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By Ikem Okuhu

Opinion

Discussing Nigeria’s glory using the past tense like some wannabe all-conquering soldier long dead can be excruciatingly frustrating. Although our poor exploits (or lack thereof) were always well hidden in the huge dollars from crude oil sales that the nation’s leaders have mostly squandered, the country’s military might have never been questioned. In fact, the world respected Nigeria for its dexterous military and once rated our soldiers as one of the best in Africa. In fact, as recently as 2020, once famed ‘Giant of Africa’ still ranked 4th on the log of Africa’s best military.

 

Such high ranking in 2020 may have been a consequence of reputational inheritances, acquired from the days we had a military that was worth the name. From 1989 and halfway through the 90s, Nigeria was a subregional liberator and led a coalition, then known as the Ecowas Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) to rid Liberia and Sierra Leone of its multiple rebel groups. These two countries would still not have become a stable democracy if not for the intervention of the Big Brother of West Africa. We all still remember the medals of honour Nigerian policemen and soldiers earned for themselves and the country during various United Nations peacekeeping missions. We cannot also forget how former President Olusegun Obasanjo few to Cape Verde to routinely ask the band of soldiers that had seized power in what was to be the country’s first coup d’état, to walk back to the barracks, paving the way for the ousted civilian regime to return to office.

 

People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020. After 13 days of protests against police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos Nigeria???s largest city as moves are made to stop growing violence. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

I do not know whether the country could still muster the might (of mind as of military) to muscle its way over any country today. How can we when we are almost overrun by different renegade forces, each pulling furiously and ferociously from differently vulnerable corners of the country’s poorly protected underbelly? It took Nigeria just 14 years, between 1989 and 2003 to quell the civil war in Liberia. It took even fewer years, 11 to be precise, to put those tearing Sierra Leone apart to flight. Such was the dedication and precision of the Nigerian military.

 

The story is however different back home where the battle to decimate Boko Haram has lasted more than 19 years with no end of the religious conflict in sight. The people of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and indeed the rest of the world would have been wondering whether it was still the same Nigerian army whose soldiers arrived in their countries and smoked out Sergeant Doe, Charles Taylor, Yommie Johnson, Andre Baptiste, Foday Sankoh and sundry other fortune hunters destabilizing those countries.

 

The lingering, and, if you like, increasingly escalating war against Boko Haram in the northeast of Nigeria has very recently been blamed on what the military likes to describe as the “asymmetrical” tactics of the terrorists. But anyone who followed the wars in both Liberia and Sierra Leone would have been familiar with how efficient the country’s military was in dispatching the different rebel groups who mostly used the asymmetrical strategy to fend off the coalition ECOWAS coalition forces. Why then would an army that had defeated foreign rebels that fought with the asymmetrical strategy be struggling to contain a local rebel group purportedly using same war tactic?

 

 

Statehood is a vast umbrella sheltering the people under it from hunger, ignorance, disease, aggression, security and other existential threats. It loses its meaning when the people under its protection begin to seek refuge and comfort elsewhere. Nigeria is at that point now and it is important that the barricades around government houses do not serve as barricades of a peep into a very possible future of intractable anarchy, the type that has grave consequences for everyone.

 

The answer is found in the prevailing culture of condoning ineptitude currently pervading the country. Nigerians have developed an impressively huge tolerance margin for mediocrity and incompetence. Under the cloaks of religion, ethnicity and other manifestations of regressive parochialism, anything can be tolerated and defended in our dear country. This has led to the rise of anti-intellectual, and anti-intelligence movements all over the country, effectively subduing, and sometimes, even ridiculing creativity and ingenuity.

 

They manifest in catchphrases like, “grammar no be our language,” “na grammar we go chop,” “keep on speaking English while others are making money” and such other epithets of ridicule. The result is that the worst of u have been leading the best of us for decades, leaving our governments across all levels hollow, devoid of the selflessness that only the higher intelligence can bring forth.

 

Deprived and inflicted with inferiority complex by the political elite, the country’s intellectual and, if I may add, intelligentsia got mired in a battle for survival and the race to legitimize rogue regimes, military and civil began. This began the regime that saw otherwise revered professors dress as Election returning officers, but work as vote riggers and the authors and finishers of the stealing of our statehood by well-dressed hoodlums with illicit cash.

 

Even the cacophonously strident forces of disintegration and Aryan-like expression of arrogant superiority across the lengths and breadths of Nigeria are being essentially championed by people who, by virtue of their shallow intellect and very limited knowledge, shouldn’t be leading, I have read a number of books on emancipation but I have not seen those driven without some serious measure of economics. Emotions alone do not feed sovereignty. But we have found ourselves in the hands of people who have made it their preoccupation to, as J.P Clark put it, “beating on the drums of the human heart, draw the world into a dance with rites it does not know.”

 

The country is in so much mess because those in authority do not know better: they have spent these many years feeding fat off the country while leaving only ignorance as feedstock for a country in desperate need of nutrition.

 

In the previous article, I did refer to the centrifugal forces tearing the country from all corners. The truth is even many of these agitators know no better and yielding to them would be shifting to newer axes of evil. But I am also of the belief that the current inertia, and at best, the pretentiousness of the governments of the say will continue to fuel these forces and the more they are given reasons to shriek, the more people hear them and believe.

 

Statehood is a vast umbrella sheltering the people under it from hunger, ignorance, disease, aggression, security and other existential threats. It loses its meaning when the people under its protection begin to seek refuge and comfort elsewhere. Nigeria is at that point now and it is important that the barricades around government houses do not serve as barricades of a peep into a very possible future of intractable anarchy, the type that has grave consequences for everyone.

 

Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher.

 

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