Nigeria is dying as an idea, a dream, and a project. Most Nigerians know this, but many of us pretend that somehow this horrible harmattan will soon be over, and somehow God will save us from this painful descent into the valleys of death and destruction.
President Buhari has killed Nigeria and must take responsibility for the collapse of the Nigerian state under his watch. However, even though the buck stops at his desk, there is a collective guilt for most of us, especially the elites. This is because Buhari is the product of the smelly political, social, ethnic and religious porridge that has been cooked by the elites, and preserved and dished out to the masses of our people by a few thin top layers of elites who have run this nation aground. In addition, all those political and religious leaders who support Buhari and enable this painful and dreadful presidency must all take responsibility for this sorrowful and shameful descent of our nation into the precipice of darkness and despair. However, I must admit that the problem of Nigeria is that this country is built on a structure of injustice, which generates structural violence, and enables the emergence of rulers like Buhari and many others who dole out little dosages of death to the masses of our people through necropolitics—politics of death of people, cultures, dreams, creativity, and hope.
Unfortunately, in this unjust and confused land, no one takes responsibility for anything; there are no consequences for bad behavior by powerful and well-connected people hence atrocities and abominations of all kinds continue to be our national lot. This is why those responsible for our lingering national tragedy continue to pass on the baton of power within their shameless club, while reducing the
citizens to a powerless clientele who must beg for the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.
Buhari has killed Nigeria through three major blunders. First, is his failure to unite the nation and manage Nigeria’s rich diversity. Buhari is the first President in my life time—I was born after the civil war—who is clearly and unapologetically a sectional president. Buhari is not a national leader; he lacks the skills, brain, brawn and competence to manage Nigeria’s diversity. Sadly, he does not have the humility or social awareness to seek and acquire the knowledge and skills that he so gapingly lacks.
Buhari is the first president in Nigeria who has made no attempt to unite the nation. Rather, he has exploited the shifting and widening ethno-religious crevices that continue to weaken the foundation of our nation to implement the most divisive and unjust presidency of modern Nigeria. This is why it is hard for me to refer to Buhari as Nigeria’s president because the title that fits him so well is that of an Islamic
supremacist and ethnocentric jingoist. This is because Buhari is beholding to the inanities and aggressive aristocracy and theocracy of his Fulani oligarchs and their narrow vision of conquering the rest of Nigeria through the project of state capture.
Given the high centralization of power in the presidency, Nigeria actually runs more like a unitary state than a federal one. As a result, the distribution of positions, resources, and power in the country under Buhari has been lopsided and clearly shows his preferential option for all things Islamic, Fulani and Northern. Buhari does not trust people outside of his reference group and he does not appreciate nor is he interested in using competent hands and the vast human resources of Nigeria as assets outside the tight circumference of his cabal. This is why he has narrowed the exercise of power and the infusion of knowledge and skills that could have catalyzed the latent energy and resources of this country to a few acolytes.
These are the incompetent and clueless denizens who run the Nigerian state apparatus as a private enterprise with the sad, predictable and embarrassing failings of the country in terms of economic and social policy and the absence of any vision and strategic options and initiatives. Sadly, the ministries and parastatals cannot generate policies and programs outside of this narrow framework, hence the
epileptic services that the country receives from many arms and agencies of the federal government.
The second way through which Buhari has killed Nigeria is his failure to keep Nigeria safe. Kunle Adebajo of HumAngle reports that Nigeria’s score on the safety and security index dropped sharply between 2008 and 2019 from as high as 7.14 to 2.35.
The country is ranked 146th out of 163 countries on the 2021 Global Peace Index and the sixth most terrorist country in the world out of the same number of countries on the Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP). This is the travel advisory on the State Department’s website on Nigeria: “Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, banditry, and rape – is common throughout the country. Kidnappings for ransom occur frequently…Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to
expand their reach.” Nigeria has become a living hell for Nigerians; and a Hobbesian state of nature, where life has become uncertain, short, brutish, vile, and expandable. Every day, we hear of mass deaths and killings; attacks and kidnappings everywhere even at the Defense Academy in Kaduna and near police and military checkpoints.
Nigeria has become like a vast graveyard and deaths, dead bodies, destruction, mayhem and pure
wickedness have become the sore bread on our national table. We have become a nation that is losing
our humanity and our sanity because of one man who cared more for his own tribe and religion than he cared for the rest of us. Sadly, even with his nepotism and favoritism, Northern Nigeria continues to convulse and remains the most violent and underdeveloped part of Nigeria, while the majority of Northern youth are like a lost generation exploited and manipulated by their politicians, betrayed by their
leaders, and misled and radicalized by terrorist gangsters, scums, and husks of humanity.
