Nigeria: Just Before The Armageddon


By Emmanuel Arodovwe 

The scriptures describe the Armageddon as the site of a battle during the end times. It is the mother of all battles between the Messiah and Satan the devil, characterised by collective destruction and annihilation preceding the end of the present world. The term has been borrowed in this piece to describe the now almost certain collective destruction to which we seem all to be headed in Nigeria given the present virtually helpless situation we seem to find ourselves.  It is indeed the case, that “Things have Fallen Apart” and “the centre can no longer hold”, or more satirically that “there is no need for control, since everything is under alarm”.

Events of the past two years or at least since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed the leadership of State in May 2011, certainly should make even the most die-hard optimist among us have a rethink about the propriety or otherwise of the continued corporate existence of the multinational state called Nigeria. In fact, one is apt to assume that one of the easiest jobs in Nigeria presently is that of a social commentator or public analyst, given that the subject matters are replete and so much with us to require any serious brain racking or special re-collective prowess. Is it the wanton destruction of lives and properties on a daily basis?  Is it the laughable state of insecurity that has become a national embarrassment? Is it the numerous cases of corruption and the thieving of the people’s commonwealth running into billions of naira? Is it the high rate of unemployment, youth restiveness, Boko Haram activities and the Niger-Delta insurgence? Is it the comatose state of the economy? The list is simply embarrassingly endless. Today, very few amongst us would doubt that our challenges have simply defied all known solutions and that we are easily headed towards a point of collective destruction or what in the Apocalypse is referred to as the Armageddon. We also do realise that quite a significant percentage who still feel insulated from the goings-on around us (the so-called patriotic Nigerians), living ‘comfortably’ in their imagined sanctuary, may be wondering what our pessimism is about.

The position of several scholars whose view I tend to agree with is that the processes which led to the creation and constitution of African states were not only abysmally flawed, but stood literally on its head, the logic and principles guiding social historical emergence, existence and development of societies, the world over, and any progress enhancing development and sustainable peace in Africa including Nigeria would have to be preceded by a conscious, purposive and practical effort on the part of her leaders and policy makers to undo the arbitrary resolutions of the 1884/85 Berlin Conference which set in motion the processes leading to the creation of such state empires as Nigeria in 1914. It begs the question to continue to insist that 1914 is long time enough to have gotten over whatever poor decision was taken in hurriedly amalgamating peoples of widely differing ideologies and orientations together. It simply amounts to foolish pretence to assume that one could cover up some wrong with a few sugar-coated words and policies here and there and expect to get away with it for too long. Even the Christian Bible teaches that only the foolish would attempt to build a house on a shaky foundation and expect it to stand the test of the rains and winds. Nigeria is simply falling apart to the test of the challenges being thrown at it because its foundation was from the onset faulty. A sure path to the resolution of the challenges is to address the problems from bottom up no matter what massive efforts and time this would require.

For the records, it is worthwhile to note that the Berlin West African Conference of 1884/85 was what gave formal legal recognition to the process of sharing out the territory and peoples of Africa among major powers of Europe resulting in their “effective occupation” of the territory. Unfortunately the continent was carved up and shared among the European colonial occupiers without any regard for the integrity of sovereign states and nations, their cultures, mores and traditions.

The greatest wrong perhaps resulting from the Berlin Conference occasioned by the “Scramble for Africa” was the wholesale division and partitioning of the continent without the least of respects and regard for the host continent and her peoples. Of course, it was the case that the map of Africa was literally placed on a table and there and then carved and shared among the colonial interlopers as it suited their whims and caprices.

Thus unlike the classical European states such as Britain, France and Germany, which were founded on pre-existing national identities, for example language, most African states were products of an arbitrary and artificial creation and were thus faced from the onset with the irresolvable problem of constructing an all embracing national identity on the foundation of artificially constructed states as well as the burden of convincing their peoples to transfer their loyalties and patriotism from the real, immediate, natural nations to the artificial ones. It is not difficult to see the futility and impracticability of such national tasks.

Given the challenges of governing an amalgam state and the tendency of such multi-national state to be prone to conflicts, several scholars have argued that when the African ruling elites took over the reign of affairs following the attainment of political independence, they should have convened another conference to undo the evils of the Berlin Conference. The first meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) held in Addis Ababa in 1963, should have been the ideal platform to redress the anomalies of the Berlin Conference. Instead, the leaders in that conference gave primacy of interest to the protection of their territorial integrity and sovereignty and hence pledged themselves to respecting of the artificially created boundaries, thereby giving tacit approval to the events in Berlin. Of course the lure of power and the prospects of taking over the departing white man’s juicy position and privileges seriously beclouded their sense of sound judgment.

