On this final day of 2023, we must tell ourselves the truth if Nigeria, as we know it, is to survive. And where we are is that the Nigeria state has collapsed.

While everything appears to be normal, there is an absence of substance or true value. Here are a few indications.

One: The naira is now one of the three worst national currencies on earth, with Bloomberg declaring on Friday that not only is it poised for its worst record in the last 24 years, but that further depreciation is to be expected in 2024.

“The naira plunged 55% this year to 1,043 per dollar as of Thursday, making it the world’s worst performer after the Lebanese pound and the Argentine peso among 151 currencies tracked by Bloomberg,” it said. “And that’s in the official market. On the streets, the currency trades at 1,208 naira per dollar.”

Worse still, soldiers and many federal civil servants did not receive their wages this month, compounding the misery in the country in the Christmas season. Add that to the growing inflation, shortage of the naira, and widespread electricity problems nationwide. Desperate military veterans are planning a public protest for January 15 over their unpaid pensions.

Two: the value of life continues to plumet in the country, people losing their lives in their homes, businesses, farms or highways, with the security agencies rarely investigating or prosecuting anyone. In Plateau State last Saturday, armed assailants killed over 160 people in a series of attacks on villages. Curiously, the army first reported only 16 to have been killed.

“As many as 113 persons have been confirmed killed as Saturday hostilities persisted to early hours of Monday,” Monday Kassah, the Bokko local government chairman, said. On Thursday, he updated the death toll to 200 persons.

These attacks have been happening for decades, one government after another. What is worse is that the so-called bandits have now resumed writing to desperate villages to inform them of forthcoming attacks, evidently knowing that the security forces care about other things.

Three: early in December, dozens of civilians at a Muslim religious celebration in Kaduna State were wiped out in a military drone attack. In the standard government response, President Bola Tinubu ordered “a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident and calls for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap.”

That is most probably the last that will be heard of that “investigation” because it is not the nature of Nigeria to hold officials accountable, unless they are particularly unlucky. Here is how Al-Jazeera reported this point: “Military air raids in conflict areas across northern Nigeria often cause civilian fatalities as security forces have bombed camps for people already displaced by violence, killed civilians and wounded more in attacks against “terror groups”.

Similarly, in June 2023, Human Rights Watch noted that Nigerian authorities had provided “little information and no justice for a military airstrike on January 24, 2023, that killed 39 civilians and injured at least 6 others.”

It added: “Since 2017, over 300 people are reported to have been killed by airstrikes that the Nigerian air force claimed were intended for bandits or members of the Islamist armed group Boko Haram, but instead hit civilians.”

Translation: Justice is for the rich and powerful, not the nameless.

Four, and speaking of the rich and powerful: seven months after Mr. Tinubu took power, there is no indication that any top officials of the most corrupt and reckless administration in Nigeria’s history will be held to account.

In any other country, Muhammadu Buhari, who presided over the stench and filth of the last eight years, ought to have been answering a lot of questions by now, but he is smugly going about his life as if all he did was squander public funds on his health without accounting to anyone. Two of his top officials: Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed and Chief of Staff Ibrahim Gambari, are among those allegedly fingered by Jim Obazee, the official investigating the Central Bank of Nigeria, of involvement in the mismanaging of over N17 trillion through Ways & Means practices.

“Stealing of public funds through advances to government, otherwise known as ways and means, constitutes a criminal offence,” Mr Obazee is alleged to have written to the president. “The sum of N17.369 trillion remains unaccounted for, as neither due appropriation nor approvals exist to support the diversion of public funds through this medium.”

And that is before any mention has been made of the NNPC, the Ministry of Justice or any of the many locations of ethical and financial emptiness in that government! A Buhari spokesman declared last June that he had not asked Tinubu not to investigate some Ministers under his administration, as if Buhari himself is above the law. Maybe he is. Or maybe Tinubu fears him, or the implications of doing the right thing.

Five, and perhaps the most potent indicator of the future, is that despite Nigeria’s already abominable status as the poverty capital of the world, Nigerian leaders continue to nurture it, with top federal and state officials clearly committing only to providing for their own comfort and luxury, reluctant to making any sacrifices or reducing the size of government. Reckless borrowing continues, as does the squandering of funds on relatives and cronies.

During December, Senate President Godswill Akpabio, a longtime champion of conspicuous consumption and guffawing at the poor, reminded Nigerians in the middle of the current crisis of whom he is when he implemented a lavish birthday celebration of private jets and chartered aircraft across two cities.

Keep in mind also that only recently, there were 1,411 Nigerian delegates at COP28 in Dubai, with an irresponsible federal government claiming that it had “only” funded 422 to the conference!

And keep in mind that this is in a year in which we had not simply a set of elections that were manipulated in full view of observers from around the world, but also one in which the man who emerged as Nigerian leader was internationally-exposed in the most filthy terms. We have a leader who cannot lead, cannot persuade, cannot inspire.

No infrastructure? No electricity? No security? No place for the trained and the talented? No committed leadership? Investors and tourists alike are fleeing in the other direction. Manufacturers are shutting their doors. Jobs are disappearing. Hunger and anger are growing.

What this all means is that Nigeria, as it currently stands, on this last day of 2023, has no further room to rot. If you are in power, or you are rich, or you have property or business that is flourishing, consider that this may be the last end-of-year that this is so.

Unless there is an urgent leadership desire to sacrifice for the common good, resulting in strong, committed effort to hire the best hands and brains and implement good policies, that combination of hunger and anger is combustible.

And that is true no matter how long your convoy, how big your private jet collection, how tall your building, how bullets or layers of private armies you have, or how much you think you own of another man’s country.

Happy New Year (wink!)

*Culled from Daily Trust of December 31, 2023