One had thought the new milleniun would bring back sanity, good governance, transparency and accountability in Nigeria's neo-democratic fabric of the Fourth republic, from the probabilities of correcting the social ills and misrule of the past by the military juntas and corrupt civilian politicians which did place the country among the most corrupt nations on earth.
Good governance was a clarion call from the moment General sani Abacha's iron rule provoked the West and sent democracy advocates - Wole Soyinka, Alani Akinrinade and several others - packing, seeking refuge elsewhere. The clarion call for good governance never happened; rather, what we have seen had been an avalanche of insanity all over and in every aspect of life in the country. The nation's social fabric is still in disarray. The infrastructures still a total mess. The executive branch of government has been in shambles from inception. The legislature has been completely out of touch, having no clue what is it "they" are doing. The judiciary has been way incompetent, corrupt and influenced by the fat cats and political godfathers of the day which has in its entirety made mockery of the rule of law.
It is disturbing finding out that in a situation where the average Nigerian earns less than $1,000 a year yet members of the National Assembly and governors of the respective states are among the highest paid in the world - not by basic salary - by way of inflated contracts and the so-called revenue-sharing formula, from some circles, national cake-sharing.
Nigeria is notorious for corruption, from fabricated contracts to the policeman who supposedly should be enforcing the law on the pot-holed riddled streets, but would rather collect bribes from motorists on many inexplicable grounds. With uncountable studies of corruption and the formations of series of anti-corruption agencies coupled with headlines about it in the nation's newspapers, nothing seemingly changed as widespread scandals of bribery and corruption continues apace; not even with the intense scrutiny from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and organizations like Transparency International could deter the notorious and one of world's most corrupt nations.
Starting from Moshood K. O. Abiola who allegedly was said to have won the presidential election of "June 12, 1993," in a selection conducted by the military junta, Ibrahim Babaginda, who had wrote the platforms of the political parties he created, choosing his cronies - Abiola and Bashir Tofa - as presidential candidates, and afterwards nullifying the said election on the grounds of mass irregularities, Nigeria, as a nation, collapsed in many ways.
History would recall Abiola never survived Abacha's gulag. He died while meeting with American officials, Thomas R. Pickering and Susan E. Rice at the government guest house in Abuja which would dramatically change the course of the nation's history from "June 12" to a another path full of uncertainties.
Despite the country's claim of excessive human capital and immense oil reserves, Nigeria remains in economic chaos, ravaged by greed, corruption and incompetence.
In a "yea" and "nay" debate on whether Nigeria is a failed state published by BBC News (Tuesday, July 7, 2009), Ogaga Ifowodo, who is currently at Cornell University for his Ph.D., and Waziri Haruna Ahmadu, a former Health and Agriculture Secretary, and presently adviser to the ailing President Umaru Musa yar'Adua, had engaged in the discourse on why Nigeria is a failed state, and why it is not, from each observer's own perspective.
A somewhat quite engaging debate but Ahmadu went off the hook with varied responses from BBC readers, and Ifowodo who said "yea", that "Nigeria is a failed state" from all accounts of the nation's model of how organized and civilized societies function on the basis of a thorough system began his opening arguments saying:
"Most, if not all of the indices of failed states, declare Nigeria well on its way to joining that disreputable club. Nigeria boasts a government unable to deliver basic social services. It is plagued by corruption so endemic and monumental it is hard to separate it from state policy. It lacks the capability or discipline to prevent threats to public safety and national integrity and is assailed by active challenges to its legitimacy. The latest disaster of a re-run election in Ekiti state, meant to correct the errors of the first, proved an even greater show of shame."
While on the "nay" corner, Ahmadu pointed out his observations which was obvious he had to play the devil's advocate as loyalist to the presidency, declaring in his opening statement, thus:
"It is obvious, all the signs of a state heading for failure - where a constitutional authority increasingly shows an inability to provide basic services like guaranteeing security to life and property, maintenance of economic and social services, infrastructure and food security - are not evident. On the contrary, for the first time in the country's history, Nigeria is attempting to address its economic and social infrastructure inadequacies. The economy has never been more open to new investors and the government recognises the imperative for private-sector investments in critical infrastructure such as power, transportation and energy."
For one who counsels the president and on his payroll, it is not surprising to conclude Nigeria isn't a failed state. And, of course, there were some emotional and appropriately salient responses from BBC readers. Chukwunyere Anyandu of Imo State made his point clear based on his own very experiences agreeing with the "Yea" corner that Nigeria is undoubtably a failed state, as he writes:
"When I was in primary school, my father (a farmer) was able to pay my school fees and had a good bicycle. Today, a university graduate in Nigeria cannot afford to buy toilet soap. If that is not a sign of a failed state, I don't know what is."
A failed state defined, and as Ifowodo stated in his opening argument, places Nigeria in that category. That, too, without a doubt, I would agree, especially with the notable Miss World contestants who had to be flown out from Abuja to London after four days of sectarian violence left more than 100 people dead. The debacle of Sharia forced the pageant to relocate.
