By Bolanle Bolawole
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Mother, mother/Why/Why was I born Black? – Okot p’Bitek in “Song of Lawino”
As I woke up on Friday morning, lay in bed and performed the routine of prayers, meditation, and introspection, it ministered to me that we die every day but also wake up every day; until, finally, we die one day never to wake up again. Or, if you are a Grail Message person, we die here but awake or wake up to joyful activities on the other side of life or immortality. No one is damn sure what exactly that is or what it will be. Despite dreams, revelations and visions – and what the Holy Book says – no one has gone to heaven and returned to give us a graphic, blow-by-blow account of happenings there. No one has seen God and come back to tell us what He looks or does not look like. I prefer to side with the apostle Paul that until we change mortality for immortality, we can only know in part and prophesy in part, the best of our spiritual gifts and close rapport with God notwithstanding. But can anyone blame God? Not after His experience with Lucifer, His betrayal by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the audacity of the sons of Man as they constructed the Tower of Babel! Our elders have a saying, what makes an elder an elder, he does not reveal to a child. Or, as Daddy G. O once disclosed of a discussion he had with his father-in-the-Lord and the late founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Reverend Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, if a child knows “ayinike”, the elder must not let him comprehend “ayinipada”! It is no wonder, then, that the elders describe sleep as “little death” and death itself as the “last, long sleep” Some philosophy there!
I considered the latest kidnapping along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and wondered: Where was the Amotekun? Have the perpetrators of the dastardly and bestial act been arrested? Will they ever be apprehended and brought to book? When criminals are not apprehended and crime punished, impunity reigns and crime festers. Why are we so powerless against these criminals? They negotiate ransom money; people take the cash to them; they collect it – and then walk away freely, waiting to pounce and strike the next time, at a place and time they so desire and with whatever ferocity that catches their fancy! This cannot be a country of law and order! This is no longer the habitation of reasonable, rational, and normal people. Anomie reigns here. Commonsense has taken flight. Watching National Geo, we can see that communities of animals appear better run, better led, and better behaved than the Nigeria of today! There is a display of more compassion and more rationality among animals than we witness, again and again, in Nigeria these days. In the face of these criminalities and abnormalities, life goes on as normal! Some people continue to pretend to be the government! And the hordes continue to kow-tow and accept them as such!
I also considered the panic enveloping the country as a result of the security alert and travel advisory issued by some Western powers, the United States and the UK to start with, and which other foreign embassies have since latched on to. To show their seriousness, the embassies concerned began to evacuate their non-essential staff from Abuja. In the face of denials by those who still pretend to be the Nigerian government, reports have it that joint patrols by the foreigners’ security operatives and those of Nigeria’s stormed some hideouts and arrested some terrorists. Can that be true? Rather than be upbeat in neutralising the security threats that have enveloped the entire country, functionaries of the Muhammadu Buhari junta have pre-occupied themselves with giving Nigerians cold comfort of how safe they are! But is anyone deceived? Deceit is the trademark of crumbling governments the world over.
When rebel leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, addressed Biafrans, vowing to fight with the last drop of his blood, urging his people to fight till the last man and assuring them of victory, he had already loaded his family and personal belongings into a waiting plane whose engine was revving! Done speaking, Ojukwu handed over to one hapless Madiebo, hopped into his plane, and left his people to their fate! When, to all intents and purposes, the self-acclaimed evil genius, Ibrahim Babangida, had lost it all, he still boasted to Nigerians that he and his co-travellers on the road to infamy were still in office and in power! The last president of Afghanistan gave his people the cold comfort that all was well hours before he cut and ran!
Vile as he was, Sani Abacha, the one I used to describe as the vilest of them all, was still honourable enough to admit that if an insurgency lasts for more than a day, then, the government in power has a hand in it! The ongoing insurgency has lasted the whole seven years plus under Buhari. Rather than lessen in ferocity, it keeps growing worse. It used to be only Boko Haram and the theatre of the insurgency was limited to the North-east. Under Buhari, however, Fulani herdsmen have been added to the fray; so also Fulani bandits. The whole country is now the theatre of crimes and criminality imported mostly from the North into the South of the country. If the alibi is offered that the criminality in the South-east is as a result of the activities of resurgent Biafra, what is the excuse for making the South-west, which is peaceful, another theatre of criminality? Revelations from some of the victims of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway kidnapping shows that the criminals were Fulani professing the Islamic religion. Now, if some criminals are tarnishing your name, your nationality, and your faith, it is not right that you keep quiet about it only to complain later of ethnic profiling or what-have-you. Speak out! Act decisively!
Not speaking out and not acting decisively is the other side of the coin why this country is the way it is. On the one side, we have Buhari’s rabid personalization of power. And by Buhari we mean also the cabals supporting, surrounding, and sustaining him in power. In saner climes, a president going away for just a few hours will transmit power to the vice president but here, a president going away for weeks – and for what has been said to be for a major surgery at that – has refused to transmit power. Yet, all is quiet! Yet, all is well! What kind of a country is this? What kind of people are in leadership positions? How come they see power as their personal property? Is it not said that the government holds power in trust for the people? That is the basic tenets of the social contract between the government and the people. How come it is not so here? Here, the powers of government belong to Buhari; he can tuck them in the pocket of his babaringa and waka! He has done this again and again. I mean, this is ridiculous! It is sheer imbecility! The same people who mouth the refrain that power belongs unto God treat power as their personal property! Such idiocy! Such hypocrisy! But why can’t we the people protest the aberration? We are taken for granted serially but we cannot be bothered! We take any rubbish heaped on us. Our abject distance and deliberate alienation from governance is equal and proportional to their rabid personalization of power. Little wonder it has subsisted! No wonder, then, that it is said that a people deserve the kind of government they get. Nigerians deserve Buhari! We deserve nothing better!
Nigerian youths protested at #ENDSARSNOW and many lives were reported lost. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) just ended an eight-month-long strike. But does it interest you that no one has gone on strike over the billions being siphoned from the country’s coffers in the name of fuel subsidy? Does it also interest you that no one is on strike over the humongous amount lost to oil theft? Yet, if the figures being bandied about are anything to go by, just a fraction of the lost or stolen monies will turn our institutions of higher learning into Harvard, Stanford, IMT, Cambridge or Oxford! You know my guess: Plus the government, plus the people, we do not have an understanding and appreciation of what good governance is! Therefore, we do not understand or appreciate what it takes to get one. Therefore, we do not know when one is being destroyed. Therefore, we do not lift a finger! Plus government, plus the people, we do not believe we can have – or should have – good governance here. Good governance belongs to other climes. So, when our leaders want to enjoy the benefits of good governance, they travel abroad. And to ensure they do this, they steal the country blind. When the oppressed and impoverished people themselves also want to enjoy the benefits of good governance, they “japa” abroad to have a semblance of the enjoyment, even if it means doing menial jobs, working long hours, enduring harsh weather, and suffering unimaginable racial discrimination. They save up some money in years of toil and come back home for a few days’ holiday to show off to the people at home their “success” story and so-called new status!
Sometimes I wonder – but tell me if you know – if we really are normal human beings; normal as in the sense of real normal? Does that explain the Ugandan poet, Prof. Okot p’Bitek’s lamentation in the opening quote above, expressed through his character, Lawino, in the double-barrelled Song of Lawino and Song of Ochol?