Nigeria as we know it, is undergoing a serious revolution or revision, albeit quiet, unacknowledged and unannounced. Despite the head of the ostrich in the sand mentality of our leaders, the country has been in great trouble for the past few years with things getting worse. Many essayists have copiously chronicled the problems with Nigeria, many from the parochial prism of partisan politics, tribal, religious or personal interest perspectives. In all, a common denominator emerges that Nigeria is a nation in trouble. Unfortunately, there is no Zorro in the horizon with a blue print to tackle the problems facing the country much less begin laying the right foundation. The foundation on which the country is constructed is giving way at the deepening fault lines of corruption, tribalism, greed and other ills giving credence to Chinua Achebe’s farewell master piece “There Was A Country”.
Let us look at some of the issues:
THE PROBLEM WITH OIL
There is general agreement that Nigeria has over the years done very little to diversify the economy. The problem however is not as simplistic as that. The western world led by the United States, suffered terribly for many years from the machinations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) manipulation of world oil prices. The cartel engineered gross distortions in the economies of oil importing nations who now spearheaded by the United States have found ways to reduce world dependence on oil. Today, vehicles fuelled by natural gas, electricity and other alternative sources, once seen as futuristic are now common place in many western countries and mass transit systems are being enhanced to take even more people out of their cars. The United States and Canada have embarked on being self sufficient in oil through cutting edge extraction of oil and gas from shale sand, fracking and the opening up of petroleum exploration in areas preserved for decades by environmental activists. Today, USA has emerged as the world’s highest producer of petroleum and natural gas. It is impossible in today’s world to control world oil output because many oil producers or marketers have become non-compliant or rogue producers weakening OPEC’s influence on oil prices. It is difficult to monitor oil output from countries like Russia, Iraq, Venezuela, Libya, Angola, Syria, Southern Sudan and many others. With the nuclear deal reached with Iran, the world oil glut will only get worse as Iran aims to increase its oil production to full capacity.
In the Nigerian situation, the problem is pathetic. The world oil buccaneers buy black market oil from Nigeria. Unfortunately, the issue of the fight for resource control which emerged under Isaac Adaka Boro, furthered under Ken Saro Wiwa has blossomed into a fully fledged geopolitical enterprise. The attempts to quell this aspiration by force such as the Massacre at Odi on November 20, 1999 during the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo or the attempted pacification by former President Shehu Yardua under the Niger Delta Amnesty Program, were abysmal failures. Today, thousands of illegal oil bunkering activities thrive, as both the sale and refining of stolen crude oil have been elevated to state craft. Truth be told, it appears the indigenes have taken back their oil. The inclement operating environment has seen massive divestment by multinational oil companies operating in Nigeria. This alone was a pointer that all was not well with Nigeria and its oil.
From 2011 to August 2014, crude oil generally witnessed high prices of over $100 per barrel, since then prices have been unpredictable and unstable now hovering below $40 per barrel. Today, there is a two way split among OPEC Members on the way forward. One group led by Saudi Arabia does not want to see a cut back in crude oil production. The rationale is that by causing a glut, many producers in the Western nations will be forced to go bankrupt. This strategy is already having significant negative impact among oil producers involved in fracking and shale oil production as many such companies are going bankrupt. A second group which includes Nigeria will like to impose significant production quotas to shore up world oil prices. It is predicted that if the slide continues, some of these countries like Nigeria and Venezuela will go bankrupt.
To make matters worse, Nigerians expected a drastic cut in the cost of governance under President Buhari. On the contrary, the Federal Government has proposed a 2016 Budget of N6 trillion, the highest ever in Nigeria with a presumed benchmark of $38 per barrel. Since the proposal the price of oil has gone down to $36 per barrel, the lowest in many years. Even at this, all tiers of government have maintained an expenditure profile that is unrealistic and unsustainable in view of the prevailing economic circumstances.
Federal, state and local governments, ministries, departments and agencies of government are struggling to pay workers’ salaries as governors agitate at their inability to pay the new N18,000.00 minimum wage. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight to this quagmire which sees an already restive workforce ready to explode.
To make matters worse, we are now witnessing foreign exchange controls that threaten to cripple the economy and obliterate the private sector.
TERRORISM, INSECURITY & ALL
According to a just released report, Boko Haram is the world’s deadliest terrorist organization. What started as a minor skirmish a few years ago has blossomed into a full fledged war that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions. Nigeria lost valuable time in wrestling this monster to the ground because the people at the helm of affairs then, like President Goodluck Jonathan did not comprehend the nature of the problem. I believe he would have made better decisions if he had been better briefed by his aides who understood the issues. For his aides to do that would have amounted to betrayal on their part, exposing the under belly of Islam to an infidel, a kuffar amounting to an abomination. What people will like to sweep under the carpet is that many people in the Sarduana States which include Adamawa, Borno and Yobe do not consider themselves part of Nigeria owing greater allegiance to the old El Kanem-Bornu Empire. The Kanem Bornu Empire (c. 700–1376) was located in the present countries of Chad, Nigeria and Libya. At its height it encompassed an area covering not only much of Chad, but also parts of southern Libya (Fezzan) and eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. For centuries, this area has been subjected to numerous jihads including one against Germany which had colonized part of this empire. After the defeat of Germany in World War 1, part of the Sarduana States came under British Administration. The area was not however a part of Nigeria at independence in 1960, since a 1959 plebiscite meant to incorporate it into Nigeria failed. It was not until 1961 that the area voted in a referendum to join Nigeria allegedly after much arm twisting of the local emirs and forced deportation of those seeking self determination. During the last Constitutional Conference, His Eminence, the Lamido of Adamawa was quoted as saying that he would not hesitate to leave the contraption called Nigeria.