How is it that someone who promised to put an end to terrorism and violence in Nigeria has become so clueless or complicit in the failings of the nation’s intelligence and security outfit? Why is it that a former general like Buhari cannot mobilize the nation’s security forces to keep us safe? What we have been fed in the face of these atrocities is a constant expression of surprise and outrage, effete threats from the
presidency often hidden through statements that the president himself may not have read, and reactionary state reprisal that are poorly conceived and unsuccessfully implemented.
We all know the reasons for the failings of our security in the land. We have a president who does not care really about the safety of any of us other than his own. This is a president who put togetherincompetent service chiefs because he prefers his own. This is also a president who turns a blind eye to these killings because it is being perpetrated mainly by his own people; a president who came to fight corruption but who fails to confront corruption in his own party and the corruption in the nation’s security forces. Yet, when Buhari needed to clinch his fist and deal a crushing and vengeful blow on young AntiSARS protesters, he was able to summon a ruthless army to turn against the future of our nation—the weather-beaten, restless, and demoralized Nigerian youth.
One will ask, why the president does not call the army to defend the internal security of the country and why he has not established a special tribunal to try terrorists and their sponsors? It is not enough to express anger at these horrible and barbaric actions of these ‘unknown gun men’, the president must also take ownership for this pandora’s box that he opened when he emboldened his Fulani kinsmen through
his RUGA proposals and his constant defense of their right to pasture their flock in any part of Nigeria.
Buhari has never presented to this nation any clear roadmap for anti-terrorism, anti-insurgency, and antikidnapping because he does not care or perhaps, he is suffering from an autistic perception of reality or he is plainly incompetent, or all of the above. The truth is that because a greater number of these kidnappings and attacks against innocent Nigerians are being perpetrated by the Fulani just as they are decimating whole populations in other West African sub-regional countries of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, Buhari’s hands are tired. He cannot bare his teeth against his beloved Fulani kinsmen and he will invent all sorts of alibi to defend his own.
Finally, Buhari has killed Nigeria because the Nigerian economy has declined steeply under his presidency. According to the World Bank’s 2021 report on Nigeria, “In 2020 the Nigerian economy shrank by 1.8%, its deepest decline since 1983.” The report noted that the COVID-19 crisis drove the economic slowdown; the external context was marked by capital outflows, intensified risk aversion, low oil prices, and shrinking foreign remittances. The BTI Transformation Index after taking into
consideration the steep drop in the Human Development Index, the life expectancy, the poor quality of governance and political participation among other factors in Nigeria concluded that “Key indicators still show a low level of development, which severely restricts freedom of choice. The very low 2020 HDI score of 0.539 makes Nigeria 161st out of 189 countries ranked. There is widespread and deep-seated
social exclusion caused by poverty. Some 60% of over 200 million Nigerians live on less than 2$ per day.
The loss of HDI due to inequality was estimated at 35.4% in 2018. The Gini-index was 35.4 and the poverty rate 70.1% in the same year. The economic crises, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic, significantly reduced the GDP in 2020 and caused a negative growth rate of 3.2% in 2020.”
Anyone who lives in Nigeria and outside feels the pain of this economic slide that has driven most Nigerians into poverty, and completely wiped away the middle class. Most social services in Nigeria like power and water are so poor today this why most Nigerians with any means have their own power and boreholes. Our roads are bad and travelling by road is a risk factor in Nigeria for early death to injury or crime. With the collapse of Nigeria’s economy, we have witnessed the collapse of our ducational system and health sector. Our universities have been closed for most of this year, while healthcare system in Nigeria is so poor that most of our politicians and the rich do not use them.
People are resorting to subsistent agriculture but people cannot access credit for small businesses or for mechanized agriculture. With the decline in oil revenue and a shrinking foreign reserve and rising national debt, decline in the value of the naira among other poor economic indicators, Nigeria is witnessing a runaway inflation that is crushing the poor. Investors are leaving the country in droves because of the high cost of doing business in Nigeria. The only business in town is mainly in the oil sectors, where the government and its associated chain of oil barons continue to milk the nation dry like drunken sailors. It is a reflection of Nigeria’s decline that there is no single functional refinery in the country.
It is not my intention to recount our national woes because of this failed presidency, but at a time like this, one may wonder: what is really working for Nigeria apart from the business of governance, and the business of religion? Where are our Super Eagles, the Flying Eagles, and the Golden Eaglets? When last did we celebrate any victory in Nigeria? What happened to our cultural festivals that drew many tourists?
What happened to our game reserves like Jos wildlife park, Yankari game reserve etc.? The glory of our nation has departed and Nigeria is now no longer the sleeping giant of Africa, but truly the comatose giant of Africa on life support.
