always on deeper appreciation of failed attempts, and its festival of lessons.

An appraisal of failure reveals its peculiar ability of spawning a chain reaction, which forcefully compels its cognizance. It shocks the mind back to a rethink of its shallow assumptions, in a way that success cannot. The failure of one construct can have such concentric effect for all other endeavours in its environment, as to forcefully warrant its imprisonment of our attention. In this situation, failure then rises to be appraised; in order to serve as a critique of the present, and a launching pad for future success. Here, then, failure becomes a catalyst to success. It is only in this light that we look backwards on the battlefields of African history, littered with the fractured and fragmented pieces of African dreams. We are occupied in this piece, with the appreciation of this history of our failures, to explore the lessons that are imperative if we are ever to escape this present predicament, and bequeath a future to our posterity.

The African continent is littered with failed states. Most of these states are economic backwaters, social apologies and political ruins. This landscape runs from the Casablanca to the Cape Town and from The Horn of Africa in the East to the Island of No Return in the West Atlantic. Most of these states true to type were the creatures of imperial convenience. To that end, they were meant to serve a purpose after which their ontological legitimacy or raison d' etre would then expire. At this expiration; the states, naturally not designed for self-propulsion; were condemned to tether on the brink, and finally implode upon the inglorious weight of their inherent contradictions. Colonialism designed and inspired the problems. But the decadence was then driven along by a horde of native pirates; trained in the fine art of piracy. These set of political actors were rogues personalities, weaned on selfishness. They were brilliant students of kleptocracy and political perversity. In about four decades they completely outclassed colonial perfidy and bested them in thievery. They did an inglorious job of mismanaging Africa, so much so that she is today the laughing stock of the world.

1. In the beginning there were tribes

Before the advent of colonialism, Africa was a large mass of land, populated by quasi-isolated tribal pockets, and ethnic nationalities. These constructs interacted with each other through trade, intermarriage, and even wars. There were no states so to say. There were villages, kingdoms, empires and republican democracies. The Ashanti, the Kanem Bornu, The Ethiopian/Abyssinian, The Egyptian, The Benin, The Yoruba, etc were empires in their own rights. Ndigbo of Southern Nigeria had already fashioned a functional republican and egalitarian democracy in antiquity, while ancient Greece slumbered in primitivity.

These social embraces were characterized by singular political and culture centres within their sphere of influence. This gave rise to common identity, both lingual and cultural. They ran their societies on their own terms, save naturally, when conquered in wars. In spite of this, the cellular political unit of African life was the tribe. It was so basic, and yet so primordial. It transcends the clans, composed of families, to embrace a wider collection of clans. This presupposed common ancestral or cultural ties, dating to time immemorial. Most of these tribes pay allegiance to one heritage. It was a basis of social bonding. It was the influential factor in the political matrix of the African tribal community. This could be seen today, in the fact that politics in Africa, despite its affinities to Eurocentric-Judeochristian vision of modernity, and to modern conceptions of democracy, still conjugates the tribal verb.

Politicians play the tribal card to advance their interests because they know that it is so primordial, and remains the major perceptual goggle, through which an African views reality. Democracy is real, when it patronizes his tribe, and the military junta becomes oppressive, when his tribe is short-changed. This runs through all African countries, without exception. This is what many fail to appreciate about the African situation. The tribe is the Summum puncti of his political consideration. And every idea or ideal is canvassed from the tribal pedestal. To this end, when the colonialists oscillated from blunder to arrant carelessness, in attempting to coax states out of these bunches of tribes, they naively failed to address the issue from the tribal angle. Their metaphysic was exploitation, and not nation building. Whatever achieves that in the short run is patronized. And whatever runs contrary to it is eschewed.

The colonial mission was never a charity concert designed to benefit Africa. No. It was an enterprise designed primarily to benefit the colonial power. Africa's benefit was never the propelling consideration. It comes last on the list. This was why the tribes were yanked together and conscripted without consultation, into unions they never bargained for; to bear each other like crosses, after the Whiteman must have had his fill of plundering their land. Little accounts for the social restiveness and mutual platonic hatred ravaging many African states today, more than the resultant hangovers of colonial political play-offs.

Prior to the invasion from the Sea, Islam came on the heels of the external dynamics embodied by conquests from across the Sahara. Islam had an impact, but cannot challenge comparison, with the second wave of assault, which came from across the seas. Hence, it merits no attention in this piece.

2. Then Came the White Man

At the advent of the White man was tsunamic for Africa. Chinua Achebe captured this well: Things fell apart! Africa and her centre could no longer hold. She became embroiled in a dynamic, which would change her structure, her culture and her future forever.

The former league of tribes coagulated into pseudo-states, at the instance of colonialism. Strange bedfellows became fellow citizens over night. Consanguinal relatives find themselves facing each other as citizens of different countries. The African psyche was ripped apart. The changes were too radical, as his culture was demonized and labelled as inferior. He had to forfeit his language in so many cases. He was equated to dogs, when he seeks admittance into drinking parlours because dogs are not admitted. There arose a miseducation on the socio-cultural level, which as was well articulated by Chinweizu, deformed the collective African psyche from which it is yet to recover.

To carve up Africa, drawing boards were built in 1885 Berlin. Africa was scrambled up among the occupying powers. The aim was to ensure each power an unimpeded and unmonitored freedom to loot as much as they could in their area of influence.

The Belgian-Congo became an abattoir, where King Leopold's polymorphous perversity, sought and obtained unrestrained ventilation. For the sake of rubber, Leopold's men sacked villages, decimated cultures, and harvested a pyramid of chopped hands, in an orgy of brutality, unmatched even by Hitler's men. Congo bled, and haemorrhaged her resources into Belgian coffers. The Germans tried the annihilation tactics on the Herero of Namibia. British piratical treachery blossomed in Nigeria and her other territories. All in Europe, Africa bled, so that Europe could have a river of wealth flowing through her.

