The world is becoming different from what I knew it to be and a sense of history may give some perspectives. In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, countries that had practised socialism, authoritarianism, autocracies began self-organising into a global order — adopting free markets, free trade and democracy. Globalisation is one great force for this present world order but technology has been very pivotal also. After the collapse of communism, the radical breakthrough technology that spread information and undermined autocracies was the Fax Machine. That was the beginning of the information revolution. I’m always baffled when governments try to restrict, ban and block global technology services or propose legislative bills meant to stifle freedom.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, its next-door neighbour, Saudi Arabia was in dilemma. They wanted to ask the Americans to come and secure them but they feared the backlash the move will cause in the Islamic world. It became a Saudi-state secret. Government from time immemorial have always controlled information or at least try to. In the 1920s, if you wanted to do a coup, you go for the Presidential palace and the radio station because you want to control the source of power and the source of information. In the 1950s, you will go for the Presidential palace and the TV station. Today, how would a coup happen and how soon would the word get out? They tried to do it in Turkey in 2016 and Recep Erdogan, the President broadcasted from his iPhone and the coup was botched because we have gone from a uni-broadcast model — a one to many broadcast model.
About demography, as a fundamental rule of thumb, if you want to look at any society that is in danger of trouble and instability, take a peek at the number of young men therein — too many young men and there will always be chaos. If you look at the French revolution, it was preceded by a youth bulge. If you look at the Iranian revolution, it was preceded by a youth bulge. America’s peak year of a youth bulge in the last 100 years was in 1968 and that was the height of the Civil Rights movement, the sectarian crises in Nigeria besides a miasma of other negativities and factors since the turn of the millennium from the Jos Crises of 2001, to the Niger-Delta insurgency and most recently, IPOB has been preceded by a youth bulge which stands at 74 million under the age of 30.
Africa and the Middle East is going through a youth bulge of immense proportion. 65% of citizens in these continents are under the 30 and in some instances, 60% are under the age of 25. You have these extraordinary pressures economically, demographically, politically, pushing up against regimes that cannot adapt, will not adapt, that cannot change and in some sense are very fragile and frozen. Happenings like the Arab Spring, secessionist uprisings will surely take a prominent place in the polity, then you would also have sectarian divides to contend with that will always pull the fabric of the society at its seams.
Succinctly, what I learnt from the Middle East & in Nigeria, after the 2015 elections were that even when you get rid of the man at the top, you will discover that there’s no state under the leader — there are no administrative institutions to maintain political order. When you prod one step further, you will realise there is no CIVIL SOCIETY to maintain SOCIAL ORDER and when you dig one level deeper, you will realise there’s no nation.
When you look at countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria, what you discover is that when there’s a collapse of law and order, people in those moments of chaos move to identities they are most comfortable and secure in. They ask, who’s going to protect me? Who can I trust? When these happen, they don’t claim identities such as Libyans, Syrians, Iraqi, Yemeni, Nigerians — these are newer identities created by western colonial powers a little over one hundred years ago. They go back to their “first-tier forest” identities that are more than a thousand years old or more such as — Arabs, Kurds, Igbos, Yorubas, Mandinkas, Fulanis, Armenians etc. and that opens up a nation to its naked intensity because primary loyalties have shifted to groups that are subsets of the nation and not the nation in itself.
Let’s take a more strategic view and ask this question — Is Africa the world? With a global population of 7.5 billion, we have about 1.216 billion people in the African continent from a 2016 estimate. The merchandise export of Nokia (Finland) at its peak was more than the merchandise exports of Africa in that same year. With the United States moving towards a total energy independence in a few years, how would the economies of Angola and Nigeria survive for instance? When will we have a focused leadership across the aisle? Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, “Africa produces more history than it consumes.”
We are still the solution out of these seeming abyss. When we are ready, we will get out of the rut.