Saturday, May 5, 2012

Somaliazation of Nigeria and Imperative of Privatized Governance

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

As I sit on my computer to write this, I am so devastatingly downhearted by the current happenings in Nigeria that I just feel like giving up writing this column for this week. What is the point of writing when the only country I can legitimately call mine is going up in flames without a fight; when life in Nigeria has become notoriously cheap, short, and brutish; when no one seems to be in control of the country; and when my core constituencies—the news media and universities—have joined the long list of targets for annihilation by an insanely primitive and murderous terrorist group?

This has got to be one of the worst times to be a Nigerian.  Boko Haram’s unceasing and ever-widening reign of mindless violence against innocents is turning Nigeria into a West African Somalia, the ultimate exemplar of a failed state. General T.Y. Danjuma captured it well when he characterized the current state of affairs in the nation as the “somaliasation of Nigeria.”If nothing is done urgently to stem this tide, we may be headed for a terrible implosion whose consequences we cannot predict. 

Boko Haram’s new violence against the news media and universities—the bastions of democracy and civilization—is the biggest indication yet of the severity of the problem that confronts us. It shows no one is exempt from the terror group’s bloodthirstiness. Last Sunday’s attack onChristian worshipers at Bayero University Kano, my alma mater, brought this reality even closer home for me.

I know the two professors that were murdered—among scores of other precious souls that lost their lives during the attack. Professor Andrew Leo, a professor of Library Science who hailed from the Okun-speaking area of Kogi State, was the father of one of my classmates, Helen Leo.  I shed tears when I read what Helen wrote on her Facebook wall about her dad’s brutal murder:  “To think that I sang a sweet birthday song to him on 15th of April... He giggled n giggled like a shy school boy. Uuummhh!” she wrote. “To think he still struggled to be alive after d first shots @ his chest. To think that they ran after a helpless old man and spilled his blood so mercilessly. What can I say? Only ur goodwill n prayers n the grace of God can make me smile again. …It is well. RIP papa!”

How can you hold back tears after reading that?

The late professor Leo had a reputation as a thorough and committed scholar who devoted more than three decades of his life educating generations of Nigerians at the Bayero University, Kano.  He, along with other scholars, founded BUK’s Library Science department more than two decades ago.

Professor Jerome Ayodele, a professor of Analytical Chemistry, was also a prolific, committed, and unassuming scholar. I knew him by reputation because he supervised the PhD thesis of one my friends in the early 1990s. My friend always told me about Professor Ayodele’s uncommon commitment to his students. He delighted in challenging his advisees and in sharing the latest journal articles with them. 

It is unconscionable that these perfectly innocent gentlemen who gave their all to their country would be murdered so heartlessly for no reason other than that they chose to go and worship their God.

But a couple of issues worry me in all this. First, Nigeria is now officially an anarchic country. Anarchism, as most people know, is a political philosophy that advocates the abolishment of all apparatuses of state. Nigeria is anarchic in all but name. There is certainly no functional government in Nigeria now.  Every Boko Haram attack elicits the same predictably sterile and fly-blown response from government officials. The attack is invariably called a “dastardly act” and government is always “on top of the situation.” And that’s it—until the next mass murder occurs. Yet trillions are budgeted for “security.” 

My second worry is the cornucopia of conspiracy theories in the north about these attacks. One set of conspiracy theorists insists that the attacks are the handiwork of the “enemies of the north and Islam”—whoever in the world they are— who are disguising as Boko Haram. Others say Boko Haram is the invention of Americans to destabilize Nigeria. Seriously? Yet others say it’s the creation of the Jonathan administration, although Boko Haram has existed many years before Jonathan came to power. These theories are so patently false, so unbelievably escapist, so childish, and so out-of-touch they make me want to puke. 

As one of my Facebook friends, Dr. Raji Bello, perceptively noted, “…these theories are also boosted by the fact that most of us don't actually listen to Boko Haram itself. We prefer to listen to GEJ, Azazi, and sundry columnists but we don't listen to the very people who commit these things. I make it a duty to listen to BH first before anyone else. 

“I quickly download their videos each time a new one is released and I play it over and over again. I pay attention to their media telephone interviews. Honestly … from all their pronouncements, I don't see anything other than that BH is a group of religious fanatics waging a jihad (that is, according to their own distorted view of the term jihad). This is what they say they are doing and they have been honest and very consistent. Religious extremism is the primary thing behind BH and recruitment into their fold is enhanced by poverty. Those are the only conclusions I can honestly make. Other issues exist, yes, but they make insignificant contributions to the problem.”

I couldn’t agree more with Raji. Until we face the truth about what confronts us, we will continue to be held prisoner by disabling self-pity and persecution complex. While I agree with most of what Raji has said, I disagree with his criminalization of poverty. As I noted in aprevious article, poverty, in and of itself, does not predispose people to violence. Billions of people in the world live in poverty and want, but they don’t go about killing innocent people because they are poor. So let’s not pathologize poverty.

Plus, Boko Haram members are certainly not poor. Poor people don’t ride the kinds of cars they ride to blow people up, and poor people certainly don’t use the kinds of sophisticated weapons that Boko Haram members deploy to murder innocent people. So let’s eliminate poverty from the causes of Boko Haram terrorism.

But how do we get out of this terrible mess? 

Well, I have a rather unconventional and slightly “crazy” suggestion. Since our central government is both unable and unwilling to tackle the menace of Boko Haram, maybe it’s time we experimented with privatized governance. Let us privatize the governance of our country, send the present crop of inept jokers at the helm of government packing, and invite any group of people from any part of the world with the best capacity to govern an unruly country like Nigeria to bid for the takeover of the governance of our country. 

This shouldn’t be such a newfangled idea. After all, we have privatized just about every facet of our national life already because government allegedly “has no business being in business.” Well, this government—and many governments before it— certainly has no business being in governance.

Our very survival is at stake here. National sovereignty has had no meaning in Nigeria for a long time. It’s even more meaningless now.

Related Articles:
Boko Haram as an Empty Signifier 
The Murderous Barbarism at the UN Building 
Job Bombings: Can We for Once Be Truthful?
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