Clearly and in all forms of maneauvering, former military junta, Olusegun Obasanjo - who also had been in transition, from military outfits, surviving Abacha's gulag and into agbada, in a massively rigged election never before seen in the nation's history, became commander-in-chief, second time around. Upon being sworn-in as the nation's "newly elected president" cooked from a concocted constitution prescribed by the juntas, "there will be no sacred cows," Obasanjo would declare in his speech, sending messages across the globe that no stone would be left unturned with the possibilities of prosecuting Babangida to the limit of the law, who had brought the nation to its knees institutionalizing corruption, not knowing corruption would still be baked in the system's genes.
The walls came tumbling down when an incompetent legislative body had no iota of idea that in any profound democratic fabric, that it is the people who recomend the mandate for its constitution, and not in any pattern by a draconian military machinery.
Obasanjo came in with military mentality; but when the new regime he led was ushered in from the executive branch to the legislature and the judiciary, even though it was well known that nothing was about to change by reforming the nation's odd characters, Nigerians in Diaspora and homeland thought they had installed an honest government, a situation that has eluded the nation in its nearly forty years of independence.
It did not take a political strategist or expert to figure out Obasanjo's regime was going to be a total failure. In just a few months Obasanjo assumed office, he ordered the command of one Colonel Agbabiaka to go ahead and demolish and plunder Odi over the killing of 12 policemen by Ijaw youths in that little Bayelsa State town.
Enter the satanic Sharia laws and the murderous Islamic Jihadists. Zamfara State, one of the newest state in the country had passed Sharia into law under Governor Ahmed Sani whereby people could have their limbs chopped off for petty theft, flogged for consuming alcohol, public stoning to death for adultery, and beheaded publicly for a series of other crimes which did erupt religious extremism with the Christian South as victims when religious riots broke out in the Muslim north over some inexplicable events that killed scores of Igbo people and southern Christians.
The state of kaduna alone have seen more incidents of religious violence. More than 2000 people, majority of them Christians, were estimated to have died during the riots in the city of Kaduna in 2000. In the town of Gwantu in Kaduna State, scores were also killed, hundreds more fled after the state government "introduced a modified version of Sharia."
Around early September of 2001, more than 100 people were left dead with wounded people lying unattended in the streets of Jos, quite unusual of the normally peaceful city over some stupid argument outside a mosque which led to burning down to the ground churches and mosques around the area as residents flee, going without food or water for weeks.
In all this, Obasanjo "dey kampe," not moved or perturbed, he would tell the press.
Obasanjo's days of worry would certainly come.
As it would happen, a deadly gang had already emerged all around the Lagos metroplois, causing havoc, maiming innocent citizens and destroying properties. Ganiyu Adams, leader of the Yoruba-led sponsored group, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), a well-composed, notorious gang of nihilists and hoodlums have unleashed murder and mayhen in the name of fighting armed robbers, turning the entire Lagos into a state of empire and anarchy for many complicated reasons.
First, then Governor Bola Tinubu, who supposedly should be the chief security officer of the state, had been blamed by the presidency for not doing much about OPC mayhem, and what it has cost the state in terms of lives lost and an estimated billions in the nation's currency.
At the beginning of january 2000, Obasanjo, worried and restless, had to write Tinubu a personal note regarding the "rapidly deteriorating security situation" in Lagos State, and that Tinubu could not afford to let the entire state be overrun by hoodlums led by Adams' OPC faction which is being seen as a threat to the state and national security. Adams' deadly gang had turned hubs like Ketu, Ajegunle, Mushin, Agege, Oshodi, Lagos Island and its environs into what one Tunde A. Olowu in a Tell magazine advertorial had called the "theatres of war."
Obasanjo, in his threat to use privileged, executive powers with "due consultation" of the National Assembly to shut Lagos State's government down by declaring a state of emergency rule had no idea what was about to happen. He had presumed his threat would move Tinubu to swiftly act. Tinubu threw back warning Obasanjo to stop playing nasty politics with OPC, that OPC was not the problem of political instability in the state, and that he should shut up and be real with politics of the day. It was a brutal "power show" which eventually had Tinubu smoking with in-your-face attitude to Obasanjo, that the Yoruba nation would stand behind Adams' deadly squad, no matter what.
Before any form of political tussle could erupt, Obasanjo had already been concerned about what was unfolding, and in the event his presidency declares a state of emergency in Lagos or elsewhere in the Yoruba-related states, that the Yoruba nation would rise to the occasion and bid goodbye to the entrapment called Nigeria. As if what had triggered the state of confusion and fight over political supremacy between the presidency and security concerns with Tinubu was not enough drama in the affairs of state, there happened to be a clash in Bariga, Lagos. That battle between members of OPC and the National Police Force took the life of Afolabi Amao, the divisional police officer who cammanded the Shomolu Police Station. Amao's body was littered into the Lagos Lagoon. The drum beat of war had just began.