To effectively continue this when their various suns must have set, they created states; which were simply neo-colonial dependencies. And to run these states, the mass-produced a semi-literate, middle-class of yes-men, to complement the paucity of men they have on the ground. This crop of creatures became the collaborative vehicle of colonial exploitation. Hatred for them, which was a rampant phenomenon, sometimes took deadly proportions, as was mirrored in Achebe's Things Fall Apart, where Okonkwo had to kill a court messenger, to vent his anger on an invading establishment that has despoiled the land of his fathers, and insulted his culture.

Almost all the Modern states in Africa today were built on political ontologies, oozing from this engineered political metaphysic. The people never dialogued their differences as a basis for federating. They never talked to each other about a political union. They woke up one morning, and saw themselves conscripted into geopolitical constructs they neither chose nor bargained for. For the natives, it was a bazaar of unfunny jokes, and for the colonial officers; a duty for country and queen.

African states were created to facilitate and ease the efficiency of rapid colonial exploitation. That was their raison d'etre. They were never designed to be independent, or cease being a source of cheap raw materials, and slave labour for colonial industries. They were equally meant to be a cheap market to cushion the inflationary effects of mechanised mass production. The colony was a laboratory of caprice. Every socio-economic, geopolitical or cultural hypothesis was subjected to clinical trials on the hapless colonies. This accounts for the fact, that every discredited socio-political, economic or eugenic theory was once tried out in Africa.

3. The Metaphysic of a Failed State

Every failed social edifice translates into a jungle. The core operative principle across its embrace perfectly mimics that native to the forest of unreason. For us to appreciate the dangers posed by a failed social construct, we must apprise ourselves of the transactions obtainable in the markets of a jungle.

A jungle is an amorphous piece of territory governed by anarchy. In this arena, survival is of the fittest, while the operative principle anchors on the currency of "Might" is "Right". In every jungle, law and order are alien concepts. The Orwellian principle of "some animals, being more equal than others" abundantly holds sway in this dark world of inchoate randomness. In a jungle, nothing is predictable. The only constant in this huge stew pot of irreconcilable variables is lawlessness. Any participant in this concourse of crudity who is able to carve out a territory for his whims by the agency of raw and naked might, positions himself to intimidate the lesser mortals within his vicinity, with threats and abundance of fear. Peace here is only a calm pond with a subterranean current of turbulence and dissensions boiling like volcanic lava underneath. It is no peace, as the least excuse is utilized to ventilate the suppressed angst of the oppressed powerless. Stability is absent as anybody who has the power is allowed to prey on those who are unfortunate to be powerless around him. He is obliged to feed on them without qualms. Violent death is a norm as fear rules. The only semblance of order is that predicated on a balance of terror. Every one here by necessity sleeps with one eye open, if not for anything to be conscious enough as to take flight before the predator floors him or to be a conscious witness to the onslaught on him; or to be in a position to negotiate an escape from the grip of those who have the power to do him in. This was the Hobessian state of nature where the fear of violent death paralysed development, rendered life nasty, brutish and short.

In the jungle there exists no common weal, public good, or social service. Every animal in this arrangement strives to survive. Survival is the word. The weak are crushed and eaten out of existence by the stronger predators. Every one consults the instincts of survival in all transactional situations. Joy here is of the instinctual order, while Love is fundamentally absent. Self survival commands procreation, and the offspring commences his own independent struggle for survival the moment it arrives. In a society that has degenerated into a jungle, all these features are activated, enabled and are abundantly obtainable. In Nigeria for example, law and order exists only in the statute books; reminiscent of the jungle. The only law is survival. The stronger individuals swallow up the weaker ones. The rich get richer by gobbling up what belongs to all, while the poor are further impoverished into powerlessness. In this kind of social situation, individuals make their own laws, interpret and implement them according to the dictates of their caprice. This is a situation where a man for example could get up, equip a private army drawn from the National Police, and kidnap a democratically elected Governor, in a brazen contravention of the grundnorms of the country; and yet he is feted by the powers that be. This is a situation where anyone who dares criticize the President, is framed-up, disgraced and sacked from office, without due process; and beaten up by armed robbers in his house. This is a situation, where an auditor-general would sacked for auditing government accounts and revealing that unrestrained corruption thrives in the presidency. And this same presidency that has lost every moral authority to talk about justice empowers a bulldog of an agency to track down his opponents, both real and imaginary and blacklist them so good, as to sabotage and compromise their political careers. Some instances later will bring these from the pinnacle of arid theorizing to the tables of normal discourse.

Man engineered an escape from this primeval broth of unreason, when he hewed society and developed law and order out of this assured destructive tendencies. Reason and experience taught man that there needs to be a guarantee for the sustenance of this order. It bid him invent government as a safe bastion for the sustenance of these ideals. Government to that end arose as the last line of defence of the society from its primeval tendency to destroy itself. It equally rose to guarantee rights and responsibilities of all participants. It rose equally to foreclose forever, the possibility or the ease with which violent death lurks around every social nook and cranny. It became the bulwark against retrogressive and anti-social forces that seek to overthrow the social order by the forces of might. That was the raison d'etre of government; the common good of its subjects.

In a situation, where a government fails to live up to its ontological raison d'etre, that government has really failed. That government cannot lay claims on its being overwhelmed by social forces as an excuse for its failure. This is consequent upon the fact, that it remains the Leviathan, to whom we leased some of our powers and rights; to whom we gave up most of our privileges, to enable him agglomerate and wield an influence unparalleled or unequalled by any constituent of the social order. To this end, no excuse is admissible for any failure to act in defense of the social embrace left in its charge.

