1. Season of Anomie
Another season of anomie is here!
It is election season in Nigeria; Africa, and black world’s largest pretense to “democracy”. We have known this season since before Nigeria became independent. And the political spin masters and media vuvuzelas are out once more, inundating our aural peace with their undeodorized pieces of nonsense!
In these times, promises are made.
Deals are sealed. Horse-trading and cross-carpeting are contemplated. New Godfathers are anointed. Older ones either lose relevance, or are consolidated on their inglorious perches. God-sons make pilgrimages to their various godfathers to swear oaths and allegiances. Dinners with devils are planned and consummated. Marriages of convenience are contracted. Sworn enemies appear together for photo ops.
Talks and promises are made from two sides of the mouth. Old alliances are broken. New coalitions are called into being. Politicians, who normally have been absentee landlords, pay visits amidst pomp and pageantry to the constituencies, whose votes they have already concluded plans to steal. Bags of rice and bags of Ghana-must-go are all primed to exchange hands. Bags of money and money bags look for new hands to grease. Votes are bought, sold and stolen. After each presidential primary, delegates are awash with enough money to finance their hitherto pedestrian lifestyles, till the next political gravy train come their way. Where the votes cannot be purchased, they are extorted out of the people. Murders and assassinations are planned, primed and set in motion. Armies of thugs are contracted and armed for their Election Day charges. The sloganeering and jingles hijack the airwaves with their insistence. Our attention spans are suffused with political nonsense lacking every substance. And we are condemned to swallowing them, as the season of anomie unfolds.
If in some theologies, a sacrament represents an outward sign of inward reality, then Nigeria politics qualifies as the outward signature of inward rottenness.
Nigeria’s is a pretense to democracy. Election cycles here, have finally graduated into some perennially laughable, but destructive orgy of impunity. It is not a contest, but a war. It is not only literarily, but actually a do-or-die affair. Every election cycle in Nigeria is a knell that must summon some of our compatriots to heaven or to hell. Whoever wants, and have the powers to, can kill his opponent, and get away scot-free with it. Heads are cracked. Limbs are broken. Violence is celebrated and impunity canonized. People resort to violence whenever they lack logic and civility to project their visions. In Nigeria, it has now become a culture that candidates for public office have no ideas or ideologies. Manifestoes are seriously not important. Nigerian politicians cannot communicate. They have no content to communicate. Power is sought for the privilege it provides, and not for the service it recommends.
To that end, many Nigerians, come “whenever” INEC decides is going to be the day of election, would stay home. It is not so much voter’s apathy as is known in other climes. Experience has taught them that they don’t matter. They have been promised several times, that “this time” is going to be different, only for their hopes to be dashed. On the 12th of June, 1993, they marched out under the rain and sun to raise their hands and stand behind Moshood Abiola in an election, where the Electoral Commission promised them heaven and earth. Abiola won. The elections were cancelled. Their mandate was nullified by the fiat of a tyrannical nitwit. They went home dejected. They went home to complain to their pillows and await another season of anomie. They equally trooped out en masse to vote for Mr. Peter Obi in Anambra State in 2003 and 2007. And in each case, their votes were sidelined, and many an usurper was declared winner instead of their choice. In 2003 they were once again invited as witnesses as Obasanjo ripped all decency to shreds, and rigged himself once more into power after four years of globetrotting and drifting non achievement. That was not enough for this ogre of Owu. He wanted to perpetuate himself on the perch of power, but was sacked by the radical vigilance of many Nigerians. Instead of licking his wounds and realizing that we are tired of his crude antics, the Owu, not to be outdone in infamy, took Nigerians on another round of electoral fraudulence and installed a sick joke, by the name of Umaru Musa Yar Adua as Nigeria’s president. The Supreme Court justices allegedly took bribe and scuttled Buhari’s rightful challenge to that heist. The rest they say is history. But this history took flesh, and has continued to dwell amongst us.
Since Nigeria came into being, election periods have being seasons of anomie. Seasons of anomie are interesting times. Thrones are up for grabs. To that end, cabals are sired. Dormant ones are reactivated. Estates of dominion are created and parceled out. Allegiances are redefined. Old guards are called out of retirement and new camp followers receive their investiture. New political armies are formed and rushed quickly to the frontlines. For these actors, especially in Nigeria, it is a war. If the war is not a reenactment of that ancient embittered rivalry between NCNC + NPC against AG and the others of old; it is between the remnants of NPN against that of NPP. But since all the robber barons in Nigerian politics have decided that pulling their resources together will augur well for their business of converting Nigeria into their feudal holding; PDP was hijacked as a platform for that. This time, it is going to be between PDP and the rest of the pack.
As the game unfolds, many front contenders have already bitten the dust. Others are on their way to the dust. As it stands now, Atiku Abubakar who was selected by a Northern cabal of the same old, disingenuous and self-seeking feudal lords; who are strong in their illusory belief that Nigeria is their feudal fiefdom; to lord and rule ad infinitum, has finally bitten the dust. Goodluck Jonathan, the lucky incumbent, who seemed to have learnt excellent lessons from Obasanjo the rigging Owu; took him for the primaries, to the Golgotha called Eagle square, and not only crucified him together with his political ambitions; he took him there, and routed him so very disgracefully, that Atiku’s supporters were forced to switch sides by the mightier arms of Jonathan’s Ghana must go Bags.
