Nigeria is bogged on a fork on the road but now fumbles a choice between peace and justice.
In its 53-year history, not once has that choice been so stark, as the now blood-soaked country can’t move forward without deciding it.
On December 8th last year, the country’s former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, direly put Nigeria’s un-employment figure at 75 million people, comprising mostly youths.
Interpreted in terms, those hard done by in Nigeria without a job and a means of livelihood therefore exceed the whole population of six (6) African countries put together, namely, Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Senegal, Liberia and Sierra-Leone, whose combined population of 73 million, is less than the 75 million un-employed people in Nigeria alone.
As the Nigerian State rapidly loses legitimacy for this inability to consequently plan or care for its denuded populace, Nigeria’s laws are now as defiled as they are defied by the country’s growing apathetics.
Indeed, looking in from outside, there’ll hardly seem to be any law in Nigeria anymore. Pistols and revolvers are, for example, publicly sold at the Lagos beachfront on a cheap to any willing buyer who feels angry enough to want to kill or maim somebody, despite that the possession and bearing of arms is criminally prohibited in Nigeria, where paradoxically, gunshots continue to shatter the silence of each night on the Lagos mainland, before the corpses of those robbed or assassinated are later picked up for burial each morning.
“I am afraid - and you know i am an army General, “ said ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on 27th July last year, “and when a General says he is afraid, that means the danger ahead is real and potent. The danger posed by an army of unemployed youth in Nigeria can only be imagined. There is absence of serious, concrete, realistic, short and long term solution to youth unemployment. Nigerian youths have been patient enough. This patience will soon reach its elastic limit. Nigeria will witness a revolution soon, unless government takes urgent steps to check growing youth unemployment and poverty,” Obasanjo said.
For Nigeria to decide its choice, its government has to firstly forgo the dalliance of official thefts, such as the ₦1.2 trillion representing 25% of the national budget stolen from its federal treasury last year through counterfeited bills of lading used for oil subsidy re-imbursement claims. But so far, the evidence of that dalliance being forgone in Nigeria is not obvious. On the contrary, since January last year when mass protests forced the issue and caused a probe which later un-earthed this ₦1.2 trillion theft, no government official has been named or arraigned as criminally answerable.
A former Lagos State governor, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, later took a second look at Nigeria virtually un-ravelling amid such eye-watering thefts, of which he himself is strongly suspected as linchpin, and said “The situation our country is in today is both sad and unacceptable. We are like a people without a leader, a country with no trustworthy men at the helm of affairs, and a nation now lost at sea. Our leaders must commit to a better country, not tomorrow, but beginning now – today, because time is not on our side and the continued patience of the people may no longer be guaranteed.”
As it is, the country’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, is the one most Nigerians expect should resolve Nigeria’s sclerosis, but he’s rather swatted that assignment off with alibis. “I am the most criticised president in the world,” he’d recently said, ruefully, before throwing up his hands and asking if Nigeria ever had good roads, schools or hospitals before he took office on May 29th, 2011, which only got bad thereafter solely by his personal fault.
But just in case the sceptics were still heard of hearing, President Jonathan then all but declared Nigeria un-reformable in its present anomie, even if that meant eating his words for having promised the country’s transformation at his 2011 presidential campaign. “The whole of Nigeria society has failed”, President Jonathan, said deadpan last month June 15th.
“When you look at Nigeria today, we are deceiving ourselves; pastors are deceiving members, members are deceiving their pastors, husbands deceiving their wives, and the wives deceiving their husbands. Parents are deceiving their children and the children in turn deceive their parents. Soon, we would have a whole nation of people deceiving each other,” President Jonathan further intoned in a declarative tone.
The pioneer Editor of Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper, Muyiwa Adetiba, would later on put it more pointedly. “The conclusion seems to be inescapable in Nigeria that what we have as leaders in politics, business and the civil service are common thieves in high places,” Muyiwa Adetiba said. “The rot is so deep that stealing is now in the family system, in the religious system; even in friendly and social clubs. Everybody is looking for somebody else to steal from.
The day our leaders decide they don’t need James Ibori’s kind of wealth or Cecilia Ibru’s kind of property acquisition, that a good name is better than material acquisition; and that leadership at the end of the day, is about people and leaving a place better than you met it, is the day Nigeria will begin a positive walk into sanity and propriety. Until then, Nigeria is just a nation of common thieves,” Muyiwa Adetiba added.
