This World, Nigeria, Zayyan and our Four Decades of Birth Reflections!  - By Ibraheem A. Waziri/ Ibraheem Waziri

27/05/2017 was my birthday! It marked a rounded four decades of my sojourn on this planet. It has to be so because Zayyan Yabo has taken the trouble to celebrate our age group during his 40th birthday last year. He has engineered a reflection in all of us within the same age range, 40 ± 2 or 3. In school, sometimes same class, one normally finds self in the company of the 2 or 3 years older or younger. Therefore it is appropriate to see 37 to 43 years old in this reflection. That is, counting from Zayyan’s birth year or 38 to 44, this year.

At this time (zenith) of our evolution, we are technically out of driving wheels of policies in our country; in whose realities a reflection of this nature would prefer to dwell. We are not Presidents, Ministers, Governors, Heads of States and Federal Parastatals, and State Commissioners, with the exception of the MD at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and   commissioner at Budget and Planning Ministry in Kaduna State. There may be more without the boundaries of my recollection at the moment, but still very few.

 This means weekly executive councils meetings to discuss the future of the country, leaves out a good number, in the age group, that had lived more than half of the total time they will spend here on earth; considering the current life expectancy in the country. The system prefers the elders among them, most passive energy than active energy that evolved in the period when the world was transiting from the old socio-cultural paradigm to a new; current ruling one (will revert to this point shortly).

 You may call this a conspiracy of time or circumstances. You may say the ones at the top of policies now may not be thinking well about the future in terms of mentoring those who will eventually take over from them. Some however, still say it is my age group who are not hard working enough to take the destiny of the nation into their hands and steer it the way they dim fit.

Even then we have much of blessings to count. Many among us are accomplished academics, fellows of professional organizations, senior bureaucrats, technocrats, captains of industries and successful family persons. We are struggling to bring up those that will hold this kind of reflection in two decades and above. Ladies among us may be thinking of marrying off daughters or having grandchildren. We have heightened our achievements.

Three decades ago could still be said to be our formative years. We were finishing primary schools or junior secondary schools. We were struggling to have clear appreciation of our environments under the strict guidance and often the harsh reprimands of guardians. Now we can speak of the faint memories of the first coming of General Muhammadu Buhari. The early years of General IBB and a host of other personalities and events around those years that meant so little to us, in excessive praise, or under harsh critique.

 Two decades ago, we had gradually formed into adults. In school, we were struggling to make more sense of our natural environment and its laws. We were trying to understand the basic universal principles of social relationship and the dynamics of survival it prescribes.  IBB had passed the baton of our national leadership to Chief Earnest Shonekan. General Abacha took over from Shonekan. There was June 12, 1993 and the Abiola’s incarceration. The Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky’s Islamic Movement - which took inspirations from the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran – which also took over almost all the campuses of tertiary institutions in Northern Nigeria. On the other hand, there was the Salafi worldview, the Saudi Arabian version, which was gaining ground among other segments of the society in the struggle for space and control of popular narratives, with Sufi worldviews of Tijjaniyya and Qadiriyya.

 In the international scene, the Soviet Union, the only rival superpower to the United States of America, in ideas and military strength, had fallen. Already books and other ideological implements modeled after the Eastern bloc were being systematically debarred from our schools. There was, the perennial Middle East conflict that assumed new dimension within the new power equation. There was the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria. Iraq’s Saddam Husseini occupied Kuwait; there was the operations desert storm military campaign to stop him. The constant attack of the military stations and hardware of the USA, outside the country, by Osama Bin Laden’s Alqaeda! A new trend of events was taking control. The world civil society, regional unions and nation states needed to understand the new, evolutionary pattern, observe the tide and adopt a most appropriate strategy to maximize survival.

The last decade saw us, engaged in more mature reflection about the destiny of the world within the context and currency of the prevailing trend; a trend (which began in the 90s) that would necessitate a paradigm shift in intellectual ruminations; that will remain at the heart of all considerations of academic postulations, national strategies and foreign policy directions, across the globe, till the present.

 At a little less than 24 years old, Zayyan had thrown himself into the contest seeking to become the Students’ Union President of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria with the unmistakable badge of Intellectual Activism. Worried about the level of intellection among students anywhere as they consider aspects of their present and future life;  he had jumped into the murky waters of students’ politics with the hope of obtaining a wherewithal to contribute in making serious intellectual brooding take a center stage on popular issues  affecting students; at least, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria students. Sadly the electioneering process was aborted by the university management midway. I met him for the first time at the height of the ruckus. I was struggling to adjust between the ideas from the many books I was reading and the realities the atmosphere was presenting to me. To me, he fit into the category of realist intellectual politicians, as put aptly by Dr. Majid Khadduri, in his Political Trends in the Arab World: The Roles of Persons and Personalities. A book I was reviewing then.

