NIGERIA: Filling The Gap In 2019

FILE PHOTO: Opening session of the Nigeria Constitution Conference, Lancaster House, London, September 29, 1958 with the Secretary of State of the colonies, Allen Lennox-Boyd, and from left, to right, Obafemi Awolowo, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe. Image: Edward Miller/Getty Images


--Georges Benjamin Clemenceau came to power in France in 1917. That was when the First World War was full blown. But how did the world war start? Very simple! Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was murdered and that was all.

Some events that led to world wars actually had gestation periods. Acute nationalism was the debacle of Europe then which ignited steep industrial competitions. All the European super powers had military pacts scattered haphazardly. You could have a pact with your friend’s enemy in which case you are required to attack your friend if she goes to war with the enemy. All these happened pre-1914. It was a transitory period of Europe transitioning from the royalty to democracy. Hatred and acute nationalism was blowing across the continent. Again, the Berlin Conference in 1885 created abiding discontent. Some countries like France were a major beneficiary of that conference in the sense that her colonies were huge, many and prosperous in raw materials. Prussia (Germany) and Italy had little or nothing. That introduced deep-seated hatred in the future European Union. War broke out in 1914. France was mortified. She blamed Germany for causing the war. She blamed Germany for un-hatched eggs in France, delay in rain, less fat in pork hide and everything. Her number one desire was for Germany to be annihilated. That was the build-up for Baron Clemenceau to come to power in 1917. The French observed in him that he had the ideal anger for the Germans. He was brought to power to “kill the Kaiser”. The kernel of it is that the French people went for someone who could do the job.

Deng Xiaoping was a product of the revolution and a Mao protégé. He was however one of the radical revolutionaries whom Mao did not trust. Immediately after the coming of the communist system, China wasn’t growing. Famine was the lot of the Chinese. Ruling China was horrible and outlandish. The People’s Committee had to continually use brute force to quell riots in the world’s biggest population. China passed through the various strata of the revolutionary leadership yet remained the same: crude and backward. The last trouble China wanted was the problems at home. As a whipping child of the West she lived in perpetual fear for a friendship between USA and USSR. Such a friendship would effectively sink her. She also wanted a slice of gullible and poor countries in Africa, Latin America, the Asian minors and the Middle-East, and perhaps Eastern Europe. She had to spare money and weapons for her dictators without ignoring hunger and underdevelopment at home. She was buffeted all around her. America was making incursions in her backyard in Vietnam and Taiwan, the latter that she has always seen as her territory. Communist conservatives came to the conclusion that a centrist and a realist must lead China or else… That was the strength in which Deng Xiaoping came to power. In the annals of post 1949, he was reputed to be Mao II because of his successes in China. Anyway, the present President Xi Xinping probably has dwarfed that position of Deng Xiaoping to be Mao II for being made the eternal leader of China. Deng Xiaoping was reputed to have ‘opened China’. A personality the Chinese followed because he led Communism differently from her traditional beliefs.

Now let us also see the wrong choice of a people and how it affected them. When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Vice President Andrew Johnson took over from him. The latter ran into trouble immediately. The American civil war had just ended. Lincoln was already walking out of its shadows and was providing exemplary leadership of healing across the states. He was assassinated by a confederate veteran that typifies the bitterness in the southern states. The Proclamation Act by America’s saint president, Lincoln, of freeing all slaves in America was not completely received and it needed the federal might to impose it on every state in the Union. Another burden confronting America was the civil war that destroyed the south completely. In the north, life was normal. Washington DC needed to get money from the north to develop the south, something quite unpopular with the northern states. Andrew Johnson, a southerner from Tennessee, a major state that fought hard to break from the Union was generous in squeezing the north to pay the south.

In the same vein, he abandoned the rave of the moment and in fact the cause of the civil war, the slave question in America. The Congress, however, towed the line of Lincoln and rallied the country in a united front. Andrew Johnson foot-dragged. America was trapped and clogged at the very moment they needed the right leadership. What a lesson for Nigeria. The Congress, sympathetic to the cause of slaves, and determined to move America forward had a lot of issues to grind with the president. The House of Representatives headed by an anti-slave campaigner, a big believer in the Proclamation Act, galvanized support and impeached the president. That episode shook America to her foundations. The country wobbled and lurched painfully. The country suffered needlessly from a man they brought to power albeit circumstantially.

America brought the right man after Andrew Johnson, and that was Ulysses Grant. He was Lincoln’s commander of the Armies and later appointed as the commander of the Union. Lincoln, with a sharp eye for talents and ability to use the right people for the job even if they were his enemies began to relate with Ulysses Grant. He got a rapid promotion until he became the commander of the Union. Immediately he was appointed, he short-circuited the general staff office which revel in academic war tactics and are full of procedure. Ulysses Grant quickly reversed the fortunes of the confederates and gave America the much needed victory. As the president of the country, he gave America the following: tangible institutional and economic stability and healings from the shadows of the social unrest. That is the kind of leader Nigeria is groping for right now.