How then can a country officially declared at presidential level as characterised by deceit, implying thievery and frauds, ever start on the road and succeed at reversing its 75 million un-employment crisis to become a praline place on earth for its citizens to live in comfortably?
“Only a bloody revolution can save Nigeria,” said Professor Ben Nwabueze, in January, when he threw away his bemedalled gown as Nigeria’s foremost constitutional lawyer in favour of a physical revolution as the only solution. Corroborating Nwabueze’s renunciation of law - as the means to resolve a pandemic crisis of official thefts, if those stealing Nigeria blind are the state officials who can’t be expected to apply the laws of thefts to themselves - Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, himself a famous lawyer, said “there can never be a meaningful election for progress until a revolutionary change firstly resolves Nigeria’s theft and corruption crisis.”
Both lawyers likely saw the further futility in placing their hopes for change on the same perpetrators of government-level thefts who only coyly select their own members and dress him up in false robes as the messiah, for the duped populace to choose one, but all to the same effect of a make-believe to look like change but ending up as more of the same thing.
“We are actually overdue for a revolution!” said Kano ex-federal legislator, Dr. Junaid Mohammed. “What is wrong with us having a revolution here in Nigeria? Unless, of course, you belong to those who are stealing government money or you have something to hide. Then of course you should be afraid of revolution, because after the revolution, there is what we call revolutionary justice. They will get you, corrupt people, and shoot you. In fact, if they shoot just 500 corrupt people, Nigeria will be a much better place and God will forgive them”.
Well, perhaps so, since the capacity of the Nigerian state itself is putatively seen to be withering away, at least according to the country’s past Chief Justice, Dahiru Musdapher, who said on December 20th last year, that, “our capacity to investigate, arrest, prosecute and convict those found guilty of contravening the laws of Nigeria is evidently weak and compromised. There is no objectivity in national discourse anymore.
Our slide into anarchy has assumed dangerous dimensions, beyond the capacity of our security agencies to deal with the menace effectively. Boko Haram insurgency, political violence, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, indiscipline, abductions, and kidnappings, armed robbery, murder and extortion, bombings of places of worship and of innocent Nigerians - are all indicators of a failed State,” the ex-Chief Justice of Nigeria had said.
On that point, foreign countries are agreed that the Nigerian state is withering away.
“The situation in Nigeria remains fluid and unpredictable”, said the U.S State Department on December 20th last year. “In light of the continuing violence, extremists may expand their operations beyond northern Nigeria to the country's middle and southern states.
Crime is a risk throughout Nigeria. Home invasions also remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls, following residents or visitors, or subduing guards to gain entry to homes or apartments.
Armed robbers in Lagos have also accessed waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other expatriates, have been victims of armed robbery at banks and grocery stores and on airport roads during both daylight and evening hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all and provide little or no investigative support to victims,” the American government’s statement concluded.
By not thinking, Nigerian governments at all levels have slept-walked into the grips of revolutionary pressures without any easy means of escape.
For once official thefts broke the bonds between the government and the people, the genie was let out of the bottle. And because theft spawns theft, the cycle of vendetta in Nigeria is bound to be un-ending as it extends to the wives and daughters of corrupt government officials, whom the people now target in vengeance for rape and ransom.
A blogger writing on the internet last year on December 30th, Paul Omoruyi, pithily described the Nigeria’s national condition today as follows: ““It is no secret now that Nigerians hate their rulers; but when Nigerian “prayer warrior” masses now start to curse and pray for the death of their rulers, then there is a crisis. There is always euphoria and jubilation whenever a member of the Nigerian “thiefocratic class” (i.e.; President, Governor, Senator, House of Rep member, Minister or local government chairman) dies. For example, when the plane of Governor Danbaba Suntai’s of Taraba State crashed, I placed a call to several friends i considered somewhat “God-fearing” and decent. The first response i got from each and every one of them is “make them all die, we are praying for the next one to die”.
Many Nigerians in recent times have so become accustomed to cursing their rulers that before you have a five-minute discussion on the state of Nigeria with them, they would have cursed the ruling class more than a hundred times. There is now justifiable but unprecedented hatred for the ruling class like never before in the history of Nigeria”.
Without a doubt, once a society degrades to this low point of organized hatred that Paul Omoruyi has described, and with guns and explosives so easy to buy and bear, nothing but revolutionary justice can push it back from the precipice of the abyss into which Nigeria is looking at the moment.
Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner in Abuja