Nobody wants to leave Nigeria for as long as the oil continues to flow, regardless of predictions from prophets inside and scientists outside the country.
In the last two days, leading politicians in our country have been reacting to predictions that Nigeria stands the chance of internal combustion. In 2013 (a few weeks ago), the United States’ Army College suggested that nothing in recent times has changed the prediction in 2003 by the US Intelligence community that Nigeria might break by 2015. Local geopolitical forecasters have also been worrying that Boko Haram also has the capacity to accelerate Nigeria’s disintegration. But in response to the end of Ramadan celebration (Eid-el Fitr), President Jonathan and one of the founding leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC), have taken their time to reassure Nigerians that there is no cause for alarm, despite the country’s appearance of flammability.
In his own message to the country’s Muslims, President Jonathan reassures citizens of the country’s stability and ‘unbreakability’: “We are not even exploiting our diversity because of the myopic views about situations. Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters and we must live together. Those who are predicting that this country will separate based on our fault-lines as at the time of amalgamation by 2015, they will know that these predictions will not be true.” Correspondingly, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu called for prayers to ensure that “the predictions of doom, hardship, political instability and religious intolerance will not come to fruition,” adding: “Nigeria is not a broken case. It is redeemable and only the people can make this change happen by voting right and wisely.” Nigerians must feel encouraged that two of the country’s leading politicians are not cowed by predictions about the country’s break-up.
A recent book by John-Andrew McNeish and Owen Logan, titled Flammable Societies: Studies on the socio-economics of Oil and Gas includes an essay by Femi Folorunso: “A country without a State?: Governmentality, Knowledge and Labour in Nigeria.” Flammable is used in the book to refer to the socio-economics of oil and gas. But Folorunso in his own essay uses flammable in two senses: metonymic and metaphoric. He addresses the metonymic dimension by underscoring the impact of exploitation of oil and gas on the life of the average Nigerian. He also uses ‘flammable’ connotatively when he addresses the theme of a country without a state, a political space that appears bound to failure because of bad governance.
Predictions cannot break a country. It is the action or inaction of those charged to govern a country that can cause its disintegration. Nigerians have no reason to be afraid of predictions coming from home or abroad about the future of the country. Several soothsayers and prophets in Nigeria have predicted doom for too long, without any of their predictions coming to pass, particularly predictions by religious prophets who are wont to laying claims to prescience and clairvoyance. Nigerians have gotten used to local Cassandras whose forecasts of doom for politicians and the polity have generally come to naught.
What Nigerians have not gotten used to are predictions from outside the country by professional analysts who attempt to bring the predictive power of science on their forecasts. The prediction in 2003 from the U.S. Intelligence community and the latest one from the U.S. Army College must have gotten the attention of Nigeria’s leaders. When the 2003 prediction first came out, General Olusegun Obasanjo dismissed it as nothing for anyone to worry about. Again, the recent one from the U.S. Army College seems to have gotten to our leaders. This explains why two of the country’s most important politicians, Jonathan and Tinubu, have chosen to use this year’s end of Ramadan festivities to reassure citizens not to panic and to remain as optimistic about the territorial integrity of their country as they have always been since 1960.
Citizens ought to know by now that Nigeria cannot disintegrate, despite the recurrence of political, social, and economic storms the country experiences intermittently. The reasons are not far to fathom. oil and gas, natural causes of combustion, serve as lubricants to oil and grease the creaky joints of the Nigerian State-nation. There are two sides to the coin of greasing of the engine of the Nigerian State. On the one hand, members of the ruling class derive too much benefit from oil and proceeds of oil for them to want to push the country into the sea. Those from various parts of the country who own oil blocks and have acquired property in prime lands in different parts of the country from oil and gas know better than they show when they threaten fire and brimstone. The saying that Nigeria knows how to avoid disaster and disintegration is not an exaggeration. Most of the country’s political and cultural leaders know where their bread is buttered. Many of them will even be afraid to want to rule a Nigeria without petroleum.
On the other hand, the average Nigerian is able to live on just one dollar per day, not because of efforts by the government, but as a result of the existence of oil and gas in the country! Without oil and with the kind of government the country has been saddled with since the 1970s, it would not have been possible for any Nigerian to eat on a daily basis a loaf of bread or a plate of rice without any form of protein. The little that trickles down from the class that perceives itself as the owner of Nigeria is another thing that has prevented disintegration. It is not surprising when scholars raise the issue of Resource Curse in relation to Nigeria’s petroleum and mismanagement of the country that both leaders and followers retort with: “Thank God there is oil.” Nobody wants to leave Nigeria for as long as the oil continues to flow, regardless of predictions from prophets inside and scientists outside the country. And no matter how hard the polity is heated or security is challenged by Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants, and even the country’s Kidnappers Incorporated, nothing untoward is likely to happen to our republic of petroleum. Nigerians have reasons to believe their president when he says there is no cause for alarm. They should know that it is a waste of intellectual and emotional energy to think or write that Nigeria is on the brink, on account of its many crises of bad governance and under-development.
The country’s political rulers and their cultural counterparts know that it does not matter what they do or not do, the country has come to stay, for as long as oil flows from the wombs of the land and its adjoining sea. Our leaders know that they do not need to respond to what Femi Folorunso characterises as the impact of governance on sovereignty, citizenship, and development in a country troubled by resource curse. Even citizens themselves have been numbed or dumbed down by the manna from petroleum and gas. It appears that nobody needs to worry about anything, for as long as Nigeria is able to sell enough oil to lubricate the engine of its continuity as a state-nation. The country’s (taken for granted) territorial integrity will be further guaranteed by free and fair election in 2015, if only to give citizens unfettered choice to choose those to govern them.