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Friday, October 8, 2010

Discourse 306 Nigeria - The Approaching Violence

Discourse 306
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Nigeria: The Approaching Violence

These days Bauchi town is under strict surveillance by security agents. When Governor Isa Yuguda is in town especially, checkpoints abound every street at night. A visitor would wonder what is wrong with the erstwhile small, peaceful city. Boko Haram. They have threatened to kill the Governor and his Borno State counterpart, sooner or later, according to their spokesman who granted an interview to VOA Hausa Service. Exactly a month ago, the group launched a spectacular attack at Bauchi prison using sophisticated weapons and freed all inmates, including dozens of its members who were awaiting what seem to be unending trial for not clearly defined reasons. Sources say there are armoured tanks inside the Government House. While other cities celebrated the 50th Independence Anniversary, Bauchi could not hold its. The governor could not take the risk. To secure his life, he condescended to employing his late in-law’s formula in solving the Niger Delta crisis. Pardon and Money. Yesterday, 7 October 2010, according to sources, he visited the prison and pardoned the only two of Boko Haram members present and gave each a gift of N100,000.00! Other prisoners rioted, demanding same treatment and arguing that their offenses are not as grievous as that of Boko Haram. Soldiers were drafted to quell the prisoners.
Elsewhere in Borno State, the world heard that the group struck at the heart of the political class. Two days ago they killed the former State Chairman of the ruling ANPP at his house and a policeman at the house of the Speaker of the House of Assembly. Earlier, they have killed a number of policemen and traditional office holders in reprisal to the killing of their members last year. Members of the group, true to their pledge after their massacre by the Nigerian Police last year, has adopted guerrilla warfare, riding on motorbikes and hitting their target and vanishing into the dark night of the Sahelian city. It was not Bin Laden… It was Boko Haram.
Since the group embarked on reprisal attacks, authorities have not been able to arrest anyone. The group’s assurance that it will pursue the governors no matter the time it takes must have unsettled the governors. The Governors feel helpless, now wishing that they had handled the group in a more civilized manner when they bizarrely executed their members extra-judicially as witnessed by the world. For the first time in this part of the country, a real threat of violence is unrepentantly directed at the political class. Insecurity and panic has finally reached Government Houses after it has tarried among ordinary Nigerians for long.
The residents of the modern city of Abuja, the Nigerian Federal Capital, equally share the same insecurity and panic for the first time. The tranquillity that characterised its atmosphere for the thirty years of its life was ended on 1st October, 2010, our 50th Independence Anniversary Day. As the celebrations were taking place, two bombs went off killing eleven people and injuring dozens of others, in spite of 48 hours warning. While the controversy over the identity of the perpetrators was going on, warnings were given regarding other bombs planted at the National Secretariat and National Assembly complexes, among others. Panic ensued. Workers managing the Nigerian state abandoned their offices and started running for their safety. It was not Boko Haram… It was MEND.
Bombings in the Southern Nigeria has not been new. Various groups in the Niger Delta, coalescing into MEND – Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta – have been operating on the principle of violence since 2003. By 2007, the organization was able to substantially diminish the oil incomes of the country. The then new President granted them amnesty, money and pledged more physical development of their region. Though they obliged by handing over a number of their weapons and pledging to eschew violence, it is widely believed that many groups still carry out violent attacks and abductions in the region.
The prospect of this kind of violence that is targeted at government officials is very high as 2011 approaches. Elections in Nigeria are essentially won through violence. But that seems to be mundane. What is worrying is, as CNN put it to the Nigerian President, whether political instability will be precipitated by his strong ambition to return in 2011 against the principle of zoning enshrined in the ruling party’s constitution. So far, the President himself has lent credence to that theory when he hurriedly blamed his opponents for planting the Abuja bombs. Though the opponents have denied it, one needs to be very na├»ve to think that it will run smoothly for Jonathan. In any case, even if it happens, this would not the first time politically motivated violence would be used to bring down a government in Nigeria. Violence was used in the former Southwest by opposition politicians to bring down the First Republic in 1966. The Second Republic was likewise terminated by a coup in 1983. These experiences inform the fear among diplomatic circles that abandoning zoning in the PDP might bring the demise of the current democratic dispensation. The only difference is that while it was some elements in the South and the Military in 1966 and 1983 respectively that were aggrieved, this time it is some elements in the North who feel short-changed.
These forms of violence will continue so long as Nigerian leaders employ impunity to solve our problems. They are always selfish, inelegant and impatient with the law. They think having the treasury within their reach and the security agents under their command gives them the license to violate citizen rights and take political courses detrimental to the stability of the nation. Their primitive mind does not transcend the animal instinct to accumulate. They do not honour agreements except those which favour them and anyone who raises a finger at them is only fit to die.
Boko Haram will remain here for a long time. Given their ideological inclination it will be foolhardy for the authorities to think that by killing their members in gruesome manner, the followers will be terrified to recant. The opposite happened. They saw their dead as martyrs and swore that their blood will not go for nothing, giving credence to what Qutb once said that the tree of an ideology is watered by the blood of its martyrs. Those widely circulated clips showing how Mohammed Yusuf and Foi were killed remain a scar on the conscience of this country. The actions were globally condemned as unjust. The fact that Yusuf was killed shortly after he was visited in police custody by the Governor of Borno State who spoke to the detainee in vernacular implicates the Governor in no small measure. Foi, a former Commissioner of the Governor was asked to walk on a street by the Police and as he did he was gunned down in public glare. His in-law was equally killed when he came to enquire about him. In Bauchi, dozens of unsuspecting Boko Haram members who were reciting the Qur’an in their camp were instantly massacred and the camp levelled by government bulldozers. Some eight or so members of the organization were arrested at Yankari Motor Park where they were taking their breakfast before they board a bus to carry them home. They were surrounded by security agents and massacred right there before the eyes of the public. The Bauchi State Governor then came out praising himself that the crisis did not escalate in Bauchi because he was prompt in ‘dealing’ with them. When the international community complained, Yar’adua set up a committee of inquiry whose report to date is kept secret. For over a year the trial of those detained continued to lurch without any hope that it will ever be concluded. The group therefore planned for and succeeded in freeing its members from Bauchi prison without losing the life of a single member and walked away freely. If the Governors and security agencies had abided by the law and showed respect for human life, I very much doubt there would have been any ground for the group to go underground and pose a threat far greater than it had before.