As it stands today, Jega and his INEC are not yet ready to organize a credible election come 2011. The INEC is still groping blindly in the dark grottos of electoral confusion. Jega and the duplicitous Commission he heads are busy somersaulting and abjuring rationality in their estimations and financial implications of his charge. Nigeria has enough money to waste. And Jega seems primed by default to waste as much of it as possible, to organize an election that took countries like Bangladesh, a little fraction of the whooping sum Jega is asking for to organize. Charges of over-inflated contracts for the purchase of laptops and other equipment for the election are rife. Some of the machines have even found their way into private hands. Just like Nigerian census experiences, which have been a living nightmare of fraudulence, some ghost registration centers have arisen in jungles and bushes to mock INEC’s presumptions. In some parts of Nigeria, some politicians have hijacked INEC machines and are busy registering cows, goats and other non-persons in readiness for the imminent rigging-fest.
From all indications, this season of anomie will play itself out like all others before it. The voters and the citizenry are bound once more to be taken on a crazy circle run-around. The PDP has declared that there are no vacancies anywhere. This in Nigerian parlance means that the PDP has decided that it is going to cling to power come what may. Where they are out-rigged; they are ready to deploy the violence of their thugs on the streets, or the judicial violence of their thugs on the hallowed benches of the Nigerian judiciary, like has been their stock in trade.
We are watching and waiting. The indicators are not friendly to say the least!
If you think that Nigeria’s experience at the moment is just a one event occurrence, then you really need to read African contemporary history. This is the trajectory of affairs in almost every country in the continent that pretends to democracy. This is just a tip of the iceberg. This situation throws up certain fundamental questions that cannot just be wished away. Where does the problem lie? Is western democracy the answer to African problems? Many people have continued unquestioningly to construe the western-style democracy as the answer to every political question. But is that not stretching meaning and significance very far?
Let’s pause a little bit to think about this democracy-as-the-one-solution-to- every-problem dogmatic that has veritably captured our conceptual scheme, since the failure of the communist experiments of communist Russia.
2. Democracy and its Discontents
Before we embark on any consideration of democracy, we must first lay the facts down. Power is a dog that forever needs a leash! This explains why Lord Acton etched in ageless words, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. History attests to the profundity of this insight.
Generations of impious pretenders; debauched emperors and decadent empires; kings-by-divine-rights; feudal lords of various manors; dubious dukes; obscene courts and inordinately debauched courtiers, all have so much affronted history’s face with their sleazy exercise of power, as to be beyond Acton’s wildest imaginations. Although generations of men have realized that power of necessity needs a leash; it is doubtful that mankind has learnt any lessons from the heritage of infamy convoked in history, by the diseased vestiges of rogue and unregulated power.
Freedom was supposedly the pristine state of human political relations. Jean Paul Sartre articulated this status when he opined that man is condemned to be free. But this freedom seemed illusory in itself. Jean Jacques Rousseau bemoaned this illusion when he submitted that man is born free but everywhere in chains. The interface between the condemnation to freedom and the limits of our chains is where democracy supposedly resides, with its rule of law. In the course of time, every method of organizing society made an appearance, staking a claim to recognition. It took time and a lot of trial-and-error, before mankind happened upon democracy as the best system of government. Democracy was the leash invented by mankind, to hold power to account. Whether it has acquitted itself creditably in this regard remains a controversial issue. Without leashes, power would always cry havoc, and let loose the dogs of tyranny!!!!(Apologies, Shakespeare)
Democracy has enjoyed an unparalleled patronage since it became the state religion of one of the most successful superpowers in history; namely, the USA. Its ascendance is akin to that of the Christian religion, when the Roman emperor Constantine baptized and engrafted it to the stem of the Empire, as a state religion. But since every business, which capitalizes on the human fear of violent death, according to Hobbes; to peddle pseudo-science as facts, and elevate the unknown to the province of dogma has always convoked some bacchanalian orgy of hypocrisy and sepulchral rottenness; democracy has equally essayed to give us cause to believe that it is simply an over-exaggerated hype.
For instance, the kind of imported democracy practiced across much of Africa today, is an overpriced dogma. It is a tree under which every undomesticated political animal finds a shade. Dictators hide their power grab under democratic reforms. Here, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is an eternal example. Executive brigands use democracy for the demagoguery and sloganeering, with which they rob their countries blind. We have Obasanjo of Nigeria, as a poster-child for this kind of superlative indiscretion. Political dinosaurs like Gaddafi cow and manipulate the gullibility of the masses to entrench their megalomania as instruments of governance. His madness is so advanced that he is even ready to massacre and barbecue any opposition to his madness out of existence. The international alliance of corporate profit use “the promotion of democracy and good governance”, to sugar-coat their raw greed and plunder of African resources. A visit to Niger Delta, and the billions that companies like Shell BP, shell out to bribe local chiefs, to turn a nelson’s eye to the ecological devastation they convoke in Third World countries would apprise any independent observer of these facts.
