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Nigerian Elites And The Challenges Of Now By Remi Oyeyemi

In determining the heading of this piece, I prevaricated between the words “Leaders” and “Elites.” After serious evaluation, I came to the conclusion that the word “Elites” would be more appropriate. I reached this conclusion because, in one’s opinion, Nigeria has not had real leaders for some time now. Rather, Nigeria has had in a great majority, dealers, opportunists, and visionless carpetbaggers with nauseating inclinations for banditry. Their sole mission has been to loot the commonwealth without thoughts of and for the country and its future.
The elites, on the other hand, are the totality of all the political, economic, social, religious, professional leading lights in the country. This would also include the various leading lights of several segments of the society such as market women, student leaders, the academia, intelligentsia, media, lawyers, doctors and artisans, transporters and so on. All the leading lights of all these groups constitute the elites of this country. And if they do not know, this society has collapsed. Or almost collapsing.
“….ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” -  J. F. Kennedy
At this juncture in this country’s history, time has passed being politically correct. Time is fast passing the accommodation of and for partisanship. Time is slipping fast. The country is collapsing and at a scary pace. There is a need for all the elites to have a change of heart and begin to think of what ways they can turn around this country. It is time to begin to think of how this country could be preserved. Though, someone like me, I still believe that restructuring to give ethnic nationalities more controls over their destinies is the best way to go or at worst the country be broken up. But if we still want Nigeria to remain, the time to rethink our attitudinal dispositions is now.
The elites of this country have mismanaged this country. Those most responsible has been the political elites with their sentries and collaborators in other strata of the society. As things stand now, it is important that partisanship is relegated to the background. There is urgent need to reverse the course of events. To be able to do this, there is a need for everyone to come together and be more candid about the mess in the country. Politics is important. But it should not be more important than the survival of this country, for if the country collapses totally, politics would become mute. This is very important to remember.
“…we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny.” - John F. Kennedy
Nigerians did not throw off the yoke of President Goodluck Jonathan so they could be burdened with the tyranny of President Muhammadu Buhari. Former President Jonathan was without any doubt a failure. Nigerians recognized that. But in the course of so doing, they made a wrong choice for the candidacy of the coalition that emerged under the auspices of the All Progressive Congress (APC). The wrongness of their choice is currently driving the country down the drain. For a majority of Nigerians, the Jonathan transition to Mohammadu Buhari has been a “fry pan to fire” experience.
What Nigerians are going through right now is not just political tyranny under President Buhari but also a serious social, economic and religious meltdown of the country. Social sickliness, economic enervation, and religious languor are a very dangerous mix for any society. For those who have an understanding of this, they are aware that this could be worse than sitting on the proverbial keg of gun powder. And the way things are going, things could explode. And if allowed to explode, it might be difficult to put together. This is because when a crisis begins, it has always been difficult to tell how it ends.
“So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” - John F. Kennedy
One is asking for RESTRUCTURING OF NIGERIA NOW. Any further delay might be regrettable for all. First, there is a need to check increasing confrontation to the state. The starting point is to give everyone a sense of belonging. Let us come to the round table and discuss the way forward. If we are really serious about Nigeria, we have to discuss how we want Nigeria. Refusal to allow a roundtable discussion is to suggest that only a section of Nigeria has all the wisdom and would continue to call the shots. If the elites are afraid of losing control of what might result from this, they could at least start by pressuring President Buhari to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.
Secondly, if President Buhari remains obdurate and intransigent, the elites should find a constitutional way of neutralizing him in the interest of the country. The political process should be brought to bear to avoid a greater crisis. It is important that all this be set in motion now. Failure to respond now would lead to a more complicated crisis that could be out of control of anyone. There is anarchy on the horizon as we are all witnessing. This has to be checkmated right now. A stitch in time would save the country any unnecessary nine others.
Thirdly, the elites need to realize the need to make some tough decisions which may include sacrificing some members of their class to assuage the angry populace. But this has to be done within the confines of the law. It would be the best way to buy credibility and integrity. Though this suggestion is fraught with dangers of its own, but Nigerians need a reason to believe that the present elites are worthy of being taken seriously. It might be in their best interest to have to sacrifice some members of their class so that they, along with the rest of the country could survive. This is because as this same John F. Kennedy said in the same inaugural speech on January 20, 1961:
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
The evidence of the Kennedys' truism now abound in this country:
·         Breakdown of law and order and increased violence in the country
·         Traditional rulers are kidnapped or murdered in their palaces
·         Colonel of the Nigerian Army kidnapped and found dead
·         Governor’s entourage being attacked
·         Members of Armed Forces being attacked and murdered
·         Members of Law Enforcement Agency being murdered and found to be involved in criminal activities.
·         Increased kidnapping of both the rich and the well-to-do
·         Armed robbery on the increase by unemployed graduates
·          Armed struggle against the state as evident in Boko Haram, Avengers, and their ilk
·         Murderous rampage of Fulani herdsmen across the length and breadth of the country especially in the South and the Middlebelt of the country.
·         Untold hunger, poverty, want and misery across the land
Nigeria is increasingly becoming less free. Religious freedom is at risk. Free speech is now seriously endangered. Political difference is met with assassinations or detentions for convoluted charges. There is increased abuse of the judicial process. Even ordinary bloggers are arrested and harassed by authorities. President Buhari is becoming restive and violent towards the citizens. The mass murder of Shiite Muslims in Kaduna State; the murder of IPOB self-determination protesters are just a few examples. Some of the problems did not start under President Buhari. But this was why he was elected; to turn things around positively; to give hope to the country; to renew confidence in the future and to check the downward spiral of the country.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” so posited a political commentator on Cable News Network (CNN). One could concede to President Buhari that he might have good intentions. But his good intentions so far have brought more misery to Nigerians. It is time for the elites to come together and make sacrifices to save Nigeria.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”
- John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961

You can follow Remi Oyeyemi on Twitter: @OyeyemiRemi