“Since the death instinct exists in the heart of everything that lives … let us unfasten the ties that bind us to life, let us cultivate our death wish, let us develop it, water it like a plant, let it grow unhindered” Eugene Lonesco
We are a nation with a death wish. Please pardon my pessimism. Anybody who has followed my writings in this forum can vouch that I am an incurable optimist when it comes to the future of Nigeria. But it is often said that lunacy is losing perception of reality. Our realities as a nation paint a depressing and discouraging picture.
As if we cannot read the handwriting on the wall, America has once again predicted Nigeria’s imminent disintegration. In 2005, an American Intelligence agency predicted that Nigeria will cease to be a united country, or might become a “failed state” in about 10 years. The time is halfway gone and we are halfway there. What a depressing time?
The psychology of predictions runs deep. It is a universally accepted historical phenomenon.
According to the Thomas theorem, proposed in 1928 by W. I. Thomas, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." Thomas argued that people react not only to the situations they are in but also to how they perceive the situations and the meaning they attach to predictions.
From the way our national affairs have been conducted in the past few months, it is clear that the general reaction and mood in Nigeria has been defined by the predictions of our impending disintegration. The trajectory we are on as a nation will finally make America’s prediction a reality.
Yet many of us are not as outraged as we should be. We continue in our politics of insensitivity and dismiss America’s predictions as a conjecture of Western opinion. In fact, many Nigerians believe that the predictions point to Western conspiracy and bias.
Nevertheless, the handwriting on the wall is very clear. Nigerians at home and in the Diasporas anticipate the worst on a daily basis. The future of the Nigerian nation is not clear, not even to those who are at the helm of affairs. The basis of America’s prediction is that we have failed to organize a society where governance, freedom and opportunity are a common undertaking that thrives within the framework of law and order. Even in the face of these realities, we play the proverbial ostrich and pretend that the impending collapse of Nigeria is a figment of America’s imagination.
Yet it is only in confronting these realities that the future becomes brighter and more hopeful. Only a nation with a death wish will fail to take bold steps to change a direction that clearly leads to disaster. So far we are halfway down the road to being a failed state. My cynicism is not so much because we are going through this period of trials but because we have continued to ignore the lessons of history.
Historically, no nation survives without the fundamentals of responsive governance, accountability, and law and order. There is convincing evidence that these pillars that have been historically tested and proven to be the strength upon which a successful nation is built are lacking. Yet we continue on the wrong path, like a people with a death wish. If the foundation of Nigeria had been laid with responsive governance, accountability, and law and order, these trying times would not have threatened Nigeria’s existence as a nation.
Those who argue that other nations have had the same kind of trials and survived completely ignore the fact that every nation thrives and survives according to its foundation. Our foundation does not give us the leverage or the robustness to withstand the varieties of sustained man-made challenges that we have seen in the past weeks and months. As a nation, Nigeria has always been on the edge, and the slightest issue will tip it over.
Please, allow me to draw an analogy that we can relate to.
The relationship between a nation and its citizens is a marriage. The challenges of one marriage may be a blissful occurrence in another. So it is wrong for anybody to assume that we can face the same kinds of challenges that America or any other nation faced and yet remain unscathed.
The foundations of nations are inherently different – so is their national character. Making the assumption that we will remain unscathed in the face of all these challenges not only ignores the reality of Nigeria’s foundation as a nation but also ignores the reality of our national character. While Nigeria’s foundation as a mosaic of nations makes America’s prediction plausible, our national character makes the prediction even more plausible.
For instance, as Nigerians we are deficient in the tradition of compulsive altruism required for the survival of a group and the building of a viable and successful nation. It is impossible to survive as a group in a society where personal and narcissistic desires take preeminence in the populace. Organizing a society that will survive requires a general understanding that our collective interests as Nigerians supersede any personal or ethnic interests.
Predictions of Nigeria’s disintegration have reached a crescendo. Anybody with a crystal ball, or simply the intelligence to extrapolate, has predicted Nigeria’s doom. And the truth is that we are working very hard to make sure that these predictions come to pass as quickly as possible. In my opinion, those who make these predictions should save their time and energy. We know our fate already.
We are a nation with a death wish.
Hamilton Odunze Co-editor African Analyst