In Nigeria today, the government has lost the reason for its existence. Fear and violent death lurks on every nook and fissure of our social firmament. Development has gone with the winds. Hunger, ignorance, poverty and disease are presently ravaging the land, while the government bulks feebly before it, incapable of arresting its rampaging onslaught on its subjects. Might has reverted to right; reminiscent of the state of nature and mirroring the first 24 hours of human social evolution. The society is now a jungle in the middle of a city. The animal tendency in all of us is now given free reign. The mighty now wreck havoc on the emasculated. The clever now take flight at the least noise. These were the currencies of survival in an environment of a jungle. Civilization has finally closed its eyes in exasperation in our milieu. Nothing seems to be working. We are now abandoned like a rudderless ship in the tempestuous waters of self destruction. From whence shall our help now come? From heaven? No way, not only will heaven not come to the aid of those who will never act, but manna can never fall into anybody's mouth. It may fall on our ground, but the job of gathering it for our food, remains exclusively ours. Will our help come from OBJ, No. Not minding the fact that he is trying his best against the Aegean stable that has harboured every kind and species of the Nigerian beast for the last 44 years, the events of recent times has proved that he underestimated the depth of the accretion of rot that the system has accumulated in the course of its inglorious history. I used to be a very harsh critic of the OBJ since after its wholesale butchery of the electoral process in 2003, but I nurse more sympathy for him than hatred. This guy is though a political misfit is equally surrounded by a host of unvarnished sycophants who perpetrate a regime of geometric retrogression on the Nigerian people. I have watched the drama of Nigeria descent into crude barbarity for some time and my educated conclusion is that OBJ is presiding over a country headed for the rocks. The gang of Pathologically Depraved Perverts (PDP) that prides itself with being the ruling party is one of the most unfortunate pieces of feaces ever to be allowed space in the Nigeria political equation. NPN pales into insignificance as misguided antics of spoilt kids in comparison with this horde of buccaneers ruling Nigeria today. Ekwueme saw this early enough when he characterized 2003 presidential primaries a charade. Nigerians never believed him. They dismissed his observation as the normal refugee of losers. The events of today have proved him right beyond imagination. PDP has nothing to offer Nigeria except bad leadership at all levels. None of the PDP governors is performing creditably. One friend of mine told me that No PDP governor or local government chairman could rise up in their constituencies and swear that he has not stolen a kobo off the people's treasury without being stoned to death. I doubted him initially until I conducted a random correspondence poll across Nigeria. I realised to my chagrin that all these self acclaimed leaders of the people lost the confidence of the people long before 2003. Today, they make no pretences anymore about that.

Without meaning to sound sadistic, I am really happy about the recent upsurge in the attack on men of privilege in Nigeria. My happiness does not stem from my hatred or disdain for privileged people. It does not stem from a negative feeling for some of the victims, who may have been beautiful individuals. My joy stems from the fact that at least it has recast the light and refocused government's attention on what has been the lot and plight of the underprivileged for so long in the Nigeria society of today. These attacks have essayed to remove the veil from the eye of the government on what has been the progressive degeneration of the security situation in Nigeria today. The ordinary Nigerians have for long been cheap fodder for armed bandits all over Nigeria. Thousands of ordinary Nigerians have been felled by armed robbers' bullets on the highways and in their bedrooms, without the government considering it a security situation worthy of its attention. The major highways in Nigeria have been translated into paradise for armed robbers, with many families losing their bread winners unsung, courtesy of these instruments of the evil. The Nigerian government never reacted to it. Today, they have come for the privileged, and the privileged afraid of losing the greatest privilege of all, are now woken to a realisation that Nigeria has been a security backwater all these while.

At a time, the citizens resorted to caging themselves in their homes with iron bars and burglary proofs, without the government seeing that as a sign of its failure. In this time too, the police always asked citizens who called their emergency numbers for help, to either write down the names of the armed robbers holding them hostage, or to send vehicles to pick up the police, to come and rescue them from robbers that have ordered them to lie faced down in their bedrooms. The government posed a nelson's eye to all these, gradually emboldening and consolidating the audacity of armed bandits. I will resist the temptation to say that PDP armed these robbers that are today preying on Nigerians. Other conclusions to the obverse fall flatly on their faces when one contemplates the amount of arms and ammunition that were wielded by PDP thugs in intimidating opponents during the last elections. In some states controlled by PDP, the incumbents with the aid of the police, or under their watchful nostrils armed rival university cults to butcher the opposition who dared threaten their second term bids. OBJ's success in some of these states was consequent on the power flowing from the barrel of these guns, wielded by cultists. These guns distributed during the elections were never recalled. Being in power now, there was no need anymore for these thugs; thus rendering them unemployed and into the job markets looking for jobs that the government has failed to create. They are now on the loose as guns for hire. They double both as hired assassins and armed robbers, harassing innocent Nigerians, plundering their property, raping, pillaging and decimating the lives of innocent Nigerians.

The seeds of the robberies and assassinations we are witnessing today were sown by the politicians, who embezzled the funds that should have been invested in education and job creation, and used them in buying arms and equipping private army of thugs to do their bidding and shore up their unpopular power base. It was sown the day the politicians short-changed the police force, under-funding the force and perpetuating mediocrity in its leadership. It was sown the day the fabric of our social morality was ripped asunder and debauched by successive Nigerian governments.

