Nigeria Matters

Concurrent Commiseration and Congratulation: Our National Dilemma

Thanks to mobile internet, I rarely buy newspapers these days. But last Monday, I had reason to purchase The PUNCH. While rummaging through the pages of the paper, I discovered a divergent assortment of views on circumstances surrounding the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Two of such are quoted below:

He (Yar’adua) will be long remembered for his leadership efforts for peace, stability and development in Nigeria.”
Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General

“. . . Your Excellency (Goodluck Jonathan), this indeed, is an ultimate act of God, not man. I on behalf of our people promise you our collaboration in ensuring lasting peace in the Niger Delta and pray God to give you the wisdom required of you to pilot the affairs of this great nation, Nigeria.”
Ateke Tom

While it’s not a new occurrence in our country for a leader to die on the throne—General Sanni Abacha is a recent example of such—our reactions to death in political offices are somehow fast becoming strange. . . it’s like we are used to death, just like our familiar incessant power outages. Like most online users, I got the information via my Facebook account and before you can say 9ja, our diversity as a nation was epitomized in the perceptions and reactions of respondents—a well mixed conglomeration of commiserations and congratulations!

One highly contextual issue is the general perception of Yar’adua in death. Several comments that I’ve read here and there painted the late president as a clog in the wheel of Nigeria, while some writers, including yours sincerely, endeavoured or rather attempted to find something good to say hence beatify Umaru by pouring encomiums on him in a way that is similar only to that of Father Tiansi who was made Saint by the late Pope John Paul II. The confusion in perception is also evident on the major [and minor] streets across the nation.

In Ibadan metropolis for instance, the newspaper stands were the only indication that something was wrong in the nation as a sizeable number of residents spent most of the public holiday as free readers at the numerous newspaper stands dotted around the city. At one of such, the confusion was so evident that readers were bilateral—one side for Yar’adua, and another literally against him—the issues raised were similar to those shared on this medium, with some interesting additives like Yar’adua being a chain smoker, and being dead since last year. However, as expected, attention soon drifted to the English Premier League, and Spanish La Liga.

It’s true that we are supposedly operating a democratic government. It’s commendable that we have rights to our opinions. It’s also a known fact that we are vast in our perspectives and varied in our backgrounds and orientations. But are these enough reasons for our two-way post Yar’adua perception— hero and villain, and reaction—commiseration and congratulation?

According to the soft copy of the Pocket Oxford Dictionary that I have on my PC, there are 387 words between ‘commiserate’ and ‘congratulate’. This is not a mere coincidence as both words, in real sense, represent parallel lines that cannot meet. However in Nigeria, as typified in the Monday edition of The PUNCH and several other publications, these two words can occupy same page (8), and several other pages. After all, no be 9ja we dey? This is not the case in Poland, a country that also witnessed the demise of its president.

From what was shown on CNN, BBC, Fox, Al Jazeera, Yahoo News, and several other news media, and captured by photographic cameras, the loss was personified by individual Polish nationals from the young to the old. . . the mourning was real and all encompassing. The succession/ascension procedure wasn’t rushed as all camps set aside acrimonies, personal grudges, interests and ulterior motives in respect of the departed. In our case however, Yar’adua death and Jonathan’s ascension are more or less ample opportunities for political office seekers to have their bite of the national cake, and for the timid populace to voice out their aggressions.

Since last Thursday, and on a daily basis until Jonathan picks his deputy, our newspapers, TV and radio news casts are filled with news of various groups—ethnic, political, religious, even cult groups—laying claims to the vice presidency. Most governors of the 36 states had set aside their constitutional duties to their individual states and are currently camping in Abuja at tax payers’ expense to ‘help’ Jonathan get a consensus vice president. How I wish the late president can look down from heaven and see the maneuverings and politricking going on, coupled with innumerable Ghana-Must-Go bags that are exchanging hands in the quest to be the chosen on.

At a time when we ought to be commiserating with Turai and the family, political allies are reinforcing their frontiers and political jobbers/prostitutes like the ANPP leadership are busy fraternizing with Jonathan in search of favors . . . the crumbs falling off PDP’s kitchen table. Instead of we as a nation to unite and reiterate the glowing tributes and encomiums being poured on our immediate past president by world leaders including US President Barack Obama, the imperial queen of England, UN Secretary-General, governments of France, Germany, Russia, Algeria, Sudan, South Africa, Pakistan, Zambia, Lebanon, Djibouti, Oman, Hungary, Cuba, Malta, Mali, Romania and several other concerned countries, we are preoccupied with settling scores with Yar’adua, jostling for his vacuum, and possibly siphoning public funds. We should be ashamed.

Like most sane countries, the dead are highly respected and revered, not because they are saints, but for the fact that they are dead. Anyone can die at anytime hence it’s a frequent practice to respect the dead, talk less of a dead president.

Nigeria is the largest black nation on planet earth, and possibly in the solar system; the challenges of ruling this nation are quite enormous hence anyone in charge—whether elected or selected—ought to be respected alive and in death. As far as the records are concerned, in Nigeria’s sainthood organogram, Yar’adua is a higher saint when compared with OBJ, IBB and some past leaders. As widely said, the late president had good intentions and visions for the country. He might not be as eloquent as Barack obama, or as strong as Adolf Hitler, yet his simplicity and sincerity distinguished him amidst past Nigerian presidents. Why can’t we appreciate this, and pray that subsequent Nigerian leaders would build on his inadequacies? It is evident that our familiar age-long plights in the hands of past bad leaders are eroding our minds of some fundamental prerequisites of good leadership, and gradually transmogrifying us into a heartless nation. This could be described in one word- awful!

It’s a colossal travesty that our democracy is not yet matured to the extent of we handling losses like this in the most sober way. Those I feel sorry for, are the opportunists and innocent potential 2011 contenders.

It is evident that Nigerians are now less concerned with what goes on in Aso Rock and several other government offices. the system has deteriorated to the point that all that matters in our daily lives are individual [food and life] safety and personal satisfaction. Nigerians’ disappointment in the leadership has reached an epic gargantuan status that mourning is morning money to them;

hence it is business as usual. The treatment being meted out to Yar’adua, especially online, goes a long way in certifying, validating and authorizing the chop-and-go style of governance that is currently in our various places of authority.

As it is gradually becoming clearer by the day, it is worthy for political office holders and seekers in Nigeria to know that in death, they are on their own. Those that will truely commiserate with their relatives are those that are directly affected as demonstrated by the SGF’s Yar’adua obituary published in several dailies, while those that will congratulate themselves are the beneficiaries of the slight natural shake up in government.

The foreigners might mourn with us, their eyes are however not blind from the ubiquitous I-don’t-care attitudes, neither are their nostrils blocked such that they can’t sense the cosmopolitan opportunistic aura emanating from our political circuits. They are aware that as a nation, division seems to our watchword. Even some lawmakers want the late President’s body exhumed for autopsy, we seem to be so mortified individually and collectively.

On a personal note, I don’t think the present atmosphere in Nigeria is one that attracts any well meaning individual, intellect or genius. The unveiling events go a long way in showing me that peradventure I’m elected into any office, there is no support from the citizens, most of whom would think I rigged myself in, neither should I expect any from contemporary fellow politicians, some of whom would be wishing me dead so that they can take my office. Whether it’s congratulation or commiseration, Nigerians continue to surprise the world. Na wa o!

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