Nigeria has blundered her way into another cross road. This is beyond dispute by anyone, looking at the indicators such as the threats, saber-rattling, warnings, quarrels, daggers-drawn, severe divisions and bitterness as well as the collective cluelessness of the power elite that have continued to define the political landscape. Underpinning the indicators is the fact of a nation completely in crisis in whatever sphere anyone can think of.
Against this background, anyone in his or her own little way must take the society apart and look at it from the point of view of the most influential actors to watch. Why? It is not for any more scientific reason other than the American pragmatism advanced by Harold Lasswell, the foremost American Political Scientist who said that “the unifying frame of reference for the special student of politics is the rich and variable meaning of influence and the influential, power and the powerful”. This connects very well with Max Weber’s conception of power as the ability to predominate, the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action.
In other words, every society has in its womb certain men and women who, whether we like them or hate them, can, individually and/or collectively, move all of us in one direction or another. Such people are influential or powerful irrespective of our sentiments for or against them from a combination of factors which could include individual status or stature in the society; control of resources, international connections, political technology, track record and networking or political base.
If influence and the influential are the stuff of politics, it will be foolhardiness not to understand influence/influential as a statement on the class balance of forces at the point in time, something which must be factored into the tactics of getting a nation in crisis out of it. Normally, crisis situations throw up leaders, depending on challenges posed and who and who were thrown up to resolve them. But Nigeria is an unusual federalism, without a replica anywhere in the world. Unlike other federalisms such as India, Canada, the defunct USSR and so on, Nigeria has no hegemonic ethnic or religious groups to, like the Hindu Nationalism, guide the society. So, it tends to be ungovernable.
But now, the country has reached a point where the best must be possible because the worst must not happen. This is the challenge. The best cannot happen out of free wheeling electoral competition. We have passed that stage. It is even more doubtful if it can happen via a revolution that will not lose its soul to imponderable consequences in the current atmosphere of ethno-regional analysis of everything, guided by hate memories and deep mistrust generated by very selfish elite of power.
It is, indeed, time to call Nigeria to order before like joke, like joke, something gives way and we all become spectators in world affairs, people without a nation state to bargain their way in the comity of states. God forbid!
Who are those who can, individually and collectively, call Nigeria to order and why? I attempt a selection below, arranged strictly in alphabetical order:
Abdulsalami Abubakar: It goes without saying that, as a military man, state collapse must be inherently anti-thetical to his being. I also assume that, as a former Head of State, he will feel terribly diminished to introduce himself anywhere else as a citizen of anything less than the Nigeria we know today. He is not known in terms of fabulous wealth but he has his own international connections to know which forces are for Nigeria as it is today and which ones are not and how to respond to each from the point of view of the political, strategic and diplomatic requirements for Nigeria’s climb out of deep hole. Track record is in his favour as an African soldier man who voluntarily handed over power. So also the political base internally to work out win-win outcomes.
Abubakar Sa’ad 111: As a highly trained military officer, a soldier-diplomat and an intellectual, he has his own reach within and outside the country, particularly access to royalty across the world. This is enhanced by his being the supreme leader of all Nigerian Muslims, a position which gives him powers far in excess of the title of the Sultan of Sokoto. His telephone call to any centre of power across the world can contribute to the process of calling Nigeria to order.
Aliyu Gusau: General Gusau’s experience of managing national security in Nigeria for a very long time and the interactions he has had with the intelligence community globally in the course of that constitutes power in itself. Although intelligence in itself is not enough, Gusau is neither an apolitical soldier nor a stranger in traditional diplomacy.
Atiku Abubakar: The former Vice-President had the unique experience of running a government at the presidential level on behalf of the president from 1999 – 2003. He has been in politics for a long time and knows Nigeria very well. With his accumulation of models of answers to the challenges of modernisation as well as his penetration of several centres of power in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, negotiating a nation out of crisis should not present an incomprehensible challenge to the self-acclaimed bridge builder.
David Mark: As the head of an autonomous arm of the Nigerian State, David Mark would normally enter any list of those to watch in calling Nigeria to order. But more than being the head of the legislature in Nigeria is that Mark is a product of the National Defence University, Washington DC where they problematise national security from all directions. It is such that although the National Assembly, the Senate in particular, manifests none of the sense of urgency to the nation’s slip into anarchy expected of it or has made any qualitative contribution to the expansion of the democratic space, Mark as an individual has succeeded in carving the image of Mr stability, warts and all.
Emeka Anyaoku: A former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria who then went on to become the chief scribe of the Commonwealth of Nations for eight years certainly has the links and the access to important centres of power in the world precisely because of what the Commonwealth is. Profiling the organisation in 1999, Luff wrote as follows, “The Commonwealth of Nations is unique in the modern world. Built on the most unpromising historical foundation, its great strength has been to allow reconciliation to overcome bitterness and mutual respect to replace the injustice of the past. It has no parallel in history. The Commonwealth is global in its reach, yet personal in its relationships. Incorporating among its members states in virtually every stage of economic and political development, it offers a model in which the dynamics of globalisation can be tampered by a respect for individual and community values”. That’s where Anyaoku’s powers to call Nigeria to order lies, beefed up now by his foray into oil business.
Goodluck Jonathan: Any incumbent president anywhere has a certain measure of power which enables him or her to make a difference except if he or she does not want to. All the criteria which determined the selection here favours a sitting president almost twice more than any other actor.
IBB: There is a feeling that as long as IBB is alive, nothing can happen to Nigeria. Not because he loves Nigeria so much but because, he has the most competent conceptual analysis of the national character of Nigeria and he used it to the hilt. Uncritical Political Sociologists call it settlement but it is something else awaiting a stunning doctoral thesis. The assumption is that if he has such a sophisticated understanding of the concept Nigeria, then he must have a magic wand on calling it to order, out of a mess.
OBJ: OBJ should be the most embarrassed Nigerian should the present trend of politics escalate further. It cannot but be so, given that he is the only Nigerian who has been so generously allowed to rule the country twice and as the one under whom the seeds of the present anarchy were sown, many of them directly by him. He has the network, locally and internationally, from the intellectual cum cultural centres of power to the political, diplomatic and security. He doesn’t lack the resources. This is therefore, the time to put to the most elevated use his uncommon ability to outflank everyone. Thank God, he still has the physical energy to move.
T. Y Danjuma: Vast intellectual and moral authority, fine stature in the entire North as well as his military/defence, business and humanitarian tentacles across the world gives him an edge. But his greatest strength or advantage is the warrior sense that makes him dare to do what would ordinarily look like foolhardiness to some others.
Yakubu Gowon: Gowon, like the honest and humane Shehu Shagari, the unassuming Ernest Shonekan, incorruptible Buhari and the sober Alex Ekwueme, would not have been listed here but for the fact that we cannot be discussing the recovery of Nigeria without mentioning the one who presided over the restoration of Nigeria much, much earlier. It is still Go On With One Nigeria, (GOWON) which he embodies. The less said, the better about Jack, (no rudeness intended, I just love the name).
Western world/TNCs, especially the oil companies: There is nothing that can happen to Nigeria if the western world does not want it to happen. It is as simple as that. I think that the realization that raising a peace keeping force for Nigeria is a mission impossible any day will make them decide early enough to call Nigeria to order. They have an all round advantage in which ever arena to do so.