The present government of Olusegun Obasanjo, in the traditions of other Machiavellians before him, commissioned a Human Rights Violations Investigations Commission, (HRVIC) headed by one of the most eminent Nigerian jurists, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa. This commission invited all those accused of violating the rights of Nigerians since 1966, till 1999. Most of the big fishes like Ibrahim Babangida, Mohammadu Buhari, who are accused of serious capital crimes, never entered an appearance nor caused same to be entered on their behalf. Nothing happened to them. No bench warrant was issued for their arrest due to the fact, that some politics was considered. Only the small fries appeared to entertain Nigerians who sit by their television sets, every evening to watch the soap opera that was the commission's proceedings. At the end of the day, the government that promised to implement the recommendations of the commission abandoned that pledge to the disappointment of Nigerians. The government could not release the commission's report nor issue a white paper on it. This is a government that cannot keep its word. The report is presently gathering dust in some outback office in Abuja some years after its submission.

The government's reaction was a Machiavellian somersault to keep the people busy and lead them away from the strangulating socio-economic failures of its visionless policies. That was not all. The same government established an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC), headed by a lawyer-turned police-man, Mr Nuhu Ribadu, to help tackle the issue of corruption, which has eaten away the Nigerian socio-economic and political fabric. In spite of few stellar performances, the commission is doing an excellent job of hounding the small fries and other political opponents of President Obasanjo; reminiscent of the Napoleon dogs of the Orwellian Animal Farm. This commission has brought the alleged Advanced fee Fraudsters of the Alajemba conglomerate to book, as they are presently facing the law. But Nigerians are yet to see Ibrahim Babangida and the Abacha Matriarch and dynasty, who are the greatest public thieves ever to rule Nigeria, behind bars. These execrable pieces of social calamity are still cuddling their ill-gotten wealth in peace and quiet. The commission looks so toothless in this regard, as daily occurrences has continued to show. Nigerians are still waiting for the commission to drag Chris Ubah, Emeka Offor, and a host of other well know rogues to court to go explain the sources of their unbelievable wealth to Nigerians. Nigerians are still waiting for the Commission to drag not only Fabian Osuji and Wabara to court for their alleged role in the 50 million naira lobbying of the senate saga, but also, all other ministers like El Rufai, who was accused of inflating the position as well as the salary scale of a Youth Corps intern in his office to the tune of 10 million naira. We are still waiting for the commission to investigate the handling and the sale of Public enterprises under the BPE headed by the Vice President, and El Rufai respectively. We are still waiting for a governor who claimed to have 76 jeeps, to come tell Nigerians how he got the money for such a scandalous display of idiocy. Nigerians are still waiting for Tafa Balogun, one of the most corrupt Police bosses we ever had in Nigeria, who was disgraced out of office for corruptly enriching himself, to make his appearance in court. All these examples are to show the kind of selective justice consulted by the Obasanjo administration. One, a minister who was accused of lobbying senators, to increase the allocation of his ministry with 50 million naira, was arrested and detained, while a police inspector general who was accused of stealing over 4 billion naira, only got retired, and is eating pounded yam in his house.

4. A Perfect Example of a Failed State

Nigeria is principally a coalition of the unwilling. She is simply a coercion of the unwilling; a conscription of federated grievances; a boiling cauldron of mutually-assured platonic hatred, mutual suspicion, and collective bottled loathing. To this end, nothing positive could ever be achieved on this platform of potentially explosive unease. No tribe believes in the goodwill of the other. Every tribe is of the worst opinion of the other. There is no good Igbo man as far as a Yoruba man is concerned and vice versa, even when that stereotypical generalization falls short of the laws of logic and thought, which should hold eminence and primacy in any rational postulation.

On this volatile base was erected a nation, which is most unfortunately expected to succeed. National success cannot be predicated upon a base of ontological instability. Hence the Nigerian dream was from conception, compromised and sabotaged to fail. All the attempts at salvaging an iota of sense from this boiling cauldron of dissensions, have failed woefully to avert the certain catastrophic disintegration, and disastrous implosion of this hegemonic geopolitical ogre, upon her inglorious weight.

The colonialists yoked these ideologically parallel nationalities together, to achieve their imperial designs, predicated only on an avariciously exploitative blueprint. They never intended this vassal ship to come to an end. When the wind of change rendered the political heat unbearable for their unwelcome presence, they sought the naturally un-progressive elements, versed in the fine art of imbecilic serfdom; that would hold cosmetic fort for their vested interests, while they suck the honey pot clean in a vampyrean plunder of rapacious proportions. In Nigeria, the Hausa/Fulani North fitted the bill. They schemed out the progressive nationalities that could not bow subserviently at the altars of oppression, from the matrix of power. The progressives were arm twisted and decimated into the emasculated role of figure heads. From this enfeebled position, they were congenitally excluded from the epicentres of reckoning, and hence rendered politically impotent in offering any atom of resistance to British re-engineered plunder of Nigeria.

They could not actually challenge the improprieties of a tele-guided nincompoop. The suppressed exasperation of an enfeebled opposition went in, to devastate their oppressed psyches. The West of Nigeria exploded in a furious wave of self-digestive violence. Awolowo and Akintola battled for supremacy. Lives and dreams had to go up in flames for Akintola or Awolowo to impress their insular and parochial concepts of authority and supremacy on the Western region. Nigeria tethered on the brink. Pregnant expectations of federal action oscillated between puerile consideration and partisan implementation. The West continued to conflagrate. All these mixed with a census fouled up by political farts, laid the nation prostrate and ripe for explosion.

Meanwhile, a group of young ideologically fired revolutionaries waited in the wings. Actually no one treasured the vacillation of Nigeria between a rudderless leadership and engineered directionless ness. Disintegration hovered in the air. Politicians advertised their selfishness and executive incompetence. Tribalism became the operative principle. National unity took a hike to the mountains of irrelevance. Ethnic demagoguery hawked impious nonsense. The people were agitated into taking ethnic stands on national questions. At the height of this, the army struck.

