ONE COMMON trend which I have
noticed in human beings is the inability
for people to leave their comfort zones
and confront the hard facts of their
existence, even when such facts of life are
so pressing and yearning for attention. It
is like the rodent which was consumed
by an inferno when it failed to leave
its comfort zone despite being warned
earlier by the fleeing lizard. At a point
in the history of the Jewish nation, the
people abandoned the statutes of their
God in pursuit of other gods. Every
warning issued by the prophets of old
seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.
God in his infinite mercy raised Amos,
the shepherd of Tekoa to call the nation
of Israel to order and warn them of the
divine judgment that must fall upon the
nation unless they turn from their evil
ways. But even with all the warnings
by Amos, the children of Israelrefused
to leave their comfort zones – they had
fallen so deep into apostasy and deluded
themselves that all was well. In the
6th Chapter of the Book of Amos, the
prophet bemoaned the inability of the
Israelites to leave their comfort zones and
embrace righteousness, and in a state of
exasperation he declared “Woe to them
that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the
mountain of Samaria, which are named
chief of the nations, to whom the house of
Israel came”.
This has been the nature of man since the
ages. Even in the family setting, when we
are confronted with what I may describe
as uncomfortable truths; it is convenient
for us to deny it. We derive joy in deluding
ourselves and pretending that all is well.
We refuse to face the reality because we
are afraid that the truth will destroy our
comfort zones and deny us the grandeur
which falsehood brings. We are always
happy to indulge in such denials rather
than confronting squarely those problems
whose existence we deny. Because of this,
we hardly make any move forward.
If you situate the foregoing to Nigeria,
you will begin to appreciate the relevance
of this discourse. In Nigeria, we delude
ourselves that all is well even when the
facts on the ground suggest otherwise.
We dismiss all suggestions to restructure
the country as the ranting of a misguided
few, yet the country draws closer to the
precipice daily. We dismiss any alarm
of cataclysmic uprising in the country
because we are too consumed in enjoying
the luxury of our loot; and have perfected
the art of using the machinery of the
state in pauperizing and oppressing the
vast, helpless many. We trust in our
wealth and chariots and in the security
we have placed around ourselves and
our mansions. If this were not so, Sule
Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa
State would not have had the courage to
assert that Nigeria is too weak to break
up because according to him “members
of the elite are united in preserving their
advantages over the masses irrespective
of their differences of tribe and religion”.
It was for this kind of mindset that Amos
declared “Woe to them that are at ease in
One of the last turns which a nation
takes on its way to perdition is to allow
its value system to be set by the ravenous
elite; the type of which Lamido and his
likes depict. The implication is that it is
this elitist cabal which has run Nigeria
in the last fifty years that has resulted in
the squalid and wretched existence of
millions of Nigerians. Whereas we may
see the ruling elite quarreling and calling
themselves names, the truth is that this
scenario is just a peep into the complex
theatrics involved in elitist looting of our commonwealth.
Lamido’s assertion, revelatory as it is,
is indicative of the paucity of intellectual
content ofNigeria’s ruling elite. For if there
is any grey matter in what they regard as
brains, somebody like Lamido should have
been abreast of the reasons for the French
Revolution in 1789. But for his crass and
supine understanding of historical currents
underpinning the death of nations, he
would have known about the Aristotelian
maxim that inferiors revolt that they might
be equals and equals that they might be
superiors; and that such is the mindset that
creates revolutions.
The French Revolution of 1789 represented
one of the greatest uprisings of the ordinary
people against the autocracy of the ruler,
which generated the ideas of liberty, equality
and fraternity. This revolution was a
defining critical juncture, not just for France,
but also for the entire Europe because of its
ramifying consequences for the whole of
Europe. The revolution not only changed
the political, social and economic life of the
people but also affected the entire course of
world history.
It will be recalled that in the 18th century,
France was a feudal society under the
authority of an absolute monarchy. The
Bourbon monarchs lived in splendor in
the royal palace ofVersailles. The finances
of Francewere in a deplorable condition.
