Saturday 10 February 2018


The realm of men often witnesses divine interventions, and quite fittingly, men on this side of the globe are quick to lay their lazy limitations at the feet of God. In all our toils there is always a place to put God. We praise God when we win and we blame his will when we don't. Some 'bless God' when they sneeze, and when ultimately we die, the priest would at our interment say that the Lord has given and has taken. Sometimes I wonder how God sees this, and how God sees us. A people of extreme contradictions, ostentatiously religious yet closet sinners, flamboyantly kind but strangely accustomed to compensation, widely here and thinly there. That defines us, that defines Nigerians. Here dogs eat dogs, felines and canines scavenge for meat, and dung beetles roll their shit. In the melee of our unfortunate civilization, interdisciplinary scholars invest their minds in wondering what sense their could have been in effecting such an unworkable sociopolitical amalgam as ours, yet a bigger wonder is how we have been able to remain worn and still one, and ,as the system now is, manage to elect from amongst us hyenas and jackals, pumas and panthers to lead us. On these we keep wondering.
The aftermath of 2011 witnessed the soaking of dogs and baboons in blood, as one was said to have sensationally promised. A number of young Nigerians serving their fatherland, perhaps who had believed in the maxim 'Think not what your country can do for you, but think of what you can do for your country' were killed in northern mobs. The next four years, the tenure of the aptly named Doctor GOODLUCK Ebelemi Jonathan, was characterized by industrial scale corruption. And lucky Joe never seemed to give a damn. And though he should be given credit for his government's efforts in agriculture and the railroad sub-sector of transportation, he is infamously remembered for his siddon-dey-look outfit to occasions of larceny under his nose, and for this reason on the road to FeBuhari 2015, the sensation for most Nigerians was 'anything but Jona'. And by March of that year, the man from Daura came on board. Three years on, any honest Nigerian devoid of ethnic sentiments and political party bias would confess to the reality of the near-apocalyptic condition of the country. The regime is not only failing, but is compounding its innate ineptitude with brash cockiness and the intimidation of dissenting voices, not forgetting that pungent aversion to plurality of opinion which has proven to be perhaps its biggest single trademark. As with 2014, the sensation yet again is 'anything but Baba'. Obj has written a letter, PDP has applauded him, APC is quibbling over semantics, politics is on and, as always, governance is off, but in all of these the common man does not care what games the high lords play, all he wants is good governance. He wants to be able to use good roads, afford decent meals, and pay his bills, but successive administrations have denied him this. 2019 is by the corner, and many Nigerians have from the pit of their disappointment in the man whom Fela called 'the beast of no nation' come up with the chorus of 'VOTE OUT Buhari'. And here, as with 2015, they have missed a very important point: there is basically nothing as 'voting out',  we merely VOTE IN a new canditate,  and the incumbent loses. The angst of many is invested towards voting out (an electoral misnomer) a man, but only a few understand that this can only be achieved by voting in another person. And here we are supposed to be more concerned not with the question of who we are voting out but who we are voting in, because all we can do whether for PMB or for Iti Mpataka is to vote, and the result of our votes would determine who will be out or in. 
But, we find a more complex reality which is that THIS Nigeria seems impossible to be salvaged. Not by a Nigerian certainly, leaders are a reflection of those they lead in most cases. As presently constituted, the combined efforts of Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Wladimir Putin and Otto Von Bismarck wouldn't effect any remarkable change in the country. The task of leading THIS nigeria, for any of the mentioned men is as handing over a bicycle with clogged chains and spokes to Lance Armstrong, only the miracle working God can do the impossible. The current structure of the country has always been unworkable. A system where states are run by a monthly cash handout called allocation can only groom administrative and economic laxity or indolence especially among a people well known for their culture of consumptiveness. It took the socioeconomic and political realities unfortunately being witnessed in this and recent administrations to expose this fact. The vehicle of Nigeria cannot pilot Nigerians on these wooden tires and moribund one cylinder engine. We need a vehicle fit to specs that can make for efficiency and comfort. Nigerians simply have to be freed from THIS Nigeria. A new Nigeria has to be negotiated with new and pragmatic sociopolitical and economic structures that would loosen up the jammed ethno-religious clogs that have held us back. If we can't live in peace as family, perhaps we can live in peace as good neighbors in a restructured Nigeria where each people can choose to develop at their own pace. Certainly two cannot walk together except they agree, and we are yet to agree, 'One Nigeria!' a man shouts from Kaduna, 'Worn Nigeria!' a man hears in Onitsha. And with each at the other's neck we stand at point not moving forward.
Our prism now deflects light towards an equally disturbing matter: the god in Abuja. Considering the amount of power a Nigerian President wields, he is not in any way a mere mortal. The National Assembly should also be mentioned here. The worry gets deeper when one considers the wide possibility of an unworthy character being bestowed with such power. In Nigeria's political class are several megalomaniacs, sociopaths and psychopaths, people who in saner climes would either be in psychiatric hospitals or doing jail time in some maximum security prison. But here they are always a vote's distance away from controlling our commonwealth and national fortunes. Such gods are grossly incapable of basic rational thought, talk more of conceptualizing progressive state policies. At times they come across as ethnic warlords with the clannish devotion of a Bantu tribal chief in the Mfecane wars of the Southern Bantu. And with such unstable homosapiens armed with the seat of a god, ethno-religious supremacy becomes a government policy in a multi-ethnic state as Nigeria. The mere fact of Nigeria housing over 200 ethnic groups and subgroups suggests that a very powerful center ruled by a god is not a wise arrangement. The fiery contest for political godship would dominate the national political landscape at the detriment of socioeconomic progress. And one step deeper in this worry is that the elected gods always fall short of the basic responsibilities of government. Add to this that the cost of governance is this high because maintaining a god isn't cheap. It is my firm belief that keeping this god is an expense Nigerians cannot afford and do not need. 
Every four years we are back to the trenches, North vs South, with mutual distrust we hope to take turns at power, a very massive, bloated and ineffective power structure. The center which controls such great power is always so far from the people in the remoteness of their dwelling, a regional government controlling much of the powers which the center now controls would be a more workable arrangement as the government would be closer to the people and for the proximity would have no choice than to be more accountable and transparent than when the yams were taken to the faraway Abuja and shared, boiled and eaten with egg sauce. Case in point is Benue state with her present security challenges, I imagine that if the security apparatus in the state is under the command of the state government, much of what has happened wouldn't have happened. State policing would be one dividend of a restructured Nigeria such that instead of waiting from orders from Abuja, security forces can do their job without such needless and redundant bureaucracy. Restructuring Nigeria would also entail making the central government less powerful and attractive, both in the executive and lesgislative arms. And consequently there would be less tension during elections at the national level. The utopia would be a confederacy but at worst a parliamentary system of government in a regional framework would do, something similar to the first republic. Let the regions take their destinies in their hands, remit only about 20% of their fortunes to a weaker central government for matters of foreign affairs, defense and other national issues. The nation's military forces should reflect the multi-ethnic demographics of the nation. Each region should be equitably represented in the army, navy, air force, and the secret service. With these and other such steps taken there wouldn't be such tales of marginalization from any region as before as everyone is now in charge of his fortunes. But without a structural readjustment of this country, the 2019 election would as always be to elect a god in a choice of two evils. And no matter our choice, with the structure on ground only GOD can make any progressive change.

**Iti Mpataka is a social commentator based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.