Nigeria and its conspiracy theories, By Uddin Ifeanyi

… the conspiracy theory is totally African. The hexagon, the banshee that cried last night (and the child that died this morning), the babalawo, the dibia, and the bokaa are all cut from the same cloth. As sinisterly influential as the Woke Left in the United States (if you’re a fringe Republican), or as mischievously dangerous as the MAGA group (if you’re a progressive). Together, these elements (add bandits, terrorists, etc. who now also threaten us) reinforce our sense of victimhood. They release us from responsibility for our current state. And they focused us on the wrong solutions.

Donald Trump and senior members of his administration knew that he had lost the election for the office of President of the United States in 2020. The same cannot be said for a large part of the electorate in the United States who is still close to his heart. For this group of voters, the malevolent influence of big tech (hostile to conservative views), George Soros (Victor Orban, the Hungarian president, hates him) and woke crypto-communists somehow contrived to steal the vote from their candidate. Never mind that the facts, including official investigations by members of the Republican Party, have not provided evidence to support this opinion. It was always to be expected, of course. The anti-American forces coalescing against the 45th President of the United States are uniquely skilled in the dark arts that they commit their crimes – including child sacrifice – in plain sight.

This is also one of the strengths of the conspiracy theory. Monotonous explanations are just that: chapters of ordinary, often dissociative chance occurrences. Especially when reflecting a breakdown in trust in established authorities, conspiracy theories lend clever design and considerable order to even the most random sequence of events. These theories thus make it easier to explain and deal with adverse circumstances by projecting one’s failures and shortcomings onto the machinations of other malevolent ones. In this sense, they reinforce the feeling of victimization, clearly. But they also remove any sense of agency.

However, for those genuinely seeking solutions to the problems arising from the failures and shortcomings to which these theories draw their attention, every conspiracy theory is a red herring―making it difficult to design and implement policy responses by spreading false smells on tracks of thought.

Nowhere is this process more advanced than in our part of the world, and its consequences more ominous than in the mainstream portrayal of the problem with Nigeria. According to a handful of experts, the Hausa-Fulani hegemony explains everything. This hegemony, apparently confident that the Jonathan administration could find ways to stay in power despite voters’ wishes to the contrary, secured the services of non-Nigerian armed non-state actors to prepare a low-intensity war against holdouts. government. The apparent reluctance of the current administration to address the deteriorating security situation in the country is often cited as evidence in support of this fact.

Why should an influence that has always possessed the legal means of violence resort to a new source of violence? Newbie question, this one. The more cobweb-like his tangles are, the more menacing (and believable) a conspiracy theory is. On this reasoning, our hegemonic forces may have moved the needle away from their traditional dominance of the military in favor of the current preference for irregular armed forces on motorcycles…

The same hegemony, incidentally, was engineered by the Jonathan administration as an excuse for its hesitant leadership of the country. And long before that, hegemony was allegedly behind every coup plot in the country – because unbeknownst to most Nigerians, the Hausa-Fulani also possessed the military. Why should an influence that has always possessed the legal means of violence resort to a new source of violence? Newbie question, this one. The more cobweb-like his tangles are, the more menacing (and believable) a conspiracy theory is. On this reasoning, our hegemonic forces may have moved the needle away from their traditional dominance of the military in favor of the current preference for irregular armed forces on motorcycles, as the latter are more likely to help complete the take. of Nigerian state control.

And yet, conspiracy theories also serve a much deeper need. Given the enormity of the consequences of processes, events, or people working against my self-interest, simple explanations simply will not suffice. In this sense, the greatest possibility is not that the Buhari administration is in cahoots with those who are now threatening to render Nigeria ungovernable. Rather than being unwilling to fix the country, retired General Muhammad Buhari may simply not be able to. “Impossible”, unfortunately, often conjures up images of objective obstacles in the way of those who will and can. But as the management of the national economy in the four years since 1999 and the last 15 years shows, “unable” could also refer to subjective obstacles.

In this narrower construction, the conspiracy theory is totally African. The hexagon, the banshee that cried last night (and the child that died this morning), the babalawo, the dibia, and the bokaa are all cut from the same cloth. As sinisterly influential as the Woke Left in the United States (if you’re a fringe Republican), or as mischievously dangerous as the MAGA group (if you’re a progressive). Together, these elements (add bandits, terrorists, etc. who now also threaten us) reinforce our sense of victimhood. They release us from responsibility for our current state. And they focused us on the wrong solutions.

Uddin Ifeanyi, missed journalist and retired civil servant, can be reached @IfeanyiUddin.

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