The treasury was practically empty after
the numerous wars that Francefought.
King Louis XVI was incapable of guiding
France through the political and financial
crises. Queen Marie Antoinette, an Austrian
princess, was blamed for squandering away
public money. The administration was
corrupt and autocratic.
In addition to the foregoing, the social
conditions of France were as distressing
as its political organization. French society
was divided into three classes or estates.
The privileged class comprising the clergy
and the aristocracy formed the first estate
and the second estate respectively. These
two estates enjoyed many privileges
under the government and did not have to
bear the burden of taxation. The nobility
monopolized all important positions in the French administration and lived a life of
The third estate comprised the common
people. It consisted of middle class people,
peasants, artisans, workers and agricultural
labourers. Even the rich middle class,
consisting of merchants, factory owners
etc., fell in this category. The entire burden
of taxation fell on the third estate. But
these taxpayers had no political rights.
The condition of the artisans, peasants and
workmen was miserable. The peasants had
to work for long hours and pay separate
taxes to the Crown, to the clergy and to
the nobility. After paying all these taxes,
they hardly had enough money to feed
themselves. The wealthy middle class
had to pay heavy taxes and resented the
privileges enjoyed by the aristocrats and the
higher clergy i.e. the first two estates. The
workers, the peasants and the middle class
who suffered under the social and economic
system wanted to change it.
Apart from the other contending issues
in Franceat that time, the common people
ofFrance, inspired by the ideals of liberty
and equality, had decided to revolt against
injustice. Thousands of people gathered
in the streets of Parison July 14, 1789, and
broke into the Bastille, the state prison.
They entered the prison and released the
prisoners. The Bastille, the symbol of a
despotic monarchy, was destroyed. The fall
of the Bastille is an important landmark in
the history of the French Revolution and
indeed the world over basically because it
shows, contrary to Lamido’s theory of elitist
exclusion, that the ordinary people can be
united by their common suffering to destroy
the narrow elite class.
Perhaps, if Sule Lamido has any sense of
history, he will realize that all the ingredients
that spawned the French revolution as
present in Nigeria and pedantic comments
such as the one made by Sule Lamido
only serve to provide the tinder to ignite a
restive population traumatized by elitist
oppression. Obviously, Sule Lamido and his
estate have been hand-in-glove in the faux
pas committed against the people of this
For instance, I know that the last time Sule Lamido dominated the airwaves was
when his son, Aminu, was arrested by the
EFCC at the Aminu Kano International
Airport for attempting to travel out of the
country with cash of $50,000 in defiance of
the legal limit of $10,000. He was convicted
by the Federal High Court, Kano. That
arrest and subsequent investigation led to
the alleged discovery of a web of money
laundering running into billions of Naira
involving Aminu, his brother, Mustapha,
and their father. That was about four years
ago. Now out of power and reckoning,
Sule Lamido has gifted us with one of the
most incisive truths about the divide and
rule tactics of the political elite in Nigeria
and how poverty is used as a tool of
keeping the people down while the elite
help themselves to all the goodies.
But this trend is the signature tune for the
collapse and death of nations. One issue
that political and economic philosophers
have correctly addressed is the violent
change from extractive to inclusive
institutions in societies like Nigeria.
Historically, institutional change often
takes place through revolution. In many
documented cases extractive institutions
replace inclusive ones; while in others one
group of extractors is replaced by another;
but as scholars have noted, the key, always,
is whether revolutions are broad-based or
narrow-based. An important example is
the broad-based French revolution of 1789.
Another case of a broad-based
revolution is the Russian revolution. A
particularly simple revolution is the Italian
“Risorgimento” that led to a more open
political regime than those pre-existing the
country’s unification and to substantial
economic growth.
In effect, and in answer to Sule Lamido’s
assertion, the truth is that Nigeriais not
too weak to break up. As a matter of fact,
the realities on ground in Nigeria today
suggest strongly that the country is in its
last lap to total disintegration.
*Dr Nwankwo is a publisher, awardwinning
author, political scientist,
historian and chairman of Fourth
Dimension Publishing Company

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