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Friday, February 16, 2018

Class dichotomy, between myth and reality

…also published in Daily Trust

Many, in fact, most Nigerians apparently believe in some sort of tacit conspiracy among successive generations of Nigerian top politicians, high-ranking government officials and their associates in the private sector to perpetuate monopoly and manipulation of power and other sources of influence. This, in turn, has given rise to the widespread belief in the existence of a systematic class dichotomy in the country.
This belief is so deep-rooted that it’s repeatedly insinuated and even expressly asserted in academic lecture halls, newspaper columns, social media posts and, of course, mai-shayi and other roadside joints. In fact, even those who claim to never believe in conspiracy theory do unconsciously make subtle yet clear assertions confirming their belief in the existence of this dichotomy.

After all, the reality appears to justify its existence. For instance, obviously, notwithstanding a Nigerian’s moral and professional credentials, his chances of accessing privileged opportunities that guarantee him, say, a lucrative job in the civil service, a lofty political appointment in government or appropriate business opportunities in the private sector, depend on the extent of the influence of his direct or indirect connections in the corridors of power or mansions of influential power brokers. In fact, even the degree to which he enjoys protection from injustice is equally determined accordingly.

This explains why the overwhelming majority of Nigerians groan under social injustice and economic hardship. Non-corrupt civil servants amongst them who are, by the way, relatively few, struggle to survive on their relatively meager legitimate incomes, while the majority are involved in various corrupt practices and acts of extortion. Also, the already largely struggling self-employed and businessmen amongst them endure the persistent frustration associated with poor infrastructure and public services, inconsiderate government policies, sanctioned extortions and corrupt practices of many relevant law enforcement agents.

There is indeed a disproportionate disparity between the vulnerable majority and the tiny “privileged” minority in terms of access to quality education, quality healthcare, safety, security and other indispensable services, which has given rise to an apparent class dichotomy in the society that some Nigerians attribute to an alleged conspiracy, whereas others believe it has simply automatically developed over the decades.

Now, it’s pertinent to note that a systematic class dichotomy had indeed existed particularly in precolonial northern Nigeria. Also, upon their violent subjugation of the region, the British capitalized on it to consolidate their colonial reign over the region. They achieved that via the introduction of an indirect ruling system through which they directly controlled the emirs who, in turn, controlled their respective people accordingly thereby consolidating the British colonial rule.

Also, for obvious strategic reasons, accesses to privileged government positions, privileged business opportunities and other means of attaining positions of influence in the region were practically exclusively reserved for the descendants of the traditional ruling dynasties, their associates, friends and loyalists to the exclusion of the rest who were derogatively referred to as the Talakawa.

However, that virtual monopoly of the sources of influence gradually faded away over the subsequent decades particularly following the eventual departure of the British from the region and the country, paving the way for the children of the so-called Talakawa to aspire to, and indeed, attain high government positions, and also achieve their potential in education, business and other competitive endeavours.

Yet, many Nigerians still argue that a systematic class dichotomy does still persist in the country, albeit in disguise, referring to the systematic abuse of power perpetrated by successive sets of military and civilian leaders and top government officials in the civil service with the connivance of their accomplices in the private sector, hence holding them exclusively responsible for the persistent leadership failure in the country.

Nevertheless, I, for one, don’t see it that way. Instead, I believe the era of systematic class dichotomy has indeed ended. Nigerians who believe otherwise do apparently confuse the endemic culture of corruption, nepotism and impunity in the country with a systematic class dichotomy. However, inasmuch as I don’t absolve, in fact, not even downplay the particular responsibility of successive generations of Nigerian leaders for the country’s persistent leadership failure, I don’t limit the blame on them exclusively, either. After all, though the children of the Talakawa from the so-called humble backgrounds have already hugely outnumbered those from the so-called privileged backgrounds, in the corridors of power and other spheres of influence in the country, yet the same culture of impunity, nepotism, systematic corruption and its attendant economic deterioration and socio-political instability have not only persisted anyway, but have actually got worse.

