|Abiodun Komolafe||Wednesday, February 11, 2004|
Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria
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REVISITING NIGERIA'S NAKED FEATURES
n his article, titled, "A Throne With Bayonets", one of his many 'Verdicts', specially meant for unpalatable occasions like the one we have regrettably found ourselves in, Olusegun Adeniyi wrote:
"Because the President (Chief Olusegun Obasanjo) believes in the rightness of his course, any contrary view is seen as intolerable and, to compound the problem, he has now hired some special assistants on abusive affairs, fair weather aides who would jump ship if and when things go wrong."
To be factual, the presidency's unprofessional and unethical approach to issues of state in recent times calls for concern. One (of) such instances was the recent accusations and counter-accusations between it, represented by Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, the president's Special Assistant on Public Affairs, on one hand, and Colonel Abubakar Umar (rtd), former Governor of Kaduna State, on the other. In his newfound but self-inflicted fury, Fani-Kayode has so personalised (the) affairs of state that he now sounds and acts as if he is dealing with some unskilled workers on his master's farm at Otta. Or how could one classify his recent outbursts, not only towards Umar but also towards all those who hold opposing views to Mr. president's, however constructive?
Fani-Kayode's vituperations only remind me of my experience in 1997. I had taken an article for publication to one of Nigeria's newspaper houses. It was at a time 'calls' for the late General Sani Abacha's 'self-succession' peaked. Then, the singsong was 'Abacha Forever' and any contrary opinions were considered affronts to the authorities and were as such treated. Then, the best thing to do for evil to triumph was for those who did not love themselves to continue making noise. Many businesses were ruined, many people became maimed and many lives were lost to "unknown soldiers." It was during this era of transmutation madness that I, a relatively unknown corps member, had written the piece, which, though critical of Nigeria's all-powerful rulers, represented the sincere views of a potential addition to Nigeria's labour market.
Expectedly, those who mattered wielded their swords, and that was all the article needed to prevent it from seeing the light of day. With Abacha's death however and the extinction of the notorious Decree Four and accompanying Decrees, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. Whether we like it or not, unfolding events in the land are a pointer to the unpalatable expectations of an about-to-be-militarised country. One can only pray that Nigeria would not have to trek the Abacha path again. Those who are still at sea only need to read Adeniyi's article, titled, "Aso Rock and the 'Anonymous' Caller", published in Thisday on Saturday, January 31, 2004.
Goodbye, Abachamania! I remember how the military sagaciously drove us to where we now are. I remember how a clique turned Nigeria into a football turf, refereed and played. I remember how our persecutors, at the end of the day, made of themselves prosecutors, witnesses as well as judges in courts specially established to "dispense justice without fair or favour." I remember the outflow of grief and emotion that greeted the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections and the ocean of disappointment that overwhelmed my parents. They were witnesses to some painful punishments meted out to angry and aggrieved opponents of the rape on democracy and corpses littered our hungry and angry roads. They of course witnessed the river of shame that overwhelmed the country of their birth from the international community. And they wept!
Of course, they were not to blame! They are shareholders in a company that belonged to only those who have never been represented in any conference, the silent victims in a sensation-starved enclave and the forgotten ones who mutely submit, in every age, to morally unjustified squabbles and struggles. It is ironic that even when it was conspicuous that Nigeria was being battered and bruised by an autocratically predatory elite, there were always on ground apologists and jobbers who would be prepared to die even for their master's antics.
Welcome, Obasanjonopsis, an era that has failed to practicalize the required advantages of democracy over the autocracy of our immediate past. When one takes a vivid look at our leaders' inability to confront the country's problems with objectivity and sincerity, one cannot but commiserate with a debased entity called Nigeria. Where are those Anything-goes politicians of the Abacha era who wined and dined with the ruler only to suddenly switch over in search of job opportunities in Obasanjo's 'all-important' democratic market?
