Tensions Mount, Anarchy Looms

A young girl looks out her window in Lagos, Nigeria, March 23, 2002 (Photo: AFP).

There’s palpable unease in Nigeria. Everyone who can think, who can see, who can sense, and who can appreciate knows that the nation is in a state of undeclared emergency. In the last 16 months, we have moved from one crisis to another. We seem to have done a full circle of the face-off between the National Assembly and the presidency.

This disagreement is escalating to a point of crisis. And when the crisis is between the two most important arms of government as the executive and legislature, then the crisis in the land becomes deadly. Yet the presidency and the legislature appear bent on dealing with each other. What makes the dispute at the apex of government dangerous and totally hopeless is that while they are preoccupied with their selfish interest, government is neglecting the greater responsibility of catering for the masses of the nation.

The volume of unemployment in the society is so massive that already it is bursting at its seams. Idle youths are on the prowl, ravaging our institutions, destroying lives and property, through armed robbery, violent clashes, cultic murders, and recent mysterious killings which the law has no clue to. Political assassination has taken center stage in the political life of the society. It is ravaging the southern and the western parts of the country. And the social structure in these parts of Nigeria is on edge with fear and insecurity.

Recently, ethnic clashes are beginning to take a new dimension. At the slightest provocation, people who have lived together for nearly a century suddenly become enemies and begin to slaughter themselves and burn down their properties as though they have been at war for decades. Institutional corruption and decay have reached such heights that even the central bank is hardly immune to the destructive exploits of 419ers [a billion-dollar worldwide scam, which has run since the early 1980s under successive governments in Nigeria. It is also referred to as “Advance Fee Fraud,” or “419 Fraud,” after the relevant section of Nigeria’s criminal code, and “The Nigerian Connection.” Nigerians refer to it simply as “419.”—WPR].

The long and short of this bleak picture is that security has either collapsed or is collapsing so rapidly that the majority of our countrymen and women are already losing faith in government to secure life and property.

We believe that government can do something quickly to tackle the growth of this monstrosity. We believe that a reordering of the nation’s priorities could bring about a turnaround for the better.

We know that the country is blessed with sufficient resources—human and material—that could be harnessed for positive development. We know that if government and those in charge sit down conscientiously to address the problems on the ground with the determination required, there can be improvement within weeks that could de-escalate this frightful state of insecurity.

The federal government has a responsibility as well to back up and fund specific projects of the states to get the youths into one form of employment or the other. There should be a deliberate attempt by the government to assist each state by increasing their fiscal allocations to make money available for them to provide employment for its citizens.

But if the government is at ease with the increasing number of deaths of police officers, of innocent traders, of even wealthy citizens who are daily being killed by miscreants and armed robbers, then it is of utmost urgency that the presidency and the National Assembly, including the entire spectrum of state executives and the Houses of Assembly, do something quickly before it is too late.

What is needed now is positive, rational, and realistic action to diffuse the smoldering grind of anarchy that stares all of us in the face.