“We are heading to self-destruction”, Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo warned over the weekend. According to him, the failure of government to deliver the dividends of democracy (“security, safety, freedoms and general enhancement of livelihood” ) to the people could be catastrophic.
Backstory: Obasanjo delivered a paper titled “Mobilising Nigerian’s human and natural resources for national development,” at the 2019 assembly of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion in Isoko, Delta State.
His own words:
- “Through division and alienation, wittingly and unwittingly encouraged by the government, incipient factors of state destruction are observable everywhere in hate preaching and advocacy, upsurge in tribalism and sectionalism, silence and complacency among those who should care, and a dangerously rising feeling that your votes don’t count and elections don’t matter. And yet, we spend a colossal amount of money on elections every four years with apparently not much to show for it.”
- “With other ills within our society, if these observable symptoms are not addressed, and speedily too, we are heading to self-destruction. It will not matter where the fire commences from, it will spread fast and widely, leaving no survivor on its trail.”
Why it matters: Obasanjo’s statement is consequential given that the signs are already everywhere. Last week, the Nigerian Senate gave similar warning of a “looming violent revolution”. A quick look at some numbers and why this matters:
- Unemployment rate: 23.1% (20.3 million people)
- Extreme poverty: 86.9 million people
- Violent deaths: 28,130 (May 2011 – May 2019 per Nigeria Security Tracker, Council of Foreign Relations)
Bottom Line: Obasanjo’s grim predictions are not necessarily new to Nigerians. However, his experience running Nigeria as a military head of state and serving two tenures as President, makes his statement weightier compared to those by other commenters. Notwithstanding, Obasanjo’s new role as a critic does not cover up that he is a key contributor to the problem he has identified.