The army that struck was no army of occupation. It was a group of graduated teenagers, appalled by the inglorious manipulation of primordial forces by politicians on the national turf. They had a vision of re-negotiating the path to national felicity. Circumstances conspired to scuttle that vision. And nationalistic young men, armed with a blueprint of goodwill, ended dressed up as scoundrels, to fund the desperate underwriting of a British-engineered politic of dissension. The trajectory of the Nzeogwu-led, January 1966 intervention was simply a revolutionary projectile. The signs of seismic changes were written across the whole ideological landscape of their vision. From the four cardinal points, were men who were collaborators in the torpedoing of the Nigerian dream. They sought and removed the principal actors. Britain, denied of her puppets, feared for her neo-imperial access to Nigerian resource. She could not abandon her lecherous parasitism without a fight. The British Intelligence, that saw to the manipulation of the 1959 elections, to favour British vassals of Nigerian extraction, went to work again.

Fate played ping-pong. Nzeogwu lost his grandiose vision. His coup failed. Ironsi was catapulted by fate, into profiting from a revolution he never conceived nor dreamt. He bought into the peddled rumour of an Igbo conspiracy to hijack Nigeria, as he convoked a government geared towards placating and propitiating, those he perceived as being on receiving ends of Nzeogwu's guns. But when vendetta rapes greed, it sires a corrosively incinerative phobia that either destroys its object of hate or self-destructs in the process. The North was sold the British redacted version of the coup story. All the ingredients for its successful purchase was in place; a dangerously uneducated critical mass; Igbo notorious entrepreneurialism and business adventurism; a widening wealth and holding gap between the Northern natives, and a majority southerners that stepped in to fill the posts of the departing colonial officers; and now a military coup, led by mostly Igbo officers, that saw many Northern leaders dead. All these broiled to brew a social sauce, which was managed by the British intelligence to whip up a frenzy of genocidal pogrom unparalleled in Africa since King Leopold, the Butcher of Congo. Ironsi was murdered with his host. Gowon came to power.

Social evolution is always a history of accidents, and un-intended consequences. Had Nzeogwu ever visualized that some nincompoops would skewer his dream or disembowel his vision for Nigeria; he would have elected to let the country implode on its inglorious weight. Today, people glorify the politicians that rendered the Nigerian dream of those days, a fractured fairy tale. Many passively consult a historical amnesia that betrays buffoonery, while others actively seek to doctor or revise history, in order to rehabilitate the self-battered images of the tribal gods of their political pantheon. For instance, there was a movement a few years ago seeking to canonize Festus Okotie-Eboh, as an innocent victim of blood thirsty Igbo Commissioned officers. But the facts of history painfully recorded Okotie-Eboh as a finance minister, who was a by-word for corruption and veniality. Today equally, those seeking to resurrect Obafemi Awolowo as the best thing not to happen to Nigeria, seem to forget his role in the Western Nigeria Wettie saga, and the fact that history punctually recorded him as the man who led the introduction of tribalism and mediocrity into Nigerian politics. Need we talk of Ahmadu Bello, who never wanted Nigeria´s independence in the first place, and who saw the whole of Nigeria as a conquered territory, that must bow to his jihadic farts; or Nnamdi Azikiwe who preferred convenient compromises to hard choices born of principles, which have been the furniture of immortal and revolutionary changes. These unfortunately, were the principal players, upon whose shoulders was laid the birth and emergence of a nation, from an amorphously, conscripted conglomeration of tribes. Ontologically compromised by circumstances surrounding her birth, it could only take men of great genius, charisma and invincible character, to forge a nation out of a motley band of strange bedfellows. But these men were great and original. The parts of them that were great were not original, and the parts of them that were original were not great. The flaws in their individual characters, was meant to sabotage whatever dreams they claimed to have because the colour of your dreams must issue from the colour of your eyes.

Few years after independence disillusion arrived. The political class killed our dream. The lacked any vision for the people. Their politics became a radical politicization of pettiness. Awolowo stole the Western Nigerian premiership from Zik, as a result of his pettiness. Instead of transcending that, Zik himself became floored by his pettiness. He scampered back to the East to kick out Eyo Ita, from a seat he was ably managing. The spiral continued. The politicians having lost every direction sought to remain relevant. To achieve this, ethnicity was shameless consulted. Mediocrity and grotesque incompetence was crowned. Corruption exploded. Patronization and politics by settlement conferred a sorry legitimacy on nepotism. Nigeria hovered between the Hamletian Question. The chain reaction led to coup and to a counter coup, and to a civil war. Over One million Igbos were massacred; majority starved to death by a war policy that violated every canon of warfare. Biafran children were starved into extinction. Civilians, women and children were bombed and strafed with psychopathic relish and for fun. And the Igbo man had this etched in his collective memory for eternal remembrance. The war saw Igbo brilliance enjoy some meteoric rise and dissipation. The RAP, which should have served as a platform for a scientific revival in Nigeria, was through the consolations of ethnic envy allowed to desiccate and shrivel out of existence.

Gowon sat upon wealth. He swam atop Nigeria's oil revenue like a drunken sailor would; frittering them away in an orgy of a national moronic consumption. The future was never considered. Nigeria embarked on a spending spree characterized by the purchase of the most un-needed rejects of foreign industrial powers. We bought the inconsequential and every shade of non-essentials; even toothpicks and toilet papers from abroad. That was the era of oil money. It flowed in abundance. Money submerged the boiling dissensions of marginalized Nigerians. But Gowon achieved nothing save boasting to the whole world that Nigeria's problems were not making money, but how to spend it. As oil money flowed, the bovine stupidity of Gowon's governance glowed.

This is simply a summary of infamy. Subsequent governments wrecked Nigeria beyond measure. Ethnicity was enthroned. Bad leadership mutated and peaked. Military brigands and civilian thieves held Nigeria to a ransom; creating a cabal of elitist leeches, masquerading as patriots. Nigeria became a playground of coup plotters.