It is a pity that the country is playing host to victory of wrong over right, mendacity over reality and the primacy of personal giddiness over fundamental values. The land simmers with thinning commitment and lack of respect for human life and she groans from the pains of non-productivity, self-centredness, intellectual stagnation, gutlessness and anxiety. Like the Biblical ten plagues, Obasanjo is passing through our land and we are all feeling the pinches and the pains. He insults our collective intelligence with unimaginable perfidy and his associates look down on us as if we are non-existent.
And, as if the gods are angry, meanness has replaced magnificence; in place of conviction, we have deception and, in place of boom and fidelity, we have doom and treachery. The people sink, stink and shrink in the midst of plenty while those who are "celestially" endowed to take care of the less privileged are using their "celestial weapons", not for the emancipation of the people, but for the harassment of the citizenry and the extortion of their common wealth.
On a personal note, should there indeed be reincarnation and an opportunity of choosing where one would love to be, I would definitely prefer Nigeria. This is simply because of the amusement the country consistently offers her dwellers, her wobbly environment and the insincerity of her citizens. Our situation has become so critical that even when we wake up daily, even with the Lord's prayers on our lips, we are still skeptical of what the day holds in stock. Here, nothing works according to pattern any longer: what only works are seminars, long seminars and talk shows, with no feasible dividends. Since we are following the wrong people, honour has taken to its heels and hypocrisy now fills the land; suffering has become a way of life and the people are not only disappointed, they are also wounded.
Our men are pauperized and our women's place is no longer in the kitchen but on our roads, displaying and selling what they have to secure what they want. The only ones who are actually "moving forward" are those who treacherously reap from where they have sown nothing. The people's hands are tied behind their backs and they instructed to go to the warfront. Still, some people continue to task our tolerance by making pronouncements that not only add to our sorrow but also make us wonder why we should have been created into the midst of unkind and idiosyncratic beings.
One major problem that Nigerians have is that they hardly learn from history. Ijeshas once had an unpleasant experience in the hands of the now-dismissed General Oladipo Diya when he was still in his military expediency. Diya was a guest of Chief Ebenezer Babatope, then Nigeria's Minister of Communication, at Ilesha, his hometown. As early as 8.00am on that fateful day, all 'unauthorized' vehicles had been forced to vacate all the roads leading to one of the venues of the once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. Many people were beaten up and ... tortured because one of their illustrious sons was hosting Nigeria's second most powerful man.
I could not imagine what other Nigerians went through in the hands of Nigeria's 'men' who used the taxpayers' resources to torment the 'boys.' But, trust life in its transience: those rulers had their say on that day but Nigeria's masses had their way on the long run as only Diya and his co-travellers in the corridors of power could explain what an unpleasant fall from power looks like.
With these incessant threats from the presidency, one might be tempted to say that, "a word" should, truly, be "enough for the wise." However, a closer appraisal of the state of our nation proves the contrary. And, so, "a word" will certainly not be "enough" as long as the president is consistently immersed in a superfluous tradition of dictatorship and as long as our power brokers refuse to learn that "however minute an individual is among the factors that make up the universe, he is a factor." No! Nigerians will not sheathe their swords as long as those professional propagandists, specialized town criers and habitual praise-singers continue to nurse the thought that they are the exclusive custodians of the people's hopes, destinies and future. No, certainly, no!
Just as I was about to conclude this piece, a friend informed me that Nigeria has scored yet another first in the history of her international ratings; this time, she ranks ninth, and that is in the comity of world's illiterate societies. But why wouldn't we, with our present crop of educated and learned but politically incompetent gurus the presidency currently parades?
It is commonsensical that a desperate person can be dangerous and a dangerous person can be deadly. Deadly people, probably, because of their thirst for relevance and lust for what ought not, can deplore anything from their arsenal to achieve their nefarious aim. So, somebody has to clip Fani-kayode's wings before he or he become politically deadly and uncontrollable. Somebody has to let him realize that we are no longer in the Abacha era when those on the other side of the rung were always in trouble. And Fani-Kayode should not make us think so!