RASHEED OLOKODE: Is Nigeria too old to disintegrate?
What happened on Sunday, January 13, 2013, has compelled me to veer off my yet-to-be concluded treatment of the imperatives of a national emergency on youth affairs, in order to comment on President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech at the 2013 Armed Forces Remembrance Day service at the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja. At the event, the President bluntly made a declarative judgment which The PUNCH aptly captioned: “Nigeria is too old to disintegrate”. The major premise that warranted Jonathan’s declaration, which was, obviously, a direct response to the deafening cries, amongst Nigerians for a revisit of the 1914 amalgamation, was clearly constructed thus: “You cannot stay in a marriage for 100 years and say that it is time you will divorce…” And, since ‘divorce’ is ‘impossible’, the President further emphasised the ‘only’ option we are supposedly left with: “If there are issues we have been managing, we will continue to manage them”.
On getting the full gist of this speech, originally intended to canvass unity and love amongst a people in a seemingly intractable disunity, I became stupefied, only able to make the liquid speech of the eyes, as an ocean streamed down my cheeks. The yawning illogicality and irony of this argument made, and still makes, me weep for Dear Nigeria.
In the words of Mr. President, “Nigeria will not disintegrate. Anybody who is doing any research in Sociology, Psychology or Political Science can do his work, but Nigeria will remain one”. Isn’t it saddening that the foremost decision-maker in Nigeria has just, in one fell swoop, written off as mere conjecturing, the combination of past, present and future diagnostic voices of reason alerting the nation to the too-visible symptoms of collapse inherent in it?
I want to, initially, restate my recent diagnosis of the apparent phobia of our ruling class, since independence, for a revisit of the so-called 1914 marriage, as contained in my piece in The PUNCH of January 7, 2013, titled, 2103: Time for new perspectives, new approach. Preconception is the common disease that afflicts the perception of Nigerian rulers. President Jonathan has, thus, merely behaved true-to-type, misconstruing genuine concerns and forewarnings about the imminent collapse of a house sitting on a poor foundation, based on its visible cracks which require urgent mending.
His seeming cliché that pervaded his remark that “Nigeria will not disintegrate” – is, first and foremost, a product of pre and misconception. I am, in no way, saying the opposite of what this sentence means at the denotative level. Rather, I feel that it is a mere impulsive statement which has neither historical nor logical basis, being a mere sentimental outburst shaped by what the President and his co-travellers, in the Nigerian power corridor, typically mistake every concern on the 1914 palaver for – a call for the disintegration of Nigeria. Sure! No Aso Rock Villa tenant would ever think or say otherwise. To them and a handful of the conniving Nigerian bourgeoisie, Nigeria remains as long as this anti-masses configuration sustains their smiling purses.
Apparently, our rulers do not get to read the people’s viewpoints in the newspapers. They are obviously too busy dispensing our hard-earned trillions on frivolous and self-serving luxuries to read and discover that the most cherished desire of the average Nigerian is the preservation of the Nigerian state; the rescue of a potential world socio-economic leader from the comity of global back-benchers; the correction of the 1914 error which is not the amalgamation itself but its procedure devoid of certain indispensable elements of successful marriages; the convocation of a sovereign national conference to repair the faulty foundation suppressing our nation’ destiny.
This brings me to the core of my reading of Jonathan’s argument. Its illogicality resonates round the globe, even if we, Nigerians, fail to note and voice it, probably due to our majority’s nature aptly described by Eric Osagie, in his article captioned, Jonathan’s 2015 Posters (Daily Sun, January 7, 2013), as “sycophantic, moaning, grumbling and groveling followers”.
The first thing that calls for reflection is the status and nature of the “marriage” that is too old for divorce. We know that mutual negotiation and consent between intending partners constitute fundamental bedrock of marriage. It is indispensable and non-negotiable as long as it involves the coming together of human beings whose free-will and rationality have not been compromised or suppressed even by our Omnipotent Creator. I am happy the setting of Jonathan’s speech was a church wherein the Holy Bible agrees with even the Quranic account of the liberty that the Almighty allowed us, through our progenitors. Adam and Eve did not just fall in love and marry each other; they also freely chose the fruits of which tree to eat.
To me, what those sweating to open our collective eyes to a doom pending are doing, which our Number One citizen has just categorised as mere academic exercises, is echoing that meek voice of reason in every man that calls him to order while straying. Adam and Eve heard and listened to this same voice; recanted and retraced their steps; and revived their marital bliss in the process.
The idea of love, which Jonathan recommended as a recipe for the success of the Nigerian marriage, is never an imposed state of mind, it is necessarily a product of free emotional admiration for one another. It is such a vital pre-condition of success that even forced marriages, amongst humans, are known to survive only on the strength of post-marriage tete-a-tete.
On the plane of either deductive or inductive (historical) reasoning, the only options of rationality accessible to human beings, to argue that divorce is foreclosed by the longevity of a marriage flies in the face of logic.
Deductively, the status and significance of love in defining a relationship as marriage calls to question the veracity of Jonathan’s description of the Nigerian union as a marriage. A purist would never classify such a union bereft of preliminary mutual negotiation and consent between parties as a marital one. It is, at best, servitude, as reflected in the wailings of multitudes of Nigerians who believe they are in bondage and captivity. We only need to note that the concept of bondage is never the same as that of physical environment. One can be in bondage even in his home, in as much as one does not perceive himself as living in freedom, fairness and equality with other inhabitants of his physical environment.
In fact, it is on these principles – freedom, fairness and equality – that the very concept of nation-state is founded. That we have delineation between government and citizenry in the entity called Nigeria makes the Nation a social contract between rulers and the ruled. What our President has just said is, thus, tantamount to a death-knell on the very soul of our nationhood – that whether those statutory terms of our being together under a single sovereignty for a century, so far unattained, ever get fulfilled or not, Nigeria remains indivisible based on mere verbal optimism from its rulers; that even if those in government persist in the age-long abandonment of their contractual duties of making, executing and interpreting laws to lead to the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of the people, as a necessary condition for the latter’s obeisance, Nigerians would endlessly continue to suffer the lack of physical and socio-economic security, while we ‘continue to manage’ the same teething ‘issues we have been managing’ for the past hundred years till Thy Kingdom come.
Historically, however, the fatal fates of the former British Empire, Roman Empire, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the likes are an open testament to the fact that a 100-year-old Nigeria is even a relatively fragile baby that would only risk a fragile health at its own peril. Also, the recent reality of the Arab Spring is still fresh in our memory, including the minds of the younger Nigerians to whom our President wants the elderly to always emphasise “…those things that will bring us together…” because they (the youth) “…know little or nothing about the history of this country”.
This point about already-volatile youths “knowing little or nothing” adds up to the concept of forced 100-year old unionism which Nigerians, supposedly rational humans, have no choice about, as espoused by their President, to manifest an unpleasant irony in a speech that, on the whole, is un-presidential. Pitifully, our President’s submissions are actually capable of achieving the exact opposite of the unity it was indeed or contrived to canvass, as it may awaken and ignite the fury of the beleaguered citizens who have long been suffering in a self-suppressed bondage-consciousness imposed by a 100-year-old forced marriage.