Nigeria Jaga-Jaga -By Charles Odimgbe

Filed under: National Issues |

Charles Odimgbe

It is no longer news that Nigeria is fast falling apart. It is about time we began rethinking this union of people, put together by the British, albeit for their own selfish interests. However, we must understand that the fact the British put together this union to achieve their selfish interest, does not mean the country cannot survive or thrive in its current state. From all practical purposes, Nigeria has been endowed by God with all necessary qualities and characteristics that, if managed correctly, could make us a model for other African nations to follow. But what do we do? We continue to let ourselves be overcome by ethnic sentiments and xenophobic tendencies instead of creating an environment where all could thrive and succeed.

I chose the title “Nigeria Jaga-Jaga” from the old Afro beat song because, when you look at what is going on in our country today, you would notice that everything is going to hell. First, the supposedly defeated Boko Haram is on a resurgence. The peoples’ wish to recall erring elected officials is being thwarted by the judiciary. Meanwhile, every errant group is either declaring a desire to separate from the Republic or threatening to do harm to the country’s infrastructure.

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because everybody is looking the other way as our security agencies enact out-of-control harassment and killing, kidnappers seize unsuspecting citizens, and “ritual” murderers continue their wanton and total disregard for the sanctity of human life. Now, we have a new mafia-style assassination of innocent worshippers inside our places churches. And then you wonder what next?

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because we are yet to resolve the issue of conflict between Fulani herdsmen and hapless farmers in different parts of the country. That discussion has been totally abandoned, with our leaders shying away from having a true and honest national dialogue about how best to handle the issue.

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because we have no clue who is running the country now, whether it is the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (who has had several stints as Acting President), President Muhammadu Buhari, or members of a cabal around the president. Nigeria is jaga-jaga because, while the government talks about the billions of naira recovered from some high-profile individuals, we have not even begun to articulate how best to get these fugitive ex-public officials and their cohorts back home from their hiding places abroad to stand trial for their crimes. The mere forfeiture of looted monies does not impress me, even though I welcome it as a first move. What will send a strong and deterrent message is jailing some of these high-profile embezzlers. If Nigeria wants corruption to go away, we must stop this behavior of negotiating away consequences. For if we continue the practice merely of seizing stolen assets, then other public officials may decide to get their share knowing that, if they ever get caught, all they need to do is to refund what is left and walk away.

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because, as the recession continues to bite into the lives of everyday citizens, our senators are talking about granting themselves immunity from prosecution. Meanwhile, there has been no discussion regarding reducing government overhead and bloated salaries—especially as many states have not paid workers and pensioners. You hear about huge amounts of public funds spent buying vehicles for our representatives and nothing about paying workers.

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because some of the people who were once for restructuring are now against it, and those who used to be against it are now for it or waffling with their positions. Meanwhile, disaffection and suffering continue to permeate the entire fabric of our nation. The bottom line is that Nigeria needs to be restructured.

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because, for some indescribable reason, we have opted to place on one individual, the fate of an entire nation. While our president was away getting medical attention, much of government activities ground to a halt or a crawl, despite the fact we had an Acting President. In most serious countries, the absence of a president does not stall the functioning of the economy. Even the office of the president will continue to function regardless of the absence of the president.

In Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Once the president or the governor is absent, nothing happens until they return. What kind of people arrogates so much authority to one person even to their own detriment? What a mess!

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because, as the Boko Haram menace is ravaging parts of the North, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) renewing their own war against abuse and exploitation of their land, an Arewa youth group was issuing an ill-informed quit notice to the Igbo resident in northern Nigeria. And then Nnamdi Kalu and his Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) come with his ridiculous militia! What in the hell is going on?

I think the federal government has been very patient with IPOB and their shenanigans. IPOB should be put on notice that the federal government may take more drastic steps against this young man and his militia for acts that border on treason. We have been to war before, and I do not want a repeat of what the Igbo and other southeasterners went through during the civil war.

Nigeria is jaga-jaga because of some citizens’ hesitancy about this issue of restructuring that all should embrace. Understandably, we all know that the drafters of the 1999 Constitution merely carried out the mandate of the military. At that time, Nigerians were wise to know that much resistance to that constitution could lead to the extension of military rule or dissolution of the constitution drafters. Yes, we needed to take that baby step toward setting up an apparatus for civilian rule, and that purpose was achieved. Today, the country is different! People are poised to rethink some of the constitutional decisions and the resultant outcomes. We no longer have the fear of the military, and a lot of Nigerians are beginning to find their voices.

To me, having that national dialogue today is ripe and ready. If we have the courage to have it, I predict that the outcome would be much better, provided we select the right representatives from all over the country.

President Buhari is back in the country after a prolonged medical leave in London. Halleluiah! Now, we must watch to see if this accelerated spiral to the bottom will continue or stop. The bottom line is that Nigeria is being eaten away from the inside. By the time you know it, that structure called Nigeria may implode on all of us. Unless we do the right thing, beginning with an honest dialogue about restructuring the polity.