Wither Republic of GOODLUCK? By Issa Aremu

Good luck has its storms. – George Lucas

Luck never gives; it only lends.  ~Swedish Proverb 

I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.  -Thomas Jefferson

Received wisdom defines “Goodluck” as “an auspicious state resulting from favourable outcomes”. That definition could very well pass for Federal Republic of Nigeria. With a total land mass of almost 1 million (precisely 923,766 sq.km, 60 per cent of which is cultivable) 165 million diverse peoples, solid mineral resources, including prized oil and gas, Nigeria is “truly a land marked by lucky signs and good omens”. President Goodluck, had resisted the temptation of making fetish of his name; Goodluck. In April 2010 he modestly parried a personalized question from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about the significance of his name that saw him transfigured from the obscurity of a deputy to acting commander-in Chief, of the most populous African state. That was after the controversial doctrine of necessity legitimised his acting Presidency following the deteriorating health of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Regardless of the President’s indifference, the point cannot be overstated; both history and contemporary global events singled out Nigeria as the only standing Republic of Goodluck on earth with the name of his President so-called to match! Series of Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s (the most notorious being Bosnian variant) claimed almost 500, 000 lives. The Republic of Yugoslavia was in itself the major causality. It collapsed into smithereens of some smaller states, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovania and Kosovo. While Yugoslavia was not as lucky in the 90s, earlier in the 60s, Nigeria was so lucky. It tragically imploded into a three- year civil War, known as the Nigerian-Biafran War. An estimated three million people died due to the conflict, mostly from hunger and disease. Yet Nigeria remarkably luckily survived with amazing reconstruction and unprecedented reconciliation, not yet beaten by any post-conflict countries including post-apartheid historic reconciliation efforts led by President Nelson Mandela. Notable war criminals in Yugoslavia were candidates for trail at International Court of Justice in Hague including former President Slobodan Milošević  who died in 2006 before the trial was concluded. Conversely in Nigeria, the chieftains and protagonists of the civil war in the two divides are still celebrated as statesmen. The late ex-Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was recently buried with national honors and outpours of praises. It is even now fashionable to be rebellious; witness militants of varying hues! Nigerian military annulled a free and fair election in 1993, jailed its acclaimed winner Chief Moshood Abiola, whose corpse was returned from detention. Nigeria had since muddled through series of presidential elections less free than the annulled ones but elections nonetheless.

Conversely almost same time Algeria plunged into second civil war caused by similar (January 1992) military coup canceling elections slated to bring the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) to power. Algerian civil war lasted almost a decade with almost a million killed. Many diversified economies of the world with less dramatized official graft and elite money/title grabbing are witnessing unprecedented crises, from Greece to Spain and down to United States. Nigeria a perpetual mono-product (oil) economy advertises jobless “growth” fueled by all sorts of imports from petroleum products to basic foods like rice. Nigeria is the only “lucky” Republic that witnesses bombings and serial killings now bordering on genocides without official declaration of wars by all sides. With the benefits of hindsight of what tragically took place in Rwanda in the 90s my country has a dubious distinction as the only country whose notable statesmen are not working towards a slide into similar barbarism (Rwanda prays and works never to return) but from the rooftops of their comfort relish in adopting “Somalization” and “Rwandanisation” terms in their occasional diatribes. Some luck indeed! As individuals and nation states, we all live on some good luck to survive. Ernest Hemingway (the great successful story teller of all times) once observed that “For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.”

It was a good luck that Nigeria’s civil war took place within the historic context of cold war with former Soviet Union as a bulwark against the West. Without multi-polar world, it was debatable that Nigeria would have witnessed 21st century intact and indivisible. We must however realise that the “ only sure thing about luck is that it will change”. In a Unipolar world and dictatorship of few big powers, Nigeria risks soonest good-luck deficits from its abundant squandered luck surplus. Even with the best of luck the Late Premier Ahmadu Bello diligently built the Northern region on “work and worship”. The recent serial madness with hundreds murdered in Kaduna dubbed “religious” crisis by media mis-information stretches our luck to the limit. How “religious” is the mayhem in which mosques and churches are deserted and elsewhere including brothels are safer?  What is “religious” about conflicts in which men of great faiths as Islam and Christianity are set loose on each other? Indeed our good luck is turning into hard luck. But someone noted; “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work”. Our hard work must start with good governance on the part of those elected to protect us. The President and governors must be on duty to proactively channel the energy of citizens into development not mutually assured destruction as great commercial and industrial city like Kaduna had serially witnessed. It is simply unacceptable that President Jonathan discussed environment issues in Rio in far away Brazil when his national environment was polluted with corpses and smoke without industrial production and industrial accidents. Generalized state wide curfew is no substitute for governance and effective policing. We must be strategic to isolate trouble spots in a state and reward peaceful areas with free movements for legitimate peaceful transactions such as industry and schooling for our children.

ISSA AREMU ([email protected])