It saddens my heart that most Nigerians seem not to understand or are yet to appreciate the gravity of the social and political problems facing the country and the people. This assertion becomes glaringly obvious when the on-going activities in the political arena are put under a probe. Akin Osuntokun’s article, ‘In Search of National Spread’ in The Guardian on Sunday of 6 September, 1998 where he was moaning on the lack of national outlook with respect to the political party formation, seems to flow from an optimist perspective that is seriously willing to wish away the psychological damages and the social wrecks that have been inflicted on the collective psyche of Nigerians this past 38 years.4
Every competent behavioural scientist knows that the mind or soul of man is the unseen but most difficult part of the human essence to heal when injured even though it is the most tender. The soul or mind is the easiest, in its pure natural state, to mould or nurture into an angelic form but if badly handled in its formative stage, it becomes a task of a lifetime to correct any defect therein. It is at the psychological level that the ailment befalling Nigeria body politic has to be understood if indeed Nigerians are truly searching for solutions.
From the newspaper reports, it was gathered that the Nigerian politicians had again started to jostle for political positions, dancing from G18 to G34, from PCF to APP, from NUF to UNPP and many other politico-mathematical computations in the asylum of madmen in politics. This is the kind of attitude and behaviour that seems to suggest that nothing politically critical or traumatic has happened in Nigeria in the last 13 years to warrant serious hard thinking among these groups of ‘patriotic’ Nigerian. One would have thought that no sane Nigerian will venture out into the dangerous, polluted, shark infested water of Nigeria’s politics until serious articulate resolutions have been arrived at on the nature and character of what politics is all about; under what social and psychological climate can political association or any association for that matter be formed; on what principles or constitutions are the relationships to be formed; and what are the fundamental objectives of these associations?
From the history of other known Republics in the world, political associations are not formed in a vacuum; they are basically influenced by social, cultural and conventional values of a people. What are the core values, which are informing the on-going dalliances that are being formed, that are being broken, that are being fudged or that are being camouflaged as political associations? Do these groups of people who are masquerading, as political leaders possess any intelligence, any beliefs, or any moral virtues at all? What kind of genuine relationship can be created among supporters of ‘Abacha Must Stay’ and of ‘Abacha Must Go’? If the values, beliefs, principles and behaviours of these people have changed, what influenced the change, how and when did the Saul’s Damascus type of conversion take place?
One cannot but be really amazed that most Nigerians or those in politics don’t seem to know what has hit them yet. This will soon become more obvious anyway as time goes on. It will be a test of the Abraham Lincoln’s popular quote, whether it is indeed possible after all to fool all the people all of the time. I can not believe that any Nigerian will waste his time and resources over and over again for a political transition programme that has been jettisoned times and times again in the last thirteen years. Which part of the recent history is understandable to any analytical mind? Is it the breaking up of constituted parties, or, the blatant refusal to register genuine constituted parties, or, the abrupt disbanding of the registered parties, or, the carefree cancellation of party primaries, or, the final insult of cancelling a free and fair election with flagrant impunity?
After all the melodrama and share malady of the recent past, it is hard to believe that some political die-hards can again set about jostling for vantage positions. Can this group of die-hards be trusted? What is it in their make-up that makes them immune to political insult, abuse and assault? What gives them such an unshakeable faith? In spite of the contradictory evidences these politicians are out again forming political parties, throwing money around (anyway these are all stolen money, so it does not matter), and canvassing for the people’s support.
Everybody except the politicians knows that the ever-trusting, patient and silent people of Nigeria have since become disillusioned and have lost faith in both the military and the politicians alike and that only a crane will pull most of them to the polling booth to cast votes, if at all there is going to be any national election. Can these political charlatans and wolves in sheep’s clothing be trusted? Haven’t they proved over and over again that there is no difference between either the power-crazy men in khaki or those in babanriga? Most ordinary people see the political situation placed before them as a no-win choice. It is a choice between the deep blue sea and the devil, which is not a choice at all.
Vigilant and non-partisan observers are wondering, what is the game plan of these robust men and women of politics? Do they want the carcasses of fellow Nigerians (who says Nigerians are fellows of politicians, anyway) before they understand that the game is over? It is finished. The game is up; there are no hiding corners anymore. There is no such Nigeria anymore in which a national spread of anything can be constructed. Any national spread in Nigeria these days can be found only at the level of households. The Nigerian’s psyche, the part that builds and nurtures social trust has been dealt an irreparable deadly blow. That part of the Nigerian soul is broken, dead and buried. It can never be revived or brought back to life. It is gone forever. Rest in Pieces (RIP). All mourners and sympathisers should go home. It is finished. Thank you very much.
