Heart of Arts

Nigeria: A Theatre of Contradictions

Abdulkabir O. Muhammed


Let me, first of all, disclose to the readership that I resolved to use this title amidst competing and contrasting ideas. I had thought of entitling it, ‘Nigeria: Of a Facade Country and Peoples’ or ‘Nigeria: Who is deceiving who?’ This was because Nigeria makes one wonder if there is anything real. The country with the largest black race survives on a platter of facades and contradictions. This cuts across all strata. From local government to state and national levels, the leaders and the led operate on deceit. The academic environment is not spared from this issue. Religious organizations, especially, contradict what they stand for. This raises a lot of questions in the mind of an average Nigerian as to why a system would choose to be extraordinarily deceitful. What consequences, if any, would such a system have had afterward?

First off, our conception of Nigeria is yet to be clarified. Our motto, ‘Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress’, is an utter contradiction. We live in ‘one Nigeria’ where an indispensable part of the country has continued to nurture seeds of bitterness and revenge. The third major ethnic group in Nigeria, the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria, has continued to agitate for the state of Biafra in the past five decades. We pretended as if all was right; as if the sit-at-home syndrome in some parts of eastern Nigeria, especially in Enugu, and the lack of tolerance for people of another tribe to hold certain positions were child’s play. We also pretended not to have perceived the whole issues that transpired in the 2023 Lagos gubernatorial elections—the ‘No Man’s Land’ saga and the constitutional right deprivation meted out on people of another ethnic group—as a dividend from the seed of discord planted in the country by some kleptocrats and egoists. Yet, the same country tags itself a federal state when the subordinates are extremely weaker than the central; where the federal government controls seventy percent of states’ resources and budget—as if K.C. Wheare’s conception of federalism no longer exists. We always tend to be more Catholic than the pope. This issue has been protractedly contested by states—especially those who felt that their resources were being used to service other poor states—but the resolutions were not satisfactory. This is largely responsible for thefts and the recurring violence, especially, in the Niger Delta region. Still, we don’t want to look in that direction.

Democracy is what Nigeria practices and preaches, but our situation is no different from a monarchical system where power resides in the hands of the blue-blooded. Perhaps the only feature of democracy that we have manifested since the transition into the fourth republic is the periodic elections, which were always marred with violence and false results. Second, that is public opinion/expression. Nigerians would not concede such a right to the government. The mantra ‘democracy brings about development’ is only a classroom debate, in Nigeria’s case.

Even though Section 14 sub-section 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, states that: ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’, the reality is that the Nigerian government is concerned with the welfare of the plutocrats. The Nigerian democratic system renders Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy (as a government of the people by the people and for the people) as being limited. Democracy, in the Nigerian example, is a government of the few, by the masses, and for the aristocrats. Moreover, the security of the people is a question of ‘don’t lose guard.’ Boko Haram has kept on ravaging the land, largely since 2009, but the Nigerian government has not been able to nip its bud, despite successive budgets on security. I feel dishonest when I tell my students that Borno State was supposed to be Nigeria’s ‘Home of peace.’ notwithstanding, Nigerian leaders harp on the need to improve the production and consumption of local products. In a state where farmers have no access to capital and up-to-date implements,? Where those who struggle to farm could not work on their farms because of some Fulani herdsmen? Disgracefully, this was reiterated by President Muhammadu Buhari, in whose regime the farmers suffered humiliating herdsmen/cattle menace. Of what use, therefore, is our fertile soil?

The law is supreme above the ruler and the ruled, a concept I was fed with as a high school student that appears to me to be a contradiction. A facade! The Nigerian rule of law only applies to the poor citizens; the peasants at the bottom of the hierarchy. You wonder what was supposed of the likes of ‘Senator’ Ahmed Lawan as one in a million? Nigerian politicians are so powerful, not only above the law, but also, law agents and caretakers. They manipulate them to meet their ends.

What is more, an administration that claimed it understood and shared the citizens’ outcry, enacted a policy that has left the masses in economic hardship; one that forces its subjects into illegitimate and unrecommended fasting; a policy that has led a lot of parents to withdraw their children from school, thereby increasing pilfering and arm robbery. The subsidy removal and the reverberations, therewith, have reduced the hardworking Nigerians to irresponsible citizens; a policy that has left Nigerians in an enduringly harsh mood. Indifferently, however, it expended billions of naira buying yachts and vehicles for senators. Alarmingly, such a government went ahead and appointed ministers who would embezzle and misappropriate public funds into private accounts. This would come from the Minister (a woman) of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation! Another contradiction!

Then, the news media, which was meant to be the voice of the people, also followed suit. Nigerian news media have a way of painting pictures of their proprietors and antagonists alike, to suit their motifs—to further deceive the Nigerian populace. Beyond that, Nigeria’s news media are censored so as not to paint the government’s image in an unpleasing way. While some national dailies are reputed for partisan news content and articles, we are then told the press is independent!

Another contradiction relates to Nigeria’s eulogy as one of the most religious countries in the world. Our Alfas, pastors, sheiks, reverends, prophets, and evangelists are uncountable. Our traditional worshipers and priests are as many as the deities. Yet, no sign of religiosity is reflected in our political economy. The same alfa who preaches taqwa (the fear of God) is the Baba Isale of overambitious politicians who want to meet their ends through whatever possible means. He is the one who helps the Yahoo boys do the miracles: he helps them avenge ‘the past colonial exploitations of their great-grandparents’ resources.’ How about pastors who preach the Ten Commandments but are responsible for the early and unwanted pregnancy of our schoolgirls and married women? Many Nigerian pastors are perpetual fornicators and adulterers. Religious students are the ones who behave otherwise at the university. Most of them are utterers of vulgar speech; they wear indecent dresses; flirt around with the opposite sex; and disrespect lecturers. These acts would not have been worrying for the course (Religion Studies) in question. Isn’t that contradictory?

I had heard people say that philosophers do not believe in God until I attended a philosophy class where a lecturer bluntly refuted such a claim. For her, philosophers do believe in God but only ask philosophical questions. They interrogate the existence of a supreme being; the unseen. They question the evolution of human beings. They are also not satisfied (theoretically as it appears) with the claim of predestination (Determinism) as they find it difficult to reconcile between it and free will. They cannot imagine how somebody can deserve either paradise or hellfire for their deeds. Is it not then contradictory seeing that some of these philosophers attend mosques and churches where everything is believed to be in the hand of God Almighty? Doesn’t it mean that their students are being deceived?

Suffice it to conclude that Nigerian systems are at best as they are on paper. all aspects—politics, economics, religion, and socio-cultural—of human life are characterized by the facade. The effects of these are burdensome to the country. Nigerian laws should be strictly adhered to. Good laws are not the bane of Nigeria’s development, for we possess what is needed. The issue, however, is with compliance. Also, befitting sanctions should be observed on anyone found erring.


Abdulkabir O. Muhammed is of the Department of History and International Studies at the Lagos State University. He can be reached via abdulkabirm87@gmail.com

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