I have sworn on the altars of providence that the man will not die in me!
To that end, my vocation is not a recipe for neutrality on issues affecting humanity. Like John Donne the metaphysical poet; not only that the death of every man diminishes me; the poverty and pain, the injustice and hopelessness of every man diminish me because I am a man who ‘is’, because others ‘are’. Likewise the life and happiness of everyman enriches mine. We are all participants in life. The life, happiness and prosperity of every man enrich mine, not only negatively by at least making our universe safer and keeping the dark forces resident in the cores of unhappiness and predatory competition at bay. Or at least saving us a descent into the Hobbesian state of nature, where the life of man becomes solitary, nasty, brutish and short. It elevates and edifies our lives with the harmonies and beauties of community, commensality and co-operation. This explains why my existential mandate embraces speaking out against injustice and structures of oppression. In this regard, I have come to view consolidated ignorance as the greatest structure and citadel of oppression. Knowledge remains the key to cancelling every captivity. Knowledge will forever remain power. That is why I am all for the constant review of all settled issues or orthodoxies, to see ways of making new knowledge and new realizations come alive in them, to make them more efficient and compel them to yield the last bastions or grains of wisdom lying dormant in their cores. This is why like Ojaadili; I am ready to challenge the orthodoxy of the Acheberian take on the root of Nigeria’s problem.
4. The Dictatorship of Mediocrity
There is another orthodoxy, which peddles the agreeable rumor that every country gets the government that it deserves. There are many countries that have gotten leaderships they neither deserved nor worked for. We have cases of benevolent dictatorships or governments which have arisen in places, where no reason could be adduced for their deserving it.
If we are to pay heed to the tenets of this aphorism, we would have automatically a disquisition proving that Nigeria’s problems is not necessarily leadership, but the fact that Nigeria as an embrace has earned the right to have leadership as its trouble. When that becomes the case, the causal relationship that has been given prominence all these while would collapse on its own; imploding on the weights of it inherent contradiction. Leadership becomes then an effect of a gamut of processes through which Nigeria gained admittance into the bad odors of dysfunctionality that must necessarily yield an anorectic leadership equation as its consequence.
Even though following that orthodoxy will lead me to the same conclusions as I hold here; I still believe that following that orthodoxy without examining it, would be a flight into the refuge of intellectual laziness. I would not be relying on that orthodoxy for my conclusions. I will be consulting facts and my own reason; and not arguments based on authority, which I am fighting to stand on its head here.
Nigeria’s predicament is a complex construct of anomie, which leadership alone is notoriously inadequate to explain. Some other factors complement leadership to stabilize the scaffolds, which supports the Nigerian predicament. Over and above the fact that Nigeria was never designed to function by the British colonialist, the trouble with Nigeria is not necessarily leadership. Leadership is a symptom. It is a consequence of a series of fundamental abdication of social responsibilities, or non-realization of those responsibilities by all participants in the nation-space called Nigeria. This abdication of social responsibility by the mass of the people, and their consequent resignation into the fraudulent idolatry of fatalism is what creates the enabling environment for the germination of the totalitarianism of mediocrity. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Any people that allow themselves to be lulled to sleep on this score, prepares their necks to bear the oppressors’ yoke or wear his chains.
That is the core of the Nigerian problem. We have prepared our necks to bear the yokes of irresponsible leadership through our culpable ignorance; through our civic apathy; through our timid abandonment of our rational faculties at the shrines of superstitious fatalism; through our undue attachment to the most primitive of social acquaintances like ethnicism and cynical pseudo-religions; through our ignorant and shameless genuflections to the golden calves of primeval acquisitions, which has forever being a sign of omni-dimensional poverty of spirit. All these came together not only to enthrone a dysfunctional society on its way to hell, they mixed in unhealthy proportions to construct a dictatorship of mediocrity, that will forever scuttle Nigeria’s attempt to progress.
