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Opinions of Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Columnist: Sanya Oni

Fallen, failing or failed state?

If the Buhari administration had somewhat harboured the expectation that the irritations from Nigeria’s foremost letter writer will at some point peter out, or at least lose traction to be taken any seriously, the pointless overdrive by the administration’s hierarchs which followed can only be a measure of how the famed Ota-farmer’s testimonials means more to it than it is willing to admit.

For far beyond the lexical exertions about whether the country has failed, is failing or has fallen, and who is more culpable, the real matter – which is whether the current administration has lived to its promise since 2015 when it took over the coveted mantle of leadership – would appear to have been conveniently buried in the rubble.

But then, as they say, the stats – or if you prefer, the unflattering indices, has like the open sore – has not only refused to go away despite the administration’s growing irritation just as the haunting has become too much to ignore. In this as indeed many theatres of the nation’s life on which majority of Nigerians have sought to remind the administration of its promise of change but which has disappeared like the smoke, reminding of how bad things are have become – quite frankly – superfluous.

Which is not to say that Obasanjo will not rather be Obasanjo in hypocrisy; which means that those expecting him to hold his peace or even use such routes said to ordinarily avail men that have occupied the lofty office of president either pretend to be oblivious of his character, or like the same OBJ of whom they love to hate, are just as insufferable!

Let’s begin with the pot shot which ignited this latest fire of the presidency:

“I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.

“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.”

Like our own Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka would say of the OBJ jibe, the statement will certainly be true in every material particular – excepting that in the opinion of our big men at the presidency and their hired hands – the imprint of a certain St Mathew domiciled in Ota – makes it false in its entirety!

I don’t know of your take: I personally need to validation from OBJ to know how bad things are. Neither do I need the perennially unending reference to the Failed States Index of which Nigeria is said to sit pretty 14th place among the countries with potentials to sunder. Why should that big deal? Wasn’t Nigeria in 2009, some 11 years back, ranked 15th on the same index out of a total of 177 countries?

Guess the same could be said of our crowning of as the poverty capital of the universe which some Nigerians now tout as evidence that things have gone bad. Really? What could be new or even novel about that in a country where, in the last decade and half, some 12+ million kids are perennially out of school? And this does not even include the Almajiri caste, the luckless group of pre-teens who only recently came into the radar, when our northern governors, in some feigned concerns about public health, imagined that the best way to deal with the menace is to either ship them in truckloads into their states of origin.

The same could also be said of OBJ’s other charge – the so-called mismanagement of diversity and how this has hampered our socio-economic development.  Again, nothing in the charge can be said to be new. What would be new is if the administration suddenly shed its signature insularity and clannish predilections to harness our diversity for the common good.

Currently, the joke out there is that President Buhari promised to bring the naira and the United States dollar into parity. That the then aspirant, one-time petroleum minister once said that nothing of the so-called fuel subsidy exists; that a serious government could fix the refineries and the power sector in a matter of months! And those are on the records. Did I hear someone say memories are powerful!

I return to the regular, day to day, testimonies of Nigerians who, suffering the scourge of incompetent state apparatus, are least prepared to suffer the semantic indulgence as in making the distinction between “failing or failed” states.

I am not sure the name Modupe Oyetoso will ring any bell. Ordinarily, it should, at least in a different sense were things to be as they should be. Her story aptly captures the Hobbesian state into which Nigeria has descended. On her way to her farm in Lanlate, Ibarapa East Local Government of Oyo State, some hoodlums waylaid her car, snuffed out the life of her fiancé who was on the wheel at the point, after which they took her into the bush until the distraught family was able to raise a hefty ransom for her freedom.

We are talking here of a young lady who ordinarily deserved to be celebrated for trying to make good on her passion – farming unlike many youths of her age pounding the streets in our cities for non-existent jobs. And that was some few months back!

Let’s consider another testimony from the half of the world since long surrendered to the hoodlums, the north-western state of Zamfara. As captured by an online medium TRTWORLD – Citizen Muhammed Usman had boarded a bus from Gusau, the Zamfara State capital en route to see his family in Dangulbi, a small farming community said to be about 50 kilometres away only for the bus to be confronted with an 18-man fully armed gang who shot sporadically at it. Instinctively grabbing the child who sat next to him and covering him with his body, he discovered only after gunfire stopped that the child had died in his arms. There were other casualties including the child’s mother. Still, that did not stop the hoodlums from taking the 50-year-old primary school teacher into captivity in the woods. He would be released 18 days after but only after a ransom of N1.5 million was delivered.

These are typical, day to day realities that Nigerians face. Now, if that is not a symptom of a failing state, the widespread offer concession to terrorists and other terrorist elements cannot be anything but be pointers to the declining capacity of the state.

Describing the situation as failed, failing or failure would therefore seem a matter of opinion. Too bad that an administration that once described the Jonathan administration as incompetent when the Boko Haram not only sacked 17 local government headquarters in Borno but hoisted its flag there has suffered a strange form of paralysis in dealing with the monstrosity of banditry and kidnapping!

That to me is hardly the way to be in charge!

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