Now, with the death of trust in the body polity, what else remain on which consensus can be built, on which political association can be erected, on which a national political party can be constructed? If you ask me, I’ll say nothing. That is why General Abdulsalami Abubakar the incumbent on the ‘throne’ and his overt and covert cohorts are merely pandering untruths about the Nigeria’s situation. The incumbent, like Babangida and Abacha before him, has opportunity to set the records straight; to do right and not wrong by Nigeria; to stop the illicit and unconstitutional power game once and for all; and to wipe the slate clean and write a new uplifting song.
But, nay like his predecessors, the show must go on. The status quo stays and nobody can do anything about it. You either take it or leave it. You either shut up or we shut you up. Period. All sincere Nigerians regardless of nationalities know that this dogmatic foolhardiness, this incomprehensible foolishness, this callous thoughtlessness, and this deceitful and ruinous shenanigan can not build a political structure of a united front neither can it sustain one if built. There is no hiding the fact that the polluting and choking fumes from the political cesspool of Nigerian dominant classes have gone beyond the level of human endurance. Nigerians in millions are still on their knees begging for a true divine intervention. They are not convinced God has answered their prayers yet.
How my heart glows with joyous envy, when one remembers the memorable intellectual sagacity, the passionate zeal and the selfless devotion that men like James Madison brought to bear, anonymously of course, at the formative stage of the Federal Constitution of the United States of America. The scholarship, the conviction and the faith in knowledge and in the power of ideas as he and others painstakingly and selflessly defined, illustrated, recalled the history and development of democracy, of people, of types of government, of justice, of liberty, of equality, of federalism, of power, of institutions, of civil society, and of everything under the sun that has bearing on political, social, cultural and economic relationships in a polity built on a principle of equality of persons.
This is the path the men of cloak and dagger of Nigerian Mafia are wilfully but not cleverly refusing to tread. Why? Because they know it will bring down the political House of Deceit without foundation or frame that was constructed on the Nigeria’s soil. But for how long can they hold fort? Not long by my reckoning and this is quite obvious to all discerning people of Nigeria.
Abubakar still has the opportunity to set the ball rolling for a national dialogue and general popular debates in order to remove the myths and fallacies surrounding Nigeria’s political history. But no, that will be too revealing and too condescending for the non-divine illegal owners of Nigeria to undertake. Since Nigeria’s political terrain is built on deceit, it is logical that it is by deceit it will perish. This writer therefore sympathises with all the political juggernauts and the die-hards who are out again in another wild goose chase for the elusive political golden fleece of Nigeria. It is not a curse, but they will never find it because their motives are dictated not by any high moral principles but by the basest of all vices. What then is the answer?
Those who hold the reign of power in Nigeria by the virtue of their place of birth or an allegiance to a religious faith or a common language must first and foremost respect the intelligence and the human rights of other not so fortunate Nigerians. They must allow a genuine forum for all Nigerians to talk together unfettered about their political future. Nigerians must singly and collectively face a Truth Commission. Nigerians must show penitence and must repent of the mistakes of the past and genuinely seek and receive forgiveness. We must open a new slate on which the principle and form of a new partnership can be written. Anything to the contrary is a mirage, a pure stupid illusion. It will never lead to the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey for all, except for a few.
Abubakar should rethink his stand on a transition programme that is being put together before answers were found to the national questions that had been raised by the various nationalities in Nigeria. The trickery and chicanery of transition programme by military personnel cannot and should not be allowed to work again. It is definitely out of fashion. It has been used over and over again and it is now becoming boring. But still Nigeria is a strange country; a country where all simple common sense issues becomes difficult ‘complex sense’ matters; where governments export what they don’t have and import what they have; and where nationals, though literate, abhor knowledge and the power of ideas. So, out of carelessness, Nigerians have become intellectually lazy to the extent that mental discourse and analytical reflection on their miserable existence have turned into unloved daunting exercises.
Or how do you explain the bone-tied-to-the-collar-of-the-dog proposal now doing the rounds even among those who should know better, I mean the question of Rotational Presidency. How can supposedly respectable Nigerians summed up the complex yet simple problem of Nigeria under a mere political power shifting business from the North to the South? How come the thinking political Nigerians cannot see this as another ruse to cover the fundamental question of liberty, justice and equal rights in a polity that professes republicanism and federalism?
And so for now, let us leave the question hanging, is it possible to fool the people, all of the people all the time? Nigeria may yet prove to be an exception to the rule. Time will tell.
Finally, let me share with you one of Socrates many words of wisdom as quoted in The Apology.
“Do you imagine that a city can continue to exist and not be turned upside-down, if the legal judgements which are pronounced in it have no force but are nullified and destroyed by private persons?”5
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
29 January 1999
4. Akin Osuntokun, ‘In Search of National Spread’ in The Guardian on Sunday, Vol. 15, No 7,238, September 6, 1998.
5. Plato, ‘The Apology’ in The Last Days of Socrates. Trans. by Hugh Tredennick, 1969. Great Britain: Penguin. p.64.