By Udo Jude Ilo
On July 22nd 2014, two incendiary devices went off in Kaduna killing about 20 people, according to agency reports. One of the bombs appeared to have targeted former Head of State, a former presidential candidate and now a chieftain of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, while the other targeted a respected moderate Muslim cleric Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi. Both of them fortunately survived. The tragedy of this event is not just the avoidable loss of lives of innocent Nigerians, but also the dangerous polarization of the country which the commentaries preceding the events have revealed. Nigeria has not been this polarized since after the civil war. Social commentaries around these events show that the fault lines in Nigeria are fast becoming gaping holes; the hate is palpable and the demonization of each other on the basis of religion and ethnic extraction has become rampant.
These tendencies are sustained by a political class that has lost every sense of responsibility and are bent on riding to political success on the wings of ethnic and religious sentiments. Nothing could be more irresponsible than this. The truth is that it’s not just about what our politicians do or say but more about what they do not say and the silent endorsement of the rascality of their supporters.
Nigeria is a country under siege. From almost every angle, the country is facing unprecedented challenges. The enormity of these challenges have weakened our stability, exacerbated fault-lines and heightened volatility. You would therefore expect an increased sense of responsibility and patriotism on the part of our leaders to confront the challenges of now. Rather, what we get is a delusional political class that has forced itself to ignore the realities of the moment. Every fiber of our nation’s life is strained to the limits and we are responding like everything is normal.
The statistics are frightening. More than 60,000 Nigerians are refugees in neighboring countries. Within Nigeria alone, close to 4.4 million citizens are internally displaced. Since January, more than 1000 Nigerians have died from insurgency and other violent crimes. More than half of Nigerian youth are without jobs. In spite of the lofty statistics thrown around as sign of our economic growth, poverty is pervasive. While as a nation we grapple with these grim realities, grand corruption is at an all time high, executive rascality and abuse of state resources is growing. Political intolerance and divisive narrative are the hallmark of our political class. Rather than being angry at our leaders, we are encouraged to be angry at ourselves, hence the quick decent to name calling and ethnic bashing whenever we encounter national tragedies that should ordinarily encourage us to hold our leaders accountable.
Our leaders may assume that turning us against each other; playing on our sentiments and painting the sepulcher that is fast becoming our future provides them momentary relief and political mileage. However, the reality is that these seeds of discord and irresponsible leadership are the same elements that gave us 30 months of civil war. These are the same elements that destabilized other nations and these are the same elements that are posing the greatest risk to our corporate existence as a people.
One of the tragedies of the Nigerian state is this delusion that Nigeria will always find a way out in moments of deep crisis. We carry on like there is a magic wand that will pull us back from the precipice if it gets tough. This is like playing Russian roulette with our nation’s stability. We cannot continue to play politics, manage our affairs and pursue political ambitions in a manner that is oblivious to the volatilities of our environment. We cannot carry on like winning elections is more important than having a country. It is simply not acceptable for our political leaders to put politics above working together to deal with our enemies.
Udo Jude Ilo is a Nigerian citizen.