On 6 January, the world witnessed an interesting spectacle, an assortment of what appeared to be characters from fantasy television shows taking possession of the US Capitol, where the legislature sits. Despite spending more than $1 trillion on its military, intelligence services, and police, the United States government found itself overrun by a horde of (1) Donald Trump’s supporters (2) Homegrown Terrorists and (3) others. They came without any precise programme and were not able to elicit a serious revolt around the country. What they showed clearly is that there is a serious divide in the United States, which weakens the ability of the US elites to exercise their domination over the world.
Around the world, people gaped at the bizarre pageant of Trump’s army running riot in the chambers of the body that calls itself the ‘world’s oldest democracy’. With precision, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa sent out a tweet that tied the US economic sanctions against his country to the chaos in Washington, DC. The events at the Capitol, he wrote on 7 January, ‘showed that the US has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy. These sanctions must end’. The government of Venezuela offered its concern about the ‘political polarization and the spiral of violence’ and explained that the United States now experiences ‘what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression’.
President Mnangagwa’s use of the term ‘moral right’ has echoed across the world: how can a society that faces such a severe challenge to its own political institutions feel that it has the right to ‘promote’ democracy in other countries, using the various instruments of hybrid war?
The United States – like other democracies – has struggled with insurmountable challenges to its economy and society, with high rates of wealth inequality crushed by large-scale precarity and income deflation. Between 1990 and 2020, US billionaires saw their wealth increase by 1,130%, while median wealth in the US increased by only 5.37% (this increase was even more marked during the pandemic). Exits from this social and economic crisis are simply not available to the US ruling class, which seems not to care about the great dilemmas of its own population and of the world. An example of this is the meagre income support provided during the pandemic, while the government hastens to protect the value of the wealth of the small minority that holds an obscene share of national wealth and income.
Rather than seek a solution to the economic and social crisis – which it cannot solve – the US ruling class projects its problem as one of political legitimacy. There is now a false sense that the main problem in the United States is posed by Donald Trump and his rag-tag army; but Trump is merely the symptom of the problem, not its cause. The constituency that he has assembled will remain intact and will continue to flourish as long as the social and economic crisis spirals further out of control. Large swathes of the US elite have rallied around Joe Biden, hoping that he – as a representative of stability – will be able to maintain order and restore the legitimacy of the United States. Their view is that the US is currently facing a crisis of political legitimacy and not a socio-economic crisis for which they have no answers.
The last two paragraphs above is not different from what was obtainable in Nigeria, the difference is that our case is worse, if you add the insecurity, the financial acreage being carried out by our political class, we continue to protect the rich, the politicians at the expense of the masses and we seem to have forgotten a glimpse of all that could go wrong in the eventuality of revolution not guided and guarded as a result of the “palliative looting”.
During the last two decades, China has developed its scientific and technological prowess, which has resulted in rapid advances for China’s development. Over the past few years, Chinese scientists have published more peer-reviewed papers than scientists from elsewhere and Chinese scientists and firms have registered more patents than scientists and firms from elsewhere. As a consequence of these intellectual developments, China’s firms have made key technological breakthroughs, such as in solar power, robotics, and telecommunications. A high savings rate by the population has enabled the Chinese state and private Chinese capital to make considerable investments in manufacturing; this has propelled China’s high-tech industries, which have seriously threatened Silicon Valley firms.
It is sad that Nigeria is not in any serious conversation moving forward, it is 2021 and we still remain a dumping ground for anything and everything, rather than tackle the great social and economic challenges within the ‘not exactly’ federal republic of Nigeria, our ruling class has taken refuge in anti-religious, pro-ethnic rhetoric. Why is the employment situation so bad in the country, the people ask? Because of PDP and APC, say the elites – whether those who support Buhari or those who look back nostalgically to Goodluck. Why did COVID-19 create such havoc here in Nigeria, even with one of the lowest death tolls in the world? The general orientation of our ruling class is to blame everyone for everything but themselves.
We have been blessed with the burden of leaders seeking to shift all responsibility for their failures onto everyone. This has remained a cynical and dangerous strategy and we are not afraid that – as has been shown – the revolution would not be televised. Every day the ruling class shows that they are willing to risk a cataclysmic war to protect its preponderant hold to power.
So grab one bottle and a plate of peppersoup, this is the reality, these are miserable times. The statistics of deprivation and death are gruesome. Far too many people struggle with hunger, deprivation and insecurity, the gimmicks of the comedians in Mr. Buhari’s administration strains the successes it has recorded.
Many journalists, writers and development practitioners have become actuaries of suffering. The general mood is despair; the general conditions of life are bare. The gap between the rhetoric of hope and the condition of despair is vast. There is no bridge between them. We live in the wound.
Everywhere you look, the news is startling. The keywords for the present are fairly straightforward: Insecurity in all shades, apart from the second wave of COVID-19, financial crisis, it is bandits, kidnappers, gunmen, Ransome and killed, excluding herdsmen and farmers, or Boko Haram, as farmers now pay protection money and small arms are everywhere.
No great depth is needed to be terrified by what is happening in Nigeria, so if you are alive and can afford it, take a chilled bottle of beer, if you have electricity, and all you see is that panic is a natural reaction, hastened by the general demise of social bonds. Nowhere in Nigeria is immune, as we may want to think. If they attacked Capitol Hill, Aso Rock beware of the one bo and peppersoup.
If people have a hard time getting an education, getting a job, if jobs themselves are more stressful, if commute times increase, if medical care is hard to attain, if pensions deteriorate before higher expenditures (including taxes), and if it just gets harder and harder to deal with everyday life – well, then it is easy to expect tempers to fray, anger to rise, and a general social misery to be on display.
And in all these the people don’t hear songs of freedom, hope and belief…Nigerians are angry and stressed. The day the beer parlour will be devoid of one bottle beckons, and with no plate of peppersoup for the masses, revolt is natural, and when—only time will tell.