By Abimbola Lagunju
It is hard to define what Nigeria is apart from being a land mass with some 200 million people trapped between some longitudes and latitudes. That Nigeria is not a nation-state is obvious from the way it was created in 1914. It was a created as a geopolitical convenience by the British for administrative ease and economic plundering to the discomfort of those trapped behind its borders. Not bothered about history, the inheritors have kept the legacy sacrosanct weaving constitutional barriers to prevent jailbreak and seeking to obliterate history from the mind of the citizens. Just like their predecessors, they want us to believe that we had no history before they came.
Nigeria bears the tag of a “Republic” but functions like a primitive monarchy where politicians and government officials and anyone in position of responsibility plays an “executive” king. The Nigerian press, either for carelessness or for their access to more information than the rest of us often refers to an administration as a period of “reign”. And the elected politicians act this out too: it is easier to meet and speak with Donald Trump than to see a local “Executive Governor”. The Nigerian President plays the ultimate King where the Presidency is like a Royal Court. He cannot be seen, he doesn’t write letters, he doesn’t pick his calls and he doesn’t speak with his “subjects”. In this country, it is normal that even when a governor or the president doesn’t want to play a king, the attending Royal Court (ministers and commissioners, advisors and their advisors and multiple layers of security) insists that a king is a king and the visitor must play a compliant subject. It is unimaginable that a subject or a group of subjects will have an opposing view on any subject with the President. Such a sacrilege will be decisively met with the fury of members of the Royal Court even without the knowledge of the President.
Nigeria is called “Federal” but functions like a dictatorship where the Presidency calls the shot with monthly “sharing” of our commonwealth to States, making friends of some and ostracizing the others. Acquiescence is purchased or forcefully extracted. The oppressive organs of the State like the Police, the Army, the Secret Services, the judiciary which do not pretend to be independent are at the beck and call of the President, who can deploy them against anyone or any group without consultation. And the milk cows like NNPC and the Central Bank are also part of the holdings of the Presidency.
Nigeria is not a PLC as the citizens who are supposed to be the shareholders are discounted in the process of running the Nigerian Enterprise. The Nigerian stocks are in the hands of a few elites who have no interest in profits but are bent on swallowing up the capital. Like many of its defunct businesses (NEPA, Nitel, Steel Rolling Mills, Nigeria Airways etc.) Nigeria is being run aground by its political class and its bureaucrats. Their modus operandi as managers is diseconomies of scale, characterized by bogus presidency and state houses, bloated parliament both at national and state levels with disregard and disdain for any form of accountability. Babangida once publicly expressed surprise at the resilience of Nigerian economy which in his view was still “standing” despite being battered to unconsciousness by looters.
That Nigeria is in no way a modern state is glaring from the lack of vision of its leaders and its consequent failures on all scales that define state responsibility and accountability like infant-, under-five-, maternal mortalities, accountability, provision of basic infrastructure etc. It fails all government-business transparency tests and scores high on corruption, insecurity and political absurdities. It claims to be a giant, but it is a dwarf among modern states in all aspects.
If Nigeria were a human being, it would need many specialist doctors to save its life. Brain surgeons to remove its many cancers and their metastasis. And a psychiatrist to train it back on responsible social behavior.
If Nigeria had been a private company the shareholders would long have demanded that its way of doing business be restructured. Many managers (in uniforms and babanriga and all) would have been sacked in the process, particularly those who have grown to think of the Nigerian Enterprise as their birthright. And many others would have been committed to jail.
But we Nigerians are a special lot. Many rules of common sense do not apply to us. We have been like this since 1914. The phrase, “once bitten twice shy” does not exist in our collective lexicon. For us, it is, once bitten, come back for more. We will again be back for more in 2019.