These are not exactly innocent times in/for Nigeria. No they are not. And it is not too difficult to rationalize this brutal fact. Nigerians clamoured for change. They got change. But it does not seem that it is the complexion of change they bargained for. However, the supreme truth is that change has come. And change can be for better or for worse. It can be the change that enhances the sum-total of our lives or reduces it to a zero sum. The worsening, oppressive social and economic tide and the political contradictions which assault our emotions bear eloquent testimony to the aridity of life in the nation.
Tragically, this numbing reality vacantly stares at our nation eyeball to eyeball. With the relentless spate of murderousness by so-called Fulani herdsmen, intriguing political chicanery, unebbing tide of violence, mindless destruction of lives and property, growing security uncertainties and the gross dearth of patriots to rise to the challenge, Nigeria careers rather dangerously on the precincts of a depthless precipice. The situation may not be as grim as delineated, some may reason. Maybe not. But there is no controversy that these are blood-stained, guilt-laden and angst-ridden days in our nation.
It is not as if, strictly speaking, there have been moments of innocence and sanity in Nigeria’s warped national history. There have not been, at least not in recent memory. Indeed, Nigeria’s history appears to be one long, unrelieved narrative of national haemorrhage. Its plot has been mediated by political intrigues, subterfuge, ethnic bigotry, sectarian discontent, and the absence of a national ethos. Or perhaps the presence of a distorted ethos.
This in itself has not been helped by our diversity which defines our heterogeneous and fractious existence. Such diversity has been an invaluable asset to some societies. Diversity, whether democratic or demographic, religious or regional, has been the leaven which rises the dough of development. Not to Nigeria. To Nigeria, it has proved to be a supreme liability as we have stubbornly refused to harness it for positive national needs.
Nigeria’s narrative trajectory fails to cohere at significant moments and this renders notoriously difficult the task of building a cohesive nation of our aspirations. Our nation is an impressive study in paradoxes. It inspires hope at one moment and in the next triggers great despondency. Nigeria appears to tread the path of progress but curiously simultaneously regresses back in the eaves of prehistory.
A step taken forward ends up resulting in several others in reversal. The outcome has been a rather circuitous, tortuous and torturous march in disarray to beleaguered nationhood. And we wait, almost eternally, for that moment of arrival which never dawns. But still we wait. Perhaps another Beckettian wait for Godot!
At the hub of all this is an entrenched culture of intolerance, moral corruption, ethnocentricism and rehearsed politicide. The last is perhaps the guiltiest of all the culprits that have conspired to bring Nigeria down on all fours, down on its knees. Politicide is my candid attempt at formulating a theoretical paradigm which explains the death of politics, progressive, positive, and developmental politics. In characterizing the phenomenon, I perceive it as the willful sentencing to death of people-oriented, mass-centred and humane politics in Nigeria.
Politicide is appropriately the absence of decent and result-oriented politics. It stands in radical opposition to, and defiance of, known and celebrated norms of democratic behaviour which enthrone the dictatorship of the electorate, the prioritization of the common good over egocentric tendencies, equity and justice and the empowerment of the mass of ordinary people. Societies that have conscience take pride in protecting the rights and freedoms of the weak and minorities before pandering to the interests of the powerful which, in most cases, are antithetical to a just society.
Indeed, politicide is the deliberate decapitation of democratic institutions, principles and tenets and the eclipsing of the rights and freedoms of the people to a civilized and enlightened ethos. It militates against the idea of the commonwealth being controlled by the people and rather concentrates it in a few sticky, thieving hands. It breeds an army of parasites: ticks, lice, worms which feed ravenously where they never labored. Politicide creates conditions fertile for the efflorescence of vile vultures and hysterical hyenas whose predatory instincts limit our corporate will and ambitions as a people.
Politicide is retrogressive in all its assumptions and procedures. It scorches national dreams and aspirations and squelches the hopes dutifully nursed by the marginalized majority. It comprehensively impoverishes the poor and the weak and asphyxiates the power of vision for the imperative of national rebirth and renaissance.
Politicide is an enemy nation. As an enemy nation, it is hostile to any nation, to any people desirous of a meaningful and strategic place in local and global politics. This is the reason why a nation like Nigeria must vigorously abhor and strenuously avoid politicide like a plague. Pitifully in Nigeria, politicide has been warmly embraced and our arrested development bears telling testimony to this willful tragedy.
Politicide is clearly part of the problem but not part of the solution. It has consolidated the hegemony of mass poverty, hunger, disease, political brigandage, economic decay, electoral fraud, social morass and cultural ennui. It is at the root of the radical Islamism we are experiencing today in Nigeria. Boko Haram issues from, and goes into, politicide. Boko Haram represents the steep national descent to a Hobbesian national reality because of the gross poverty of our politics. This has caused us unrelieved opprobrium before the rest of humankind. Nigeria is fast becoming another Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and the like where talented bombs planted by islamists have sprouted into a heaving harvest of death and deluge of cascading tears. So is the mindless violence and carnage perpetrated by Fulani jihadists in the guise of cattle rearers.
In the present circumstances, religion has ceased to be the rational solution to Nigeria’s postcolonial predicament. It has not been the solution in the course of our national history, anyway. Rather, it is the very cockpit where the adversarial skirmishes are enacted. And the result has been a cistern of flowing blood, a delta of tears, distributaries of despair and a stagnant pool of dreams whose putrefaction has become definitive of the Nigerian pathology. And we are still chewing the galled nuts of religion. The persistent paradox is that the more religious we become, the more vicious our inhumanity manifests and the more parlous Nigeria’s condition unfolds.
Professor Tsaaior is of the School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria.