Suicide Country by – ANTHONY CHUKA KONWEA, P.E

— All lives matter of course. But currently in Nigeria, there are three plus one lives that matter much more than the rest. The sudden loss of any of these three lives whether by natural, abnormal (suicide), or otherwise criminal means has the potential of plunging the country into chaos, violence and instability from which it may not emerge corporally intact. The loss of the fourth life (incarcerated Shiite Leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky) has the potential of fermenting significant regional upheaval with intra-religious consequences.
We shall presently come to specifically identifying the three lives that currently matter most in Nigeria. However, permit the side observation that, Nigeria has recently been plagued by a rash of suicides the likes of which have never been seen before or certainly never been as frequently reported in the local news media.

Virtually no week passes by without Nigerians being assailed with news captions such as “Medical Doctor jumps into Lagos Lagoon,” or “Two Business Women arrested for trying to jump into Lagos Lagoon,” or “Woman hangs herself for being unable to get pregnant,” or “Man commits suicide for being unable to impregnate his wife,” or “Navy Rear Admiral shoots himself to death for reasons yet unknown,” or “Medical Doctor attempts suicide by taking 80 pills at a go.”

It is no secret that with the fall of crude oil prices in the international market, Nigeria quickly fell into a recession which rapidly degenerated into a depression. It also no secret that suicide rates tend to rise in times of depression. During the Great American Depression (1929 – 1939), suicide rates rose from 14 to 17 per 100,000 people, going by a study conducted by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project of the George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

That there is a bump in the rate of suicides in Nigeria, if that is what we are truly witnessing, tragic as it may be, should not therefore be too much of a surprise. What is surprising is that the Buhari Administration which offered a fresh hope to many people that things would soon get better when it assumed office in 2015, not only deliberately chose to move the country in the wrong direction, it has forcefully kept its foot on the gas pedal even as the country speedily approaches the precipitous cliff-point of no return. This is not the situation, patriotically envisaged after the electoral misfortune of the previous Jonathan Administration.

By a series of ill-advised, myopic, self-serving, and vengeful choices made by the present Buhari Administration, Nigerian unity, fragile at best, has been shredded completely, its corporal integrity reduced to tatters, nominally held together solely by blood-stained bandages sold under the increasingly empty propaganda labels of ‘Nigerian unity is non-negotiable’ and ‘Nigeria is one indissoluble entity’.

All it takes now God Forbid, is for one of three lives, President Muhammadu Buhari of Fulani ethnicity, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of Yoruba ethnicity or incarcerated Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) Leader Nnamdi Kalu of Igbo ethnicity, to be lost, for Nigeria to be pushed over the precipice and for Nigerian unity to be exposed for the fanciful charade it is.

Most of the current socio-political ills faced by the nation had been foreseen and ideas on how to avoid them patriotically made available to the then incoming Buhari Administration in the form of public advice in a series of essays this writer published shortly after his electoral victory was confirmed.

By willfully ignoring this gratuitous advice and resorting rather to heeding his own ultra-parochial instincts reinforced by identical parochial prodding from his kinsmen who constitute his closest aides and kitchen cabinet, the Buhari administration made a futile choice. It is the consequences of that ill-advised choice that Nigeria is reaping today.

One of such consequences of course is that the Buhari Administration can now be likened to an airplane emitting a lot of harmful, ear-splitting noise, which has been taxiing around the tarmac for almost half of its expected total flight duration and which still cannot gather enough momentum to achieve lift-off.

Indeed until it jettisons its useless and redundant baggage of ultra-parochialism, ultra-nepotism, insensitive exclusivism, selective application of justice, unjust creation of a multi-tiered caste system with his ethnic Fulani at the apex of the national food chain and the much dreaded and derided Igbo ethnicity at the base; until it enforces equality of all Nigerians in reality and not just in verbality; until it enforces true federalism where individual states earnings are directly related to their internal productivity; the Buhari Administration will be perpetually stuck on the tarmac and Nigeria will remain a country on the verge of committing suicide.

A nation where mere bloodline and not proven ability baseline is the sole basis for appointments into key national positions, is toying with suicide. A nation where bloodline and not individual culpability is the sole basis of determining who is guilty or not guilty when there is violent inter-ethnic conflict, as was the case recently in Ile-Ife, Osun State is contemplating suicide.

In a country where bad examples are easily emulated and good deeds largely ignored, the ultra-parochial Buhari Administration has set a dangerous precedent that will make it near impossible for his ethnicity to relinquish power even if he is defeated in a free and fair election or if he is forced to retire to safeguard his health. How can his ethnicity relinquish power and be subjected to the same exclusivism and unfair treatment which they have willfully meted out to others?

And so, whether in the immediate or near future, it is very easy to foresee trouble for Nigeria lurking around the corner. If anything, untoward happens to President Buhari today, his Fulani ethnicity will be hard pressed to adjust to a sudden loss of the unmerited and selfish influence they are currently enjoying with no commensurate results to show for their sole occupancy of the corridors of power.

