Opinion / Editorial

Nigeria, An Irresponsible State by Edmund Obilo

Niger Delta Militants

Veteran and popular talk radio journalist and the host of Splash FM‘s flagship programmes such as Voices, Bull’s Eye and Economic Searchlight, Edmund Obilo is out with another piece about the state of the nation.

Edmund Obilo

Nigeria, An Irresponsible State by Edmund Obilo

There are threats testing the rigidity of the Nigerian state. Arising from this is the plot to economically incapacitate the state and drive it to the edge of desperation by those who govern. One does not have to look too far to identify their non-state replica in the exploitation of the fragile peace that defines Nigeria’s temperamental sectional interests.

There is Boko Haram in the North-East, there is the ashes of the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in the South-South and the combination of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East. There are the marauding herdsmen and other violent groups wreaking havoc round the country.

Boko Haram succeeded in making a section of Nigeria a convergence of misery and death, stretching the country’s defense system in the process. From Guerilla initiatives, the terrorist group employed conventional military tactics against the Nigerian state, on occasions invading fortified defense structures.

The exploit of group exposed the frailties of Nigeria’s defense forces. It put in better perspective the disguise of Nigerian politics as a means to state development. The disguise shows itself in the scandal surrounding the disbursement of billions of dollars to political cronies for purposes outside what they were originally meant for. By this singular action, the Nigerian State portrayed itself as an evil bird disturbing the peace of the night and drowning the dreams of the people in a sea of blood.

It is only an irresponsible state that will play politics at the detriment of the people’s sustainable future. This game of hate and deceit as exhibited by the state, has become the ghost of men, women and children cut down by the hail of bullets from the smoking guns of the killers in Nigeria. This is state failure. It exposes the utter disregard of the fundamental role of the state, which is the protection of lives and property.

Here lies Nigeria’s security dilemma;

When politics is played to challenge and debase the meaning of “goodness of the people”, it produces a chain reaction of events that result in violent opposition to the authority of the state. Groups will emerge to propagate their local identities, economic and political interests thus pushing the state to the edge. Some will become territorial and instigate those within their domains to work against the state. By this, a mole-state within a state is born.

An irresponsible state at this point begins to threaten severe consequences on the ground of national security, unleashing its military infrastructure aggressively, without really re-working the fundamental question of its politics of exclusion.

By reason of the wealth the state controls and its external influence, it is able to suppress such uprisings, but they rise again in other forms. There was the Nigerian civil war, called a genocidal war by the Easterners. The leader of the group Ojukwu employed brilliance and ethnic rhetoric in the best of words, appealing to the emotion of his people in a war against the state. The reason for the bitterness of Ndigbo is defined on the ground of ethnicity and crime against humanity. Easterners were massacred in the North. That’s was the narrative that shook the foundation of the Nigerian state. What would have been if the narrative was about Nigerians killed in the North by Nigerians?
Once the issue became Hausa/Fulani killing Igbos, the dimension of the quarrel was bound to test the elastic limit of the state. The civil war cannot clearly explain the origin of an irresponsible state. There were signs ignored for political reasons;

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There was the Kano riot of 1953 that took an ethnic path.

There were the census crises of the early 1960s.

There was the 1964 federal election crises.

There was the 1965 election crises in the western region, which eventually led to the 1966 coup executed by mostly Igbo officers.
The mentioned crises and more were political creations to hijack the Nigerian state. They were not the initiatives of the people, but events promoted by the elite members of the political class to preserve or expand their political gains. On this ground, a factor that helps to produce an irresponsible state as represented by Nigeria is the unhealthy competition for power by the leadership class.

In the context of Africa, throwing ethic and religious jibes is the norm in the quest for power. No wonder the continent remains the putrid marshland of ethnic conflicts. The Rwandan Genocide is fresh in our memories. Ethnicity executed through dismal governance is the bane of development in Sudan, Mali, Central African Republic and many African countries.

The ethnic card played by Nigeria’s foremost leaders, laid the foundation for the irresponsibility of the Nigerian state.

An irresponsible state is one that cannot improve its education system. It destroys it instead.

A state is responsible when it pays the loyalty of its citizens with poverty and unemployment. An irresponsible state does not take as urgent the health of its people. It does not care if the hospitals are operational, not to talk of operating at optimum level. The highways of an irresponsible state are death traps. The leaders of an irresponsible state are mostly criminals who specialize in the massive stealing of state resources.

There is no justice in an irresponsible state. The poor is meant to pay for the crime he did not commit and when he commits the crime he is brutally punished unlike his rich counterpart who perverts the course of justice. An irresponsible state rapes its people and create theatres of conflict as seen in the Niger Delta.

In an irresponsible state, you find characters who ignore the sensibilities of others to prove a point. These ones become gladiators not fighting bulls or wild animals but planted to dismantle the fragile unity of the state. State irresponsibility breeds emperors in leaders. When leaders supposedly elected by the people act like emperors, they recreate themselves in the war- like characters scattered within it. This is one of the reasons “Tompolo” has become bigger than the state.

As the political leadership intensifies its ‘emperor-ness’, the ‘heroes’ of the creek and the Bin Ladens of Sambisa, will attempt to expand their ‘hero-ness’. The competition for resources to maintain the legitimate and illegitimate empires will eventually lead to the escalation of the smoking situation. It is not whether the government fortifies the military or not. In an irresponsible state, fortifying the military is fortifying the divides in the struggle to strangulate the state.

Let’s hope it will not continue to pretend to spend heavily on education, health, agriculture, electricity and national security until it finally collapses.

The solution to irresponsibility is responsibility.

Credit: Edmund Obilo

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