The political violence which many diplomats anticipate as 2011 approaches as a result of the President’s breach in zoning the Presidency to the North can only be disputed at the peril of the nation. Shouting down John Campbell will not solve the problem. Jonathan, being a PhD, should at least been wise enough to note that with every breach there is an attendant risk. On the page of this column, I pleaded with him on many occasion to be prudent in his thought. I supported his cause of becoming the President when ‘Yaradua was sick. I can even rightfully claim to be the first Nigerian to ask Yar’adua to resign in order to attend to his health. Then when he was sworn in, in The Task of Jonathan, I advised him, first, to fix electricity, fight corruption and conduct credible elections in 2011, but never to use his mortal hands to meddle with the destiny that brought him this far. He would then return in 2015, I argued, as a hero that the nation would warmly welcome. He was defiant. Secondly, when it was evident that he indeed wanted to contest, in Jonathan and the Northern Hawks, I advised him not to employ the services of sectionalism, religion or some political hawks that have misguided previous dictators. Rather he should seek his ambition through credible people in the North that would douse any suspicion. This was the route taken to bring Obasanjo to power. Again, Jonathan was adamant.
Jonathan’s supporters did not help matters. Those of them who saw a success for their religious agenda, especially among Northern Christians, and those who have inherited hatred against the North started insulting Northerners even though the party primaries are nowhere near because they believe nobody can stand up to his incumbency. The insult that the North must not think that the presidency is its birthright is often repeated. For the disciples of secession, this gave them the opportunity to bring back their war drums and start castigating Northerners. One wonders where were these voices when the PDP zoned power to the South in 1999. By sheer lack of tact, these supporters of Jonathan are doing more harm to his cause and decapitating the flowers of national integration that started to bloom since 1999. Well, from their jaundiced arguments, none of them believes in one Nigeria. They are making heroes out of Jonathan’s. I wish they were more patriotic.
Despite his wrong decision, Jonathan has not done anything to allay the fears of the nation. We have seen incumbency employed in his support as it was used during the Obasanjo era. The EFCC was used to chase out the former pro-zoning PDP national chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor. The same organ equally terrorized northern governors –Nyako, Saraki, Lamido, etc – that are opposed to his ambition. Public funds are used to finance his campaign. Who paid for the crowd that attended his declaration ceremony other than state and local governments treasuries? He went as low as preventing a meeting of emminent Igbo leaders in Owerri after they have paid for the venue and invited all governors from the region. Finally, the President has expressed his contempt for his opponents in unequivocal terms. He rushed to implicate them in the recent bombing by extricating those who claimed responsibility at a time when he said the matter was still under investigation. He was impatient. He has also proved that he can close his eyes and contradict written facts, like when he said the Presidency of Nigeria was never zoned. What a pity! Certainly, this was not the Jonathan we prayed for when we supported his ascension to power.
The President and his supporters are so paranoid that they are taking every warning for a threat. Take the case of Adamu Ciroma. He is one of those that supported Obasanjo against all odds in both 1999 and 2003 as par the zoning arrangement of his party. Now he is regarded a villain by pro-Jonathan elements because he has refused to shift from the same principle of political stability that is enshrined in the constitution of the party. He warned of the instability which Jonathan’s unbridled ambition might bring and asked him to reconsider his decision to contest in 2011. Before he could shut his mouth, his warning was interpreted as threat and insults of all kinds were rained on him from their habitual quarters, as if nobody should any longer have any say in the country except “yes, Jonathan, yes Jonathan, yes Jonathan…” This degree of obsession and intolerance is really alarming. Jonathan has committed so many blunders and exposed so many of his shortcomings within a short time that many people are justifiably questioning his capacity as lead the nation. I remember an email I received from a reader from Bayelsa State immediately I wrote Yar’adua: Between Health and Power. He warned me that the country should not pray for Jonathan’s Presidency because the person, according to the reader is so inept. He said Jonathan would just be receiving orders from Obasanjo. But I supported Jonathan then based on what I thought was better for Yar’adua himself and, later, based on constitutionality. Today, that reader can write me and say, “Shebi, I told you.”
I am not in a position to say whether the recklessness of the President would yield something sinister to this dispensation as Adamu Ciroma has warned. But I dare say it clearly that the President did not follow my advise. I doubt if he ever listened to it. Nothing may happen, we pray. He can only be there for eight years and life would continue as usual, with its official corruption and highhandedness. We pray that the Abuja bombing will be the first and the last in the quiet city. But should anything happen, providence will accuse Jonathan of short-sightedness.
As for Boko Haram, who prefer to be called Ahlus Sunnah wal Jihad – the vanguard of tradition and Jihad – I will advise that authorities should call them for a genuine settlement of their case. Their members in detention should be tried if there are sufficient grounds to do so without holding them in prison without trial forever and if they are not Nigerian enough to enjoy the amnesty and money extended to MEND. Compensation must be paid to the victims that were killed extra-judiciously. The report of the presidential committee set up to investigate their massacres should be released and the culprits punished accordingly. Above all, effort must be made to engage them intellectually. Their fight is ideological so only an appeal to their intellect would make sense. But if the government in its characteristic logic thinks that brutality would solve their problem, then it should be ready to shoulder the responsibility whenever they hit at one political figure or another, and especially the political big heads they are hunting for. The more dangerous trend would be their metamorphosis into a broader radical formation – Sata Haram – that would target the other fat cats who live in our midst and sucking our blood, for that is a cause that would earn the group thousands of followers among Nigerians of different creeds and origins. Then, its targets would be cheaper to reach as they travel on our highways or reside in their mansions amidst our imposed poverty and deprivation.