If anything, untoward happens to the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo today, his Yoruba ethnicity will be very hard pressed to come to terms with the situation without reaching the conclusion that he was removed from the scene to preclude him and by extension the Yoruba ethnicity from enjoying the same privileges which the Fulani currently unjustly enjoy under President Buhari.

As for the neo-Biafran, Nnamdi Kanu, the Buhari Administration has unwittingly and very foolishly turned him into the most influential Igbo man alive at this moment. In one of my published essays, this writer had advised the Buhari Administration to set Nnamdi Kanu free on the premise that it is better to have the neo-Biafrans within the Nigerian tent pissing outwards than to shut them outside and have them lurking around the tent pissing inwards.

President Buhari ignored this patriotic advice and chose rather to pander to his own ultra-vengeful, ultra-spiteful and ultra-parochial instincts as well as to similar instinctive tendencies in his largely Hausa-Fulani and partially Yoruba power base. President Buhari’s base it should be noted is populated in the most part by elements frightened by the speed of recovery of the enterprising Igbos after the Nigerian civil war and their assumption of a position of near dominance of the national space under the President Good-luck Jonathan Administration.  

What this power base appears to be telling the Igbos is, “how dare you survive the almost complete destruction of your homeland during the Nigerian Civil War and recover to such an extent that within 40 years thereafter you are competing with us and even out-performing us in many economic spheres of life?” The unstated thrust of the Buhari Administration therefore is to cut down by any means possible, the Igbo hill of enterprising hope, with the intention of filling the Hausa-Fulani valley of feudal despair.

While that may be the unlikely goal, what we are witnessing to the contrary however is that President Buhari’s intransigence over the release of Nnamdi Kanu has unwittingly made him Buhari, the unlikely agent of Igbo unity. The elusive unity which the Igbos could not achieve from within due to their aggressively mercantilist nature, which places monetary and material acquisition above everything else, including respect for elders, compliance with the demands of morality and obedience to constituted or de facto ethnic leadership, has been granted to them from without via the agency of President Buhari’s intransigence, with Nnamdi Kanu as the prime beneficiary. Talk of the law of unintended consequences.

One makes bold to assert that as at this moment, no Igbo man alive on earth can command anything coming close to the sort of followership which Nnamdi Kanu can attract even from prison. And the man himself knows it. The swagger in his gait is easy to observe. The dictatorial authority in his voice is easy to discern and the complete confidence in the ultimate success of IPOB’s mission is easy to fathom. What we are witnessing therefore is the making of a dictator of the Neo-Biafran Republic, if or when it eventually emerges from the ashes of the suicidal Federal Republic of Nigeria. All of this, with no thanks to the abysmal lack of statecraft and total paucity of vision manifested by President Muhammadu Buhari.

There is ample evidence to suggest that President Muhammadu Buhari underestimated the demands of leadership of a complex country like Nigeria while at the same time overestimating his own personal ability. For instance, it took him almost six months to constitute his cabinet after assuming office, because he chose to personally review all relevant official files and documents pertaining to the previous Administration. In his own words, from personal experience, “Nigerian Ministers are mere noise-makers.” This is physical and occupational health suicide.

The greatest demand of leadership is sound judgement. Perhaps the only sound judgment which President Buhari has made to date is his choice of the capable, technocratic, no drama, no politics, no bias, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as his electoral running mate. Even at that there are many who could argue quite convincingly that this choice was made for him by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

By his inability to reign in the murderous Fulani herdsmen who have been causing havoc across the length and breadth of Nigeria and his stubborn insistence on forcefully appropriating the indigenous lands of other ethnicities to prop up the private grazing economic interests of these herdsmen, President Buhari has sown great resentment of the Fulanis among other Nigerian ethnicities.

Even migrant, non-Nigerian Fulanis now appear to enjoy greater security protection in Nigeria from Nigerian Security forces than bonafide non-Fulani Nigerians. Reputed as a Spartan man of discipline, President Buhari failed to realize that discipline starts from home. You cannot throw carrots at your ethnicity and unleash the whip at other ethnicities. This is administrative suicide. In deed one great lesson for Nigeria if it survives its current ordeal as one nation, is to ensure that moving forwards, no individual with the minutest track record of ethnic bias ever smells the Nigerian Presidency.

The anti-corruption drive, President Buhari’s sole calling card, which commenced with great fanfare has greatly lost steam because of the indecent and vengeful speed with which he prosecuted alleged acts of corruption by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party as well as the indecent and conniving tardiness, some say white-washing, with which similar alleged acts of corruption by his own aides and APC party members have been investigated. This is reputational suicide.

When you add up physical and occupational health suicidal tendencies, with administrative suicidal tendencies as well as reputational suicidal tendencies, at the highest levels of government, what you get is a suicidal country. Many people have realized this and that is why many Fulani elites and APC elites are beginning to peel away from the governing body en-masse and are now openly criticizing or publicly challenging the President without timidity or hindrance.

