There are at least five stages in a society’s journey to catastrophic ruin. The first stage is the prophetic announcement of a possible crisis in the far future. Such predictions are made even in the absence of any logical deductions or historical foundation. Therefore, most of the actors at this phase do not disclose the sources of their predictions which might not connect with any previous or logically foreseeable event. Some, however, ascribe their authority to the divine merely to distract curious minds. However, many of them predict based on their secret knowledge of the long-term plans of some strategic groups whose interest pursuits may lead to a widescale societal crisis in the future. For instance, someone privy to the furtive arrangements of the colonialists to concede more political privileges and authority to politicians in the northern parts of the country than those in the south would know that such a decision may result in a severe future crisis.
The second stage in the catastrophic disaster evolution is the rapid departure from a culture of collective societal good to ethnic and personal selfishness. A vital element of this stage is the emergence and entrenchment of a culture tolerating such deviation. We could see the evolution of that phase in the 1966 coup d’état, resulting in the death of Aguiyi Ironsi and, eventually, the Nigerian Civil War. It was also evident in the lip-service reintegration of the Igbos after the Nigeria-Biafra war. But the most devastating consequence of this phase was the eventual implantation of destructive ethnic sentiments and interests in our national socioeconomic policy design and implementation. And because the dominant population of each ethnic group in Nigeria adheres to a particular religion, emotions around the latter also knotted themselves into the existing tribal bigotry. The third stage is the syndromic manifestation of the elements in the ugly foundation laid at the second phase. Corruption, lack of accountability in the public sector, the collapse of institutions, particularly those within the justice delivery system, lack of respect for the law across the board, and other vices take over the national corpus. Many decades of military rule accelerated the rapid manifestations and intensification of these symptoms.
We have now entered the fourth stage, which is the transition to an eventual crash. The defining characteristics of this phase are the ultimate decay and the weakening of the political governance system, which started in phases two and three and the contestation for the control of a seemingly dying Nigerian State. The insecurity across the country and essentially the fight for the soul of Nigeria speak eloquently to the latter. The impact on every segment of the socioeconomic system further weakens the political governance system in a spiral doom format. The climax is the fifth phase, the era of an eventual crash or the ultimate catastrophic end of Nigeria, characterized by excessive cyclones of unrest, asphyxiation, and eventual failure of statehood. Armageddon-like hurricanes are already sweeping across the country’s economic, social, security, and governance systems and structures. As these ruinous cyclones have their way, institutions and economic agents in Nigeria will start gasping for breath sooner than expected. At the same time, ordinary masses progress from accentuated cycles of civil to massive criminal disobedience to ultimate submission to the force of disaster. Fortunately, we may still reverse these fast paces to the crash if we act quickly.
Being in the fourth stage of progression also means that we start experiencing the early signs characterizing the stage of the eventual crash. The ultimate crash stage is akin to being at the reception hall of the fabled hellfire when their incinerators are still warming up. Several Nigerian comedians have shown how Nigerian citizens are no different from those already experiencing this transition to mythical hell in various video parodies. In one such parody, someone sentenced to eternal doom had to choose between Nigeria and hellish suffering. And the dead person chose hell. In another parody, with a group of people equally facing eternal sentencing, Nigerians among them were dispatched to heaven because they had already served a hellfire sentence in Nigeria. While obviously, the imagery of hell can be an extreme depiction of the reality of the Nigerian situation, almost all Nigerians are severely challenged and face an unknown future. There is frustration everywhere. As with doing business, so it is with accessing medicare, pursuing academic excellence, seeking safety and peace, etc. Without the basic things that make life worth living, life eventually becomes like the fabled hell.
In one of those government’s un-funny jokes, the vice president discouraged young people from leaving the country for greener pastures because, according to him, money is not everything. Yet, most of the kids of elite politicians and top government functionaries are either studying or working overseas. Those within the country are either enjoying their parents’ wealth cornered from collectively owned Nigerian resources under their care or working in juicy government offices. You may also recall the display of stupendous wealth at the recent wedding of the son of our president that is utterly inconsistent with the economic and financial status of the celebrant. In essence, therefore, given Nigeria’s well-established harsh living realities and the opportunity to have a new life elsewhere in the world, which rational person would prefer to be in Nigeria under these unpredictable and challenging circumstances rather than enjoy the peace and prosperity of many developed countries? The developed world gives us an idea of heaven’s appearance while our country presents an entirely contrary picture.