Gowon was sacked for his dalliance with puerility. That was in 1975. Murtala Mohammed toppled him and sat on the wheels. The coup cycle continued once more. He perished a year later; falling to the speaking ends of Dimka's guns. Obasanjo was accidentally thrown up to replace him. He embarked on progammes that were grandiose in their conception and in their uselessness. Operation Feed the Nation (O.F.N) succeeded only on television screens and radio jingles. The funds mapped thereto, was squandered. Some claimed Obasanjo stole it, as the programme may have been a front for redirecting the funds to another O.F.N=Obasanjo Farms Nigeria. Then came the Telecommunications saga handled by ITT; an American company that fits every profile of what John Perkins referred to, as the corporatocracy, which hires hitmen to destroy Third World economies, and ensnare them into inescapable debt. Fela, Anikulapo Kuti, a popular Afro-beat musician angered into exasperation, by the rip off of Nigerians in the ITT contract scam accused General Obasanjo and Moshood Abiola, as International Thieves-(International Thief Thief), mirroring the acronym of the American company. Festac 77 came. Nigeria under Obasanjo continued Gowon's idiocy. Nigeria took that singular opportunity to advertise her wealth to the whole world, though her people lacked the basics of a sound, secure future bereft of want. After oscillating like a scalar quantity with a lot of magnitude but no direction, Obasanjo finally handed over to the civilian headed by a Mallam from Sokoto, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

Under Shagari, the politicians returned as national leeches that they were. Politics became an essential arena for disservice to the country. Funds were embezzled. State policy was predicated not on sound reasoning, but on ethnic considerations or the mood of party stalwarts. Politics became a festival of impunity where men elect to exist on borrowed intelligence. Nigeria was slowly but steadily going to hell. Umaru Dikko became the power broker holding Shagari to a ransom; heading the Presidential Task force on rice, after both the Green Revolution and Operation Feed the Nation have failed respectively. He presided over the importation and distribution of rice to the Nigeria people. Instead, NPN, his party was buying and selling influence with bags of rice and import licenses. Sonny Okonsus lamented the decay in his 1983 music "Which way Nigeria". Prior to that had Achebe articulated his masterpiece "The Trouble with Nigeria"-, where he gave a radical vivisection of how leadership constitutes the trouble with Nigeria; and how the political class are very busy embezzling Nigeria's posterity. They were treated as alarmists. Their warnings fell on deaf ears. It was a repeat of pre-1966 happenings. Nigeria waited for implosion. None came until the military struck again on the 31st of December, 1983.

We must not fail to reiterate that Shagari's government achieved nothing of radical significance or value to the Nigerian project. That government was visionless in everything save puerility. She slept while Nigeria was marooned, aground in the sandbanks of omni dimensional decadence.

Buhari-Idiagbon came claiming a messianic vision, to lead the waters through the Nigerian socio-economic and political Aegean stable. This government tired no doubt. But paucity of days, cannot conduce to a historical assessment of the impact of this government. Even though this era witnessed the reappearance of draconian decrees, and brutality of exuberant soldiers; some Nigerians today, still relish and remember those meteoric days with nostalgia, rendered imperative by the congenital indiscipline, rascality, and thievery of succeeding scoundrels.

Ibrahim Babangida was the first scoundrel to succeed them. He sacked Buhari-Idiagbon in coup, which many have come to see as the triumph of greed and superlative kleptomania. He stole Nigeria blind, debauched her social structures and wrecked her moral climes. Babangida presided over the liberalization of official corruption in Nigeria. He ran Nigeria like only a robber baron would. He bribed those who opposed his Machiavellian manipulative vision, with offices, money or threats. Opposition to his inordinate craze for power was ruthlessly and decisively eviscerated. IBB and two of his intelligence chiefs were fingered in the letter-bomb murder of the Nigerian investigative journalist, Mr. Dele Giwa, who was on the trail of a drug-smuggling story that revolved around Babangida's wife. Babangida manufactured programs and crises to extend his stay in power. His populist policies were briberies designed to buy off opposing voices, or bones cast the way of the people so that they keep their eyes off the excesses of his caprice. When this guy finished dealing with Nigeria, the country was destroyed for good measure. He annulled an election, in which majority of Nigerians, chose to express their exasperation with the military. That election, which was purportedly won by Moshood Abiola, was more of a vote against the military more than it was a vote for Abiola. He wasted over 40Billion naira in an orchestrated transition to civil rule program, which was designed to self destruct. As Nigeria was again tethered on the precipe, he chose to step aside with his loot, but moved to secure his ass, by leaving a co-thief, Sanni Abacha around the corridors of power.

One step shy of the target, Abacha was a dog that no amount of training could ever rewrite his genetic blueprint. He could not keep his eyes off the bone, which was the presidency. Before the hurriedly established Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonenkan could settle down to business, Abacha, who was in control of the Army, kicked the government out, and installed himself as the new president of Nigeria.

Abacha was a thief on a mission. His kleptomania was hidden behind dark goggles that belied his calculated meanness. He outclassed Mobutu both in the ambitious nature of his stealing project and in the ruthlessness employed thereto. Nigerians sought for hope. None was in sight. He knew that for him to keep the loot he ripped off the Nigerian people, he must be in power forever. To this end, he embarked on a life-presidency scheme, borrowing a lot from the perverse dissimulations of Babangida his friend and predecessor. This guy was a kleptocrat, unparalleled in meanness and scurrility. He only achieved the bastardization of every sane social structure in Nigeria. The state continued to derail. Agents and agencies of state were used as hammers of tyrannical wickedness. Abacha's henchmen murdered Kudirat Abiola for daring challenge her husband's incarceration. Pa Rewane was shot dead in his house for daring oppose Abacha's lewd excesses.

