Yesterday (Tuesday, May 29, 2007) in an atmosphere unduly charged with heavy deployment of stern faced, gun-wielding soldiers in almost every corner of the nation, another chapter in our “do-or-die”, military democracy was unveiled. In other climes, democracy is a most exciting experience, and a handover day, a national carnival that provokes widespread joy and pleasant feelings across the land. But here it was a day of great fear and trepidation, a day of gloom and mourning, a funeral almost! In fact, it nearly looked like a war situation, with dangerous weapons being pointed at everybody’s face, and Nigerians were more concerned about their safety than any thought or attempt to celebrate any so-called democracy. It was clearly a day for desperadoes, who were hell-bent on demonstrating their capacity to deny the people both their way and their say.
A few hours before the handover ceremony, former President Olusegun Obasanjo unleashed what many papers declared as his cruel parting gift to the nation. The price of petrol quickly rose from N65 to N75. There were speculations that it may hit N85 soon. As I stopped at a filling station to buy some fuel on Monday morning, the fuel attendant gladly showed me the front page of a national newspaper screaming the news of the fuel price hike, to justify their decision to adjust their meter. Before that, there were some last minute desperate sales of some choice treasures of the nation, perhaps, to adequately prepare for a more cozy retirement. Yes, it was time for the final lap of the primitive accumulation to build ungodly dynasties. Who are you to dare observe that the Emperor wore no clothes?
Now, no one is saying that those who were rigged out in the last “elections” were better human beings, or would have made better leaders than those sworn in yesterday. No. What we are worried about is this ominous feeling that a tiny cabal of retrogressive and failed characters know better than more than 140 million Nigerians, and so, should be the ones to choose their leaders for them. What makes the matter even most devastating and overly revolting is that the principal character at the head of this cabal, arrogating this omniscient capacity to himself, has in the past eight years distinguished himself as a most disastrous leader, whose failure in character and leadership is writ large in almost every area of our national life. Certainly, Nigeria is in no need of Emperors, “founding fathers” and “life-leaders”, whose claim to greatness and boundless wisdom is only demonstrated in the brazenness with which they flaunt raw force and share the nation’s patrimony to self, relatives and cronies!
These are indeed desperate hours, the type William Shakespeare’s Macbeth found himself. The more Macbeth took measures to shield himself from the just consequences of his hideous past, the more he saw greater troubles staring him in the face. If only somebody had told him much earlier that he had murdered sleep and so would have no sleep himself. In his desperation, he even went after those who never thought of doing him harm, and in the process compounded his own fears. But the more he went after his real and imagined enemies, the more his fears grew out of proportion. Only his exit from the stage marked the enthronement of peace in Scotland. The lesson Macbeth has left for all leaders is that the only guarantee for peaceful post-office life is good governance, justice and transparency.
Well, perhaps, the only slim consolation in all these chaos that has followed all the desperate efforts to kill and hurriedly bury Nigerian democracy and replace it with a militarized, “homegrown” version would appear to be that as you read this article this morning, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, hopefully, the vestigial remains of authoritarian leadership in Nigeria, is no longer the president of this severely traumatized nation. It sounds too good to be true. But it is true. He should be somewhere in Owu or Ota, discussing with his lawyers and thinking about the several litigations over forcefully and improperly acquired lands that may soon engulf him, which not even his current position as life-leader of the PDP and “founder of modern Nigeria” may be able to shield him from. It is also possible that any moment from now, the people of Odi, Zaki-Ibiam and some other places, may wish to request that he take a pleasure ride to the Hague (not in a presidential jet) to explain some little matters about “Crime Against Humanity” to a United Nation’s Human Rights Commission. It would be most preposterous for Mr. Umaru Yar’Adua, who is still struggling to garner some bit of legitimacy from credible quarters at home to pretend that he could stand up to the UN to stop the General from honouring the invitation. The much any sane person would expect him to do would be to promise that he “would ensure he gets a free and fair trial.” Indeed, Yar’Adua ought to be wise to realize that you can only successfully face external aggressions if you have home support. My prayer today is that this nation would survive these desperate hours of desperate men. I am still watching to see what tomorrow will bring.