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A Nation Hunted

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Written by   23
4 months ago
Chaos and civil unrest in Nigeria

I have always been critical of Nigeria especially how it is run because I believe that as culturally diverse as it is, Nigeria will never maximize her true potential if she is continually run as she is currently run.

Since Nigeria gained independence from the British colonial rulers in 1960, it has been engulfed in conflicts stemming from power tussle, religious intolerance and cultural differences. There has always been tension amongst the three major ethnic groups in the country - the Hausa-Fulani, the Yorubas and the Igbos - which usually boils down to who gets to control the resources from the centre (Oil)

Each region seems to have a certain level of mistrust for the next, there always seems to be a perceived ulterior motive and whatever truth a region says is taken with a pinch of salt from the other regions. These conflicts seem to have started on a less hostile manner in a way of politicking and electioneering for political office right around the period the British were preparing to hand over the reins of power to Nigerians.

The Igbos, incensed at how things were proceeding, were threatening secession, the Hausas on the other hand, think the Igbos were only threatening to break away because of the newly found oil in their (eastern) region which would make secession economically possible for the Igbos. So they were on the stand that if such talk of separatism were to be entertained, then the national treasure (Obviously talking about the newfound oil) should be shared. The tension was obviously brewing but was somehow managed until the British finally left, and the First Republic was ushered in.

Fast forward to January 1966 and there was a bloody coup which was termed an IGBO COUP because it was largely carried out by the top Army commanders from the Igbo tribe and the casualties were mainly top northern civilian as well as military leaders including the then Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and the Premier of the Northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello.

July of the same year, there was another bloody military coup, this time perpetrated by the top Northern Army officers and most of the casualties this time were top Army officers from the Igbo tribe. This was a counter-coup, a return of favour and it didn't even take long. These unending conflict between the different regions ultimately resulted in the Nigerian civil war which claimed the lives of about 3 million Igbo civilian lives. The Igbos had revitalized their agitation for secession as a result of the many Igbo casualties from the 1966 counter-coup, but the government of Nigeria, then led by the military head of state in the person of Yakubu Gowon who is from the Hausa tribe was not having it, which resulted in a full-blown civil war.

The conflicts between the many tribes and ethnic groups that are comprised within the country run deep, and I think even much deeper after Crude Oil was discovered in commercial quantity in the south and secession, which ordinarily might have been smooth, became a lot complicated. From then onwards, it became a forced union with many aggrieved parties, a union of convenience for some and tolerance for others.

It has been 51 years since the civil war ended and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight to the reoccurring conflicts that have always plagued the country. There is still obvious tribal favouritism when it comes to appointments to strategic public offices, there are still persistent regional politicking, the Igbos still want to succeed, there is still no trust amongst the various regions and the major ethnic groups and there is rising regional tension waiting to erupt just like a volcano.

The way forward.

Nigeria just like the US is conglomerate of nations in the real sense of it and is way too complex to be just one country. Think about merging the liberal, anything-goes lifestyle of the US and the conservative and rigid religious values of the Arab world. Here you have two extremes who from all indications cant possibly coexist without problems. The South (Igbos, Yorubas and other minor tribes) are a lot liberal, more progressive and acceptant of modernization (what the Northern Muslims call Boko Haram). The North on the hand is rigidly grounded on their religious/cultural values which makes it difficult for both sides of the divide to function under one set of rules.

Problem 1

  • CRUDE OIL

This is supposed to have been the driving force that should have sent Nigeria on its way to becoming one of the best economies and ultimately countries in Africa and the world at large, especially during the early oil booms. But ironically and sadly the discovery of oil in Nigeria plunged the country into a perpetual scamper for resource country and exploitation by the ruling elites.

Nigeria like I said before, is a conglomerate of nations whose once individual economical sustenance before amalgamation had nothing to do with oil. The agricultural industry is rich enough in the potential to compete with Oil, tourism also is another industry that should have been able to rival those two and I am talking in an international capacity. These other industries have been the driving forces of countries who don't have the oil privileges but Nigeria, unlike other oil-rich nations, has failed to utilise the oil boom to diversify the economy.

Because Oil is basically the cash cow of the corrupt ruling elite, other industries of the economy are either not given the tools to grow or are simply cut short (with bad policies) when they start threatening to replace the pull/push oil has on the economy and ultimately the lives of the poor and middle class. I mean the government only wants what it can control entirely and the more control you have over the regulations of the economy, the more control you have over the people, you can simply choose to impoverish or liberate them as you please. Nigeria would wake up one morning and decide to increase/reduce the price of fuel, add/remover fuel subsidy etc.

Solution 1. Diversify the economy, help the other industries grow and reach their potentials. Support the tech industry with good policies and other necessary tools it needs to thrive. Oil and agriculture are old money, the tech industry and the tourism industries are the new money, the world is fast-changing, get in line. There are the tech industry, tourism agriculture and the entertainment industries big enough (at least in potential) to rival oil and help in healthy wealth creation and distribution. The growth of these industries would help the economy become less dependent on oil, which would in turn grow the economy in leaps and bounds.