All these admix to brew a realization that may sound heretical to the ears of orthodoxy. In many estimations, democracy as the best system of government may not be a rationally defensible assertion. The bulwark of its defense may be wholly emotional.
The reasons are not far-fetched!
Democracy is a paradox. For Abraham Lincoln and his acolytes, it is government of the people by the people and for the people. This seems to be the ultimate acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the people. This was a sweet interlude to human ears, after centuries of feudal monarchy and its monstrous accoutrements, leading human history through so many desolate abominations bordering on tyranny. On this score, Lincoln was a hardcore idealist. Like every idealist, he got the tunes too high this time. His idealisms embezzled some of the realities present in his context, in order to establish a platform for his visions. For instance, while Lincoln was intoning the psalms in praise of democracy, women hadn’t the vote. Slaves were still unfree. Lincoln would be forgiven because he was not playing to the galleries of illusion. He was a man actively doing his utmost to ensure that American slaves got their freedom. At the time of the Gettysburg address, where democracy was canonized as the sovereignty of the people, he, as the Commander-in-Chief, was chiefly in command of the civil war to emancipate the slaves.
Be that as it may, many a demagogue had piggy-backed on the back of this assertion to inflict history with his own depraved version of political knavery. Never forget that Adolf Hitler was a democratically elected politician, who used the instruments of democracy to perpetrate an eternal crime on history’s face. More so, the American democracy, which Lincoln was praising to high heavens then, was a wide departure from what the ancient traditions bequeathed us.
That democracy that Lincoln had before his eyes was an American democracy, which according to Howard Zinn, was founded by Plutocrats to protect the property and interests they stole and hijacked from the rest. To that end, that democracy was already a government of robber barons, for the robber barons and by the robber barons. The people in this equation, like in every principality of the Machiavellian prince, are mere spectators that are brought out every four years to cheer their oppressors and congratulate their emasculated selves, at the beauty of a democracy that was constructed to attend to the interests of the propertied and moneyed elite. George Bernard Shaw may have had that in mind, when he opined that democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many, for appointment by the corrupt few.
Shaw is forever right. In his days, he landed a bull’s-eye. Today, his observation may have been considered anachronistic, had it not had something timeless about it. Even today, democracy remains a demagogic swindle in so many places. The incompetent many are coaxed, brainwashed, swindled and purchased by the corrupt few to vote against their own interests, and vote for the interests of the corrupt few. Ask the Americans what made them stand aloof as Barack Obama, a guy who wants affordable Healthcare plan for all Americans, is being assailed left, right and center for daring to question the citadels of private greed that profit handsomely from bankrupting and liquidating the poor, whenever they fall sick. We consult Shaw again. Shaw also had it that democracy is a device that ensures that we shall be governed no better than we deserve. To this end, the people seemed to deserve no better. That explains why they are governed no better!This lends credence to the assertions of H.L. Mencken that democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. Or that of E. B. White, that democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time.
All these lead me to one paradoxical conclusion!
Democracy as we know it today has configured itself into that system of government, where every idiot nurses the belief that he matters in the scheme of things, and that he has something to say, although our infinitesimality before the immensity of the universe continues to mock our presumptions.
Democracy is a terrible illusion. Anyone who stakes a claim to being a democrat may be an idiot. A democrat is an idiot because he builds his hopes on the presumption that human beings always knows what is good for them, and would always seek to protect and further these good interests. That approximates the same stand taken by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations, while he was enunciating self-interest as the basis of economic activity.
But here, the democrat errs big time!
Presumption, according to Thomas Aquinas, is the mother of error. Human beings are more animals of emotion than rational ones. And once the emotions are well stimulated; one can even tele-guide a man to self-destruct, or vote against interests basic to his life. You see that in almost all spheres of existence.
Ask any suicide bomber or terrorist the rational grounds for his convictions; and you will find disjointed islets and articulated archipelagoes of emotion rushing at you like a wild wintry avalanche rolling down the Alps. Such citadels of fanaticism can never have rational scaffolds. It can only be constructed on the quicksands of unreason. Ask any consumer why he chooses one brand of product over and above the other, and you will find out that he succumb to the fatal juices of targeted advertisements that appealed to his emotions and prejudices. This explains why advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry today. Ask any voter why he votes for one candidate over the other, you would hear a tirade of reasons that abjure reason itself. You will simply realize that many have fallen for the flatulent demagoguery and hypnotic fraudulence of a politician’s personality, than to any ordinance of reason. This explains why illusions democracy can be so disappointing sometimes that one wonders what else we can conjure to celebrate our collective foolishness.
But, be that as it may, democracy boasts a positive, upon which its salvation could hang. Till, now every other system of governance has proven itself worse than democracy. That is what gives wings to the suspicion that it may be apparently better than every other construct of governance. It is from this shaky platform that many people are wont to take a dialectical leap into the unproven, to call democracy the best system of government. That I am not worse than the others does not mean that I am the best.
