Doomsday Prophecies, Drumbeats of War And Lessons From Other Climes Ogbu Blessing Ekpere
Nigerians marched into the New Year with a mixed feeling of expectation and trepidation. Expectation because this year marks the much anticipated centenary anniversary of Nigeria’s amalgamation. Trepidation because certain categories of conspiracy theorists have been pontificating on the possible balkanization of the nation based on the predictions of the United State Government and the contents of one secret colonial document the contents of which have been revealed to none but the beloved of the earth, but whose existence, not to talk of its authenticity, has not been verified, the Nigerian corporate experiment is to last for one hundred years. This sense of trepidation is worsened by the realization that the year 2014 is the threshold year before the dreaded 2015. To compound this rather grim prospect, there have been threats and grandstanding from politicians on both sides of the major divide.
Regrettably, Clerics, particularly of the Christian faith, have joined the fray by issuing out prophecies on what will be in this year and in the coming year. With a sprinkling of positives here and there, these prophecies auspicate gloom, disasters, convulsive political cataclysms, severe economic stenosis and widespread natural calamities. Nigerians, as deeply religious as they are, require just a little tincture of this dose of prophecies to send them into hyperventilation. For, what manner of man rejects such divine prognostication from the Lord’s anointed? Yet, these doomsday prophecies are rooted in Nigeria’s political and economic situation.
The misapprehension of the Nigerian conundrum by the nation’s political leadership is founded on their consistent and pathetic failure to situate each political problem within the appropriate historical context, and then exercising both the political and the moral will to excise that malignant tumour from the body polity. In other words, the failure of State players to apply the necessary legal sanctions to actions recognised as threats to a healthy political and economic culture sets a disturbing precedence in which the State is seen as lacking the force of will to deal with instances of challenge to its authority, a milieu in which hatchet men thrive. That is why sacred cows strut the political stage with haughty impunity. For instance, if President Jonathan had brought the full weight of the law to bear on those persons who threatened to make the country ungovernable should he win the 2011 Presidential Polls, perhaps, the security situation in the northern part of the country would not have degenerated to this deplorable state today. There is no question that the Boko Haram insurgency as it is being witnessed today has been hijacked by political elements that have a sinister agenda to achieve.
Today, the wheel has turned full circle, as those who promised to make the country ungovernable in the buildup to the 2011 Polls are now at the receiving end of threats of bedlam and mayhem in the buildup to the 2015 Polls. 2013 was a year that the political hires of the President strove to prove their loyalty to their benefactor, with a number of them engaging in conducts that are clearly illegal in the name of political expedience. A number of Ministers were relieved of their jobs in the Federal Executive Council when their loyalties became suspect. Taking their cue from that political purge, the surviving serfs stepped up their show of loyalty with scant regard for decency and the law so as to be counted worthy of a seat at the master’s table, with their foot-soldiers raising the stakes in what has since become the buildup to the 2015 Polls. Rivers State is a perfect study in this regard. Following in the tradition already set by those eminent Nigerians in the buildup to the 2011 Polls, these political pugilists, who are largely from the President’s part of the country, have been issuing threats to other parts of the country that it is either President Jonathan returns to Aso Rock in 2015 or Nigeria will cease to exist as a corporate entity. Of course, it has since become a cycle of threats and counter-threats, and therein lies the relevance of an acute sense of history in political leadership.
Developments on the political turf, specifically with reference to the happenings within the ruling behemoth the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the ultimate consequence of the alignment and aggregation of forces in the opposition camp the All Progressives Congress (APC) have caused Nigerians to wonder if Nigeria will remain the same after the 2015 Polls no matter the results of the polls. The inflammatory utterances of political and eminent persons, especially the elderly who ought to chew their words with caution is a great source of worry to concerned Nigerians. It is with these background facts in mind that most Nigerians view with more than just a passing interest the doomsday prophecies.
