Nigeria: Destined for war?

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A GOOD brother of mine just gave me a copy of Graham Allison’s Destined For War-Can America and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap and it is a very illuminating read. Alison in the great work looked at the challenge a rising China poses to the United States and the possibility of a war between the two being a natural sequence.In an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel on May 29, Allison described Thucydide’s  as “when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power, one sees inherent structural stress that makes conflict likely.

 

I look at the last 500 years, find 16 cases – 12 of them ended tragically in war, four not in war. And I hope that we can learn the lessons of the past in looking at the current challenge that  a rising China poses to a ruling America” He gave some interesting statistics which graphically depict the threat China poses to America. In 1960, China’s GDP was seven per cent of that of the United States but by 2015 it has risen to 61 per cent. Imports have climbed from eight per cent to 73 per cent, exports from eight per cent to 151 per cent and Reserves from 16 per cent to 3,140 per cent. The Greek historian Thucydides  had long explained: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times with war out in twelve of them.

Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries “great again,” the seventeenth case looks grim. Unless China is willing to scale back its ambitions or Washington can accept becoming number two in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could soon escalate, goes the projections. Looking at the grim scenario being painted in the book took me to the conference hall of Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja where the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru held a think-tank conference on “Federalism and the challenges of dynamic equilibrium in Nigeria’s federalism :Towards a national strategy ” last week. It was a very important conference on an issue that holds the key to whether there would be a Nigeria some years down the line given the stress in the land and nothing being done in the area of  constructive engagement.

 

The high point of the opening ceremony was the speech of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN). I prayed within me in the next row to him where I sat that he should have some good tiding from our “colonial office” in London where I learnt he just returned from on the eve of the conference. Place of civil society and constitution He walked to the podium with his DSS detail carrying the file containing the “atomic bomb” behind me. He rested his hands on the the dais and his detail took his position behind him. He opened the file and began to discharge the content. I froze in my seat. “Federalism is imbedded in our constitution contained in sections 2, 3 and 5. It is not out of place to state that as far as our constitutional democracy is concerned, the idea of restructuring is not a function of advocacy or agitation. It is about constitutional accommodation and or alternative constitutional amendment.

 

“As things stand, restructuring requires amending the constitution to accommodate referendum or, in the alternative, a constitutional amendment to the 1999 constitution, which in this case must be supported by majority of legislators in 24 states of the federation as enshrined in Section 9 of the constitution. “Whether that process is going to be an easy sale is a conjecture that should be left for deliberation. But one thing that is certain is the inevitable implication that abolishing states through restructuring process will certainly translate to the eventual multiplier effect of abolishing the state house of assembly and perhaps downsizing the National Assembly and probably the civil service and other related federal institution. “This indeed is a tall order that cannot be achieved through advocacy, emotional outburst or provocative rhetorics and demonstrations.

 

The beauty of democracy is in the process and legislative process is in our case the only answer.” I cringed at the quality of minds running our affairs who cannot see the  threat to the republic by the dysfunctional structure of governance that currently threatens the stability of the polity. The AGF speech did a great job of scaring all the institutions listed by the Decree 24 of 1999 a.k.a 1999 constitution by telling untruths against the advocates of restructuring that they want to scrap them. We have never defined restructuring in such crude terms.What we advocate (which he maligned as “emotional outbursts or provocative rhetorics”) is to create a structure that moves us from an indolent society to a productive one. We want every section of the country to engage in economic activity that creates prosperity for them while they all pull resources together to run common services at the centre.

 

We want a country where  every part of Nigeria creates wealth and do not become nuisance asking for dole outs based on  strengths that could aid productivity such as landmass and population.We want a country founded on equity and justice so that we can live in peace and harmony. It takes atrocious political illiteracy on the part of the reigning elite to reduce such progressive vision as asking for scrapping of states and National Assemblies. The separatist and hegemonic focres My opening shots in my contribution was to ask how we came about the Constitution the AGF was quoting from and why we are still having these conversations if the document was working. As the conference was going  on,the entire South East was in a lock-down as ordered by IPOB and MASSOB. Why did the AGF not go to Umuahia to quote that constitution for the Igbos not to obey the sit-at-home call? I equally pointed out that the type of contradictions playing out in Nigeria are usually resolved in two ways. Either through negotiated settlement or wars of separation.

The campaigners for restructuring are the people opting for a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the Nigerian contradictions. We stand at the moment between the separatists and the hegemonists whose strong  positions can only achieve same result. The separatists are tired of this contraption and want out.The hegemonists are myopic to think  that the current arrangement where instead of making the rest to join the best at the top is forcing the best to join the rest at the bottom can continue indefinitely .They can only make a constitution that does not bend to break. The declaration by the AGF is the most unfortunate pointer to the fact that a negotiated settlement of the Nigerian crisis is being foreclosed by the hegemonic forces. When Max Siollun looked at the electoral map of Nigeria after the 2015 elections, he said the country needs a “reconstructive surgery” and not a “bulldozer”. Our affairs have unfortunately been conducted with a bulldozing mindset since then.The hope that the Nigerian crises  would be resolved like the four out of the sixteen that didn’t result in war is daily being frustrated by those who cannot expand their minds to see the larger picture. Nigeria has arrived at the juncture where those who have been at the receiving end of accumulated injustices of 50 years are saying enough and want a new template.

Those who have benefited from iniquity and have not yet seen the benefits on the other side of the present fence and are the ones saying things would only change over their dead bodies. It is a rendezvous of what my Oga at Ife,Prof. Adebayo Williams would call a meeting of the irresistible and the unmovable. Something must give in the  final analysis. Is Nigeria destined for war? We always have this Deus ex Machina. Will he surface one more time?   Two troubling nights at Nicon Luxury IT  was two torturing nights being guest of NIPSS at the Nicon  Luxury Hotel in Abuja last week to discuss the most troubling issue in Nigeria today: Federalism.

 

I had butterflies running in my tummy on learning that the conference was holding at the hotel. I recalled how we were chased out of the facility by Federal Inland Revenue officials when I stayed there last year. I managed to get a refund before leaving. As I arrived the hotel last Monday, I met NIPSS’ officials and delegates loitering at the lobby because power had been off for about one hour and the reception could not check people in. When they eventually checked us in, I discovered that the air cooling sysytem in my room stopped working at night. I reached for the intercom which was also dead. I had to open the glass door to survive the rest of the night. I asked for a change of room the following day. On getting to the new room, we discovered there was no light in the bathroom. The fellow who checked me in said he was going to get somebody from maintenance to look at it but nobody came till I checked out the following day.

I tried the intercom once again and it was dead like dodo. There was the professor from NIPSS who used the staircase throughout despite the fact that we were on the sixth floor because he did not want to get trapped in the lift. Nicon Luxury remains an imposing edifice but all hardware and no software. It was a specially built facility by the Nigerian Government for international conferences but pawned by Obasanjo when he was stripping the country of its assets. The sorry state of that hotel is an indictment on the argument for privatisation . Many of those who were ‘dashed’ our national assets have not in any way shown that they possess better managerial skills than the state.

 

By Yinka Odumakin

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