While he was enjoying the perks of public office, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode did not call for the break-up of Nigeria; he in fact earned a reputation as an attack-dog for the president and the government of the day, which for him was the meaning of Nigeria. A child of privilege, Mr. Fani-Kayode has, it seems, often taken it for granted that Nigeria would always carter to his desires. It was not, as is often expected of his peers in other places, about public service. It was always about the convenience of his claims to unearned privileges. His father, the late Remilekun, was a great prop for privilege too. He trained as a lawyer in Cambridge. Even made a decent second. But his greatest accomplishment was not alas in law; it was in politics and the vice that accompanies it.
“Is Nigeria to Break or not to Break?” Because he is no longer in government, Nigeria must break in order to suit Fani Kayode’s political desires and fantasies? When he was enjoying ministerial privilege, the Nigerian construct was sacrosanct; an imperative of history; so much so in fact that he resorted to obloquy to press home the fact. He cussed out those, including Chinua Achebe,
Wole Soyinka, Abubakar Umar, and others who out of deep moral convictions, rejected the state of affairs prevalent while Femi Fani-Kayode was in the center of power with his Mephistophelian master. Now, for him, it has become imperative to break this republic so that all those peoples fused together by the amalgamation Act of 1914 should find eternal joy living their separate lives.
“More than anything else the recent Igbo/Yoruba debate over the issue of the status of Lagos State and the deportation of a handful of Igbo destitute back to the east has proved to me that we as a person are very different from one another and that our interests may be better served if we are no longer bound together as one (sic). I dare to voice this opinion even though many Yoruba share it but will not say so publicly” The illogic of this revanchist charlatan is profound: to disagree with Fani-Kayode about the status of Lagos within the construct of nation now amounts to Yoruba exceptionalism? Anthropological evidence links every group in Nigeria to the same cultural and racial morphology, needless to say. Nigeria’s crisis has always been fight over which elite faction controls the levers of power in Nigeria.
In the fight for the political control of Nigeria, these powerful interests provoke extreme ethnic tension, and soon become champions of convenient narrow interests. Fani-Kayode is playing that game because he is currently no longer in the thick of things at the center. Now, he has become a spokesman for the Yoruba. Of course, we must make clear the distinction that Fani Kayode speaks, not for the Yoruba labourer in Lagos or Ibadan who has to pay rent, buy food, pay transport, and carry on with all the dreary necessities of a peasant life.
These are not Fani-Kayode’s kinsmen. Mr. Fani-Kayode speaks for the propertied Yoruba. Fani-K has the dual citizenship of Nigeria and the UK. His children will have nothing to lose with a dismantled nation. They will live a quarter of their lives in the air, a quarter in the UK, a quarter in Dubai, and another quarter in the gated houses reinforced by layers of concrete and steel to ward-off the common intruder. This is the reality of the Nigerian situation. A separate nation does not guarantee the happiness of its new citizens. Regular Nigerians do not want Nigeria to break apart. They want security, equality; economic and social justice. They just want to live in peace with a few ordinary pleasures.
But they remain fodder in the canon of the various factions of power who recruit them always like herd to the slaughter. Is Nigeria to break or not? I should say that Mr. Kayode raises some important questions, but merely by indirection. The plain truth is that Nigeria has imploded.
There is a firefight already going on, and it would take only another slight shove to shatter this edifice. The evidence is all around us: all the institutional systems that hold a nation in place have collapsed in Nigeria: the civil service is gone; the public system has been undermined; communities that were once the basis of civil society have been dismantled; the police and intelligence services have been compromised; the armed services are just hanging by the thread and seem only too likely to sooner break up into armed factions. The office of the president, the last bastion of executive authority has become systematically eroded and subverted. There is a sense of distinct gloom.
Nigeria feels like criminal enterprise. The situation is stark, and it is a revolutionary moment. But there is the thorough absence of a revolutionary vanguard that could channel the energy of the mass and midwife revolutionary change. The Nigerian left is as compromised as the right. So the nation lies tottering at the edge.
It could fall apart, certainly, but not separate in the ways that Fani-Kayode envisions it. Armed gangs and militias will divide the elephant called Nigeria and run their different territories. In a place like Lagos, Oshodi will become its own nation, Ikeja its own independent Kalakuta Republic, Epe its own, the corridor between Orile and Badagry its own fiefdom.
Same goes for other parts of what is now Nigeria. We must be careful what we wish for. Whether it breaks or not, one truth is certain: whatever new nations succeed her will remain as fraught and uncertain by the unresolved questions of today. At the core of the Nigerian crisis is not really our ethnic differences, but the question of our individual rights as citizens. This is the point that the Fani-Kayodes continue to miss: that the social contract is individual, not ethnic.