Democracy may be idiotic. But tyranny is more idiotic than democracy. This inheres in the fact that it is superlatively idiotic not to allow the masses of idiots that pervade the human society, their presumed right to have their say. Machiavelli recognized that tyranny must pretend to democracy if it is not to be superlatively idiotic. For him, if you keep the people busy with democratic distractions, they would never get together to constitute a threat to the position of the prince. But denying them access to this most primeval form of self-advertisement, which right to free expression is and other democratic appurtenances portend, shows a prince in his most unintelligent bearing. If you keep the people busy, free, and talking, they harmlessly talk out their misgivings, as well as suppressed and bottled anger, and go home to congratulate themselves on their erect manhood. But if you suppress that; you pressurize them like compressed gas in a canister, waiting for a little scratching to explode.
To that end, the only lesson of this little diversion is that democracy is neither here nor there. It is an instrument. And like every instrument, it can be used as a weapon, as well as a tool, depending on who is wielding it. If a Hitler wields democracy, he would mangle it to serve his knavery. If a Lincoln wields it, he would deploy it to emancipate the downtrodden. If a Martin Luther King, jr. gets hold of it, he would protest the socio-political emasculation of men.
That Nigerian democracy has remained an essential arena where the idiots have their say and the rogues have their way, is thanks to the ignorance, timidity and civic apathy of the majority of Nigerians, who are as disunited as disunity could ever be on all points that would comport to the progress of the nation. From such a crooked timbre of a socio-political environment, no system of government would ever work, even if you call it democracy squared.
3. Nagging Questions
Why our politics is this wretched? In which kind of ovens were our politicians baked, as to make them unvarnished scoundrels? What is it that rendered our politics so dysfunctional and murderous in its inefficiency? These and many others have been nagging questions of ancient provenance!
Many have been compelled to ask whether our land is the accursed out-backs of hell. Others are left with the question: why is it that every good idea that worked elsewhere comes to our land to die? Some have been forced to question whether our intelligence quotient is below that of our nearest evolutionary cousins-the chimps, that we cannot marshal a resistance against our oppression, and oppressors. Is there anything in the air we breathe or the water we drink that make us susceptible to this kind of gigantic failure that Nigeria has become? Why is it that we are experts in plucking defeat from the jaws of victory? Why is our land going to hell on foot, while we watch as castrated spectators? Why do we keep on running around in the circles of failure? We seem to have permanently booked a ringside seat to cheer our follies to the failure it so richly deserves.
Why are we not developing?
These questions have once upon a time, crossed the mind of every right thinking Nigerian, nay African.
The complaints are perennial! Nigeria is representative of a situation that pervades most of sub-Saharan Africa. Our land is a jungle of fear. Order, justice and peace are alien concepts. We seem very allergic to the demands of rational existence. Our clime lacks every pointer to the existence of a social contract. The rulers are capricious feudal lords. The governed are left to their designs. There is no bridge connecting the rulers to the ruled. The estates of the realm are so very mutually exclusive and unbridgeable. In the courts of power, the rulers and elites amuse themselves in crass debaucheries that make imperial Rome and feudal Europe look like innocent choirboys. Medieval Europe is better than what plays itself out under most African suns. In Abuja, the Nigerian capital for instance, the legislators go home with pay packets and perks of office that is not only grossly immoral or obscenely insensitive, but constitutes a brazen insult on over 70% of the Nigerian population that have to eke out depraved existences on less than 1 dollar a day.
On top of that, this crude crop of primeval thieves masquerading as lawmakers and politicians; in a superlative show of unconcern and mean-spiritedness, are busy stealing every kobo marked out for the paltry projects that would have benefitted the masses of Nigeria. 16 Billion United States Dollars was allegedly spent by Olusegun Obasanjo’s government in collusion with the National Assembly to generate zero kilowatt of power. The money was squandered in a dark maze of indescribable briberies, kickbacks and outright stealing that characterizes Nigerian politics at the moment and affronts every ethical fiber in us.
Today for instance, Nigerians lack every social amenity. Roads are patronized with dereliction. Healthcare is only afforded the rich who can afford it. Education is beyond the reach of the poor. There exists no middle class in our firmament. You are either very rich or very poor. The rich got there not through honest industry. Most of them did through peddling political patronage and trading influences. The poor are victims of their circumstance. The leaders in this feudal embrace are simply lords of foolery; and the people, a mass of castrated humanity. The Lords are armed with enough ignorance and bad will to convoke another “Dark Ages” across our land. The masses on the other hand are endowed with enough ignorance, cowardice, timidity, and a host of other debilitating endowments that make revolt against oppression impossible. Our society is now so rotten that rot is now notoriously inadequate to describe our situation.
Some would try to universalize inanity here in their contentions to excuse our dysfunction. They would contend that politics in itself is an arena of scoundrels. In the Nigerian parlance-that politics is a dirty game! They would essay to generalize that intellectual nonsense, to purchase themselves a clear conscience as they bask in obscene rottenness.
I refuse to accept this expression of fatalistic stupidity!
Politics is a morally neutral instrument, like all things human. It is the human element that decides to soil it or to let it serve its purpose as an instrument of organizing human affairs. I refuse to accept this definition when I look at other climes, where things work with minimum rot.