Obasanjo had preplanned to turn Lagos into another Odi and Choba, that is, if Tinubu does not arrest the issue appropriately. But in one of proscribed Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors' meeting, Tinubu was given a thumbs up, "given the constitutional limitations of governors in many areas." The clock was tickling and the invasion of Lagos seemingly imminent including the sack of Alausa where the state lawmakers, the governor's team of kitchen cabinets, lobbyists and fat cats conduct business related to the state.
Obasanjo did not know what had hit him. The Yoruba nation including the leader of Afenifere, Senator Abraham Adesanya, were not in the mood to play cat and mouse with Obasanjo. They warned in a statement that another Odi episode would not be entertained in Yorubaland, and that OPC would square off with Obasanjo's federal forces. The challenge was real and more honest, and one could foresee another Odi unfolding. The roundtable had been totally presented a different agenda and Obasanjo had backed off after several warnings that an invasion of Yorubaland by a sitting Yoruba president would not be tolerated, and would spell doom for the entire Yoruba nation. In Tell magazine's forum of January 31, 2000, Lagos-based lawyer, Femi Fani-Kayode sounded a serious warning to the presidency. Femi Kayode writes;
"Let the Obasanjo administration be under no illusion: we will not sit by idly and tolerate an 'Odi massacre' or a 'Choba mass rape,' anywhere in Yorubaland. If it ever happens, the OPC will be forced to form an armed wing of young warriors and together with other groups in Yorubaland, we will violently resist the evil intentions of our collective detractors. The militancy of the OPC will then be childs play compared to what will befall Nigeria."
Apparently, on behalf of a strong Yoruba backing, OPC won in this war of words in what had been prefight ramblings between the presidency and the Yoruba nation. Lagos or any part of Yoruba land was not invaded, after all, and Adams' OPC annihilation of innocent and defenceless civilians continued apace.
Obasanjo had ordered a shoot-at-sight at any OPC hoodlum or nihilist suspected to be a potential threat to civil society. Also, in a battle ready move, state police commissioner, Mike Okiro, had gone to work to slug it out with OPC in the deadly gang's criminal activities in the state
In February 2000, Okiro received a "distress" call that armed bandits were on the rampage at Onitire in the Suirulere area of Lagos. In a fierce engagement with the armed robbers the police force claimed to be OPC members, one of the bandits was gunned down, the other seriously wounded while three escaped never to be found or charged. Okiro claimed victory in that shoot-out, but OPC fired back immediately issuing a "seven day ultimatum to Lagos Police Command to stop killing their members," whom they claim the police labels as armed robbers, even though Adams had been on the lam and on the top list of the nation's police command. The Yoruba nation had been behind Adams, and had seen the whole lot of problems within the national political scene, pointing out OPC as a Yoruba issue and should be handled the Yoruba way.
Elsewhere in the Niger Delta, the Ijaw nationalist, Muhajid Dokubo-Asari, the local gang leader whose militancy and threats to blow up oil installations in the Niger Delta continued to scare expatriates and civilians in that region. His grudge was that his people have not gained from the region's oil wealth justifying his taking up to arms to fight the establishment. His call to arms scared the presidency which had Obasanjo send his personal plane to fly Dokubo-Asari for peace talks.
After a failed negotiation for ceasefire, Asari and his thousands of followers, under arms, continued to kidnap for ransom, destroying properties and blowing up oil installations in the region which did tip the oil price coupled with political instability. However, after a series of threats, the Rivers State Police Command arrested Asari on September 19, 2005. Mass protests by Ijaw youths followed his arrest and civil unrest became the order of the day.
The Ijaw nation did not sit idly and watch Obasanjo abuse the powers of the Nigerian state. They issued out a press release. According to the release:
"The Ijaw Nation is justifiably aggrieved on account of the continuing egregious and callous violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Dokubo-Asari and other Ijaw Rights Activists, who have been imprisoned indefinitely without trial by the malicious invocation and abuse of the powers of the Nigerian State. It is particularly discriminatory and unacceptable that several months after the unconditional release of the OPC leaders, Fredrick Fasheun and Gani Adams, the Nigerian government continues to detain Dokubo-Asari of the NDPVF."
Instead of a golden age in Nigeria's neo-democratic experiment, the past ten years had been tragic, horrific and full of uncertainties, ending up bringing waves of umimmaginable kidnappings, cultism, gang-related violence, continuous bad leadership, police brutality, terrorist cells and terrorist organizations in the Islamic Jihad north.
With a sick president nobody wants to explain what had been going on, and the terrorist attempt to blow up Detroit bound Nortwest Airline Flight 253 on Christmas Day by a privileged Nigerian, Umar Forouk Abdul Mutallab, who had lived on the spoils of power, and whose clan had raped the nations treasury, it should be patently clear to the West that Nigeria is now living on borrowed time.