Nigeria: Floundering at 60 By Bolanle Bolawole

 

By Bolanle Bolawole

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Nigeria did not just begin to flounder at 60; its floundering began a long time ago. But it had always waddled through – wobbling and fumbling all the time. It survived the pessimism of its founding fathers and, later, a two-and-half-year civil war. It has seen coups and counter-coups – failed and successful – and has had four experiments at democratic governance, the present one being the longest, running from 1999 up till now.

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Ironically, when you would have thought that the country had come of age was when it faced the most strident challenge to its existence, this time from expected and habitual quarters. Regions one had thought were secure and settled in their acceptance of the Nigeria project are now up in arms. Thanks to Muhammadu Buhari’s nepotistic governance, as well as its clueless, lacklustre and incompetent performance across board, Nigeria today stands at the edge of the precipice. It is no longer a question of whether but when and how.

How will the new nations coming out of Nigeria be counted? On the fingertips as in India/Pakistan, Pakistan/Bangladesh, Singapore/Malaysia, Sweden/Norway, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Sudan/South Sudan or like the erstwhile USSR that birthed a basketful of new nations? Time, as they say, will tell!

This house is fallen! The rain started beating it before it was born but Buhari removed the roof and dug into its foundations to hasten the decay and make the fall inevitable. A nation thrives on the patriotic instincts and nationalistic fervour of its citizens; churn of these, Nigeria has been nothing other than a mere walking corpse awaiting an undertaker. That undertaker showed up in 2015!

In his book “This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis/Midnight in Nigeria” (2000), Karl Maier described Nigeria as “the 10th most populous country (in the world), a potpourri of languages and peoples, amazing dynamism and fabulous oil reserves and the pivot on which Africa turns” but, unfortunately, “it is also a byword for chaos and corruption, military coups and repression, poverty and drug trafficking…” He should have waited for these times!

Maier was right but Nigeria survived all the negatives – chaos, corruption, military coups, repression, poverty, drug trafficking, name it. The amazing dynamism of the Nigerian people or, better still, of the much-oppressed Middle Belt and Southern peoples of Nigeria – has been the fillip and tonic that have dragged this country along. Why the edifice is now crumbling will amaze many, not least of all Nigeria’s oppressor class and tribe.

The very people that have suffered fools gladly for decades, enduring all manner of deprivations and indignities, suddenly have now decided they would no longer tolerate the brazen impunity, atrocious and audacious nepotism of Buhari. No more! No mas! Remember “The Super Fight” between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard the Second? Enough is now enough, to quote the vile dictator, Sani Abacha.

We have arrived at or, better still, we have now been driven to the point where this house no longer feels like home! The story of Nigeria is like that of Harry and Louis in “This House No Longer Feels Like Home”. Harry and Louis have been together for 20 years. Harry cheats. Louis cries. Harry is given a year to fix their marriage. Nigeria’s Harry and Louis have been together for three times that number of years but the cheats have refused to stop cheating; rather, they have elevated cheating to high art and flaunted it in our face, daring us to go to Hell!

But rather than go to Hell, we shall go our different places! To your tents, O Israel! The handwriting is clearly visible on the wall. Says Omar Khayyam: “The Moving Finger writs; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it”

Oh yes: Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin! Daniel 5: 26 – 28: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting…Your kingdom is divided…” It is no longer a question of “if” or of probabilities; it is now as certain as morning follows night. What is more, desperate and forlorn of hope, the Buharists make their case worse with the way and manner they have thrown tantrums and abuses at leaders of agitating peoples, including revered men of God. Would they have done that – or would they have allowed anyone to do that – to their own revered religious and political leaders?

Psalm 105: 14 – 15 says: He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm”. When King Jeroboam stretched forth his hand against the man of God in 1 Kings 13: 4, the king’s hand withered! That God is alive and changeth not (Malachi 3: 6). His standards remain the same.

It is instructive to note that Buhari’s excesses have radicalised even the most conservative sectors of the Nigerian society. So, for the gathering storm, we have Buhari and his attack dogs to blame!

Ondo election: And the winner is…

By now, the result of the Saturday, October 10, 2020 Ondo State governorship election would have been known partially or fully. My take is that the election would be free and fair; the will of my people would be allowed to prevail. The election should also be violence-free. Traditionally, Ondo is volatile. As a child, I witnessed the “Operation Wetie” (Operation Burn them Alive) of the First Republic; as an adult, I witnessed the 1983 version that forced the powers-that-be to reverse the stolen mandate of the then Gov. Adekunle Ajasin. The scars of those violent episodes remain till tomorrow on individual victims, on severed, seared, and soured relationships; and on the economy of Ondo State. I have now been old (over 60 years) and do not wish to witness another mindless destruction of life and property in our dear state. The antidote is free and fair election, pure and simple! Then shall we all be the winner!