Under the Nigeria sun, where the above definition is accepted and holds sway; our politics does not function. Our lives do not function. Our lives are borrowed. We live at the good pleasure of anyone who cares to do us harm. Whenever he decides to kidnap us, the State we leased our powers to, will not even raise a finger to speak out for us, or defend us. Our politics is so dirty that it is nothing but a den of robbers. Our social interaction is characterized by “I go show you” mentality. There is no means of attaining social justice. In our embrace, the powerful is allowed every leeway to feed on the weak. The weak has no means of seeking redress except running to church to seek redress from the God of justice. Even there, the crooked Pastor ambushes him and fleeces him of the meager resources that conferred a little meaning and significance on his life.
Why is that the case?
Many attempts have been made at answering this question. But one major symptom of our social and structural paralysis is the glaring absence of institutions of checks, which would have served as limits and checks on the acquisition and exercise of power.
Democracy was supposed to erect, and sustain the institutions that would act as checks on the exercise of power in our land, after our long wandering in the desert of military despotism. But still we are in an unrestrained decay that seems to have no end in sight.
This is what makes the answer to our question very simple. We are in leadership orchestrated decay because the holders of power in our society have no one who checks what they do, with the power they have. To that end, they agglomerate absolute power. Since absolute power will always corrupt even the most honest of men, let alone moral hirelings; our society was already fore-programmed to be hijacked by corruption and dysfunctionality. Like my Criminal Law Professor, Prof. Dr. Albrecht of the Faculty of Law of University of Frankfurt will have it, “Wer macht hat, macht mist damit”-Whoever has power is bound to do bull-crap with it, if not checked.
When Aristotle stated that man is a political animal, he was doing metaphysics. That holds true since we need instruments to organize human society. And politics is this instrument. But a society starts going to hell when it creates an industry out of this instrument. That is the case in Nigeria. Politics is now an industry. It is the only industry that is lucrative. Our economy is in shambles because our politics devastated our economy. The only way to become rich for many of our scoundrels is to smuggle or rig yourself into a public office; perch their like a vulture and convert the treasury to your personal fiefdom. And that is the advent of the robber-baronial monarchy we have across every public office in Nigeria today. This rotten construct has so much engrafted itself onto our body politic that some contend that only the waters of a revolution can cleanse our land of this atrocity that government has become.
4. Robber-Baronial Monarchy
Embezzlement of public funds, briberies, corruption and outright stealing of public funds are no scandals anymore in Nigeria. The Nigerian psyche has been so suffused and bombarded with cases of unsolved scandals in these estates, that it is no longer news. What Achebe mooted in 1983 that to ask a Nigerian public official not to be corrupt is like asking a goat not to eat yams, is now a frightening reality resides with us.
In 2003, Achebe wrote a public letter to the indecorous emperor, lording his indiscretions over Nigeria at that time. He wrote to Emperor Olusegun Obasanjo who was on his second incarnation on the Nigerian tribunes of power. Obasanjo was not only a terrible president, he was at that time, actively presiding over “a small clique of renegades”, who “openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn (our) homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom”. Achebe told him that the situation is too dangerous for silence.
In fairness to Obasanjo, the Nigerian public space has been converted to bankrupt and lawless fiefdom since immediately after independence. Okotie Eboh who was known for veniality and corruption did not serve under the Owu. To that end, almost anyone, who attains public office in Nigeria, construes himself as an august emperor instead of a civil servant. He surrounds himself with retinues of drooling sycophants that he maintains at the expense of his office. These cheerlead his plundering of the treasuries of his office. This explains the shameless troops of Aso ebi clad idiots, whose futures were mortgaged by a Bode George, a common thief; coming to court in uniforms to cheerlead their “hero” as he was convicted of thievery. They were equally on hand to receive him after his time in jail was done. Anyone watching that comedy of stupidity would think that Bode George extended the frontiers of human ingenuity; without knowing that that common thief outreached himself to advertise his senseless depravity and primitive acquisitive tendency.
This situation has enabled and downloaded Thomas Hobbes state of nature onto our land. Hobbes feared such a situation because it is akin to the time of war “where every man is enemy to every man”-(Homo homini lupus). And “in such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is the worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, nasty, brutish, and short”
Today, our land is the thrall of a perpetual, forever simmering low density conflict. Jos, Niger Delta and the ravages of Islamic militants and Boko Haram in the Northeast of Nigeria are testaments to this. The Nigerian society is in a state of siege. The ordinary Nigerian has no nightlife. He runs the risk of being shot either by armed robbers that have torn our nightly peace to shreds; or by the Police, who many have come to rightly view as associate thieves; with the only difference being that the Nigerian police are government approved armed robbers.
We have no industries in Nigeria anymore, except for two. We have two functional industries in Nigeria. One is politics and the other is politics. There is no manufacturing anywhere in Nigeria. The least we do is assembling borrowed ideas and materials. We run a crude mercantilist economy, where we produce nothing but sell everything. There are no investments in the future or in the present. There are no savings and investments in anything save an unrestrained consumptive life pattern that thinks no hoot about the future or about sustainable existence. We sell everything from our consciences to our most intimate acquaintances. Every value has a price. In the Nigerian socio-economy, every conscience is purchasable. Even integrity and reputations can be purchased as well. It is only a matter of cash. They all have a price. Ask Bankole, the speaker of Nigeria’s lower house of parliament, what he told the American ambassador about the Chief Justice of the Federation, Katsina Alu and other dishonourable justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Go read Wikileaks, and you will not have a reason to smile whenever Nigeria is mentioned to your hearing!!!
