Buffeted by deep-seated existential challenges which the leadership has proved incapable of tackling, many are coming to the belief that Nigeria’s future survival as a country is not certain.
The signs certainly are there clearly manifested in all facets of life; large swathes of the country are now under the control of non-state actors, a shrinking economy characterised rising inflation and poverty, and social sectors in free falling collapse. But the most dangerous of all is the growing lack of trust between the leadership and the led as well as among the various ethnic groups and social classes making up the country. That Nigeria is currently hurtling towards a decisive defining moment in its existence as a country cannot be denied.
To be sure, there is no country that is immune from challenges at whatever period of its existence. But the difference between success and failure to manage these challenges lies mainly with the leadership and how it copes with the issues of governance that come up from time to time in the life of a nation.
In this regard, looking at the degenerating situation in Nigeria across all facets of our life, the abject failure of leadership at all levels to engender confidence in their ability to come to grips with the deep challenges facing the country is glaring. Hence the dangerous but understandable doubts among a growing number of Nigerians that the country’s future existence is uncertain. This feeling is gaining greater traction as we inch towards the next circle of elections in 2023 which many believe might be more problematic than the previous ones.
Proceeding from the principle that a problem identified is a problem almost solved, I have identified seven major issues confronting the country not necessarily by pecking order, which require urgent attention, failing which may finally tip the country into the abyss.
The Fulani question is one of the raging issues in the country which requires a nuanced perspective and approach. It is not just about the frequently reported cases of clashes between Fulani herders and farmers in the country or the seeming ambivalence and even mutual antagonism between sedentary Fulanis and their nomadic kith and kin. It is more to do with the place of the Fulani in the historical, political and social evolution of Nigeria.
In many ways, Nigeria can be described as a joint legacy of nineteenth century Fulani Jihadist Sheikh Usman dan Fodio, and Sir Frederick Lugard, the architect of amalgamation and first British colonial Governor-General of Nigeria.
Sheikh dan Fodio it was who first established the Fulani hegemony over an area roughly the size of two-thirds of Northern Nigeria through the Fulani led Jihad of 1804. It was on the political and social structure of this dan Fodio creation that the Britons built their colonial enterprise in Nigeria, a legacy that subsists to a large extent to this day.
As a group, the Fulani are the single most powerful and influential factor in Nigerian politics. They control one half of the traditional/spiritual realm through the Islamic religion as well as the temporal turf of Nigerian politics and governance. That the Fulani have deployed this unique advantage in the struggle for the control of the soul of Nigerian politics opens them to accusation with some reason of wanting to perpetually control political power in the country to the exclusion and detriment of other ethnic groups.
It is pointed out, with some justification too, that because this control and dominance work to their advantage, Fulani political aristocracy always works against the attempts by other ethnic groups for the enthronement of a just, equitable and inclusive Nigeria for all.
Although this accusation against the Fulani has been on for years now, at no time has it become more pronounced than in the present time under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari who happens to be a Fulani man.
Although some will dismiss this as part of the stuff of politics in Nigeria, the claim that Fulani wield and retain a disproportionate slice of political power to the detriment and exclusion of others is not totally unfounded, nor is it untrue that the Fulani political aristocracy has sought to perpetuate this control through a subtle agenda of exclusive empowerment and appointment into the strategic areas of the country’s polity and economy.
This fulanisation agenda has predictably turned the other ethnic groups including even the closest, the Hausa, against the Fulani especially as the latter are fingered as being responsible for the banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the North west of the country.
In the current situation that Nigeria finds itself, it is no longer feasible for the Fulani to continue to exercise the skewered and disproportionate control of political power. This not only creates a dangerous imbalance in the polity; it also fosters a feeling and tendency by politically excluded ethnic groups to seek ways of disrupting the polity as we are having it now.
For Nigeria to get out of the dangerous quagmire of uncertainty currently building up, we must address the issue of a skewered political and economic control of Nigeria exercised by the powerful and influential ethnic groups to the exclusion of others.
Another issue that hangs around Nigerian politics and governance like an albatross has to do with our dangerous attachments to ethnic and religious leanings and seeking to interpret everything in our country along those lines. We are not Nigerians in the true sense of the word. Our sense of ourselves as Nigerians is defined to a large extent only by the geographical area covering the country rather than by shared values and identities. We identify ourselves more from our ethnic and religious perspective at the expense of the Nigeria we all belong.
The proclivity to play the ethnic and religious card has become so pervasively self-perpetuating that where it is not even necessary, we try to invoke it just to assure ourselves that this is the normal thing to do. If the ethnic card does not apply, we reach for the religious card and where the religious card does not, we apply the ethnic card. We have come to believe so much in these factors as a yardstick for just about everything we do that, like an addict hooked on the self-deceiving exhilaration of the substance, we just cannot muster the courage to kick the habit even as we know how injurious it is to our body politic.
(To be continued)