2015 AND THE DOOMSDAY SCENARIO
Before the end of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s rule in 2007, a report by some United States military analyst based on periodic scenarios, had predicted that Nigeria will collapse in 2015. Many Nigerians laughed over the report, others simply ignored it, while others saw it as just mere Western mischief propelled by capitalist interest. Though it wasn’t affiliated with the official stand of the US government, it was seen to be by many Nigerians. More simulated dissertations on Nigeria’s disintegration by US military scholars were to follow; one of the most recent report released in February 2011 (discarding the 2015 disintegration the date), said Nigeria will collapse in 2030. That is, that Nigeria will either go the way of a 1975 Lebanon or a 1991 Somalia. No doubt, predictions can be unreliable; Nastradamus made world predictions during his time but critically speaking, his predictions were so vague that they could be applied to anything anyone decides they apply to. Ironically, it is Nigerians now who are talking about the possible collapse of Nigeria, not even in 2030 but in 2015. Why should some predictions be taking seriously? Because we cannot afford to take the risk of totally discarding them and continually turning a blind eye to the conditions that make these predictions likely come true. Most often these are conditions that are also inherent in countries that have been classified as failed states (though this classification varies from scholar to scholar). Those who have predicted that Nigeria will split in 2015 have based their prediction on the ranking by some analyst of Nigeria as a failing state.
What makes a failing state?, some publications have indicated common characteristics of a failing state to include ‘a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations and sharp economic decline’ . But the major question should not be whether Nigeria will divide eventually some- day, but whether we will divide peacefully or forcefully? Unanimously fighting for national independence was one thing, but fighting now for and against national disintegration is another thing entirely. A sovereign national conference will most likely fail because of the complex cosmopolitan nature of Nigeria, our distinct history, and the numerous interests involved. Either way, whether the masses will support a divide or not will depend on the extent to which boundary disputes are settled, agitations for state creations are met and most importantly, if the economy and standard of living of the average Nigerian improves extensively.
Some Northern elites have threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable should President Goodluck Jonathan attempt to run for another term while others have threatened the disintegration of Nigeria should the President rig the elections in his favour or that of his party. The consensus by most of them being that power should shift back to the north in 2015. Either way, there is a tendency for a sectarian crisis if things are not handled boldly and carefully. There is the possibility of people rallying round cultural organizations, Political Movement’s, regional and factional groups e.g. OPC/Afenifere for the Yoruba’s, MASSOB/Ndigbo for the Igbos, and Arewa for the Hausa’s. Minority groups will either align themselves with these larger groups, reactivate their own old movements, strengthen existing movements, or form new groups of their own. With significant government control only at the centre as seen in Afghanistan and Somalia, the government’s security apparatus will be overstretched fighting factions and keeping factions from fighting one another. Then the government would be accused of taking sides if one faction is dealt with more severely. An arms race would develop between groups, and leaders will be tempted to arm their groups. The security agencies who wouldn’t be immune from ethno-religious sentiments themselves, will consequently find it hard to crack down on particular groups. Politics will now be between liberals and traditionalist on the one hand and religious extremist and secularist on the other. Those that see a total collapse of Nigeria as an ideal process should however study the history of Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan and Sudan to have an in-depth idea of what war torn countries look like.
The British through the Amalgamation might have made a mistake of forcing us to live together and depend on one another socially, economically, and politically, to suit their aims. But Nigerians are making a greater mistake by not seeing the dangers of a premature split. States in Nigeria are dependent on each other for oil, food, commerce, education, etc. This is a case of ‘one body different parts’ just as many Nigerians from different tribes have investments across different states of the federation. Until there is self-sustaining economic diversification by all states, a split will be catastrophic. Those already with oil are not guaranteed progress and those without oil are not guaranteed failure. Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporting country in the world with the largest reserves of heavy crude, but yet 80% of the people are poor. Other countries such as Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, etc. don’t have oil or significant quantities of minerals but are rich. The truth is that those that have oil might not be propelled to look further for other economic potentials, while those that don’t have oil might be pressured to look within.
As Nigerians we marginalise ourselves when we talk about ethnic representation instead of national representation. Even if we split-wherever we split to; the bombs of Boko Haram will not stop, The militancy in the delta will not completely end, the religious fanaticism and hypocrisy by the clerics and the religious gullibility by the people will not subside. The targets may change in the newly created or resultant entities, but the conditions that led to the split in the first place will still continue; from national-state- tribal- village-clan-family.
Nigerians have displayed the ability to work well under pressure. We should instead find ways (and channel our energies) of tackling the things that cause frustration in our society; things that want to make us split e.g. corruption, mismanagement, insecurity, continued insensitivity to the plight of the masses etc. we must hold on like Ghana did until we get it right even if it means by embracing the ‘Jerry Rawlings tactics’ to fight corruption. Our weaknesses or differences can be our strength if only we can harness the positive aspects of our diversity and population.
Bulus Nom Audu
Abuja based Defence and Security Consultant,
No 12 Raising Street, Asokoro Abuja,