It is important to understand the Boko Haram ideology which is same as those held by other radicalized Islamists, the head of which is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, (ISIS) or (ISIL) to which Boko Haram had pledged allegiance or Baya’a. Issues of popular western culture like drinking, mode of dressing, mode of education are regarded as apostasy that offend their interpretation of the Moslem religion and are imperatives for takfir and jihad. For Boko Haram, education is classified into three makarantan allo, makarantan adini and makarantan boko. Whereas the first two are allowed, since they involve religious study and pious living; makarantan boko which is western style education is seen as evil, against the teachings of Islam and cause for jihad. The ultimate aspiration of this group is to die in a jihad with the belief that heaven is assured. The problem of radical Islam is not limited to Nigeria but has spread worldwide. What compounds the Nigerian case is that we are not equipped with the resources or will power for this confrontation. This is the reason for the very few convictions to date of high profile suspects. People who are radicalized span from the ordinary to the children of the Nigerian elite like a former Supreme Court Judge, a former Chairman of a premier bank, children of top military officers and other service branches. There has been little headway in cutting off the flow of funds to the group. It is alleged that many state governors were paying a special tax or jizya to this dreaded group. Honestly, it is difficult to tell who is a Boko Haram or who is a Boko Haram sympathizer in Nigeria today. Boko Haram has grown into a dragon under our eyes. Nigerians are hoping that in President Buhari, they have found the knight that will slay the dragon. While there is no doubt that the President will do his best, we must examine the obstacles ahead. Boko Haram members are part of the general population in many of the Northern parts of Nigeria especially the North East. The infiltration of its membership and sympathies have permeated the security agencies. As an example, it was alleged that the top police echelon contrived the escape of Kabir Umaru Sokoto the mastermind of the Madalla terrorist attack which killed and maimed scores of people. Since he was recaptured in 2012, not much has been heard about him or other high terrorism subjects like Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche the alleged mastermind of the April 14, 2014 Nyanya bombing. Many suspect a collusion between the security agencies and the judiciary to stall these and similar cases whose timely public adjudication and punishment will show seriousness in the fight against terrorism. In the so called fight against terrorism in Nigeria, the government has not gone against the clerics and Imams who radicalize the youth, yet for all other countries fighting this menace, that is step number one. The government has also refused to adequately police the borders especially around the North East axis allowing free entry to people from Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Sudan, etc obfuscating deliberately the definition of “who is a Nigerian?”
In a war situation like the one Nigeria is in, terms such as due process, constitutional rights, rule of law, freedom of expression and association are usually touted by apologists to mask criminality and corruption. It should not come as a surprise that Boko Haram and affiliates are using so many dubious Human Rights Groups to impede the war against terrorism.
We should not lose sight of where the seeds of the insurgency were sown. Whereas the quest for the implementation of full Sharia law in the Northern parts of Nigeria predated the 1960 independence, it was not until 1999 that a new crop of advocates with clout made it a reality spearheaded by then Zamfara State Governor. Since then, Sharia has been fully implemented in nine states with Muslim majority and in some states with Muslim plurality. With this development, an atmosphere was created for the berthing of extremist ideology like that espoused by Boko Haram.
It smacks of naivete not to understand that it is a cardinal principle of the ideology never to negotiate. Martyrdom in the course of jihad is promoted and central to the apocalyptic ideology. Those seeking or promising to broker peace with this group are either naive, ignorant or deceitful. This also goes for people who refuse to understand the rationale behind the abduction of women, especially young girls and children. Explaining the ideology, Graeme Wood in his article “What Isis Really Wants” in the March 2015 edition of the Atlantic, quoted what the sect said should happen to women and girls abducted from the Sinjar Province in Iraq thus:
” Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.”
From the above, one can deduce that it is wishful thinking, for anyone to be optimistic of recovering the Chibok girls wholly or great numbers.
It also has to be examined if the insurgency in the North East of Nigeria is fueled by Multinational Oil Corporations acting independently or in collusion with Nigeria’s neighbors since it is believed that oil exists in commercial in the Chad basin.
The fight against Boko Haram has recently been compounded by the recent killing of Shiite Muslims, potentially opening a dreaded conflict between Sunnis and Shiites such as is ravaging Iraq. To begin to confront the problem of radical Islam, we must keep in mind that it is an ideology which is not restricted to the North East of Nigeria alone. The North East is important only to the extent that a contiguous territory is a requirement in the establishment of a Caliphate. However, the theater of war is the entire Nigeria and no place is safe.
* Dr. Jude Akubuilo is an International Trade & Public Affairs Consultant. He holds a Doctorate Degree in Law from the University of Birmingham, England