“We have to bring this system down completely and rebuild…Destroy it…Crash the whole thing. It is not working for Nigeria, it will not work for Nigeria.”
– Dr. Pat Utomi
One has just read the piece by Okey Ndibe entitled “Time To Destroy The Nigerian Temple?” published on several websites on March 29, 2011. His piece seemed to be a reaction to the interview granted by the respected Dr. Pat Utomi as well as the position of his friend living in South Africa who accused him of “taking a failed entity seriously, much like a man who unduly obsesses over a corpse.” The piece also suggested that Professor Ndibe, apart from the pressure from his friend and others who consider Nigeria a “corpse,” is encountering some reality checks about the Nigeria’s quagmire as a country that seemed destined to fail, and woefully too.
One of the major challenges of social critics and commentators is the intellectual responsibility they have to ensure that their positions on issues could withstand the rigors of dissection and analysis in relation to objective facts. A corollary to this challenge is the fact that they (social critics and commentators) owe the public the obligation of being a compass guiding the rest away from the rubble of confusion to a path of clarity that the society can tread for the good of the majority, if not for the good of all.
With the title given to the piece in question, it was implied that Professor Ndibe probably was in the process of reassessing the feasibility of his belief in the possible resuscitation of the “corpse” of a country that Nigeria has unarguably become, at least from one’s perspective. He seemed to be at a cross road as to whether Nigeria could or would ever make it? It was obvious that he was no longer sure whether the Christ like miracle of raising the dead could ever be possible in Nigeria’s case. But going through the body of the article, his resistance to what he referred to as “radical and commonsensical” solution was very palpable, thus proving right his South African friend as “a man who unduly obsesses over a corpse” that Nigeria is. He further underscored his dilemma when he wrote inter alia:
“There is, one must admit, something that strikes a chord in that reprimand. The givennes of Nigeria is suspect. Indeed, I have never viewed Nigeria as a sacrosanct idea, or a settled question. Nor – to balance the sheet – do I subscribe to the omnibus idea that the answer to Nigeria’s troubles lies in dividing up the space into separate nations corresponding to ethnic or other lines.”
In one breath, he was admitting that “The givenness of Nigeria is suspect.” He even insisted that he has “never viewed Nigeria as a sacrosanct idea, or a settled question.” If this were true, as he would want his readers to belief, why is it that he would be unwilling to consider the break-up of Nigeria as a possible option or, at least accept the need for serious restructuring that would give the various ethnic nations a sense of being in control of their destinies? In another breath he felt it necessary to “balance the sheet” by making it clear that he did not “subscribe to the omnibus idea that the answer to Nigeria’s trouble lies in dividing up the space into separate nations corresponding to ethnic or other lines.”
It was one’s former tutor at the Great University of Ife, the radical historian, Dr. Segun Osoba who contended that “it is a sign of bankruptcy to sit on the fence” in matters deserving of clarity of position. One seriously hesitates to describe Professor Ndibe’s ambiguity on this serious issue as “a sign of bankruptcy,” especially being someone one respects and admires, but it seems there is no other way to put it in this context. One finds it intellectually interesting that Professor Ndibe was neither here nor there on this issue of breaking up Nigeria, but it was disappointing that he was not able to come up with an alternative idea that could guide Nigeria to be a place which all would be proud to call one’s country. Eventually, Professor Ndibe ended up being “lazier” than the “partisans” he was taking a shot at when he wrote inter alia:
“The case for balkanization is often pushed by partisans who contend, rather lazily and with little or no proof, that virtue inherently resides in the DNA of their ethnic stock.”
At least, the “partisans,” one of which is this writer, have a position that has been properly articulated - a position that has been explained in several essays as to how it was arrived at and why it was taken. The least expected of Professor Ndibe is for him to intellectually engage this issue, come up with what he considered the alternative solutions to what others have suggested, rather than calling others “lazy.” By taking this path, he would not only have done the latter day Nigerian nationalists a big favour, he would also have successfully exposed the fallacy of the position of “partisans” like this writer who are advocating for the break up of the terminally diseased country. This would engender further debate, more education and bring crystal clarity on what to do with the “corpse” that Nigeria is.
The “partisans” referred to by Professor Ndibe have never at any time claimed that “virtue inherently resides in the DNA of their ethnic stock.” But these “partisans” have been able to properly analyze that if it were not for the Nigerian miasma, some of the vices and their protagonists in the Nigerian setting would not have been able to thrive. The battle waged by Professor Ndibe against Andy Ubah is still very fresh in the minds of his readers. But Professor Ndibe could not deny the obvious fact that if it was not for the nauseating umbrella of the decadent Nigerian State, frauds like Andy Ubah would be rotting somewhere. To refuse to accept the obvious fact that Nigeria is serving as an incubator for moral decadents, fiscal rascals, political charlatans, religious rogues and social scoundrels is to be intellectually dishonest. What other evidence could be needed after the celebration of the ex-convict Bode George by the stakeholders of the Nigerian State?