Problem 2

  • DYSFUNCTIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE

The country is still running on the setup of the colonial rulers, a setup that was made strictly for the easier ruling of the amalgamated parts than their collective progress. The failure to acknowledge the uniqueness and ultimately the significance of different religious, cultural and traditional values of each region/tribe and how they affect the overall political, social and the economic dynamics of the country, in general, has been a problem. Many states in the northern part of Nigeria are predominantly Muslim states, the governors and legislators of that regional extraction are also Muslims with core Muslim ideologies and belief. The governors constitute laws along these ideological leanings and their citizens abide by them and the legislators come to the federal senate trying to make rules along these ideologies too but this time, looking for the whole country to be bound by them. What I am saying in simpler terms is, the North wouldn't mind Nigeria as a whole adopting a Muslim Sharia law as almost all the northern states practice the sharia anyways, in fact, the Northern ruling elites have once or twice tried to push the agenda but subtly. On the other hand, the other parts of Nigeria are more liberal in their religious and cultural leanings and thus wish to enjoy all the benefits of democracy, in other words, a more liberal environment.

To put this into focus, the recent social media bill and hate speech bill that has both been on the Senate floor for a while undergoing debate has been championed by lawmakers from the Northern extraction. These bills would have been long passed into law if not for the outrage from the more progressive liberal South. The same has been the case with the recent restrictions on cryptocurrency, the northerners want it banned entirely, the south don't. In the North, alcohol consumption is frowned upon and you can get into big trouble buying or selling it. In the north, you cant be seen holding hands with a member of the opposite sex in public, else you would be arrested and prosecuted by the Sharia police(Hisbah). You cant be seen eating outside during the Muslim fasting periods, else you would be arrested and prosecuted by Hisbah and it doesn't matter if you are a Muslim or not. In effect, the core Muslim states in the north are running a parallel government, running their states using Islamic rules which are unconstitutional but yet binds everybody living there in the north, whether you are Muslim or not.

Solutions2. Restructuring: When you have both liberal and conservative ideologies tussling over which has total control over the lives of the populace, then there is a problem. In the US, both Marijuana and Commercial Casino Style gambling are legal in some states and illegal in others, even gun ownership. This is like this because of how the states are structured, the style of state autonomy practised gives the states the constitutional power and authority to make laws that bind its citizens. Now, in this case a person going from a gun-carrying state to a non-gun-carrying state knows he would be breaking the law if goes into such state in possession of a gun. These laws are constitutional, thus the citizens know what to expect.

Nigeria administrative structure has to be redesigned in the same manner as is attainable in the US. The states should have autonomy and make laws that govern them exclusively. This would improve security as there would be a different law enforcement system, a more local one opposed to the current federal style of state policing. Each state should form its own Policing system, which would trickle down to the local government level just like the state and county policing system in the US. A New Yorker shouldn't be sent to go enforce local laws in Los Angeles unless we are talking about the FBI who only enforce federal laws and have their jurisdictions.

This administrative restructuring would also give the various local economies the freedom to grow in line with their potential. A state that outlaws alcohol shouldn't be getting allocations taxed out from state who's economy is powered by the sales of alcohol. A state whose economy is powered by cattle rearing shouldn't allow its cattle herders to roam free and destroy the crops of those economies that depend on commercial farm production. Every state should have the autonomous authority to make laws that protects it and its citizens, just like in the US.

Katsina State governor Masari poses for a picture with one of the terrorists

Problem 3

INSURGENCY & BANDATRY

Insurgency took shape for the first time in Nigeria when the Niger-Deltans(militants) took up arms in protest of the environmental degradation of the region as a result of oil spillage and flaring which was caused by the activities of the Oil companies present in the region. Their frustration was directed at the companies and the government for not doing enough to provide financial and economic assistance to the region whose means of livelihood (fishing) had been destroyed by oil spillage. These militants sought to get the companies/government's attention by kidnapping expatriates and bursting pipelines. Finally, the companies and government came together to design a means to cater to these people, provide jobs and economic aid for them as well as grant amnesty to those who ultimately laid down their weapons. Peace reigned again in the region and the kidnapping stopped, although the act of bursting pipelines have become a means of making fast illegal money in the region and might not be going away as long as Crude Oil still has value.

Boko Haram and The Fulani Herdmen Militia have taken insurgency to a whole different level in Nigeria. According to various reports on the internet, at least 36,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram started waging its Islamic war in 2009. What does Boko Haram want? Boko Haram loosely translates to (Boko) Western Education (Haram) Sin which in other words means that the western education and way of life is a sin and thus need to be eradicated. They have been waging this war ever since and it has been almost 12 years and there has been no headway in arresting the situation. The best the government has done in trying to stop this insurgency is dialoguing and negotiating with them, sometimes paying them off to avoid attacks. When they are arrested, they are "forgiven and rehabilitated" and reintroduced into the general population. In case you want to be sure, yes we are talking about Armed terrorist group. Are the northern governors in bed with Boko Haram? Are they being enabled by the government?

Fulani Herdsmen are nomadic cattle rearers whose activities have brought nothing but chaos and bloodshed in Nigeria. Where in the world, in 2021 do you have people engaging in nomadic cattle herding? Moving from one area of the country to another, destroying farmlands and killing farmers in their host communities who dare to stand up against them.

Solution 3

Since the leaders of the Northern states seem to have the same religious ideologies as Boko Haram and want nothing but a total Islamic practice in the region, restructuring the country would make certain that wish. If restructured, the new administrative formation would allow every single region/state to determine how it wants its region run and the senseless killings and unrest bedevilling other regions would stop. In the case of the Fulani herdsmen, cattle ranches should be built and interested herders should either lease or buy these ranches outrightly. This would put a stop to the incessant killings and unending conflicts between these marauding herders and farmers all over the country.

Addressing these problems would not make the country better overnight but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, one which would ultimately expose the country to more progressive international relationships and investments.

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Written by   23
4 months ago
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