Rudolf Okonkwo's Column

...Nigeria has failed the different peoples trapped in that raggedy country since the curse of the Amalgamation. For nine decades, we have witnessed how the Nigerian masses have borne the brunt of a country that is still in an ongoing debate with Fate.
Friday, May 20, 2004

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo


he first thing you learn when you become a Bostonian is to love the Red Sox, hate the evil empire called the Yankees and each night, to pray for the reversal of the curse of the Bambino.

Bambino was one of the nicknames of George Herman Ruth, a former minor league player of Baltimore Orioles purchased by Boston Red Sox on July 11, 1914. He was also called Babe Ruth. He led the Red Sox to win the 1915 and 1916 World Series. On October 9, 1916, he helped Boston defeat Brooklyn Dodgers in the game two of the World Series, pitching a fourteen inning complete game.

In 1919, Red Sox had a disagreement with Babe Ruth over contract. Ruth wanted $10,000 a year when other top players were making $15,000. As a result, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees for $100, 000.

In New York, Babe Ruth became a superstar. He broke baseball records in home runs, RBIs, ERA, etc, set new records and generated enormous attendance that Yankee Stadium was constructed to contain such a huge number of fans. And till today the stadium is referred to as “The House That Ruth Built.”

Babe Ruth led the Yankees to their first of a record twenty-six World Series championship. Most of these championships were won on the back of the Boston Red Sox. From 1901 to 1918, the Red Sox appeared in five World Series and won all. Since 1918 when Babe Ruth was sold, the Red Sox has appeared in just four World Series and lost all of them. The abysmal performance of the Red Sox since Babe Ruth left was generally referred to as “The Curse of the Bambino.”

Early this mouth, a movie highlighting the behind the scene maneuvers of the Boston Red Sox during the 2003 season was release. It is titled “Sill, We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie.” Despite eighty-six years of dreaming and desiring the glory of the World Series, the Boston Red Sox and its fans still believe. In his review of the movie, Ty Burr of the Boston Globe wrote that, “there’s so much that still, we believe could have been and isn’t, but it effortlessly gets how fans shoulder the burden of a sports team in an ongoing argument with Fate.”

Like the Boston Red Sox, Nigeria has failed the different peoples trapped in that raggedy country since the curse of the Amalgamation. For nine decades, we have witnessed how the Nigerian masses have borne the brunt of a country that is still in an ongoing debate with Fate. At any juncture in Nigeria’s history, the very core of each prevailing argument goes back to the 1914 amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorate by the British. It has remained Nigeria’s curse. A contemporary look at the issues of today proves the assertion right.

Should the Federal Government honor the tenets of the military-scribed 1999 Constitution and let States create as many local governments as they want or cut off allocations to States that do so? Should the state of Zamfara move ahead with its second phase of the Sharia even when it will, once again, inevitably bring it face to face with the fundamental rights of other citizens of Nigeria? Should the people of the Niger Delta keep control of their land and resources or should the Federal Government continue to lord over their land and resources and respond to their frustration and agitation by unleashing violence?

Should the Jihadists of Usman Dan'fodio continue to wage their campaign once suspended following the coming of the British? Should the Middle Belt, the final frontier to the East, be the scene of that postponed religious war? Should the presidency of the country rotate to regions for the simple purpose of reversing changes on who gets what - exclusive licenses, juicy political appointments etc – that previous region, through its administrative head had put in place? Should the center free the peripheries, let them develop as they wish, in accordance with their cultures and their worldviews?

Looking at Nigeria today, the challenges and the efforts to reform it, one is often overwhelmed by disillusionment. The recent failure of the mass protest is a good example. It reminds one of what Fredrick Douglas used to say about the oppressed Blacks of America. “Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

As a Bostonian, I still believe. I still believe that no genuine struggle for survival shall be left un-rewarded forever. I still believe that no matter how long it takes, the back of those who keep others down will one day be broken and those who were down would get their freedom. I still believe that with sustained action, a blow here and a blow there, the human spirit will ultimately triumph over all curses. I still believe that the dignity lost since the days of the amalgamation, when the evil empire called Nigeria was created, shall be restored to the different peoples who make up that geographical entity currently known as Nigeria.

N/B: This piece was written before the recent escalation of the crisis in Plateau state.