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Since the 1960s, over five decades have passed without any end in sight to the issues of incessant civil wars, tensions, looting and corruption, inept leadership, poverty, etc. in Africa. Clearly history and hard facts have proven any iota of optimism upon which were based the resolutions to maintain the artificially created territories by African leaders in 1963 to be misplaced. Therefore a crucial step in the right direction would be to generate ideas and set machineries in motion for the outright redressing of the resolutions from Berlin.

It is laughable and embarrassingly so, when policies which sound so nice on paper are, year in year out, churned out in attempts to resolve Nigeria’s unending crises and confusion. Such commissions as the EFCC and ICPC, as well as whatever transformation agenda the present administration may be pursuing are simply attempts at building castles on sinking foundations. This is not even to think that the case of African states, nay Nigeria have no precursors in history. We simply have failed to learn form history.

The now defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and former Yugoslavia are easily two cases in point. The amalgamation of the peoples of the USSR in 1917, barely a year before the end of the First World War and three years after Nigeria’s own amalgamation was thought then to be the wisest step to have been taken by Lenin. Of course, the union endured 74 years of the good, the bad and the ugly and saw its leadership change hands from Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov and then to Gorbachev. These, by any standards are world class leaders, and tried all within their reach to bring in stability to the USSR multi-national state structure through various policies and reforms. But when Gorbachev, who incidentally became the last ruler of the empire got really serious with his reformatory policies of perestroika and glasnost meaning “reconstruction” and “openness” respectively, he simply stumbled at the hard truth that the USSR was not reformable. It was either it existed or it did not. Gorbachev thought he could restructure “everything” without touching the very foundations that supposedly held the union together. He was to learn that this goal was simply unattainable. To restructure everything, and yet to leave intact the foundation laid by Lenin was a logical impossibility. In pursing his reformatory policies to their logical conclusion, both Gorbachev and the USSR were simply consumed by them.

Thus emerged fourteen independent nation states from the erstwhile USSR: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Turkmenstein, and Russia. Yugoslavia which was also a multi-national state has also since disintegrated into Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian and Macedonian nations.

The day any Nigerian leader chooses to get half as serious with any reformatory policy or agenda as did Gorbachev, he and Nigeria will easily be consumed by the policies themselves. This much they know but prefer rather to deceive the populace thereby postponing the “evil day” which in any case would still happen anyway, just only at a greater cost than if nature were allowed to take its course uninhibited.

The standard criteria for nationhood, scholars agree, are a defined territory, a common language, same psychological trait and of course a common history. Juxtaposed against all these, Nigeria does not come anywhere near a nation status, yet we are inclined to think of Nigeria as a nation. It is laughable and somewhat bewildering how a people could imagine to run an empire made up of such authentic widely differing nations as the Yorubas, Igbos, Hausa–Fulanis, Edos, Urhobo-Isokos, Ijaws, Kanuris, Ogonis, etc. and manage the conflicts and irreconcilable differences arising naturally there from, through some sweet, hollow speeches and self defeating policies. This is at the expense of hundreds of lives lost on a daily basis and the continuous looting of the common wealth of the peoples meant ordinarily for their individual nation’s development. Curiously, nature must take its course no matter how humans smartly tend to bend its logic. Presently, we have all begun to dance to the music of all nations on their way to perdition, and our own Armageddon is closer than many of us imagine.

With the intensification of the attacks from the Boko Haramites, the revival of insurgencies from the south-south and Niger Delta region, the insistence on Biafra, and on secession by the MASSOB group, even with the continuous wrongful detention of its leader Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and the threat of his being charged with treason by the Nigeria multi-national state empire, the revival of the OPC in the Western region and several other yet-to-be-formed and identified blood tasty and justice seeking groups still warming up on the sidelines, not to mention the nauseating quality of leadership, the elevation of corruption and “chop I chop” culture in the “hallowed” chambers of governance, and the dangerous prospects of the 2015 election year, with all the red-eyed desperados breathing threats in the air both in the various states and at the centre, each promising to make the Nigerian state ungovernable and perhaps uninhabitable, if they failed to win the election, one would simply have to be unusually and ill-advisedly optimistic, and somewhat foolhardy to think that Nigeria has a future beyond 2015. Only a bold step at doing what is needful now will save us all from this impending Armageddon. In this course it seems we would either all survive together or perish together. The Armageddon is here.

•Arodovwe, a graduate of the University of Lagos, wrote in from Lagos.

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