This explains our avid propensity to acquire cash. This leads to stupendous corruption, which is now the major currency of our political life. It leads also to the rentier economy we are running everywhere from the corridors of power to our domestic fronts. It explains the ‘sighs’ of the Nigerian oppressed, as they kidnap for ransom. They kidnap to acquire the necessary cash to buy ‘privileges’ which are ordinarily due to them in civilized climes. This leads equally to every other kind of ill bedeviling our situation and circumstance.
The problem stares us in the face. Even a blind man is aware of the depth of our rot. It stinks to high heavens when one perceives it from without. But many of those within, especially those profiting from the rot, cannot perceive it anymore due to the olfactory fatigue or selective perception. They manufacture excuses to recuse themselves from the judgments of their consciences. They invent nauseating irrationalities to explain away their mediocrity.
5. Revolution as Solution
Prof. Ben Nwabueze is a Nigerian constitutional lawyer of world class repute. He is not only a great mind, he is a deeply knowledgeable man; a fiery intelligence that possesses deep powers of clinical dissection of an issue, that dwarfs that of most of his contemporaries. He is Nigeria’s gift to the world. He has not only studied the Nigerian situation for many years; he has been an intimate participant in many of our post-independence constitutional and political developments. He is not a man known for careless talk. He measures his words and selects carefully the methods with which to deliver them.
In September 2010, this eminent jurist looked at Nigeria and declared without mincing words, that the depth of rot in the Nigerian system is so irredeemable that only a VIOLENT REVOLUTION could cure it. His words sounded like that of a doctor, who having tried all that his science and skill could appropriate, took a hard look at his patient and told him that only a radical chemotherapy could cure his sickness.
Scarcely had those words left his lips than he was attacked by Theophilius Danjuma; a retired General, and one of the perennial parasites, who got rich off peddling coups and underwriting the corrupt structure that Nigeria has become. Danjuma pooh-poohed Nwabueze’s position for no justifiably rational reason. The only reason inferable from his position is that the status quo scaffolds and supports his privileges, which he rode roughshod to ill-gotten wealth. If the Nigerian society had been a little just, Danjuma would have been in prison for murder and corruption. But Nigeria remains a nation that is allergic justice. To that end, mercenaries like Danjuma are empowered to run their mouths in defense of their idiocies.
In spite of Danjuma’s myopic defence of the corrupt status quo that underwrites his privileges, Nwabueze’s bold submissions are so very instructive. This is against the backdrop of the fact that when Karl Maier a foreign journalist wrote that this house called Nigeria has fallen, many Nigerians dismissed him as a neo-colonial agent not content with the ravages of colonial paternalism, seeking to re-enthrone it through the backdoor.
But here is one of us; an eminent Doctor of Laws; whose vocation ordained him a defender and upholder of the law. This was a professor and teacher of laws, who schooled generations of men and women in the virtues of law. Generations of men and women drank the law like water at his feet. He suckled many a great mind that passed through his hands. He schooled men not only in the virtues of law; he espoused the magnificence and majesty of the law as the supreme invention of human reason for solving every social problem. He exposed the law as the benediction that reason pays to reality.
This was a guy, who ascended the thrones of reason, and swore on the altar of laws, that he would spend his life defending and upholding the law. Here is an eminent privy to the sacredness of laws arising to repudiate all that his vocation entailed. He rose to say no to his vocational raison d’etre. He preferred to commit vocational suicide if that is the only option that will save his people.
Nwabueze knew that he has taken his vocation to Golgotha and had it crucified as the only acceptable sacrifice that will appease reality for the irredeemable way Nigeria has debauched reason. To recommend violent revolution as the only waters that could cleanse Nigeria’s Aegean stable is for this man of laws, a very radical repudiation of all that he ever stood for. He did not take that decision lightly. But he saw no other way out of a cancer which has defied every known cure.
Why would someone who knows the blessedness of the law; the brutalities of war and anarchy advocate revolution in an age that mankind was supposed to have gotten acquainted with other rational ways of resolving conflicts? Well, Ndiigbo of Southern Nigeria; a stock from which Nwabueze emerged has it that “ihe tagburu nkita na aru, na ata ajo aru”-that is to say that whatever can out-bite a dog has got quite some teeth. This implies that whatever will make a man versed in laws to repudiate his vocation, must be quite some phenomenon.
Revolution is a radical overthrow of an existing system or social order. In revolution, power is primitively allowed to flow from the barrel of guns. For the proponents, it is a therapy well suited in a circumstance, where diseased privilege and dictatorial mediocrity holds sway. It is advocated for situations where pathological anomie has become so entrenched that it is now a hydra-headed monster. It is a thoroughgoing cleansing of an old order or system; where the virus and its victims are wiped off with extreme violence, as to give the remnants or survivors a new lease of life. It is most times bloody and violent. This explains why its proponents see it as an iconoclasm of privilege, where instruments of our primeval nature are allowed to erupt in volcanic anger to tear down, and wipe away the rotten vestiges of a dysfunctional society.
