It is as if the devil himself decided to pay an unscheduled visit to Nigeria this outgoing December. It has been the Bazaar of Beelzebub himself. The god of Mammon has demanded a walk-on part in the ongoing drama of the children of Barabbas. State larceny has never been more egregious and confounding in the entire history of the nation. The fragile foundation of the nation is itself threatened by the outlandish revelations. This is what happens when a criminal elite captures the levers of power and uses them for the sole purpose of stealing the nation blind.

No word, or artist however powerfully endowed, can quite capture the scale and magnitude of the heist. The Nigerian Exchequer has been taken to the cleaners. Nothing in history can quite match this in its sheer psychotic daring and mindless bravura. The scale of the heist is mindboggling even by African standards of kleptocracy.

The office of the National Security Adviser has been turned into a mammoth cash-vending machine with the holder of that office himself nothing more than a voucher-issuing ledger clerk. Not even Franz Kafka, the fabled master of dark bureaucratic comedy, would have imagined this outlandish reality. But this is not horror fiction. It has actually been happening in Nigeria. Welcome to the Penal Colony where actual reality has become unrealistic.

We must tremble at the implications of this mindless scam for the very notions of national security. A state that cannot secure itself against the fiscal depredations of a predatory elite is a very vulnerable state indeed. This is a nation whose ultimate implosion is maximally guaranteed since it is internally hobbled by elite greed and gluttony rather than by external adversity. Unless a nationalist elite class is forcibly created in these climes, Nigeria is sentenced to the fate of permanent penal colonies.

It is therefore not enough to insist that those who are responsible for this monumental scam be brought to speedy and expeditious justice. After jailing them and confiscating their ill-gotten loot, the current administration must also take a look at the institutional fragility that has made this possible in the first instance. Jonathan and his compliant National Security Adviser are probably not the only culprits. They have merely driven the logic of a nation built on shaky foundations to its ultimate perdition.

If he is to make any dent on the nation’s multifarious problems, it should now be obvious to President Mohammadu Buhari that corruption per se is not the nation’s problem but the very system that has made such obscene corruption a troubling and inevitable reality of our national existence. The gung-ho courage and incorruptibility he has so far demonstrated will help. But they are not nearly enough when it comes to the intellectual courage and conceptual wherewithal required to dismantle the rent-seeking nature of the post-colonial state in Nigeria and replace it with a new state architecture.

There is a perfectly satisfying and even uncanny logic about the turn of events and the strange patchwork of alliances that have brought the retired general to the Nigerian presidency at this very time in the life of the nation. No other Nigerian leader of his type and generation is better positioned historically, experientially and psychologically to deal with the Aegean stable without flinching, and without shying away from the testy implications for his own ascendancy and the untidy affiliations that have brought him to the presidency.

This past week a security gnome from the Jonathan camp has hinted rather darkly that the office of National Security Adviser also handles the overhead costs for retired heads of state and regular largesse to needy friendly countries. If Buhari were to probe deeper, it is going to be a nation-destabilizing Pandora Box indeed with the multitude braying for blood. But like a fatally afflicted patient that has shied away from radical surgery for so long, the moment of truth has finally arrived for Nigeria.

In the light of the ongoing revelations, perhaps it is time to revisit the Adedibu Doctrine of State Security if only for the light it throws on the absurdities of the Nigerian state, and the way forward. In a fabled confrontation with the then governor of Oyo state, Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, the late primogenitor of amala politics had clairvoyantly warned the naïve fellow that since state security is no more than the containment of elite destabilization and disaffection, Ladoja should turn over a huge chunk of his security vote to him since he was already doing that with aplomb. Ladoja’s refusal led to mayhem and his eventual impeachment.

The greatest security problem amalgamated Nigeria has faced is elite destabilization. It has led to a civil war, coups, religious upheavals, electoral heists and the current separatist agitations. It is a momentous irony that Sambo Dasuki, a prince of the last empire in Nigeria, continued to dispense from his vending machine long after the presidential election ought to have put him out of business. It speaks to a shambolic state structure.

Mohammadu Buhari has his work cut out for him. This nation-disabling ailment must be tackled with a combination of drastic proactive measures and radical structural surgery. At the very least and from now on, security votes must be publicly appropriated and sternly audited. Erring culprits must be swiftly brought to justice.

This morning, we bring you a piece published five years ago which reads like the chronicle of state implosion foretold.


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