March 19, 2019
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Opinion: Before Breaking Point by Olawale Rasheed


Nigeria is experiencing seismic political changes from North to South. The  national bond is under serious strain almost at a breaking point. The winners especially at the national level are confronted with the sweetness of unlimited power and might alongside the genuine risk of over-indulgence and engrossment with alloy of federal might.

Within the inner caucus of the president must be a dual sense of accomplishments and responsibility. On the one hand ,winning under controversial circumstances confers the much needed continuity against the wishes of those who assumed the title of directors of Nigeria limited liability company. That victory over the likes of General Olusegun Obasanjo, Theophilus Danjuma and Ibrahim Babangida alongside their armies of economic, political and bureaucratic allies is not a mean occurrence. It is a huge political change and a revolution of sort as it portends change of style in national governance and allocation of national resources. So the tendency to become obsessed with the glory of a conquered territory and class is a potent possibility.

On the second hand is the delicate responsibility such massive victory confers on the winners. It calls on leaders to become hyper sensitive to the complexity of the nation state and the huge task of managing all contending and defeated forces to achieve meaningful result in governance. The events of the last few days should ordinarily compels winners to study and device a new integrative strategy because after all,the election has been won and the next stage is governance. Continuous deployment of offensive strategies after the war will clearly be a wrong and counter -productive  approach.

Faced with the two scenarios depicted above, winners should ordinarily be in dilemma of extra ordinary dimension. The defeated forces are Nigerians with substantial followership. Whatever their sins, they retain their citizenship and fundamental rights in participatory democracy. Again, they are powerful and resourceful. So winners must decide if excluding such potent sector is a sustainable strategy. Can an inclusive system be created where all have a space ? If the period from 1976 has been era of acceptable cult leadership created by military elite,what should replace it ?

Here, it needs be put on records that the Class of 1976, the clique of military officers post Yakubu Gowon era  remains the ruling elite in the country alongside their allies across the sector. After General Murtala’s death,General Obasanjo assumed the leadership. The interesting thing is that President Muhammadu Buhari was and is the only key rebel within the class of 1976.He is a non-conformist well known to all principal leaders of the class. That explains why his struggle to attain the presidency was so delayed and truncated on several occassions.

The class of 76 represents whatever anybody may say. In many respect,the class achieved only one major objective while failing on almost all other points. As her members were made up of officers who fought to keep the nation one,the group fulfilled the sacred task of keeping the country one. Having sacrificed so much to keep the nation together during the civil war, Obasanjo and his colleagues including President Buhari were fixated on keeping the country one at all cost. From the end of the civil war to date ,that goal is largely attained. Despite several upheavals, Nigeria remains one albeit with so many internal convulsions.

The class however suffered from a greedy material acquisition syndrome  ,leading to the institutionalisation of a national system,serving few entrenched interests and downplaying national development on the altar of self enrichment. Nigeria remains chronically under developed under the guidance of the class of 76.From 1999 to date, the same class was in control with local and international  analysts confirming that the nation has not moved an inch.

Now a rebel within the house,President  Buhari,has “defeated ” the group with the promise of fighting corruption for which the class is variously accused of. His completion of several landmarks projects started in the last 20 or so years have been cited by his loyalists as a sign of commitment to changing the direction of governance. 

Just this month, he has initiated an earth shaking policy of non-renewable of national oil block licences in totality. Implementation of this directive has since commenced. The heart of national corruption is the opaque nature of the administration  of national oil wealth. Buhari’s action is a political and economic earthquake as it may frontally destroys the economic foundation of the Club of 76 and launches what appears like building of a new class of economic champions and elite ruling class. A new class of national leaders may emerge from the ruins of ongoing assault on the old club by an old insider.

The core of the matter is this-what national ideology is the new emerging class likely to represent? The club of 76 is known for keeping the nation united through an inclusive but corrupt web of structures and policies. Is the new system ready to maintain an inclusive agenda even while doing away with criminally acquisitive leadership mindset that accounts for subsisting national retrogression? The good side of the old club is the building of a truly national elite integrating all tribes and religions, leading to deepened inter marriages and cross cultural business partnership. There was a recognition of imperative of sustenance of unity in diversity and the toleration of dissent as long as the super structure is not threatened. A  Nigerian character emerged with opportunities even if skewed for contending regional interests and forces. 

Today, building a new Nigeria entails two critical focus: abandoning corrupt leadership mindset in the management of national resources and creating a truly inclusive and just federation. Can we have one without the other? In reality, both must be combined. Sustainable governance requires an inclusive leadership and sufficient window for ventilation of dissent. Critical national institution must be shielded from partisan roles as lack of such poisons the system and weakens the cord of national unity. Crude suppression through state forces of political opponents is not compatible with the goal of building an inclusive new leadership elite. Pushing for total annihilation of political opponents in state contest poses short and long term threat to the polity. Accommodation of opposition can be deployed as a stabilisation tool especially at a time an entrenched system has just been decapitated.

The last point above is strategic. The defeated forces-not neccessarily the PDP and Atiku Abubakar-are not totally dead. The polity is still in shock. Hence stabilisation agenda should be the preoccupation of any winner. Forcing the game to a breaking point has the potential of backfiring. It is capable of putting the winner in difficult position of struggling for containment in his second term. It carries with it strong distractive capacity at a time the economy demands serious attention.

At the level of brinkmanship, justification may be that the enemy must be totally vanquished. Yes. But the totality of cost implication in term of national hemorrhaging and increasing disunity may outweigh the gains. Centrifugal forces may gain more ground while centripetal forces fail in both short and long terms. 

The best of strategy is to win the war and secure the peace. Failing on the path of national unity and stability is even more frightening. It is now time to look back. Let’s stay away from the precipice.

*Rasheed ,a public affairs analyst and writes this piece from Abuja.

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