The political gladiators should be reminded, before it is too late, that the corporate and political wellbeing of Nigeria is greater than any of their vested interests. The Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, assured Nigerians in an interview he granted to journalists last year that Nigeria would not break up because the political elites, irrespective of their political affiliations had vested interests in the unity of the country. In other words, the Nigerian elites stand to benefit more from a united Nigeria than a balkanized Nigeria. That is some cold comfort as the current posturings of the political gladiators do not justify that assurance. Ultimately, the battle for the soul of Nigeria among the elites may not be borne out of their love for the nation, but rather, out of a nucleated desire to access the trappings of power. It is regrettable that the masses who bear the brunt of the elites’ political turpitude and selfish cravings for power are always willing to lend themselves out as the cat’s paw and cannon fodder of the elites to achieve this insidious interest.
In concluding this word of caution, there is the need for our leaders and those the nation regard as elder statesmen to pause in their baying for blood and consider some few immediate lessons from the Republic of South Sudan and the Central African Republic. South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation, having gained its independence from the Republic of Sudan on the 9th day of July, 2011 following a Referendum held between the 9th and the 11th of January of that year. The Referendum became necessary after decades of internecine warfare between the Sudanese Government in Khartoum and the opposition elements in the South. With the balkanization of the Sudan, not a few watchers thought that the landlocked nation would now know peace.
However, that pervading sense of optimism was threatened when President Salva Kiir Mayardit sacked his Cabinet, including the Vice President Riek Machar in July, 2013. It was eventually shattered in December, 2013 when the news of an attempted coup d’état broke. People that are familiar with the history of Sudan know that President Kiir and former Vice President Machar were longtime rivals. Today, South Sudan is enmeshed in serious crises between forces loyal to President Kiir and the rebel forces loyal to former Vice-President Machar with the risk of the conflict degenerating into a full-blown civil war. The South Sudanese government and military, dominated by the Dinka ethnic group of President Kiir, is fighting rebels allied with former Vice President Machar of the Nuer ethnic group. At stakes in this political and ethnic conflict is the control of the wealth of the young nation. Two years after its independence, South Sudan remains one of Africa’s most impoverished nations in spite of oil deposits therein.
In nearby Central Africa Republic (CAR), it has been one tale of conflict after the other, with the recent being the rebellion led by the immediate past President of the country, Mr Michel Djotodia. Mr. Djotodia had used his Seleka rebels to oust the then President Francois Bozize on the ground that the then President had failed to respect the terms of a Peace Deal they signed in 2007 with a view to maintaining the peace in the CAR. With Mr. Djotodia failing to keep his largely Muslim Seleka rebel bands in check, even after he had officially disbanded them following his ascension to the Presidency, the Christian majority were forced to form vigilante groups known as the Anti-Balakas, occasioning a vicious cycle of attacks and reprisals. The ethnic rivalries which are a causative factor in the CAR conflict have also turned the crises into a sectarian problem, resulting in serious humanitarian crises with thousands of persons killed and many more displaced. About 935,000 persons are believed to have fled their homes, while about 2.2 million people cannot feed themselves. It is instructive to note that Mr. Djotodia who was once a CAR Envoy to the Darfur region of Sudan used the opportunity of that assignment to recruit fighters of the Janjaweed militias and mercenaries from Chad to fight the Government of Bozize.
The lessons thereof are manifest: the elites will always play on the ethnic and religious differences of the composite nationalities in Nigeria to cause disaffection and conflict within the body polity. It must be recognised that sectarian crises can never be a viable alternative to peaceful dialogue as it has never solved any national problem. Similarly, balkanization has never been the solution to complaints of marginalization and political dominance. A quick reference to the political history of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and that of the Yugoslavia will not be out of place. Many years after these behemoths disintegrated, there are still pockets of violence here and there, resulting in further breakup of some of the original emergent Republics. It is therefore expected that persons occupying positions of power or those who wield substantial influence in their immediate environment should learn from the challenges in these nations and avoid acts or utterances that are capable of throwing Nigeria over the precipice of avoidable sectarian conflict.
Ogbu Blessing Ekpere, Esq, is a Legal Practitioner based in Abuja
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