But Nigeria’s problems predate President Buhari and they will not suddenly disappear when President Buhari vacates the scene hopefully at the end of his current term of 4 years, if he chooses to retrace his doomed administrative steps. Nigeria’s problems are caused solely by the exclusive promotion of individual or group self-interest, aptly summarized by the following attitude – ‘for me and my interests to blossom, all other persons and their interests must wither.’ This is the root cause of Nigeria’s problems and her perennial state of underdevelopment.

It is aptly demonstrated by the sort of Leadership shown by the Benue State Governor who recently went to Agatu land, and by intimidation and coercion, supervised the ceding out of portions of Agatu lands as grazing reserve to the very same murderous Fulani who had earlier massacred them. Barely two months later when the Fulani herdsmen went to his own corner of the woods and massacred his own people, the very same Governor apparently emboldened by the long absence of President Buhari from the country on medical health grounds declared that the Fulani must be permanently evicted from his locality and his state with no option of return. With the resumption of office by the President after his medical leave, he appears to be backsliding from this position and has gone ahead to pay the Fulani Herdsmen some “bribe” money in order not to resume their murderous activities. Talk of selfish interest in full display.

Selfish interest is also demonstrated by the Kaduna State Governor who has been severally accused by people of Southern Kaduna of showing bias and favoritism in favor of his own ethnicity while not guaranteeing the security of the non-Fulani indigenes of Southern Kaduna. It was this same Governor that threatened the Nigerian Army before he assumed office, that anybody who kills a single Fulani incurs a debt which is repayable even after several hundreds of years. He was however silent on whether the Fulani herdsmen who kill non-Fulanis in their own tribal lands incur similar repayable debt. Talk again of even more selfish interest.

It is apropos at this point to once again offer President Buhari some gratuitous pieces of advice because it is never too late to make amends until you finally cross the precipitous cliff of no return.

President Buhari can still salvage what is left of his Administration by carrying out the following: (a) De-escalation of national tension through the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu and his cohorts, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his acolytes and the detained former National Security Adviser Colonel Sambo Dasuki rtd. (b) De-confliction of the Nigerian society by disarming the murderous Fulani herdsmen and encouraging them and their sponsors to buy, lease or rent lands for the establishment of cattle ranches as other Nigerian business people do. (c) De-marginalization of all vengefully peripheralized ethnicities by guaranteeing equal access to development and opportunities across the board.

For many Igbos, thanks to President Buhari’s inept handling of the Nnamdi Kanu saga and the killing of many unarmed Igbo demonstrators peacefully agitating for Biafran independence, the issue of Biafra has transformed from a mere localized agitation into a massive movement. When aged women and nursing mothers join a struggle, you know that something very serious is brewing.

Faced with harsh economic headwinds, many Igbos now believe that Biafra shall be the new paradise on earth. For these people the potential realization of Biafra now gives them something to live for in these very difficult times. It gives them an outlet to channel their remaining energies. Instead of brooding and contemplating suicide, they now dream and hope for Biafra. I hate to dampen oppressed peoples’ hopes, but I have a sneaking fear that Biafra shall suffer from the same selfish interest tendency that has ultimately led Nigeria into near suicide.

To explore this situation empirically, I have devised a simple test for assessing the self-interest potential and inversely the self-discipline potential of any given human society or nation. It is a rather simple test that measures the Self Interest (SI) Index of a people. It is called the Uncontrolled Four Way Traffic Junction test.

Imagine a Four Way Traffic Junction produced by two roads, each accommodating two-way traffic, and crossing each other at a given location in a village, town or city. Imagine that this road junction has no traffic lights, no hidden cameras and no traffic warden controlling traffic. In other words, it is uncontrolled. The SI index of that location is simply the number of minutes it takes for the junction to become completely lock-jammed (such that there is no movement in any direction across the junction), subtracted from 1440 minutes (the total number of minutes in a day).

In a country with minimum or zero SI-Index (SI = 0) and maximum citizen self-discipline, the four-way junction will remain trafficable for the entire day (i.e. 1440 minutes) without ever becoming lock-jammed. In a country with the maximum SI-Index (and minimum citizen self-discipline) on the other hand, the road junction will become lock-jammed under one minute and the SI index will be nearly equal to 1440.

I have a suspicion that the socio-economic and socio-political fortunes of a country are inextricably tied to its SI index as defined and as measured above. I do not have a proof yet because no one has carried out the experimental validation of this hypothesis. If my hunch is correct however, the fortunes of the Neo-Biafran Republic based on its potential SI-Index as compared to Nigeria’s current SI-Index is anyone’s guess.

Clearly at the rate Nigeria is going, it is difficult to predict if Nigeria will complete its suicidal wishes or step back into reasonable conduct. Over the past years, previous Nigerian leaders have been gathering and erecting a tower of dry twigs. President Buhari on his part has brought many gallons of gasoline and doused the dry twigs therewith. All that remains now is for something or someone to provide the spark. Once the spark comes about, a great bonfire shall ensue and Nigeria as we know it today shall become toast from self-immolation.