Together with others within our age group we continued to explore the reigning works then of Fukuyama and Huntington; The end Of History (1993) and The Clash of Civilizations (1996), respectively. The two books analyzed the evolving global dynamics that will guide policy, strategy and diplomacy in time.  Issues, mostly around cultures, civilizations, past histories of nations and their underlying principles that will rear in afresh and guarantee or necessitate international and regional alliances or ensure they don’t work.  They also will define the new direction of events and nurture potentialities of conflicts or peace across the globe. Still Huntington’s provide the most valid theory, in western standard, on which the present waves of terrorism that is associated mostly with modern Muslim cultures can be explained.

 The works of Kaplan, The Coming Anarchy (1994) and Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You (1998), gave very practical insight on how the new trend will affect Africa. There will be increasing ethnic consciousness and affinity to geography as political and economic bargaining chips. The trend may even help facilitate internecine strife within multiethnic political entities that may eventually lead to their breaking up.  

September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the USA became the highest validation point of Huntington’s. Earlier  same year, scientist came up with the outcome of their mind blowing research, that human beings with all their diversity share  99.9% similarity in  genes. This gave lie to the claim that difference among races and ethnicities, due to genetic composition, accounts for life successes or failure. It further makes Huntington more right as it consolidated the belief that people who see their culture or civilizations as the ultimate carriers of the necessary trappings of their life successes, are not entirely wrong. In fact they are entirely right!

It is on this kind of template of awareness that the world scholarly and intellectual community undertook to review human history. To search for the solutions to national, regional and to some extent global sociocultural problems that is certain to confront it in the coming years. There was the effort of, Richard Bulliet, Richard Lewis, and Bernard Lewis who wrote extensively on the nature of the problems from western perspectives.

Back home here there are efforts among different social circles of influence, to review the popular cultural history of black Africa, with the works of Cheik Anta Diop at the center. Here and there one could hear the whispers of Afrocentrism.  It sadly has not made it into the centers of any black African country’s national policy. Probably because of issues of ontology and epistemology that has been the heart of the details of the concept. However other countries and regions of the world seemed, at least, able to appropriately plug themselves into the realities of the new trend with powerfully suiting paradigms. Sinocentrism in Asia and Indocentrism based on Confucian and Hindustani values respectively, have been helping the sail for most Asian countries and India.

 In the West much effort has been built into developing concepts such as multiculturalism to enable the accommodation of diverse populations of different ethnicities and cultural orientation. Strategic communications, as a discipline, which emphasizes the use of subtle means of civil management with local cultural and social resources in political and social policy implementation, is employed and deployed where necessary. Expertise on Cultural Intelligence is being perfected to help individuals, civil society groups and businesses safely operate and enjoy smooth human contact. The study of System Thinking is helping analyst to appreciate the need to ensure functional cooperation of the insignificant parts towards effective delivery of the whole under different circumstances.

But where has Nigeria been within this trend? Have we had the necessary paradigm shift to survive the turbulent tide? There have been many predictions by world recognized agencies that we are certainly among the casualties while the trend last. An American private organization, after rigorous survey, once put the doom’s year to be 2015. It was later reviewed to 2030.

  At least since 1999, the Nigeria’s year of return to democracy, we have suffered from the consequences of the brutal onslaught of the prevailing trend. From the Niger Delta secessionist movement, to the rebellion of Boko Haram and the latest popular agitation for the Biafran state! There are frequent acts of violence on individuals or group of people who are seen as the others.  Hate speeches and discriminatory tendencies against others that do not fit into a certain ethnic, religious or sectarian description, color many of our political and social dispositions.

Certainly, these and many related issues are the germane issues of this moment of our reflection. I am sure they form part of the active contemplation of Zayyan who celebrated our age group at his 40th birthday last year. Incidentally the celebration coincided with a colloquium, organized with the theme, Deepening Nigeria’s Development: The Role of Culture and Communication, and held on the January 7, 2017. The lead paper presented with the theme as its title and published by the Nigerian online news outlet, Premium Times of January 8, 2017.  And by no less erudite scholar than Mr, Omoniyi Ibietan, who did the most justice to the issue of culture. He took us round and through to review the Nigerian constitution; to the effort to design modern cultural policy by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in 1988; to the setting up of research and training agency, Institute for Cultural Orientation in 1993.

Sadly, it could still be seen, that Nigeria has not truly thought itself in alignment with the predictions of the trend which formed the subject of this reflection; and sought protection from its promises of doomsday. Political parties came to the leadership of the country and gone during its period of onslaught. Governments and different personalities heading them came and gone. Even the current ruling elite and party, who assumed leadership at the peak of the crises imposed upon us by the trend, do not seem to deeply take notice of it not to mention doing anything significantly different.

Is it Atiku Abubakar with his archaic template of solutions that consider restructuring the country? Will that lead the shores in 2019 when he assumes the executive leadership of Nigeria? Or it is Nasiru Elrufai who currently reduces chiefdoms in his domain? In this period of high insecurity when government needs the watchful eyes of its agents in all villages? What are those of my generation thinking? We were hatched into adulthood during which this trend took control and still… All need to get galvanized into reflection.