Why a Revolution in Nigeria?
No doubt that the Nigerian situation is so dire that this radical solution seems to be all that comports to reason. History attests to the efficacy and otherwise of such a radical surgery. In 1789 the French killed their king, queen and nobles. That regicide ended up paving the way for the banishment of feudal tyranny across Europe. It opened up the rivulets of critical thinking and genius bottled up in the peasants, which have for ages sought expression to no avail; thanks to the subjugations of feudalism. And that explosion of consciousness gave the world revolutionary political thought patterns like the ones contained in Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, Rousseau’s works, Pascal’s Pensees and Montesquieu’s treatises. At the instance of the French revolution, Europe sat up and learnt that people cannot abide feudal oppression forever. The French storming of the Bastilles marked the end of prebendal appropriation and mismanagement of power.
With the way things are at the moment in Nigeria, it seems that Nigerians must rise up and kill all their politicians and elitist leeches that have corrupted and continued to profit from the corrupt system, before Nigeria could have a lease of life. This is the implication of Prof. Nwabueze’s assertion. And this assertion is gradually purchasing the intellectual patronage of many Nigerians.
The way Nigerian politicians and elites are going about their impious vocations today, lends insistent and urgent veracity to the assertion that our streets need to flow with the blood of these politicians, if Nigeria is to be exorcised of her addiction to corruption and dysfunction.
That was what Jerry Rawlings did in Ghana. This young idealistic revolutionary came to power in Ghana, took the cutlass of power, and decapitated the heads of all the corrupt idiots that mortgaged Ghana’s future to their avarice. Many corrupt military leaders and their collaborators were executed. Today, Ghana is catching a new breathe of life. They are firmly on the way to serious development. He stabilized the land of his fathers and set an eternal example to anyone who thinks that power grants him the license to steal.
That Nigerian politicians and public officers still think that they have the license to steal is thanks to the fact that a Jerry Rawlings has not risen in our land. That Rawlings is already born. The deepening rot in the Nigerian system is daily bringing his advent very near. And on the day of his advent, many political heads will roll. Not literally. They will be detached from their inglorious necks. All the thieves of the realm should prepare their necks for the chopping block or the guillotine. There will be little mercy. With every instance of embezzlement of public funds, they embezzle the possibility of mercy on their poor souls. It may equally be that the Nigerian populace have not yet been scandalized or brutalized enough into rousing their anger to overthrow the rotten system, like the French did in 1789. Their anger may hitherto be boiling and being allowed to run off into other anti-social rivulets like armed robbery, kidnappings and the Niger Delta rebellion and the rise of militias and ethnic militants across board. But that does not imply that the situation is not a dire one. Nigeria in this case represents a case of tinderbox that is simply waiting for a match stick to be struck near it, for an earth shattering explosion to occur. Once a clever demagogue, who can channel the anger of the people, arises on the scene; storming the Bastilles of our collective rottenness will be a foregone conclusion.
Prof. Nwabueze’s vision is like the jeremiads of the prophet of that name, which went unheeded until the kingdom of greed collapsed taking down its patrons.
Why is a radical, violent revolution a very attractive option? The answer is not farfetched. The Nigeria political system is a den of unscrupulous brigandage. The thieves of our realms are no more peddling their indiscretion in the dark alleys, where the fear of the law kept them all through the ages. Nope!!! They have now realized that the government is a bigger thief. The ‘petties’ have now realized that what the people in power steal in a second; they require two life times to appropriate. To that end they decided to come out of the dungeons like homosexuals coming out of the closet. They decided to join the league of big time robbers. They joined Nigerian politics. And since greed is a bottomless abyss, they will continue to loot the treasury until there is nothing more to cart away. Their avarice will never be satiated. Avarice is insatiable.
Secondly, these elites who got rich and are privileged at the expense of the functionality of the commonweal will never let go of their appropriated privileges. They would spend their lives entrenching and consolidating those privileges, even if the whole is to be destroyed to satisfy this belligerent sense of privilege. This is what makes any reform or change an impossible option.
The ‘powered’ and the ‘privileged’ will never let change happen. Change is a threat to their position. Power is never given. It is taken. Since it is to be taken, they are not to give it up so very easily. They and their hirelings hold the levers of power. They sit at the crossroads of power and privilege where decisions are made. Any law or reform that threatens their privilege is scuttled and eviscerated with absolute disdain before it can see the light of day.
The people’s business will remain no one’s business because the people seemed to have abandoned vigilance which has forever remained the price of liberty. But our hope lies in the fact that the thief has every day, while the owner of the house has only one.
Those against revolutions may have a point. Their position may not all be attributed to cowardice. They may not all be viewing the situation from the lenses of diseased privilege. Many of those may be men, whom experience has taught some veritable lessons. They may have learnt that violence have almost always ended up not solving the problems it was meant to tackle.