In the days of Germany inordinate ambition to annex and redraw the map of Europe as were being advocated by the Nazi, Neville Chamberlain downplayed and spoke in moderation to Britain’s counter military policy. In his opinion, Britain was a good guy and had a responsibility not to overheat Europe. Winston Churchill had a contrary opinion. Nazi Germany had severally crossed the red line. British interest and responsibility was being undermined daily by the military build-up in Germany. He wants Britain without delay to call Germany to order. His message made Britain to substitute him with Neville Chamberlain. He understood the language of “Der Fuhrer” more than anybody. He played a significant role in the defeat of Hitler.

Donald Trump is one of the wealthiest persons on the planet. He is consistently mentioned in Forbes magazine as a man owning blue chip properties and money spinning casinos. He is also known to be dispassionate and probably the most ruthless man on earth — all the qualities the Americans hated seeing in her political leaders. He was never known in politics. Like a tradition Americans pooled their presidents mostly from among senators and governors. They even tolerated military chiefs. They don’t go after business men. But they went for Trump. Why? They were fed up with idealists, liberal people, constitution chauvinists, world charters and those who send dollars and people abroad to protect democracy while foreign and domestic debts increase; internal insecurity, unemployment rise, education and standard of living drop, etc. America’s imports were increasing and her goods abroad are expensive. Her presidents pursued a deterrent policy on nuke production while other nations who don’t mind lend them money. They voted for a ruthless non-politician in negation to his opponent who is a super diplomat and is at home with throwing bombs and rolling tanks on less fancied countries.

Donald Trump is not bothered about frivolities. He also doesn’t mind controversy. After all he hardly talks about Lincoln like Obama did, nor rights and laws. America is not making money enough as he did as a private man, period. He has even never claimed to be a good man. All he knows is he has billions of dollars and activism does not bring that. He wants America and all Americans to be rich like him. He declared economic war on her close allies China, Canada, European Union, etc. He has upped his accusation of Mexico and has put the world on notice. America is now interested in where her money enters. If Iran owns a nuke, the Middle East is in immediate trouble and not America. What would ever trouble America would trouble Europe more. He accused Qatar of unspeakable evil only to sign a military pact with her a month later and at the same time arming the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is pursuing military drills in Korean peninsula with a clear message: America’s interest. He has stirred a lot of controversy at home and carved an image of the bad boy. The effect? He runs America like a business and where America was not getting money, he would go for the jugular. Presently, the world is watching feverishly as America and China are in a major trade war. It seems now to Americans that the war was supposed to have been declared two decades ago.

In Nigeria, the situation is pathetic. We are at crossroads like America, Britain, China, and France once were. Presently, Abuja is a dispenser of life in Nigeria. It is being successfully clogged. It is clear she is becoming weaker by the day. We now know that apart from Lagos no state is economically viable. As at last count, 30 states are owing salaries and almost same number are now military zones due to insecurity. In spite of military presence agents of death especially killer herdsmen are still doing their business unperturbed. They have submerged Boko Haram. They know how to strike with or without the military. Ethnic groups are now talking tough yet the referee, a government headed by Buhari, maintains a golden silence reminding us that silence is golden as many Nigerians are sent to their graves without let. The IDP camps are swelling by the day with churches and mosques and other NGOs overstretched in catering for them. In fact, Nigeria is so overwhelmed that Chibok, Sharibu and the likes are becoming an antiquity. We ourselves are becoming insecure not to talk about them. There is hatred in Nigeria while major multi-nationals are fast disappearing. Nigeria no doubt is troubled. We are obviously in an interregnum. Other countries have been there before and they quickly proffered a panacea to the ills. Aluta Continua, Victoria Ascerta was first coined not by a common man but a national cry by nations in deep problems.

Within Nigeria we have a Clemenceau, Deng Xiaoping, Winston Churchill and the cripple, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We have them now. These present packs who would desecrate the names of our heroes past for us to forget insecurity by honoring them as grand commanders need to be changed. Nigeria needs a facelift. Nigeria needs a renovation. Nigeria needs restructuring. It is no longer going to be an appeal for good governance but a matter of individual and/or group initiative to spend what they can afford and attract investment in what they can do. Surely there are things different people can do in Nigeria even cattle rearing. We need a ‘computer program’ template and of course, a programmer. The Chinese, contrary to modern fashion, have identified Xi Jinping and have pronounced him Mao II and have made him a life president. We, as a country, have identified Atiku Abubakar. We can vote for him, not as a life president, but as a president that will bring Nigeria to life. Some politicians should tell us what they can do. But Nigeria should do likewise what other nations did. America has a working ‘bad boy’, the Chinese a working king; we can have our own outlook personae. Like other countries did in their dying times, why don’t we bring in Atiku Abubakar to fill the interregnum?

Omekwe, a former member of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, writes from Abuja.