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Running And Ruining A State With Medieval Assabiyya

Dr. Karo Ogbi

There are very few countries in the world that would qualify to be called nation-states. We have many nations in the world, but most of these are either balkanized among various states or they – many nations – are grouped together to form a state. Nigeria is one of such.

It is indeed acclaimed to have over 250 ethnic nationalities within her geopolitical space. Truly, there is nothing wrong with this reality. But it becomes a disaster if her leadership fails to consciously build the State into nationhood. Everything in Nigeria seems to be heading in the opposite direction where ethnic affiliation is paramount in the affairs of the State.

Whether consciously or otherwise, President Mohammadu Buhari led government policies affiliated strongly with the political philosophy of Ibn Khaldun. He was born in Tunisia on May 27, 1332 AD. This 14th-century medieval Islamic philosopher was a historian of repute, an economist, jurist, traveller, and statesman.

He is acclaimed to also be the father of sociology. Ibn Khaldun developed a socio-political theory of asabiyyah. This term means ‘to bind’. It was a concept deployed by Ibn Khaldun, who originally set out to promote the ‘spirit of kinship’ in a tribe, and family. The word ‘asabah’ refers to male relations in a patrimony. Politically however asabiyyah is the philosophy that stands for groupdom.

How did Ibn Khaldun use this concept? For him there exist two disparate groups of political setup or societies. On one hand, we have the urban people. On the other hand, we have the rural people, called Bedouin.

These are sedentary and nomadic people. Khaldun avers that the Bedouin are more courageous and brave people with military prowess due to the lot put on them by their sedentary and nomadic lifestyle. Most importantly, they have a high measure or sense of asabiyyah among them.

This spirit makes them naturally have an instinct to protect and defend themselves, especially their blood relatives from being attacked or humiliated by ‘outsiders’.

Asabiyyah promotes unity among them; imbuing in them that one of theirs cannot be wrong and must be defended and protected against the interest of the ‘outsider.’ Ibn Khaldun nevertheless believes that urban settlers have a sense of asabiyyah, but one that has been weakened by the reality of the pleasures and comfort of the city life they enjoy.

It is therefore very easy for the Bedouin to overrun them and impose their will and governance over them. But cautioned that once this is achieved the leaders of the new groupdom must do everything to promote the spirit of asabiyyah among the new elite, other another group with a higher spirit of asabiyyah would upset them. A great parallel can be drawn with what is happening in Nigeria today.

We are daily reading of people saying we seem to have two laws for citizens. People are perceived as born into inferior ethnic groups. They are secondclass Nigerians. What you may ask makes some traditional rulers first class and others of no class. Why should the state use resources from the so-called classless ethnic nationalities to promote their own blood-stock? One fact is clear!

The rest of us, are aliens in our State. We are under the control of a more dominant asabiyyah. While some were busy promoting and working assiduously towards a pan-Nigerian Nation, some were assiduously strengthening the spirit of kinship, and blood ties among themselves. Today, only a few own all the oil well; individu- als – not Nigeria – control the oil business.

The way the minority is now is no different from being in unpronounced captivity. One obvious result that follows any society run on this medieval philosophy is ruin.

This is a philosophy built upon the sociology of hate of “others” and advises its own to steal states and empires built by others.

They build no empires where the people prosper. They believe prosperity is for their elite class and blood relation. Like the Lords in feudalism, others are seen as serfs and pauperized. Since they do not know the origin of the rise of kingdoms they find it difficult to know how to make the kingdoms they have ‘stolen’ grow, develop and prosper. Bad governance ruins a people.

This is the lot of the Nigerian State. When Chinua Achebe titled his book, There was a Country, he was clearly referring to the fact of the loss of the Nigerian State.

Today, many of our youth desire to relocate. Many of our elite have their families outside Nigeria. Nigeria is vault from where they loot ceaselessly in order to guarantee their family members abroad comfort and the common good that Nigeria under their watch cannot offer.

Who steals his own property? That some people can steal this country to death shows that Nigeria does not belong to them.

The time is nigh for us to seek Nigeria before it is late. Asabiyyah can only galvanize other ethnic nationalities into a new consciousness that will bleed Nigeria to death. Nigeria is not older than any ethnic nationality. These would remain.

They are more permanent entities, they may choose to realign for a better existence as human beings. That we are becoming ethnicized daily is becoming worrisome.

People are tactically relocating their businesses, families, and selves to areas they feel are their ‘home’ even within Nigeria. The State is carefree about the alienated. But the State forgets that freedom from alienation cannot be stopped and impeded. This State called Nigeria needs a renaissance!

(The Trumpet)


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