Searching for Successor to Petty Bourgeois Rule in Nigeria (1 ) ~ By Okwudiba Nnoli
Petty bourgeois rule in Nigeria is in the throes of death. The economy is in a very deep hole and is still digging. The social fabric of the nation is punctured in every nook and crevice of the country. The petty bourgeois have since run out of ideas about how to move forward. Instead, they are literally going round in circles. Their glorification of restructuring is illustrative. They wish to return to the 1960 constitutional structure. But they had proffered what to them were very cogent reasons for abandoning that structure.
Between 1956 and 1966 the petty bourgeois had made the agitation of the ethnic minorities for the abolition of the regional structure and the creation of states as the centerpiece of Nigerian politics. Consequently, the colonial administration set up a Commission of Inquiry to examine the matter in the Niger Delta the home of the earliest of these agitations.
The Willink Commission so set up submitted its report in 1958. Led by the bourgeois of imperialist Britain it characteristically recommended against the creation of states. Instead, it favored the creation of a special area in the Niger delta, and the provision of extensive human rights to its population. The petty bourgeois of the area rejected the report out of hand insisting on the creation of states. The Nigerian petty bourgeois do not believe in human rights but ethnic advantages. Not principles but access to the national purse.
The attitude of the majority ethnic group is further illustrative. First, they supported the creation of states in regions controlled by their opponents but not in those controlled by them. Second, when state creation became inevitable they ensured that they were also created in their own regions in order to increase their advantage in the distribution of the national wealth. This advantage was reinforced in the 1999 Constitution that was preceded by An elected Constitution Drafting Constituent Assembly which debated its provisions within and outside the Assembly for over a year. This Constitution is the bulk of our current Constitution which is being dismissed as a military imposition.
Similarly, the petty bourgeois now want state Police when in the past they had abandoned the then existing Regional Police Forces for a federal one for reasons which they deemed to be very cogent. The truth is that regional police had turned out to be an instrument for terrorizing the regional opposition. They acted like thugs during elections, and as agents of the high and mighty for bullying, harassing, oppressing and intimidating dissenters in their regions. They ensured that politicians like Aminu Kano in the North and Adegoke Adelabu in the West were often in and out of jails.
By the time the Regional Police Forces were scrapped, the people were quite fed up with them and vehemently called for them to go for good. And when they did go no tears were shed for them. Besides, the way that contemporary states have have handled institutions entrusted to them by the Constitution such as the local government system and the state electoral commission are not reassuring that the proposed new regions will not again personalize and use Regional Police arbitrarily.
Otherwise, the Nigerian petty bourgeois shamelessly seek foreign help to solve their political and economic problems. It’s disgraceful and humiliating to watch how even the slightest difficulty is attended by calls for foreign powers and institutions to intervene. It is sickening to hear what now seems to be a chorus: the world is watching, the United Nations should intervene, the US should provide us with weapons, the World Bank and the IMF will not be happy. Internal security challenges that can only be solved with actionable intelligence provided by Nigerians to the security forces are also the basis of calls for foreign intervention. Of course, foreigners pay little or no heed to these humiliating entreaties which makes them even more humiliating. Even the petty bourgeois who wish to secede place most of their hopes of success on external intervention.
Another track of solution is the religious delusion of divine intervention. The God is in control remedy which is frequently heard in the country. Real and fake religious acolytes inundate the political space asking for prayers, spewing fangled self-serving prophesies and revelations about political life, and even negotiating political deals. As harbingers of conspiracy theories fabricated by evangelical churches in the US they end up dividing the population politically. Together with their fake local counterparts they fleece the people using delusional messages about the power of prayers and fasting to cause divine intervention that will rescue the country.
However, as failure mounts upon failure and the country continues its precipitous decline, the petty bourgeois shift their attention to the search for scapegoats in a concatenation of blame games. Those of them still litigating the 2015 and 2019 elections blame Buhari. The latter blames Jonathan, his predecessor who in turn blames sabotage by the elusive cabal of northern politicians. Others blame foreigners for intervening or not intervening for the benefit of one politician or another. The more pernicious petty bourgeois blame the masses for voting for the wrong politicians or worse still for not rising up against them. The masses who are, for all intents and purposes, victims of petty bourgeois rule are blamed for not rising up to get rid of their chains and remove their leaders. No respect is shown to the ethical code which insists that under no condition should anyone blame the victim. Side by side with this blame game is the eternal whining and complaining about how awful Nigerian conditions and life are. How they have deteriorated and are continuing to deteriorate.
Thus, it’s obvious that the rule of the Nigerian petty bourgeois has no hope of survival. It has run out of ideas, resources, political elan and political support. But it’s not about to die today or tomorrow. Nevertheless, this is the time to search for its successor if only to ensure that no vacuum is created on its demise. Given that the cause of impending death lies in the inherent nature of the petty bourgeoisie as a class, common sense dictates that it cannot and should not be succeeded by another petty bourgeois rule. It must be by the rule of another class. What this class should and will be and how it’s rule should be established will be the subject of the next post.