In actual fact, so many considerations speak against revolutions!
Revolutions run the risk of swallowing its initiators. Over and above that, violence has the potential of being non-discriminatory. It most times engenders an amorphous and non-selective destruction of both the guilty and the innocent. It is difficult in a revolutionary atmosphere to distinguish between the targeted and the collateral damages. Secondly, revolutions are teleologically blind. They cannot visualize the end of their quests. Once the process is set in motion, the end is difficult to foresee and controlled. This renders it susceptible to being hijacked by non-revolutionary elements and opportunists, who neither had a vision nor agree with the visions of the revolution. The Orwellian Animal Farm dedicated itself to portraying this possibility. To this end, a revolution’s end cannot be foreseen, predicted, or planned. In this light, revolutions run the risk of being bloodletting orgies, full of sound and fury; achieving nothing.
The risk of letting lose our basest primeval instincts to wreck havoc on the society, without accountability and control is too great a risk that reason advises against it. But are we to continue abiding and enduring the rotten status quo, while the rot eats us out of our skins, and turns our society into a jungle? Reason abhors that as well. That is why many intelligent people are stuck in this paradox and agony of indecision.
Revolution is like the Hamletian Question; “to be, or not to be”; a question, which every society must answer for itself.
That Nigerians seems to be comfortable in their rot is a realization that mocks my fragile sensibilities and affronts the principles of self-preservation. It makes me wanna puke. Over and above my personal dispositions, revolution is further made an attractive option in the Nigerian context, by the fact that the citadels of privilege are merciless and unyielding in their primeval attachments to the unearned privileges they are enjoying. They want to enjoy ad infinitum the narrow insularities of their privilege, even when over 70% of the Nigerian population is condemned to eking out miserable livelihoods at the extremities of wretchedness and poverty. They are not ready to get their fangs off the bleeding flesh of our body politic. Neither are they moved by pity, ethic or fear into getting their feet comfortably ensconced on our collective necks off. They want to live, die and hand over this quasi-feudal range of privileges to their posterity. Some members of this privileged cabal are the most vocal ones calling for the sustenance of the status quo, no matter what it takes. The rotten status quo is the humus that nourishes their privilege.
Some of those who are against revolution canvass for a sovereign national conference. Their reasons are not far-fetched. Nigeria is a cake confected from rotten dough. It was a creature of imperial convenience. Its creation took no cognizance of the needs, aspirations, geographies, cultures or histories of the peoples it agglomerated under a nation-state they neither asked for, nor wanted.
This fraudulent creation was ratified by colonial fiat without the knowledge of the people. There was no uniting national metaphysic that could weld those disparate ethnic republics and nationalities together. Their languages were as disparate as disparate can be.
Granted that many nations were welded together by the fiats of a supervening power without consultations with the people, those nations at a time absorbed the fact of their nationhood and from thenceforward, started constructing the uniting blocks that made mutual existence possible. But Nigeria, Nigerians, and other external powers, for which Nigeria’s poverty and corruption affords a chance for business would let that happen. Everything was done to scuttle Nigeria’s chance at progress and unity.
Since this yoking together of separate peoples and nations to satisfy the lewd appetites of a marauding colonialist, Nigeria is yet to know peace, unity or progress. She has been blundering from one silly teething problem to the other, that today, at 50; she is still a toddler in the racetracks of development. Her stature is an affront on her endowments. Instead of a giant; an aspiration that she has always pretended to, she remains a midget in the house of development.
The only achievement on the plains of unity, which Nigeria has recorded, is that the country like a rotten cadaver has been able to unite all the vultures and scavengers of all tribes, tongues and nations both within Nigeria and without. International thieves of all colors and trans-tribal bandits of all shades have found a foothold in this banquet of greed, where Nigeria is laid out to be cannibalized, torn apart, ripped asunder and carted off to satisfy the lewd avarice of these parasitic actors. That is the only achievement that Nigeria has recorded; and it is on the disreputable and infamous parts of the ledger.
This congress of cannibals is such an ongoing convocation that some well meaning Nigerians have called for a sovereign national conference to actually talk about this embrace called Nigeria. This suggestion takes moments about the fact of Nigeria’s artificiality, which has underwritten the tremendous anomie that bedevils the nation. The vultures are having a field day because Nigeria actually belonged to no one. No one can connect with that concept called Nigeria. It is a conceptual “Terra Nullius”-No man’s land. Those that are called Nigerians define themselves from the perspectives of their tribes primarily.
Since a sovereign national conference runs the risk of exposing the anal cavities of this monster; the alliance of greed holding Nigeria to a ransom will never let that happen. Whenever the victims of Nigeria’s anomie raise their voices to protest their sentence to victimhood; they are either whipped into silence like Biafra was, or bribed into moral somnolence like the chiefs of the Niger Delta were. All in all, no one should disturb the status quo. Those profiting from it are so neck deep in the rot that getting their fangs off Nigeria’s bleeding flesh, will ensure their death. Once a parasite leaves its host, it dies. That is why the parasites lecherously sucking the life blood off Nigeria will battle any initiative aimed at redrafting our social contract.