In Abacha, corrupt power connived with eviscerated and disembowelled public opposition, to create a tyrant, who terrorized the citizenry, and destroyed their stakes to posterity, through his dipsomania and crapulent kleptomania. Nigerians scampered in silence. Abacha grew in impunity. Many Nigerians under these circumstances fed from garbage dumps. Abacha basked in opulence. Nigerians slept with hunger. Abacha slept with prostitutes. The knell sounded, as he perspired in debauchery atop imported harlots. And he expired. The professional coup plotter was floored in a coup from Heaven.

Nigeria accumulated a lot of other socio-political, and economic dirt due to these persistent bludgeoning. Abacha's dirt kicked Abdulsalami Abubakar up to a position he never bargained for in his entire life. He was no less a thief. The speed, with which his administration skimmed off billions of naira off the Nigerian coffers, cannot even challenge comparison with that of Abacha. His only achievement was the handing over of power amidst international pressure to a civilian elected government headed by Olusegun Obasanjo, on May 29th, 1999.

Obasanjo came on a second missionary journey. We thought that passing through the shadow of death would sharpen his vision and goodwill. Well, we are yet to see any of the two. His vision becomes more parochial as the days go by. His goodwill became non-existence, while honour was never a watchword of his. He promised Nigerians that there was never to be sacred cows in his fight against corruption. Today, sacred cows have been cloned everywhere. IBB, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and those fingered by the Vincent Azie's audit report, became sacred cows over night. Tony Anenih is yet to account for the roads he purported built with 300billion naira, in the planet Mars. Under his rule, his party the PDP metamorphosed into what Wole Soyinka the Nobel laureate described as a nest of killers. Under his tenure insecurity reigned supreme. A governor of a federating state was kidnapped by the Police in consort with a private citizen, and yet no-one was prosecuted. The number one law officer in his administration, Mr.Bola Ige, was murdered in a mafia-like style, while his orderlies have allegedly gone to eat. No one was apprehended or arraigned for the murder of this guy. Under him, political assassination became elevated to odious levels. Marshall Harry, Aminoasari Dikkibo, Engr. Agom, Jerry Aiyegbeye, Victor Nwankwo all fell victim to assassin bullets. Nobody was ever caught nor prosecuted for those crimes. The criminals all came from planet Venus. The Nigerian police kept protecting public enemies like Chris Ubah and Emeka Offor, while the taxpayers are left to fend for themselves, against the sophisticated fire-power of the armed robbers that prowl unchallenged.

The economy kept up its anaemia. SEEDS and NEEDS or NAPEP and UBE have all failed woefully to better the lot of the citizenry. All the government does it to adopt the discredited prescriptions and mantras of the IMF and World Bank that only essays to pay Nigeria's odious debts, while the citizenry starve for want of necessaries.

That Nigeria is a failed state is evidenced in the fact that no economic or social policy has essayed to impact positively on the lives of the people. The government keeps finding ways of laundering its image, or blowing the trumpet of its achievements, while hunger and inexcusable poverty harass the people daily. Nigeria the 6th largest exporter of crude lacks evidence based on solid achievements to show for the billions of dollars it has earned from crude oil sales since its discovery in Nigeria. Over 67% of Nigerians are still illiterate, without a sound educational policy to attend to that. Unemployment rate is so high as to be immeasurable. Over 70% of Nigerians are now living below the poverty line. World Bank recently reported that only 1% of the population hold 80% of the oil wealth. The country has consistently vacillated between the gold, silver or bronze medals, on the rankings of the most corrupt nation on earth. Her citizens are leaving the country in droves; seeking greener pastures, which is simply a new form of comfortable slavery abroad. Power generation has reach an all time low, as the country now enjoys more electric power outages, than a city in medieval times, ever experienced. Many Nigerians lack access to basic potable water, which is the signature and staff of life. Primary health care delivery is so poor as to be epileptic. Hospitals have metamorphosed into mere consulting clinics, where people go to die. Drugs are unavailable, as government spends more money in debt services, and funding corrupt and questionable policies, than in funding education or other social schemes.

5. The Features of a failed State

In "Development as Freedom", Amartya Sen, essayed to situate the absence of democracy as a major feature of every potentially failed state. To this end, It is a painful observation to make that democracy exists nowhere in Africa today, despite the hypocritical posturing in Nigeria, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, etc. It is still the recycling of the same unprogressive forces that have scuttled Africa. A most recent example saw Eyadema Gnassingbe ruling his country for decades, without leading them anywhere, save converting every apparatus of state into his personal estate. He died, only for sycophantic forces to raise his son, to succeed him, as if democracy is a monarchical relay, where a Prince Charles, despite his lewd canonization of adultery, is billed to succeed her mother in ruling over the British expired nostalgia. Faure Gnassigbe took office to success his incompetent father. Save for international outcry, the Togolese cabal of lecherous courtiers, would not have backed down.

A state fails, when the government is raped by military kleptocrat or hijacked by democratic pretenders. Every state en route to failure possesses a castrated followership, congenitally programmed to pose postural unconcern, to their plight. The followership is emasculated into acquiescence, either through decades of military brutalization or through decades of civilian treachery. All in all, whatever lulls a people to the sleep of unconcern in relation to their own affairs, poses a danger for democratic survival in that clime. And any state where vigilance goes to sleep, power creeps to corrupt is holders absolutely. And once that happens, dictatorship and tyranny reigns, to gorge itself fat on the people, instead of catering for the people.

Another feature of a failed state in the most proximate potency is the presence of internal conflict, based on the consultation of the primordial forces. These primordial forces include the non-separation of religion and secular affairs and the elevation of nepotistic affinities over and above merit. This destroys merit and excellence; positioning the state to be hijacked by mediocrity and opportunism.