Tilde,
8 October 2010

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Discourse 305 NIgeria at 50: Primitivity or Civilization?

Discourse 305
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Nigeria at 50: Primitivism or Civilization?

Apple launched its latest Ipad last April for which over 140,000 applications have been developed so far. These applications, many of which are free, are accessed through its Itunes store. A week ago I tried to buy an application, ContactP HD, that will enable me send emails in bulk to thousands of my readers across the world. I discovered that almost every country is listed on the store except Nigeria, meaning you cannot purchase anything from Nigeria in that store. Though the application is just $1.95 dollars, there I stood helpless in spite of my Visa card. Someone told me that a Nigerian customer could access the stores if he claims Niger Republic instead of Nigeria. Niger! Itunes is not the only cyberstore that does not have Nigeria on its list. I have encountered many others before.

Last May, the German Foreign Office invited me to participate in a blogger tour in Berlin. One of the other fourteen participants from China, Michael, alerted me that my emails containing the word Nigeria may not reach him because they will be classified as spam and blocked. On a different occasion, another participant, Mahmud from Egypt, remarked, perhaps with a bit of exaggeration, that when the world learn about Nigeria in the international media “is either when you are killing one another on the streets or kidnapping oil workers and businessmen.” (I just hope Mahmud has not heard the latest kidnapping involving dozens of primary school children.)

