By Sylvester Odion Akhaine
Dear BT, I have chosen this medium of an open letter to reach out to you due to the substantial issues I intend to bring to your notice in the full glare of the Nigerian public.
You are important to me as a comrade in the Nigerian project, and as a co-combatant in the seedy days of military rule who barely survived the noose of the military juntas in our country. While some of you ran into exile and coordinated effectively the external front of the anti-military struggle, some of us remained in the jungle with the beast absorbing its murderous barbs and painfully, a sizeable others paid the supreme price.
Many may not know the burden you bore for the struggle to rid Nigeria of the scourge of military rule and that a sizeable number of the exiled community survived on your generosity and that generosity was extended to the field soldiers who dared the dictatorship at home. I salute your courage and commitment.
With the advent of the Fourth Republic, a few of us took solace in the academia interrogating the truth so that Nigeria may be a better place while some of you found anchor in the quasi democratic process and have variously influenced the direction of politics. Also, many others have been completely forgotten while shenanigans serenade the corridors of power.
Your switching role as both opposition and mainstream actor has been quite exciting but remember that your region of the country, western Nigeria, has since independence remained the pearl of the country. It has maintained a dominant and hegemonic opposition status, speaking truth to the central authorities. This region is enamoured of freedom and has clear perspective where it wants to be in the global scheme of things.
Thus, much of the development in the region was not so much a product of fidelity to the parasitic centre as it is a product of developmental ideology and the quest to free itself from the anti-developmental, anti-intellectual and domineering disposition of the feudal forces that control power at the centre.
At the dawn of the Fourth Republic underlined by a pacted transition that brought Obasanjo to power, there was this current that the west cannot continue in its opposition mode. The vacillation engendered by that momentary fickle-mindedness led to the decimation of the progressive forces in the region and it is noteworthy that your steadfastness in Lagos state salvaged whatever was left of the opposition.
The current which favours the abdication of opposition role to a central player came into fore in the count-down to the 2015 general election. The worn argument is that you cannot remain in perpetual opposition. Although a minority current, it assumed dominance with the alliance with the feudal forces of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) with other parties in the 2015 federal elections.
You perhaps thought bringing to power these conservative feudal forces could foster your personal ambition to call the shots at the centre. What an error! Those who supported the alliance may have done so for various reasons, many bothering on naivety and the failure of political prediction.
The Buhari Administration you assisted to power has been a misadventure. The regime has failed in all fronts and the alliance has demonstrated ill-preparedness for the nitty gritty of governance; of course, the alliance died with the assumption of office of the presidential candidate, a hermit who lacked the intellectual capacity for governance.
The country’s ranking in major globally known governance indexes, such as Corruption Perception Index; International Press Freedom Index; World Justice Project’s Rule of Law index; Rand Merchant Bank’s Africa Investment Attractiveness Index; Global Retail Development Index; World Economic Forum Networked Readiness Index; Global Competitiveness Index; World Internal Security and Police Index; Worst Electricity Supply by World Economic Forum Report; Education Funding Index and World’s importer of petroleum product scale just to mention a few has dropped.
The security complex has been Fulanised in ways that have raised nepotism to an art in a multi-ethnic country. Above all, the government has turned Nigeria into one huge slaughtering field, of bloodletting being perpetrated by his kinsmen and the country more than ever prowls on the brink of collapse and manifests all known symptom of a fragile state.
The consequence, over which western countries have always expressed a morbid fear, an implosion in Nigeria with a domino effect on the West Africa sub-region, looms in the horizon. All is certainly not well. The present administration has now completely lost the goodwill of many Nigerians who fervently wished for change.
The time has come to undo the unfortunate coalition and pave way for a new political dispensation. Do not harbour the illusion of ‘relevance’ that came with the electoral victory in 2015. In the stratagems of the feudal forces you ceased to matter the moment you buoyed their electoral victory.
Your madam was right to say you had been thrashed by the present administration. Do not waste your time in a twilight, make-believe relevance by means of some trouble shooting occupation in the party. It is merely the death pang of a dying government. The handwriting on the wall is clear: this government is a thing of the past.
Indeed, there is this emerging rationale for you to remain in the alliance to foist President Buhari on Nigerians for a second term. The logic runs thus: If Buhari is allowed to do a second term, the North would have had its right of an eight-year slot in government at the centre; and it will then be the turn of the West to take a shot at the presidency.
This may seem ingenious but very weak for three reasons. One, the extant Nigerian constitution has no zoning in its substance but a convenience device of the political elite. Two, Nigeria would have been dead and buried if this regime continues; and three, it will be to the credit of Nigerians to be able to vote in fools and vote out fools being incapable of actualising their collective aspiration.
As David Runciman rightly notes in his The Confidence Trap, A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War 1 to the Present, “Democracies feed off hope. That is why they are poor judges of those peddling it. The people who look like they represent a fresh start, because they offer something obviously new, often turn out to mean more of the same”.
The urgency of the moment is the resolution of the country’s historical burden which prompted Colin Legum way back in 1966 to ask, “Can Nigeria escape its past?” Restructuring Nigeria holds some promise. By restructuring, I mean a substantial transformation of the structure of state and government to invest in the component peoples of Nigerian both fiscal and political autonomy in ways that is coordinate with the centre. It is to be noted that without restructuring development cannot be unleashed. The extant regime is incapable of treading along this path.
My clarion call is that you should please come back to the opposition mode, the variant, Ian Shapiro amplified as loyalty opposition. It means loyalty to the core values of the country irrespective of the government in power. By core values, I mean respect for human life and property and application of distributive and remedial justice in the allocation of national wealth.
Please take the foregoing as counselling from a friend. Some of us love you better than the sycophants around you. Avoid being the proverbial fly that followed the corpse to the grave.
As the Yoruba would say: Tinubu ro’nu!
Dr. Akhaine, former General Secretary, Campaign for Democracy in Nigeria, is an Associate Professor and Acting Chair in the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University.