In 2005 The US National Intelligence Council predicted the “outright collapse of Nigeria” by the year 2020. However on its part, Nigeria launched an ambitious initiative designed to take the country into the list of the best 20 economies in the world by 2020. There is of course an unmistakable contradiction between America’s prediction and Nigeria’s dream. And it is pretty clear that reconciling these two predictions is as impossible as bringing the sun down. It is therefore pertinent to analyze the two predictions in the light of the circumstances in Nigeria.
First of all, granted Nigeria has survived a great deal of serious turbulences as a result of chronic socio-political and economic crises, her so-called 2020 dream is of course unrealistic and should be out of discussion completely. After all we live in the modern age when predictions and expectations are based on sound scientific reasoning and intelligent analyses away from mere subjective rhetoric.
Meanwhile there is a noticeable rise in the voices calling for the country’s break up by various individuals and communities in Nigeria. Apart from the North particularly the so-called core North, virtually all other parts of the country either call for it or support it. And almost all those non-Northerners who pretend to dismiss this call are government functionaries who do it for obvious reasons and would instantly switch to the other side once they loss their positions.
Realistically speaking, Nigeria being a failing state by all objective standards is grinding to a halt however not necessarily by 2020, yet she is not yet a hopeless case. A competent leadership with strong political will can still transform it, although this is what unfortunately eludes her for a long time. All elements of disintegration are there in Nigeria. Widespread frustration and hopelessness have eaten deep into the societies as a result of persistent lack or acute scarcity of opportunities. These in addition to miserable poverty have turned the vast majority of the citizenry into fatalist, who wish a dramatic turn of events that will swallow up the status-quo regardless of the consequences.
In the meantime, in their tussle for their vested interests, the elite have capitalized on the citizens’ emotions and resentment to set their respective ethnic groups against each other on the bases of ethno-religious pretexts, which has resulted into serious multilateral mistrust between them and frequently sparks bloody clashes.
Nevertheless my particular concern at the moment is not only the obvious helplessness of the government to address these challenges, but also the virtual absence of any competent, dynamic and credible reform blueprint from those who tussle for the country’s leadership.
Moreover what particularly strikes me is that neither those who support the break up let alone who oppose it have any substantive fallback plan likely to fill in the vacuum in their respective parts of the country should the break up occur. In Nigeria today there is no sectional, ethnic or religious group that has the necessary organizational potential to function as a corporate entity immediately in the aftermath of the country’s break up. As a matter of fact there are hardly any political or communal leaders charismatic enough to inspire their respective people, for they have long ago lost their credibility primarily for their failure to live up to their followers expectations over the decades.
Contrary to the assumption that Nigeria’s break up will automatically beget two countries; one in the North and the other in the South, the reality is that, should it occur under the current circumstances it would simply lead to a total anarchy whereby warlords, criminal gang leaders and drug barons will run the show.
Southerners for instance and despite their huge economic potentials are not likely to come together and form a viable country. They are deeply polarized along ethnic lines. The two major ethnic groups are often at loggerhead, and there is hardly any harmony between them and the minority ethnic groups amidst them. The minorities on the other hand mistrust each other and are vulnerable to their respective elite’s manipulation for the control of the vast oil wealth in the area, which will be the target of many interest groups within the region and beyond. Incidentally apart from that oil wealth there is nothing capable of sustaining a state on short term basis in the whole region, because the other potentials need huge infrastructural development to be exploited, which is obviously possible only under a fairly stable government.
The North’s case is even worse in many respects. The hitherto perfect cohesion between its various minority ethnic groups on one hand and the dominant ethnic group on the other has eroded, thanks to successive governments’ poor leadership policies over the past few decades. Enmity under the pretext of religious differences in particular has crept in to redefine their relationships. Mutual trust has been lost hence the chance of their coming together to form a viable state of their own is ruled out. Likewise the minorities’ prospect of forming a state of their own does not seem feasible due territorial challenges, multilateral mistrust as well as lack of instantly exploitable sustainable resources.
As for the so-called core North, the circumstances are worst. It is the poorest region in the country, and the most backward even in Nigerian standard. Granted they relatively have better chance of cohesion thanks to their shared cultural affiliation, they nonetheless do not have necessary economic potentials sustainable enough to run a state on immediate basis.
It is therefore clear that both the opponents and the supporters of the break up are effectively unrealistic, who are simply guided by sheer emotion. The cost of political vacuum is excessively high and they do not seem to take that into consideration. So while I still believe and call for positive reform in Nigeria, I also urge the stakeholders in all parts of the country to consider fallback initiatives for their respective parts lest it crumbles unceremoniously. After all the country operates a federal system under which all states are supposed to take care of themselves to a large extent, instead of looking up to the federal government for basic sustenance.
The imperative of such fallback initiative is more pressing as far as the so-called core North is concerned. This is the region to which all country’s woes are rightly or wrongly attributed. As a matter of fact, the proponents of the break up are primarily motivated by their wish to get rid of it. After all some failed coup plotters had already cut it off from the rest of Nigeria two decades ago.