When Ken Saro-Wiwa was being led to the gallows, his last cry was, “what sort of country is this?” Many people who are dying needlessly in our country are asking the same question in their desperation. Most of us who are still alive are saying the same: “What sort of country is this?” Most of us don’t see ourselves in this country, and don’t see the country in us because this is not who we are. The emotional toll of this reality on many of us will take another generation to heal. Most Nigerians at home or abroad no longer live fulfilling lives as they all live in perpetual state of tension of panic. Our fears are not only on the insecurity in the land, but also the evident neutralization of our agency because we are no longer free and safe in our ancestral home and we have no opportunity and existential freedom to actualize ourselves in anyway. There is so much sadness and sorrow in this land.
In the midst of all these, one may ask: How can people practice democracy on empty stomach; how can people exercise freedom when they are poor and feel excluded and that their lives do not matter? There is no job and education for the young; no pension for the elderly; no hospital for the sick, and no hope for the common man who only wants to have his or her daily bread. How long shall we continue to live like
this? How long shall some of us remain exiles from our homeland because we can only find decent jobs and opportunities for self-actualization outside our country? How long shall we remain under internal colonialism in this land?
The sad reality is that no one is holding Buhari accountable for destroying this country. No one is asking how and why we got ourselves into this hole. Most Nigerians hope that things ‘go better’ with the end of this terrible presidency. But if we do not pause to ask ourselves where the rain began to beat us, we will end up in a deeper hole and next year will witness a blood bath worse than June 12.
This nation is in need of healing and serious soul-searching. The forces of evil that have been unleashed on the citizenry and our collective destiny and common decency are so entrenched and their destructive capillaries are all over our vast land. These forces of evil who are the wind in Buhari’s sails are like a deep state; they are invisible but they are strong. The have a control over a vast and endless supply of weapons and they roam freely behind herds of cattle in bushes and in forests; they are also wearing police and military uniforms all working in tandem to light the funeral pyre of a dying nation unless they control power at the center directly or through their proxies and underlings.
We cannot allow these evil men and evil system, structures and institutions to destroy all that is left of Nigeria. We cannot work into the lion’s mouth by pretending to conduct any election this year or next.
What Nigeria needs now is the resignation of this evil president and the heartless politicians who run our states, legislatures, and national assembly and the disbanding of the corrupt and destructive APC and PDP apparatus. These corrupt men and women and the systems they run are the reason for our tears, and the causes of our grief. These parties and their operatives have used an ‘army arrangement’ to ruin this land. Buhari is only the most visible peak of this iniquitous pyramid of evil. Now is the time for right thinking men and women to mobilize our people not for election, but for a referendum on the way forward to Nigeria and seek ways to break up the country into manageable semi-autonomous regional (confederal) units under a united Nigeria. We can look towards Canada and Switzerland for examples. Each region can manage its security, education, health, agriculture, industry, and power generation among others.
Our country was destroyed by one man, through an evil system that many Nigerians support directly and indirectly under the mantra of ‘one Nigeria’—a lie that we tell ourselves because there is nothing like one Nigeria. Our future will not be built by any single savior. Indeed, one of the signs of a conquered and oppressed people is that the people lose belief in their own ability to become the change they wish to see. Oppressive structures neuter the people and undermine their agency and self and group efficacy.
This is the lot of Nigerians today; this is why we are looking for a savior or a superman who will rescue us. The sad truth is that it will never happen. Until Nigerians become leaders themselves and their own chairpersons, and put on the political and social amour to fight their own fight to secure their future, nothing will change in the country. To achieve our second liberation in Nigeria and take some baby steps towards a truly democratic and representative government, Pope Francis’s wisdom here offers a fitting concluding guide: “What is needed is a model of social, political and economic participation “that can include popular movements and invigorate local, national and international governing structures with that torrent of moral energy that springs from including the excluded in the building of a common destiny.” He calls such people-led movements as “sowers of change, promoters of a process involving millions of actions, great and small, creatively intertwined like words in a poem” because they make possible an integral human development that goes beyond “the idea of social policies being a policy for
the poor, but never with the poor and never of the poor, much less part of a project that reunites peoples.” We must, the Pope advises, find the courage to acknowledge that, without these people-led movements, “democracy atrophies, turns into a mere word, a formality; it loses its representative character and becomes disembodied, since it leaves out the people in their daily struggle for dignity, in the building of their future.”
*Stan Chu Ilo is a Catholic priest of Awgu diocese, Enugu State, Nigeria. He is a native of Adu-Achi in Oji River L.G.A, Enugu State, Nigeria.