The import of the above is clear. Over the years, the world has learnt not to trust us. It is not saying that we are a bunch of fraudsters. Certainly, they know that the average Nigerians is as good as any good citizen of another country. But there are just too many unrestrained fraudsters among us that make the risk of dealing with us too high for many business managers across the world to take. As international business becomes increasingly run on the credit card, I doubt if we will go far in selling our goods to the world as the chances of citizens of other countries divulging their credit card details to us cannot even be contemplated. We must limit ourselves to bank transfers. That is why, long before 9/11, when we apply for their visa we are made to undergo extra-scrutiny, worse than the citizens of Arab countries. In the end, the visa to US, Canada, Europe and Britain is hardly issued to us. Thus, the ‘Mutallab’ case was quickly used to install body scanners in our airport while they are still not in use in Saudi Arabia, the country from where fifteen out of the nineteen 8/11 bombers allegedly originate and nine years since the sad even took place.

Stories like these about Nigeria are conspicuously absent from its 50th Independence Anniversary narrative. They describe the bad reputation and moral liability we are handing over to our children, a legacy so different from the one we inherited from leaders of the First Republic when neither Niger nor Egypt was ahead of us in development as well as in character. I wonder what further denigration the future has for us in the Information Age. I also wonder what language the world needs to speak before we institute rule of law to appreciably tolerable level.

On my facebook, www.facebook.com/aliyu.tilde, I sought the opinion of my cyber friends on how they would rate our leaders, past and present, in quantitative terms. A plot of their response clearly depicts an inverse line; that is to say the respondents are unanimous in holding that quality of leadership has deteriorated progressively in the past 50 years. The last respondent, Umaru Samaila, generously gave leaders of the first republic 98% but went on to become increasingly economical until he reached Jonathan, whom he rated 20%, thirty percent less than IBB and Abacha. The only time the curve managed to show an increase is during the tenures of Murtala and Buhari, two leaders who unquestionably have genuinely endeavoured to make Nigeria a better country.

The issue is not whether Nigerians are quantitatively better of in terms of infrastructure and social services today than at independence in 1960. It makes a very sad reading that some writers would point out that progress has indeed been made because our GSM today works better than the analogue lines of 1970; that our roads are double-lane and asphalt rendered, wider and smoother than the single-lane collar surface roads of the 1960s. In the end, according to the authors, the fact that we can communicate better and travel faster means progress has been made. That is missing the point. That is growth in absolute terms, which the scientist often rejects. Growth is a natural process but it is usually measured relative to time and, in a competitive environment, relative to the progress of other competing entities. If we compare our rate of development during the First Republic with that of today relative to the human and material resources available to each period we would fully appreciate the folly of the absolutists. In fact things like GSM are global phenomena, not something that any Nigerian leader would claim a credit for, as Obasanjo apologists often do. Even within the GSM realm, why did MTEL, the national GSM career, woefully failed where private ones like Celtel, MTN and Glo succeeded? Does the average Nigerian child today stand a better chance to acquire a good standard of education as did his father in the 1960s? Is the average Nigerian adult better trusted today by citizens of other countries, nay by his own fellow countrymen, than was his father in the 1960s?

Yet, Nigerians, generally, are not ready for change. Everyone comes to television and preach against corruption when he is a beneficiary and perpetrator of corruption. Followers or leaders, we are reluctant to change. Would Nigerians, to bring my point home, vote for Murtala as a President today seeing how they are unanimous in acclaiming his nationalist credentials? No. Many mouthpieces of corruption or trumpeters of ethnicity in the press would accuse him of being a Muslim, a Hausa, a northerner, a military, and a lot of other rubbish just to jettison the chances of a success that would check corruption. On election day, the elite, from the Commander-in-Chief to the constable, would gang up to ensure that he does not win. I am not surprised that neither him nor Buhari are listed among the awardees at our 50th Anniversary by a regime that is increasingly becoming an offshoot of the corrupt Obasanjo dictatorship.

Would Alvan Ikoku or Zik win elections in Abia or Anambra State today? Equally, would Balewa or Sardauna be given the gubernatorial tickets of PDP or CPC in Bauchi or Sokoto States today? They, like many people of integrity today, cannot even aspire for a party ticket because they do not have the money that would earn them our reckoning or the dishonest bent that would permit our yearning to ransack pubic coffers. But we sing their praises today because they are dead, who, according to Machiavelli, pose no threat to our interest today. If they were alive, we would have opposed them as we oppose their likes today.