A proper analysis of the Nigerian political trajectory since independence would show that the Southwest of Nigeria, peopled by the Yoruba race resiliently resisted the corrupt and visionless Nigerian state since 1960. The Action Group political party that was representing them was in the opposition at the Federal Parliament. It was the attempt to undermine Action Group’s principled resistance to a feudalized country that led to the fall of the first republic and forced the military boys to take over. The same happened in the second republic when the Yoruba Nation represented by the Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN), refused to join with the feudalistic, corrupt, inept, profligate, visionless National Party of Nigeria (NPN)to loot the country and bring it further down the drain. Under the military rules, the Yoruba Nation, more than any other ethnic Nation in Nigeria produced several principled voices in opposition to the crooked behemoth called Nigeria.
The Nigerian State through its civilian and military stakeholders waged series of wars against the mainstream Yoruba politicians because the Yoruba politicians would not descend to the low suggested to them. The culmination of these wars was in the aftermath of the June 12 Election crisis, when the rest of Nigeria appropriated the renegades of the Yoruba race to give a semblance of “national character” to the miasma and malaise. They forcefully imposed Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the rest of us. At least this way, it could be claimed that the Yoruba Nation was an active participant in the looting and the pillaging of Nigeria. But everyone knows that things would have been definitively different if the maintream Yoruba Nation has a say in the matters.
It is on record that it was mainly in the Southwest of Nigeria that the PDP was soundly rejected as part of the age long resistance to corrupt political system that Nigeria incubates. The rejection of Obasanjo in his Ward, Local Government and State during that 1999 exercise was emblematic of the Oodua Nation’s age long resistance to the contaminating Nigerian epidemic of valueless politics. This remained the case until Obasanjo rigged out the truly elected representative of the Yoruba race in 2003 Elections using the “might” of the Nigerian State. Without the apparatus of the corrupted Nigerian Federal State, Obasanjo would never have been able to accomplish this travesty. He could never have dreamt of this in an Oodua Nation. He would never have been able to install the parasitic satellites of the Nigeria State that invaded the Yoruba nation and bring it to its knees. This is why Obasanjo said that he was willing to die for Nigeria. This is because it is only in Nigeria that his likes could make hay. Other ethnic nations in Nigeria might be able to relate to this in varying degrees.
The unscrupulous stakeholders of Nigerian State have repeatedly rebuked the Yoruba mainstream politicians for refusing to join the “Nigerian mainstream” crooked politics mired in myopia, corruption and fraud. A shady politics with subversion and subjugation of the peoples’ will as its main thrust. It is this kind of situation, improperly dissected and inappropriately contextualized in factual dynamics of the contemporary Nigerian History that could have made it possible for Professor Ndibe to assume that various component ethnic Nations within Nigeria think they could not do better on their own. Or what else could professor Ndibe mean when he asserted that the “partisans” have “little or no proof, that virtue inherently resides in the DNA of their ethnic stock?” By implication, Professor Ndibe was suggesting that vice “inherently resides in the DNA” of all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Nothing could be more condescending and offensive as it is incorrect and fallacious.
Professor Ndibe, as erudite as he is, also manifested an embarrassingly insufficient knowledge of History when he wrote the following:
“There’s nothing in Nigeria’s history to sustain the idea that any one ethnic group has demonstrated an impressive and sagacious outlook in the management of their affairs.”
How could anyone of Professor Ndibe’s intellectual status and trajectory write the above quote? What could be his motive for the above statement? Is this deliberate mischief or a mistake? How could any properly tutored average student of contemporary Nigerian History posit that no “one ethnic group has demonstrated an impressive and sagacious outlook in the management of their affairs?” How could Professor Ndibe intellectually sustain this in the face of monumental achievements that time and history have attested to, in the Western Region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo?
Is Professor Ndibe intellectually oblivious of the fact that one of the reasons that the so-called “partisans” like this writer have been advocating for the break up of Nigeria has to do with the fact that the Yoruba Nation has been forced to have delayed development because she is part of the Nigerian malaise? Is he unable to link nostalgic yearnings for the successes of the Yoruba Nations in those years under the leadership of Chief Awolowo to the desire to want to go it alone as a possible independent Oodua Nation or at worst, an autonomous entity within the Nigerian structure? It is on record, that since 1960 when the rights and freedom of the Yoruba Nation to be in complete control of its destiny have been undermined and subsumed under that of the corrupted Nigerian State, the Yoruba have been “no longer at ease” as things continued to “fall apart.” If Professor Ndibe has no intention of being a revisionist, there is no way he could be oblivious of the above in the context of Nigerian history, given his erudition, intellect and knowledge.
When the late Senator from the State of New York, Patrick Moniyan contended that one is always entitled to his own opinions, but not to his won facts, he probably had this following quote by Professor Ndibe in mind. Professor Ndibe posited thus:
“And then there’s the evidence that things are getting better – however slightly…….. The evidence is that Nigeria is evolving politically. But – in the nature of evolutions – the changes are slow, often imperceptible, sometimes too negligible, and easy to miss.”