At Osun, justice not served…

Last Wednesday, judgment was given in the case of my niece’s four-year-old daughter who was defiled by a paedophile. Technicalities, rigmaroles, and brazen rationalizations were mixed to let the vile offender off the hook. My family is distraught – again – but we have not heard the last of this matter. If they think they have put it away, they deceive themselves! They have only widened the dragnet of those who, ultimately and eventually, will pay for this crime – from the paedophile himself to all those who, in various ways and manners, helped him to escape justice. If they do not hear from us, they will certainly hear from God! For, in the immortal words of Dele Giwa, “No evil deed can go unpunished. Any evil done by man to man will be redressed, if not now, then certainly later, if not by man, then certainly by God, for the victory of evil over good can only be temporary” In doubt? Ask IBB!

NBA’s can of worms

As they say, if gold rusts, what will iron do? The last election of the Nigeria Bar Association was mired in controversy, exactly the same as had bedevilled elections into political offices in this country. The fall-out shook the Bar to its very foundations, threatening to rend it. Whereas there appears a lull in hostilities, there remains an uneasy calm in the ranks of “learned gentleman” many of who are not at ease with what appears to them as the erosion of values at the Bar. One of such wigs – also a university don and diplomat – has bared his mind. His name is Dr. Babafemi Badejo. Read on:

The Nigeria Bar Association got a new executive over a month now. Given the pervasiveness of corruption in Nigeria and its inverse relationship with the rule of law, one would have expected clear moves, even if as concretised expressions of intent, to fight the scourge of corruption in Nigeria in general and in the dispensation of justice in particular.

As K. Zannah, in a 2007 paper stated, a 1999 study in Lagos State indicated that 99 per cent of lawyers surveyed agreed that there was corruption in the state judiciary while in the same report 70 per cent of Nigerians spoken to across the country believed the judiciary was corrupt. The situation can only be assumed to be worse today. After all, our corruption perception index, including under this administration, has been very shameful.

Practical steps are needed to be jump started by the NBA leadership to further investigate and drag indicted colleagues before the legal practitioners’ disciplinary committee at a minimum. Disrobing a number of corrupt lawyers and those aiding and abetting corruption is necessary.

I have, elsewhere, defined corruption as “The abuse of power and/or authority, including manipulation of rules or opportunities or extortion from another in the public, private or social realms for self or filial/familial relations or inducement (bribery) by another in furtherance of undue gain to the self or a desired third party”. This comprehensive definition allows us to see the pervasiveness of corruption; even in our religious settings, not to talk of governments at all levels. Unfortunately, Nigerians tend to focus only on corruption at the federal government level and totally close their eyes to acts of their respective governors and local government chairpersons, not to talk of their so-called “Men of God”.

It is generally accepted that corruption, as a cancer, is killing Nigeria. The tendency is to throw up our arms that nothing can be done. But should this continue to be the case? The Nigeria Bar Association professes to stand for the rule of law, which is inversely proportional to corruption. The more there is corruption in any society, the less the operation of the rule of law in that space and vice-versa. The NBA cannot and should not be allowed to operate under a spirit of business as usual.

The dragging of lawyers towards responsibility to foster the rule of law can happen under extant laws and regulations. I repeat, the NBA can no longer continue business as usual. It should start its cleansing drives with examples from the top of the profession.

In another land, a lawyer was disrobed for lying over a traffic offence. But in our beloved Nigeria, a president of the NBA was in court over corruption and there were no pressures for his resignation: so, how, in all honesty, can we expect that NBA executive to fight corruption?

The NBA in Nigeria acts by its silence on the indictment of lawyers for perpetrating corruption in the quest of justice. The NBA leadership could have chosen to champion additional investigations and public defence processes before appropriate bodies, as deterrence to other learned friends. Such public actions would aid the delivery of a clear message that corruption must be routed out if we are to enjoy the rule of law.

Practical steps are needed to be jump started by the NBA leadership to further investigate and drag indicted colleagues before the legal practitioners’ disciplinary committee at a minimum. Disrobing a number of corrupt lawyers and those aiding and abetting corruption is necessary.

Such dragging of lawyers towards the responsibility to foster the rule of law can happen under extant laws and regulations. I repeat, the NBA can no longer continue business as usual. It should start its cleansing drives with examples from the top of the profession.

Need we say more!

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