Reinventing, Restructuring, Renovating Panel-Beating Nigeria Or What?  – 2, By Bolanle Bolawole

Last week, we ran the first part of Prof. Banji Akintoye’s treatise on Nigeria, its history, problems, prospects and, well, final solution to the Nigerian quagmire; hopefully, not in the mould of Adolf Hitler’s final solution to the Jewish question! None of the over 360 Nigerian ethnic nationalities equates to the Jews, in my reckoning, and the resolution of the national question in Nigeria does not necessarily have to proceed in the same fashion as it did in Hitler’s Germany. Prof. Akintoye’s recommendations, which he wants President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Nigerian ruling class to consider with dispatch, are set out here today. It is titled:NIGERIA NEEDS NOW THE COURAGE TO DISSOLVE PEACEFULLY – PART TWO.
“In summary, as these words are being written in late February 2024, Nigeria’s economy has collapsed, Nigeria’s security has collapsed, Nigerians are living a life of wrenching poverty and hunger, a life of frightful insecurity and chaos. Important roads have dilapidated for years. Electricity supply has been fizzling out for years. For decades, businesses have been failing or fleeing to other countries. Nigeria’s unemployment rate has, for decades, been among the highest in the world. For decades, the quality of education has been falling seriously in all parts of Nigeria. For decades, thousands of educated Nigerian youths have been fleeing annually to countries around the world, and those of them who remain in Nigeria have been facing fearful poverty and deprivation and hopelessness, and the incidence of suicide has been increasing among them. Though Nigeria is one of the largest producers of petroleum in the world, Nigeria has depended on imported gasoline and has left its own refineries in disrepair, and the price of gasoline has been rising steadily in Nigeria for years. In the past nine months, the price of gasoline has jumped, at N600 –  N700 per litter, beyond the reach of most Nigerian auto owners.
Important holders of knowledge of the economy (such as a former Governor of the Nigerian Central Bank, C. Soludo, the new Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, the new National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, and others are telling the world that the Nigerian economy had collapsed before President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took over from President Muhammadu Buhari – and that Tinubu inherited a ‘bankrupt country’. Therefore, the value of the Nigerian currency, the Naira, standing at 465 to the US Dollar by June 2023, now stands at 1,500 to the US Dollar (after the latest government intervention lowered it from over 2,000) and is still falling, causing inflation to skyrocket to 35.41% , and pushing the price of food staples beyond the reach of most citizens (for instance, a bag of rice now stands at N80,000, up from N35,000 in June 2023). Terrible hunger grips most Nigerians… A former Nigerian Senator, Shehu Sani from the North, recently offered the information that 10,000 schools have closed down in the North because of insecurity.
An international group says that in the first eight months of the Tinubu presidency, the Fulani have killed 2,423 people and kidnapped 1,872. On the floor of the Nigerian National Assembly, legislators are bursting into tears as they recount the economic suffering and the drastic insecurity of the people of their constituencies, and many legislators are denouncing Nigeria’s presidential system and calling for its abolition. Many influential Nigerians are publicly advising ordinary Nigerians to buy guns for self-defence. In all regions of Nigeria, huge numbers of hungry people are protesting in the streets, crying of hunger, condemning President Tinubu and calling for the dissolution of Nigeria. The most eminent Fulani leaders and traditional rulers of the North, who never for once raised a voice against Buhari’s sponsorship of Fulani and terrorist atrocities all over Nigeria for eight years, who never said a word against Buhari’s abominable reign of corruption, are now issuing public statements redolent with criticisms of Tinubu, warnings and threatening imminent disaster and doom for the president, the government and the country. Many are threatening that a military take-over of the Nigerian government is imminent… Many respected elders in different parts of Nigeria are publicly and responsibly proposing that Nigeria should be dissolved now in the interest of all its peoples and citizens.
Naturally, many people on the protest trail today see President Tinubu as the cause of all their economic woes; but they are mostly wrong. The collapse of the Nigerian economy today is the end outcome of six decades of perpetual and truculent twisting, distortion, corruption and degradation of Nigeria’s economic and political life. The pathetic incompetence and brutal corruption of the recent eight years under President Buhari finally completed the killing of the Nigerian economy. President Tinubu believes he can heal the Nigerian economy. But, in spite of his confidence, his chances of success in that venture are, realistically – and sadly – close to zero. Healing is for the sick, not for the dead! And even if President Tinubu, by dint of resoluteness, and with the help of the capable assistants whom he has called up, succeeds in healing Nigeria’s economy to an extent, Nigeria’s economy will certainly return to its downward trajectory after him. The forces pushing Nigeria downwards cannot push in any other direction than downwards. There is no other country in the world about whom Nigeria’s kind of story can be told – the story of a country that earned for many years some of the largest revenues in the world from petroleum but has yet ended up as the number one home of ‘extreme poverty’ in the world. Trying to lift Nigeria up sustainably is a futile venture.