The daily facts of the Nigerian life do not support the above. Professor Ndibe could not sustain this position if we are to consider the economic stagnation, the political paralysis, the customization of vices, the commercialization of faith and social turpitude in the country. Add to it the increasing gap between the thieves and the owners of the wealth, complete break down of law and order, the incessant explosion of bombs, killings, arson, kidnappings and maiming. There was no time in the Nigerian History that things have been bleaker than this. Could Professor Ndibe please, point to any time in Nigerian History, save the Civil War period, when things have been worse than this?
Even, if Professor Ndibe was to be believed, did he not think that he contradicted himself on this point when he wrote as follows?
“Besides, even as Nigerian politicians are forced to drop some horrible habits, their diabolical dexterity enables them to acquire new, equally terrible – sometimes worse – habits. One of the new tricks this election season is for governors, often with the collusion of commissioners of police, to declare their states off-limits as campaign turfs to opposition candidates. Such illicit efforts to cripple the opposition has (sic) led to disturbing violence in Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Oyo, Plateau, and other states.”
Professor Ndibe did not isolate any number of “horrible habits” the typical Nigerian politicians have dropped that could be seen as evidence that “things are getting better” even if their “diabolical dexterity enables them to acquire new, equally terrible – sometimes worse – habits.” How could Professor Ndibe contend that “things are getting better” while insisting at the same time that Nigeria has “been hijacked by some of the most contemptible mediocrities to walk the face of the earth” and become “a country in which convicts assume governorship and other exalted offices.” Until this era of PDP, could Professor Ndibe refresh the memory of his readers when we have had “convicts assume governorship and other exalted offices” in the land?
One has no problem with those who do not agree that Nigeria should be broken up. They have the right to their views. Just like those of us “partisans,” as in Professor Ndibe’s parlance, have the right to suggest our own views that Nigeria must be broken up. But rather than engage in name calling and intellectual inanities, the modern day Nationalists who believe in oneness of Nigeria should come up with concrete and feasible alternatives to resuscitate the “corpse” of Nigeria. Rather than engage in feel-good grandstanding about vacuous nationalistic mantra that has no bearing in reality to the desires of the ethnic nationalities to have self determination and be in control of their destinies, it would be more productive if they agree to take the case to the ordinary folks of various ethnic nationalities to decide.
One has argued before that the fact that the philosophical world views of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria are different makes it impossible to build a country out of Nigeria. Our expectations were functionally related to the cultural milieus that have been cultivated over a thousand years. This is one of the things that make Nigerian experience different from that of a United States of America. To this end, there is no singular dream to which all “Nigerians” could aspire. By implication, a unifying effort to build a country is seriously negated.
More so, majority of “Nigerians” themselves do not seem to believe in “Nigeria” as a country. To challenge the validity of this claim, every ethnic nationality should be allowed to conduct a plebiscite to ask its people whether they want Nigeria or not. This way, not just the elites, but the bricklayers, carpenters, mechanics, taxi drivers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, market women, students and other pressure groups would be able to contribute to determining their own destiny. If, they vote “yes” to Nigeria, then how do they want it? If they vote “no” to Nigeria, such an ethnic nationality should be granted its heart’s desire. By so doing, we would be able to prevent the possibility of armed resistance and struggle to the Nigerian State that might inevitably come. This way, we can save millions of innocent men, women and children that might become victims. The spirit of man abhors bondage that Nigeria represents. We ought to listen to the voice of reason in Dr. Pat Utomi before it is too late - “Crash the whole thing. It is not working for Nigeria, it will not work for Nigeria.”
But our modern day nationalists are anti-people. They sound more like dictators and slave drivers. They are afraid of the people. They are closet democrats. They arrogate to themselves the right to determine the destinies of others. They mouth “democracy’ on the roof tops but work assiduously to hold the rest of us in bondage and subjugation. They are scared stiff that such freedom for the peoples to determine their destinies would jeopardize their ability to plunder the blood tainted loot bequeathed by the decadent “corpse” of the Nigerian State. As far as they are concerned, Nigeria is the best thing that could ever happen to those trapped in the open prison of Nigerian State. They are not even willing to entertain the Sovereign National Conference to discuss Nigeria. All they want is Nigeria at all costs by their own dictation.
Well, they are welcome to make their case(s) for the oneness of Nigeria and let the rest of us hear them out and evaluate their position in comparison to the realities of our lives and choices that might be available. But please, no one should make any effort to deodorize the desolation of the peoples of Nigeria and sugarcoat their deprivation in an attempt to make a case on a discredited platter of NATIONAL UNITY for a “corpse” of a country that Nigeria is. To do so would be less than truthful and candid. It would be utterly unacceptable. Not even from a well liked Professor Okey Ndibe.