PETALS OF THOUGHT
BY SEGUN AYOBOLU
PROFESSOR DIJI AINA ON FACTIONALISM, ECONOMIC PARASITISM AND STATE FRAGILITY (2)
(First published in The Nation newspaper of Saturday, September 17, 2022)
For the humanistic scholar and thinker, man is the be-all and end-all of existence. Only that which is material, that which can be seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled and felt is real. The spiritual is thus mere fantasy and thus no more than the creation of the fertility of the human imagination. This is perhaps what Marxists mean when they describe consciousness as a creation and reflection of matter and not vice-versa. Of course, not all radical academics are of the humanistic philosophical persuasion. Thus, the late Marxist political scientist, Professor Aaron Gana, for instance, started his Convocation lecture at the University of Jos with the famous declaration, “Let me start this lecture with two apologies. One is that because I am a “Jesus person” I am giving this lecture in Jesus name (Amen). My apology here is to those who might be offended by this declaration”. In giving this apology, Professor Gana obviously had in mind not only those who were not of a Christian religious persuasion but even more so those who are of a humanistic, materialistic, disposition particularly in an academic environment.
Many humanistic thinkers reject the notion that man is essentially and fundamentally flawed as a result of sin and thus hopelessly and helplessly in need of a savior and redeemer to reconcile him to God and salvage him from an innate disposition to evil leading to eternal damnation. ‘I am the captain of my soul and the master of my destiny’ is the enduring credo of the humanistic ideologue. For him, man is a perfect creation with no spiritual flaws. If so, however, how then do we explain the evil we can see all around us transcending social classes, levels of educational attainment, socio-economic status as well as across all categorizations of nations – developing, underdeveloped or developed? The humanist has no answer to the problem of prevalent and persistent evil in human nature and society. Is it any wonder then that such humanist ‘saviours’ of man as Lenin, Stalin or Mao Tse Tung, for example, did not flinch from slaughtering large numbers of people in striving to salvage society and promote what they perceive as the common good of mankind in their respective societies even though the means towards the achievement of their goals were manifestly evil?
Like Professor Gana, Professor Diji Aina comes across in his inaugural lecture under focus here as essentially a ‘Jesus person’. Thus, for him, factionalism has its roots in the inherent spiritually flawed nature of man that predisposes the individual to pervasive selfishness and self-centeredness thus fostering negative and dysfunctional factionalism across diverse sectors of society. As he put it, “The implication of the foregoing is that factionalism is the outward manifestation of a sinful (rebellious) heart, covetousness and of fallen humanity…In the biblical context, factions are outcomes of rebellious acts and are often created via subtle persuasion to upturn natural order and events. In Genesis 3:1-6, the serpent, portrayed as “more crafty than man” asked, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” From this spiritual analytic paradigm, Professor Aina concludes that “The moral lesson here is that it is only by allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can have eternal peace, one that propels cooperative rather than degenerative spirit that results in factions and its attendant consequences of conflict and violence”.
After a detailed and exhaustive excursion into the manifestations of factionalism in Nigeria right from the colonial era through to the first, second, aborted third and now fourth Republic, Professor Aina posits that “It was not until the advent of crude oil as a major, national, income-earning source that the personal lust over state resources became so evident. Hitherto, it had been shrouded in a regional, economic interest-driven struggle for the political soul of the nation”. It is instructive in this regard that in the first republic, the most progressive, rapidly modernizing and prosperous part of the country, the Western Region, was the most affected by a fierce destructive factionalism within the ruling party, the Action Group, that split the party down the middle, fostered the massive rigging of regional elections, degenerated into widespread anarchic violence that ultimately resulted in the January, 1966 coup and the collapse of democratic rule only six years after independence.
Although the military was initially welcomed by large sections of the populace as a redeeming political Messiah which intervened to save the country from the misrule and venality of the politicians, it took little time before the intervening military itself became the victims of divisive organizational factionalism that deepened ethno-regional mistrust, bred widespread instability and severely threatened the country’s cohesion and continued existence. As Professor Aina pungently and lucidly put it, “Resources accruable from crude oil are largely administered by those who are located outside the terrain of crude oil exploitation thereby creating factions and struggle for control. This resulted in separatist agitations, which eventually led to recurring military coups and transition governments in what Oyediran and others documented as “Transition Without End”.
Professor Aina continues by depicting the linkage among militarism, crude oil, economic parasitism of the elite and state fragility. In his words, “Military insurgency and counter-insurgency took the odious dimension, not only truncating the development of civilian rule but the destruction of the socio-political and economic fabric of the nation. Corruption became ubiquitous, evil and malignant. Even the clergy that once served as distant echo of “voice of reason” got engulfed in the greasing of palms and monetary inducement to gain public endorsement…Nigeria is evidently at crossroads. As I have documented in a number of publications, and as many other scholars have confirmed, the factions have multiplied, metamorphosed and transmogrified becoming malignant and inimical to national progress. They have left in their wake multifaceted fragmentations that have resulted in over one million people killed in just 30 months of a civil war and scores of other people most recently in the Niger-Delta insurgency and an international terror-induced hydra-headed insurgency known as Boko Haram”.
The lecturer documents the pervasive and persistent factionalization of political parties and groups in the current fourth republic since 1999, the deepening of corrupt elite enrichment through access to state power, rampant political vagrancy of the polite elite from one party to the other in desperate quest for platforms to contest for public office with scant regard for fidelity to party ideology, philosophy or principles. Just as intra-party factionalism was partly responsible for the loss of the PDP’s control of power at the centre to the emergent APC in 2015, no sooner had the new party assumed office than it became bogged down with fragmentation and factionalism leading not only to organizational immobility but also competing cabals in government resulting in state paralysis on diverse fronts.
According to the author, “Assessing the new ruling party, (APC), as more or less a replica of the former ruling party (PDP), Schineider (2015), dubbed the APC as “an opportunistic coalition of interests.” In the scenario that ended the seventh assembly, “cross carpeting”, which was the buzzword of the politics of the 1960s was replaced with “defection”. All it took to decamp or defect in Nigeria’s puerile political ecology was to feel shortchanged in the sharing of the national cake at any point time”. As the countdown to next year’s elections continues, the political elite in control of state power persist in behaving like economic vampires, sucking the resources that should be the lifeblood of providing for the wellbeing of the generality of the people, and rendering the state even more fragile as manifested by pervasive criminality, kidnapping, banditry, rape, incompetent economic management and the contestation of the very sovereignty of the state by criminal gangs and terroristic elements.
Even then, with the evidently increasing autonomy of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the intensification of the utilization of technology to enhance the credibility and transparency of the electoral process, the electorate may increasingly begin to more effectively utilize the power of the ballot to effect positive change in the efficacy and quality of governance in the country.
Although Professor Aina proposes no less than ten recommendations to deal with and minimize the dysfunctional effects of degenerative factionalism in society, I will conclude by citing only one of these because it brings us right back to the spiritual underpinning of his lecture, with which we began the second part of this review. In his words, “The political society should be re-oriented towards cooperative and competitive rather than degenerative factionalism. This can be achieved if there is a deliberate effort/program towards minimizing crass materialism in the national psyche of the citizenry, using the East Asian “tiger” and Scandinavian countries’ experiences as benchmarks. I call for a return to primitive godliness, a lifestyle that aligns with the biblical aphorism “righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach”. Factionalism is rooted in self and sin”.