After publicly admitting that some of Nigeria’s economic problems defy solutions, President Tinubu took courageous action by inviting all the State Governors to work with him, and he and they together began to consider some economic relief measures, the establishment of State Police, and even a ‘restructuring’ agenda. But among many Nigerians, these actions are regarded as too little too late – and even as measures being hurriedly promoted by the politicians to enable them to hold on to their positions in Nigerian politics and their stakes in the Nigerian corruption system. Restructuring cannot stop the Fulani from spreading out to kill, destroy and kidnap in any part of Nigeria, since they will still be Nigerian citizens. State Police is a good step but its establishment requires a prolonged process of constitutional amendment. Altogether, the stark truth today is that Nigeria has come to an end. Altogether, the stark truth about Nigeria today is that Nigeria has come to an end. The man who bears the ultimate responsibility for the next steps for Nigeria beyond this point is President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He can choose to go maneuvering and trying, on and on, until Nigeria explodes in his face. That was what the most powerful leader of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, did in 1989 – 90 when Yugoslavia as one country had obviously come to an end. Milosevic chose to continue to keep Yugoslavia together at all costs and by all means, and he did so until massive rivers of blood flowed and countless thousands of people perished, until the truth finally asserted itself that Yugoslavia dissolved into eight different countries – until Milosevic himself ended up before an International Criminal Tribunal charged with serious crimes against humanity, and until he died a lonely and wretched death in the tribunal’s prison custody.
But, in contrast, President Tinubu can do as Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, 1985-91, did in 1990 when the great Soviet Union had obviously come to an end. Gorbachev humbly surrendered to the truth that the end had come for the Soviet Union, and he was therefore able to shepherd his country into a peaceful dissolution, thereby preempting a massive and devastating war that would probably have consumed millions of lives. While considering his options, President Tinubu needs to be aware of the following important fact – that separation of a people from a country of diverse peoples or the dissolution of a country of diverse peoples into new smaller countries, if accomplished peacefully, is not a tragedy at all. He needs to browse the history of some of the countries that separated peacefully, and he will find stories of subsequent prosperity in all cases – Belgium which separated from Holland in 1830; Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland which separated at different times over a long time; the Republic of Ireland which separated from Britain in 1921; Singapore which separated from Malaysia in 1965; the 14 countries which arose from the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991; the Czech and Slovak Republics which separated in 1993; and East Timor which separated from Indonesia in 2002. President Tinubu also needs to note that countries which separate violently tend to be dogged by violence afterwards – as in the case of Pakistan which separated in a storm of violence from India in 1947; South Sudan which separated after years of violence from Sudan in 2011; and some of the eight countries that resulted from the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia.
A peacefully negotiated parting of ways from Nigeria’s present house of horrors can reduce or even eliminate fear, hatred and hostility, and can ultimately result in mutual respect, peaceful borders, friendly and mutually helpful neighbors, general progress, prosperity and happiness for all. In the end, the choice belongs to President Tinubu. He stands to earn historic honor and fame (like Gorbachev) or historic condemnation and infamy (like Milosevic). Nigeria has reached the point of breaking up. Whether in peace or in rivers of blood, Nigeria will break up. President Tinubu cannot prevent that; it is only how Nigeria breaks up that he can influence… The first and most urgent step that most Nigerians would wish from President Tinubu now is that he should carry out, immediately, his plan to allow and empower every state to establish its own Forest Guard outfit, federally authorized and properly trained and armed. This will enable farming to begin to revive everywhere, and it will begin to alleviate hunger. It will also reduce fear and hatred. But this step touches only the surface of the deep and complex problems of Nigeria….
It is time to disengage from Nigeria. The Nigerian experiment has not worked, is not working, and cannot work. Let us wind it up peacefully. Let our President shepherd us through the process of winding it up peacefully. We have seen enough of blood, and enough of human vileness, in Nigeria. Let us not keep seeing more and more. In particular, let us not wait until we are all engulfed in the all-consuming Armageddon that now seems to be rolling towards us in the clouds ahead of us! (NOW CONCLUDED).
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.


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