Basically, it isn’t a question of class; rather it’s simply a question of attitude. In reality, there is actually no attitudinal difference between the average Nigerian struggling to survive and a typical privileged Nigerian in a position of authority. Both lack sincere of commitment to nation-building. Also, the fact that the former is only engaged in relatively petty corrupt practices through which he makes few hundreds or thousands of Naira doesn’t basically make him any different from the latter who loots million or billions, for he (i.e. former) wouldn’t hesitate to do the same or even worse, given the chance. This, therefore, underscores the imperative of focusing on attitudinal change in our collective quest for a real and sustainable change in the country.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Hypocrisy in tackling political thuggery

…also published in Daily Trust

The growing security concern associated with the recent escalation of Kwankwaso-Ganduje political feud in Kano has re-highlighted the negative phenomenon of political thuggery particularly in northern Nigeria. I focus on northern Nigeria in this regard, because political thuggery is particularly persistent in the region.Unlike what obtains in the south where political thugs are largely part-timers hired by unscrupulous politicians to perpetrate thuggery in the run-up, during and shortly after elections then simply resume their respective hustles afterwards, it’s practically a full-time job for many in the north, which explains why it persists and isn’t likely stop in the foreseeable future.

As usual at every recurrence of political thuggery or worries over a looming recurrence, there has been intense condemnation of the phenomenon recently in Kano and across the region.  Religious scholars have preached against it on their Friday sermon pulpits. Public figures, opinion leaders and commentators on the electronic, print and social media have all condemned it and given warnings of its security implications on the already fragile social stability in the state and beyond. Interestingly, even politicians and their cronies who actually mastermind and sponsor it have publicly, albeit hypocritically, equally condemned it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Observations during vacation

…also published in Daily Trust

This piece was supposed to have been written three weeks ago following my return from vacation in Nigeria. However, I instead wrote on two closely related issues on the two subsequent Fridays respectively following my return.

During my stay in Nigeria, I drew same observations as every Nigerian based elsewhere automatically does whenever he visits the country. Incidentally, the curiosity of a typical foreign-based Nigerian about the happenings back home outweighs that of his home-based compatriot. Many a time, the former who monitors developments on the media turns out more up to date on important developments in the country than the latter. Besides, the former’s curiosity is partly inspired by the fact that he misses the country despite the enormous challenges bedevilling it, and is partly inspired by passionate desire to see real growth back home similar to what he sees in his country of residence.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Putting ideological struggle to rest

…also published in Daily Trust

The growing proliferation of divisive and irreconcilable ideological tendencies in the Muslim- majority northern Nigeria has given rise to an ideological struggle amongst various ideological tendencies in the region. The atmosphere gets increasingly saturated with conflicting ideological polemics representing the tendencies involved. The struggle is particularly intense amongst the Sufits following the two major Sufi ideological sects i.e. Qadiriyya and TijjaniyyaSunni-SalafistsShiites and the recently emerged neo-philosophers who seek to “reform” the entire Islamic religion by adopting and promoting alternative understanding of the religion in light of some archaic philosophies developed over the centuries but intellectually debunked by reputable Muslim scholars then.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The era of Ruwaibidhah

…also published in Daily Trust

Being an Arabic word transliterated into English, non-Arabic-speaking readers certainly wonder what Ruwaibidhah means. After all, probably even core native Arabs, let alone the Arabic-speaking non-Arabs familiar with its meaning only learned it in the Prophetic Hadith in which the Messenger of Allah (SAW) first used it when he prophesied that “There will come to the people years of endemic deception, when the liar will be regarded as honest, and the honest man will be regarded as a liar; the deceiver will be regarded as truthful, and the truthful man will be regarded as a deceiver; and the Ruwaibidhah will talk freely” Who are the Ruwaibidah?’ His companions enquired. He replied ‘vile persons (i.e. persons of little worth) talking on public affairs.” (See Albany’s Silsilatul-Al-Ahadeeth As-Saheeha, Hadith # 1887) 
Looking at the trend of public discussions on various aspects of public affairs, I doubt if anyone doubts that the world is already living through these years. The negative influence of the Ruwaibidah in modern-day societies has resulted from the persistently falling standards of measuring the worth of individuals. Obviously, the standards have been hugely compromised at the expense of moral values enabling the Ruwaibidhah to not only attain relevance, but also influence public attitude and, in fact, call the shots on sensitive public matters for that matter.