A failed state basks in full, unutilized potential wealth, she wallows in actual poverty. Corruption attends the lack, as the state feeds a growing army of unemployed elite, who seek political crumbs instead of meaningful preoccupations.

In every failed state, the government is dysfunctional unto meaningless to the citizenry, as a result of its inexcusable failure in its statutory functions. In this arena, the citizens provide themselves with the social services, and public utilities, that are by law, the province of the government. The citizens provide themselves with electric power, by buying and operating power generators in their private homes, with all the attendant health and fire hazards. The citizens drill private bore holes to provide themselves with potable water, which the government has woefully failed to provide. They even erect private postal arrangements to carry their letters because public utilities are at best epileptic and at worst dysfunctional. In fact, the government simply governs on television.

In a failed state equally, the security services are always in league with the forces of social retrogression. Robbers, swindlers and the police seem to be in an unholy alliance, designed to prey on the society. The human rights of the citizens are treated with utmost disdain in this environment, that life becomes cheaper than the price of peanuts.

All these are over abundant in the example we have situated above.

6. Are Failed States Forever?

Ian Fleming scripted one of his lines from James Bond 007 series, which was titled "diamonds are forever". But this at face value stands in contradistinction to the Heraclitan claims. Heraclitus; the ancient philosopher of change, erected his philosophy on "Omnia flux", which subscribes and vehemently proposes the idea, that change is the only permanence in nature and existence. Everything is subject to change and no condition whatsoever is permanent. This is really an absolutizing philosophy. But reason and experience favour his opinions. Going by Heraclitan philosophy, nothing, not even diamonds are forever. Everything is under the thraldom of change. This answers the question that this sub-heading essays to explore: Are failed states forever?

Failed states were the culmination of a process, which manipulated social, cultural and political variables. Under this scenario, the state is a festival of dysfunctions, which can never as it is, connect towards navigating an exit out of the social questions, engendered by the failure. Since this was a process, it could be untangled. First of all as in the case of Nigeria, we should undertake a study into the circumstances that gave birth to this conscription of federations, called Nigeria; which has degenerated into a a geopolity of federated grievances. This study must then be laced with a political will to ventilate our anger and aspirations, as a people in a broadly representative national dialogue. This will create an essential arena, for forging alliances and agreements on whether we want to paddle along this national canoe, as a unit, or not. This agreement is the fundamental key towards unravelling our failed State in other to rescue it from its aimless spin towards social implosion. Every other issue, like the repressed anger and bottled dissensions of the ethnic nationalities, would be redirected into propelling energies of social renewal. Agreement has been the fundamental bond that creates coalitions of willing agents that can shoulder their collective destiny together, through thick and thin. Once an agreement or semblance of it is absent, the whole social structure is patronized with a lackadaiscal dereliction from all participants in its concourse.

Today, the Nigerian government convoked a political reforms conference. It was a clever and last minute re-engineering of the agitations of the people for a sovereign national conference. The Obasanjo government which has been a past-master in volte face, has many times reneged on its obligations to its citizens, that the conference is touted as a Machiavellian blueprint designed to distract the people from the reality of their pain.

At the inauguration of the conference, Obasanjo selected what ranked as the problems with Nigeria, and banned the conference from discussing or venturing into it. He gagged and bridled the conference from deliberating on those issues that have been the albatross of Nigeria's progress and development.
It is our educated opinion that the conference, which was not allowed the free ambient to discuss the fundamental ingredient of every failed state, would not address the congenital inflexibilities that have been the waterloo of the Nigerian state. This conference would end up as one other waste of public funds

7. Touch Down

The forlorn and dysfunctional circumstance of most African geopolities, together with the strangulating poverty situation are real challenges, which could be on the way to resolution, if Africans themselves as well as the international community are sincere about the issues at stake there. The major work lies on Africans themselves, with the goodwill of the international community. NEPAD and the Millenium Development Goals signed in 2000, by the United Nations, are movements in the right direction. But they must transcend the narrow polarity of rhetorics, into translatable action.

Africans should seek better ways of crafting local solutions to their problems. We should wean ourselves of this false expectation that our help would happen upon us. The best help remains self-help. Africa's history, politics and economy needs some radical exorcism, to cast out the forces of retard, summarized in our politicians, leaders and decision makers.

In addition to that, the world community should equally realise that Africa's situation is a moral obscenity on the ethical radars of humanity. Africa, despite the callousness of many of her past leaders, still has historical accounts to settle with the Western world. No amount of apologetic detergents will ever wipe from the history's face, the impunity of the despoilation of the African continent, by colonial and neo-colonial experiments. It is not a purchase of historical empathy, to state the facts as they are. Africa's meeting with other civilization gave her nothing save a heritage of brokenness, poverty, and inferiority complex. So this historical baggage which compromised our present trajectory can never be redressed without reference to the past.

Africans are the one's wearing the shoes. Where it pinches remains primarily our epistemological privilege. We can decide to start addressing it from there, before we can validly expect others to help our disadvantage. Besides, every bonds, as Shakespeare mooted in Julius Caesar, "in his hands, lies the key to cancel his captivity".


Franklyne Ogbunwezeh was born in Nigeria and currently lives in Germany. He also attended seminary in Italy for 4 years. Mr. Ogbunwezeh is currently working on a Ph.D. in Social Ethics and Economics. His book "The Tragedy of a Tribe: The Grand Conspiracy Against Ndigbo and the Igbo Quest for Integration in Nigeria" was published in 2004. "Shots at Immortality: Immortalizing Igbo Excellence" and "The Scandal of Poverty in Africa: Reinventing a Role for Social Ethics in Confronting the Socio-economic and Political Challenges of Africa of the Third Millennium" will be published in 2005. Additionally, Mr. Ogbunwezeh published dozens of articles in newspapers, magazines, internet sites and trade journals.



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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.