When the historian comes, By Dan Agbese

Spare some kind thoughts for a historian writing about these times in the history of our dear country. It will be a tangled web in which he must find his way out of complex conundrums that will befuddle his trained mind as an historian.

My guess is that to ground himself in the research, he will first take a brief, general look at the country and wonder how a country that went through civilian and military rule and myriads of economic, social and political experiments to micro and macro manage its development managed to arrive, panting for breath, at the gates of hell spelt paradox.

What will shock or intrigue him most? Will it be the paradox of a rich but poor nation? He cannot but fail to be intrigued by how the fifth crude oil producer in the world managed to be so rich with the highest number of private jets in Africa but was so poor at the same time that the keepers of the global economy awarded it the unenviable crown as the poverty capital of the world. He cannot but hold his laughter in check as he notes the incredible evidence of the squandering of riches in the land of human and resource blessings envied by nations big and small, developed and under-developed. But his notebook will show that he took note of the paradox of a poor nation, wealthy citizens.

No crude oil-producing nation is numbered among the struggling, economic disadvantaged nations of the world. Nigeria achieved the feat.

        Will he be intrigued by the paradox of a federal system run as a unitary system of government with a command structure that apes the military command structure? He will note it as part of the detritus of military rule that still negatively impacts on the nature of our federalism. He will wonder how 36 states, regarded as federating units in our own political context, are treated like administrative units of the federal government. 

He will wonder how 811 governments all feed from a single financial trough, the federation account in a federal system that encourages federating units to be keepers of themselves and much of their own affairs. We have something called revenue allocation formula. It prescribes the share of each state and local government from the federation account. A state governor can simply sit on his hands until his states gets its monthly share and then go on a spending spree – to make the people happy.

        Will the historian be intrigued by our three tiers of government in law but two tiers in practice with the country unable to decide which way to go? Or in the single policing system in a federation in which crime is treated as a federal concern not a local problem? He will duly note that this is a nation in which nothing is settled. 

In my book, Nigeria, their Nigeria, I dispensed this germ of political wisdom to help future historians navigate the treacherous waters of our national politics. I wrote: “There are wonderful things to be said about Nigeria. One of these is that nothing is settled in Nigeria, their Nigeria. Not its constitution. Almost every country on earth has had one constitution. The British never even bothered to have a written one. But Nigerians have had nine. Its form of government is not settled; its system of federalism is not settled. Our country has so many unsettled matters that the only way to tackle them is to simply keep arguing about them.”

The agitation for restructuring and re-restructuring and then re-re-structuring some more is our unique national politics in action. Our ultimate objective is to arrive at a federal system of government that is so fair and so inclusive that the sons and the daughters of the nobodies sup with the sons and the daughters of the somebodies. Wanna wait to see snowflakes in hell? Take my advice. Do not wait because eternity is much shorter.

The historian may be drawn to something called power rotation, an imperfect political power sharing system between the north and the south or among the six geo-political zones. It is grounded in the philosophy of fairness and equity, to wit, no be only one tribe go chop. It is our fairness doctrine. We do not know which is at play at any point in time. He will note that the locus of power is quite often elusive and does not easily lend itself to a formula grounded in a mound of mud.

He cannot but be intrigued by two things peculiarly Nigerian. One is our undisputed religiosity. Our country is the second most religious country in the world. It counts for something. Nigeria holds the candle to only India. That India beat Nigeria to the second position must be appreciated against the fact that our entire population is less than India’s primary school enrolment.

The other is a blight spelt corruption. This is also known as cankerworm. The historian will scratch his head and his chin, trying to make sense of how such a great religious nation that should also by simple arithmetic, be the second holiest nation in the world with places of worship planted everywhere, ignored the sixth commandment and made stealing a way of life, hell fire be damned. Stealing birthed corruption and corruption has run the ring around our nation’s jugular.

But the historian will not fail to note that we fought corruption and theft among our public officers harder than any other nation on earth. Check EFCC dockets in the courts. All our rulers, in khaki or agbada, fought it. A commission exists to catch those who help themselves to our common treasuries at national and sub-national levels. These blights still have a smirk on their faces and thumb their noses at our efforts because laws and sermons on morality fail in all human societies to dam the polluted waters of human greed. After all, when you talk about the witch, she flies. He will number 419 and yahoo-yahoo criminalities as part of the consuming ambition by Nigerians to make it by hook or crook but mostly by crook.

This will also point the historian to the rule of the gun in the contests for political, tribal, religious and social supremacy in our country. He will rub his chin because he cannot make sense of the failure of 811 governments to contain criminals and make our country safe from armed robbers, bandits, killer herdsmen and other bands of criminals who rule while our redoubtable political leaders reign.

        Ah, yes, the historian will hail Nigeria, the land of unsettled matters; the land of paradoxes; the nation with 80 per cent arable land but feeds with rice from South Korea with 30 per cent arable land; the land whose public officers and leaders no get shame; the land of state-of-the-art motor vehicles driven on footpaths; the land of the rich but poor nation; the land where the poor take up public offices and emerge as wealthy men and women; the land of politics without ideologies because it makes for flexibility in the quest for power; the land of impunity in which the laws bark but lack the teeth to hold the rich accountable; the land suffused with religiosity but teams with sinners. To think that hapless Adam and his wife, Eve, were driven out of paradise because they ate fruit, mere fruit!!!

What do you think?


Written by Nike

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