The case of Buhari is indicting to the conscience of this country. He will remain a pebble in the shoe of the Nigerian elite. We are not avoiding Buhari when we question his democratic credentials; we are rejecting the principle that makes him different among our political class. That is why since 2002 when he joined politics, I have held that his goal, like that of Aminu Kano before him, may be limited to serving as the symbol of conscience in a political world perverted by deceit and corruption. The good will support him or for someone better than him in that sense while those whose conscience is less pricked by corruption will oppose him and go for candidates with a lesser commitment to tackling the menace. Many vultures that have sufficiently devoured our public treasury are joining his CPC in many states today precisely because they want to exploit the goodwill and hoodwink the masses into giving them the necessary votes they need to steal further
from the public treasury. The party itself so far reckons only with the wealthy, unfortunately.

So if we believe that our leaders are so bad and the country is declining to a brink, what informs our reluctance for change? What is responsible for our deliberate choice for decay instead of growth when citizens of other nations and their leaders could tame their passions and live to a standard that earns them the confidence of other nations and business partners?

Questions like these that depict our sad reality continue to preoccupy my mind since I started public commentary in 1999. I have heard many theories. Some blame the European colonialist who amalgamated us into one country, as if we are the only colonized nation before. Some have accused our oil wealth, as if we are the only oil producing country in the world. Some blame western education, as if we are the only nation into which it was introduced. Some blame the size of our country any time we point at the success of small countries like Ghana, Niger and Guinea in, say, conducting free and fair elections, forgetting that we are just one-eighth the population of India, the largest democracy in the world, which often conducts free and fair elections. Some blame our multi-ethnic composition claiming that we have over 500 tribes and two different religions, forgetting that India, again, has three big religions – Hindu, Buddism and Islam – and over 1,400
tribes. If only every ethnic nationality would be allowed to govern themselves in a federation, the ethnic jingoists would claim, Nigeria would be a great country. The excuses are infinite and mostly half-truths.

A deeper look at our problem however will not fail to ascribe our inability to manage our affairs creditably to a more intrinsic factor. And my conviction of that factor is becoming stronger by the day. We have before us a civilization challenge, along with many other Africans because most of the problems we have are not limited to Nigeria. Some are even worse than us, particularly in terms of instability. It is the complicity of other factors – the size of the country, its multiple ethnicities, oil wealth, strategic importance, etc – that have worsened our situation. The crux remains the question of civilization. We have failed, like most of our ancestors, to overcome the excruciating primordial factors and launch ourselves on the plane of civilisation, as others have done before and as some leaders of the First Republic attempted.

We still succumb to individualism at the expense of the collective, as did our primitive ancestors. The education acquired from other civilisations – Arab and European of recent – have failed to moderate the influence of the crude ‘selfish gene’ in most Africans. This was confirmed to me by the veteran journalist, Magaji Danbatta, who told me in 2004 that leaders of the First Republic hoped that with mass education Nigerians in various regions will produce the crop of citizens required to put the country among developed nations one day. However, Danbatta continued in his lamentation, that hope was dashed in spite of the panoply of educational institutions and degrees of all sorts. “We are sort of jinxed or cursed”, he concluded. Richard Dawkins will dismiss the superstition and argue that we are under the spell of the selfish gene, which must be moderated by altruistic refinement of culture before civilisation would be rooted. “Our genes
may instruct us to be selfish,” Dawkins said in The Selfish Gene, “but we are not necessarily compelled to obey them all our lives.” In Nigeria, we find the epitome of Dawkins’ fear: “My own feeling”, he warned, “is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true.”

I am not the first author to employ the civilisation theory – which essentially is a cultural theme – to explain our decay. One Nigerian scholar, Malam Ibraheem Suleiman of the Institute of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, has eloquently expressed it in the 1980s. I cannot now lay my hands on those writings that were then published weekly in the New Nigerian. It was through him I was introduced to the writings of Sir Arnold J. Toynbee, particularly his magna corpus, A Study of History. There has long been scepticism among Victorian scholars over the fecundity of western concepts like liberty and democracy among ‘savage’ populations of the ‘uncivilized’ nations. The insult in the words ‘savage’ and ‘uncivilized’ by even progressives like Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, John Bright, Thomas Huxley and Hebert Spencer who fought for the emancipation of blacks may tempt us to dismiss Toynbee’s mid-Twentieth Century assessment. However, the
simple truth is that, though some of our ancestors built empires that were affiliated to some civilizations as many Western scholars would later discover and propagate, many of them were indeed savage during the Victorian era and beyond; some tribes practiced cannibalism up until the beginning of the last Century, the worst savage behaviour humanity could witness. And if western scholars of today do not call most of our leaders savage, I guess they are restrained only by diplomatic considerations.

And though Toynbee’s disheartening appraisal that “the black races alone have not contributed positively to any civilization, as yet” may be dismissed by Afro-centric scholars, we cannot deny that we have not been at the right places, at the right times. It is either we did not have the sufficient of the requisite five stimuli – “of hard countries, new ground, blows, pressures and penalizations” – or we had an overdose of some of them, like the impact of slavery that was most grossly perpetrated by Arabs and Europeans with the connivance of African leaders. So while other nations were compelled by severity of their circumstances to develop, Mother Africa overindulged us with its bountiful resources and unrivalled geography.

In the comfort of her arms, the copiousness of her milk and the benevolence of her climate, ‘the custom rules and society’ of our ancestors ‘remained static’. Like other primitive people, they directed their mimation, in the words of Toynbee’s abridger, D. C. Somervell, “towards the older generation and towards dead ancestors who stand, unseen but not unfelt, at the back of the living elders, reinforcing their prestige.” By contrast, in societies in the process of civilisation, “mimesis is directed towards creative personalities who command a following because they are pioneers. In such societies…‘the cake of custom’ is broken and society is in dynamic motion along a course of change and growth.” As a caveat, Toynbee did hold that primitive societies are static only “as we know them”, from their anthropological state.

Does Toynbee’s thesis provide any insight into the present state of our selfish, unmitigated individualism that has defied the moderation of learning and the refinement of custom? Does not our ineptitude incline us to the worship of past, dead heroes, instead of living ones – nations and individuals – whom we will endeavour to imitate without any excuse? The entire 50th Anniversary celebration is preoccupied by hero-worship of our ‘nationalist struggle’. Does not the abundance of Africa’s bounties – its diamonds, gold, copper and food – create in us the docility to tolerate blatant abuse by our leaders and encourage us to partake in, or aspire to, the destructive vanity of primitive acquisition? Does not our interethnic intolerance denote a residue of the clannish orientation of primitive demography as against the more accommodating nature of civilizations?
Managing a modern country poses a civilization challenge to us. Within a hundred years we are called upon by an ever-shrinking world to uphold the etiquettes, virtues and principles developed by other nations for which many of us are hurried to undertake. Our sojourn in that course has revealed our reluctance to depart from our ancestral terminal of primitive accumulation. We see ourselves as individuals first before locating our coordinates in the community, a trait that invites us to decimate into our personal estate whatever public property is entrusted in us, thence the collapse of every public institution and corporation in the country.

I disagree that this unfortunate station is reserved for our leaders. The followers too aspire to it. Taking the North for example, all its present and past governors are from very humble backgrounds, children of the talakawa, if you like, except Sardauna who came from the aristocracy. The same students sons of talakawa who walked the distance of 140 km from Zaria to Kano in 1976 when Murtala was assassinated to commemorate with his family are the same leaders who are ransacking our public treasury today. The universities they passed through were unable to bridle their primitive penchant to accumulate illegal wealth at the expense of the society. Also, communities all over the country accord traditional titles only to such looters. I have not heard anyone ever so honoured because of his accomplishments in scholarship, integrity or good governance. The problem is endemic.

Many writers and commentators have made public their views of what we and other similar African nations need to do. On this, I subscribe to the theory that individuals determine the course of their societies. Social progress, in the words of Bergson, whom Toynbee was generous in quoting on this issue, “…is really a leap forward which is only taken when the society has made up its mind to try an experiment; this means that the society must have allowed itself to be convinced, or at any rate allowed itself to be shaken; and the shake is always given by somebody.” We need to discover the seed of our progress that is ingrained in the living Nigerian or African personality that carries the genome of our salvation, whom Toynbee aptly called ‘genius’, and who would be the subject of the concluding half of this topic next week.

I admit that this discourse is unusually long. I indulged in the space considering that we are on holiday with plenty of time at our disposal. I, nevertheless, dedicate it to Sumpo and to many others who always prefer the essays when they are long.

Tilde
1 October 2010