Nigeria as a Poorly Arranged State

Take a cool look at the country, Nigeria. It helps your objectivity if you’re not from it, but even if you were, even if you’ve lived in it all your life, you cannot deny that it is very poorly arranged, socio-politically. Perhaps it was always like this, perhaps not. But it is evident that having found ourselves in such a terrible arrangement, we have let a combination of inertia, learned helplessness and the risk of negative effects of rocking the boat keep us in it. We simply attempt to just get by. Maybe it’s a Nigerian thing, this tolerance of less than optimal situations, this ability to carry a thorn in our side further than common sense would demand, and into the realms of masochism. But it’s time we rocked this boat, because it is sinking, and if we do nothing, it will sink us with it.

To begin with, Nigeria doesn’t have to be one nation to be one nation. There was a time when Nigeria was an amalgam of three recognizable nations, with a smattering of many smaller nations, all tied together in a loose confederacy. I understand the Civil War happened and thereafter, anyone who makes mention of regional autonomy became the Nigerian equivalent of Galileo at the Spanish Inquisition. But simply screaming ‘One Nigeria’ repeatedly till one is hoarse, does not One Nigeria make. There is no one Nigeria. There is a place for sweeping rhetoric and wild eyed idealism in political life but not when real lives, order and real stability is at stake. A stone cold evaluation of the Nigerian society (or even a perfunctory one) will tell you that the tribes that make up this country are distinct, culturally divergent and metaphysically separate. It’s fair and right that each region and nation with the component culture have the freedom to act for themselves, and fulfill their obligations to themselves without being unnecessarily yoked to others through a central government. Lagos and the entire West can come together, as one region and assume responsibilities, without having Abuja dictate to them. Same goes for Borno and the Northeast, Enugu and the SouthEast, and so on. Real powers should be given to them. Let the center assure the rights of citizenship, uniform standards, currency, defense and such. As of now, we pay lip service to federalism, with states too tiny to be effectual. It’s in turn made the center such a hotly contested seat, that all of us are made worse of for it. The entire arrangement is stupid.

Secondly, I do not know why as a nation, we do not have a well developed system which ensures that those who end up at the leadership of the country are picked from the carefully groomed best hands and brains in the nation. Leadership, like all things in life, has sets of people who have the qualities fit for it, and others who don’t. In most countries, the process of selection, while often unstated and informal is also very clear as to who ends up in the top levels of society and who does not. In America, it is a combination of brtual Ivy League selectivity, political winnowing through the ranks of the party, token entryism from really capable outsiders and good old nepotism. In Britain, it is a system of peerage, bicameral house with strict selectivity as one moves up, public school and elite universities and of course, the cultural edifices surrounding the royalty and aristocracy. In Arabian countries, it is a combination of family dynasties, traditional grooming, religious scholarship and education. In Asia, especially China and Japan, it is a hardcore selection based on intelligence, academic performance from an early age, party hierarchy and selection, family ties and wealth. In Nigeria, it’s mostly random. There is some beginnings of a selectivity, but there is no clear method to it. It appears Nigeria selects for the best opportunists, ass-kissers and sycophants who one up each other till one of them backs into the throne. That means we get good leadership versus bad leadership based on the same odds as a coin toss. The two arguments one can make here: the first is that those countries with a careful elite selection still suffer bad leadership. And that is true. Invariably, some leaders will be better than others. Perhaps Blair trumps Brown, as Clinton and Obama trump Bush as perhaps Abdullah trumps Fahd. But at least, there is a baseline which they never fall under, and there is a constancy to their overall direction, politically, some more than others. Nigeria shows no evidence of anything akin to a plan that outlasts whoever cooks it up. It’s all arbitrary, where one leader manages to take us one step forward, and some moron throws us all the way back. I don’t know why we think this is something we should just live with.

The second argument, and the more cutting one is that such a selection mechanism would invariably create class divisions in the country. And that is almost certainly true. While America pretends to egalitarianism, it is a known fact that the closer you are to Harvard (as a placeholder for all Ivys) the higher the chance you have of entering the cultural elite. There is inevitably a class system in place. But we assume that is not in fact, the entire point. The class system does not only exist to satisfy the egos of it’s members, it does serve a real need or purpose. The British empire was built on the back of Eton/OxBridge. The American empire was built on the back of Harvard/Yale/Princeton: whatever the dominant ideological emphasis in New England becomes the world’s accepted dogma roughly fifteen years out. This is a fact. If an unofficial class system is what we have to endure to create the kind of leadership that ever serious country needs, then let us have it. Better that we have an elite, united across tribes, if a bit removed from the masses but at least working to bring glory to them than what we have now. We do have an elite, mind you. Nature does not allow a vacuum. However, what we do have is an elite of corrupt money bags, some of the most base types in our society who have the requisite lack of scruples to push themselves to the top. Then we have a smattering of good people who are simply unable to change the situation. Maybe it’s time we pick our elite for the values and qualities we actually want, rather than pretend that a universally low class nation can ever be more than what it is.

One of the soundest principles of civisology is that a state, or a nation ought to know itself. It is an extension of the first rule of rational thought: know thyself. We keep picking the forms of governance from other places and try to force it onto our country like a foreign body part and then act surprised that our society keeps circumventing and otherwise rejecting it. Society is a metaphysically real being, it’s more than just a collection of people, fungible from one to another. It’s time we took a good look at ourselves, and made moves to organize our nation accordingly.

(At the risk of ruining the political neutrality of this exercise, I have to say that the APC as a party has shown more willingness to arrange society in a more politically rational and intelligent way, starting from the time it was still ACN/CPC. And since I consider fence-sitting immoral, I cannot take the high horse of non-partisanship. It is 2015. Elections are around the corner. And there is just one team who have the firm hand, the intelligent persons, the rationality and the forward thinking to move Nigeria forward, rather than back and that is the APC. On that note, therefore, vote Buhari for President.)


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