One of the recent and early signs of the cyclones of resistance from society was the #endSARS protest by the Nigerian youths. It was a determined protest of the hellish circumstances we have been subjected to over the years by the Nigerian government, permanently represented by the police. The police horror-of-life executioners called SARS used Nigerian youths to experiment and demonstrate the nature and form of the final stage of the evolution to catastrophic ruin. Innocent young people were summarily detained and tortured for several months without access to either their parents or judicial relief. Many died at police installations, some on the streets in police hands without the law redressing the situation. The agents of the era of doom successfully conducted their experiments. It was a snip peep into the kind of jungle justice that would define that era. Unfortunately, even the youth’s demonstrations against the State came to nought as they submitted to the latter’s powers, the hijacked vehicle for creating the monster of the fifth stage. Like the youth, the era of mass protests will come, and it is coming very quickly. The signs are pretty evident in the bouts of insecurity we currently experience. Young people denied education and jobs are protesting by taking to crimes and banditry. However, sooner than imagined, even the older ones in promising careers but living their lives as if they had none would shortly join.
Without any doubt, the #endSARS protest was a massive shakeup for the system. It was also successfully contained by the system. The end SARS protest is a forerunner to civil disturbances that will descend on our societies sooner rather than later. An already advanced phase of criminal disorders in the mould of banditry and terrorism is at the other spectrum, casting a wild veil of doom and fear over the country. In Schumpeter’s words, they are all part of the curriculum of disturbances that will creatively destroy stage four and eventually launch the final phase: the crash. Unless effectively managed and contained, the subsequent civil disturbance may likely lay the foundations for such a transition. During the #endSARS protest, we saw the power of the populace, which immediately shut down the Nigerian policing system. Many police officers lost their lives not necessarily because it was a riot against police brutality but because the police are the government’s face. Therefore, even if the next civil disturbance has nothing to do with the police, it will likely hit the security agencies badly. We are already witnessing the menace of the so-called unknown gunmen shooting police officers. The serial attacks of military formations and kidnaps on an army officer from the Nigerian Defence Academy collectively point toward a weaponized antipathy against the security apparatus.
Imagine that the trend of the maiming, dispossession, murder and the destruction of police personnel and their assets continued unabated during the #endSARS protest. By now, most Nigerian states would have been partially in the hands of bandits and criminals. Banditry is like an advanced phase in the journey of protestation. While civil disturbances show the public’s disapproval in some organized forms, the activities of bandits consisting of uneducated, brainwashed, and jobless youth are also indicative of massive objections to governments neglecting their fundamental human rights to education and economic opportunities. While the latter approach is extreme but represents the consequent destination of ignoring the initial protest warning, the former always represents the early red lights and alarms. Consider, for instance, the so-called sit at home currently implemented by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra. 95% of south-eastern people rarely sit at home because they are loyal to any prospective Biafran state and its band of agitators. On the contrary, they comply because this band of agitators seem to have overpowered legitimate authorities in those states and are dictating the rules. Those who dared to disobey usually face the wrath of brainwashed hooligans who are part of the disorder.
Greener pastures overseas for young people, if accessible, remain a good exit route from the impending disaster regardless of the counsel by the vice president. The older ones will always find a way of managing the ugly situations. But even at that, those older ones who can jump the ship regardless of their age should do so. It is better to be alive and live well than to cling to a patriotic emptiness that only benefits a few and offers nothing beyond distress to others. While we all have responsibilities to rebuild the country and stop the progression to the final phase, it is evident that more of the onus is on the few benefiting extraordinarily from the system to take the lead or lose all their benefits. The same applies to most of the beneficiaries outside of the government system who are still in many respects umbilically tied to government patronage and goodwill. Those who believe that there is still a recoverable country should also become more strident in their fight against the forces destroying the institutions of governance, justice, and economic freedom for ordinary Nigerians. Everyone has a role to play in the rescue mission. Otherwise, it may be like the Titanic that went down with all that was in it at the time.