The trouble with Nigeria is the dictatorship of mediocrity. Mediocrity is adored and celebrated at all levels of our national existence, so much so that ours is now a society frozen in anomie. It is a festival of an all round mediocrity. Better put, it is the totalitarianism of absolute mediocrity. From the ridiculous portals of mediocre leadership to the incomprehensible sanctuaries of mediocre followership; it is the case of a cabal of blind men leading a crowd of blind folks.
Irresponsible governance will always germinate will there are no checks or balances massed as bulwark against it. Whatever makes a people capitulate and acquiesce to the least excesses of tyranny is the real problem. Be it a cultural disposition or an acquired propensity. There lies the root of that society’s dalliance with tyranny. Leadership is not in the position to make itself responsible. This fact is contrary to Achebe’s opinion that Nigerian leaders have failed to rise to responsibility of personal example. Here I will state that Nigerians failed to make their leadership susceptible to responsibility. We allowed them to be scoundrels. We are the ones that empowered their rascality and excess. Leadership deals with power. Power deals with some monopoly of violence. And anyone who holds such scepter in his is bound to see himself as a God. Only the society can moderate that. Where the society for whatever reason fails in this regard, power is bound to erect statutes in narcissistic self worship and perpetuation, as has been the case with almost all tyrants of history. To this end, power on its own can never be responsible. It is compelled to be responsible. This is because ordinarily, power seeks to acquire more power and consolidate its privilege. Power is compelled to be accountable because the hawk will always frolic and convert the land of chickens where no one raised any resistance into his playground, where he carts off any chicken he desires for breakfast.
Nigeria’s is a pervasive culture of pathological anomie. Here civic ignorance and apathy mixes with an insular imprisonment in primitive acquaintances, which emphasizes sheepish allegiance to narrow ethnicism. If that is all there is to it, then our salvation would have been purchased without the prospects of spilling any blood. But the situation was dire from the start due to the fact that elitist opportunists of all shades and flags have been at the forefront of engineering and sustaining those primitive fault-lines, as to enable their exploitation of the majority for the obscene profit of the few. Even the force of arms is deployed to sustain those fault-lines, where treachery, perfidy and bribery fail. The people are then conscripted in their own exploitation. They are then impoverished into an inexplicable resignation to dysfunction. Political structures, which in other climes are guarantees of social felicity and welfare, are in ours reconfigured into an Orwellian construct that is for the eternal enslavement
of the majority. This is naturally conjured off our frozen timidity, apathy and ignorance.
On various occasions, through our collective apathies of pathological proportions, we bore silent and emasculated witness to the progressive destruction of our educational system, and all other values that we have cause to cherish, by a cabal of political roguery. This cabal has nothing else but a blueprint of perpetually enslaving us to their feudal and avaricious estates ad infinitum. These estates engineered the erosion of our educational systems, while sending their sons and daughters abroad to get the best of western education, and come back to perpetuate the feudal enslavement of Nigeria started by their fathers.
That Nigerian rulers are so infernal that Dante would be compelled to reconstruct Hades to accommodate their superlative iniquities is never in doubt. The deepest part of his present hell will never essay to propitiate justice for all the despicable crimes they committed against their own people, pursuant to their greed. But what is really incomprehensible is that these bovine jokes of our realms are not even afraid of any discontent emanating from the people. They are so sure that they have this patch of oppressed humanity under control. Whatever accounts for this sheepish and incomprehensible acquiescence of the majority in the face of unspeakable tyranny is the real problem with Nigeria.
In 1789, the French refusing to bear it any longer, rose up in murderous anger, and decapitated the Bourbon Monarchy. The crowds bayed for the blood of their oppressors. As their anger receded, the Guillotine and chopping blocks of France has already entertained the heads of the King, Queen, noblemen and women of the various estates of the realm; which believing that they were “Kings by Divine right” were bent on oppressing and holding them in feudal bondage until the days flee. Those days of blood signaled the dawn of a new era in European political consciousness. The people reclaimed their status as the sovereign. All the pretensions of the royal houses of Europe were put on notice that the French example was a local action that has global consequences. Till this day, tyranny will never rule France ever again. History is there to show anyone entertaining such illusions, what the consequences of such madness are.
The obverse obtains in Nigeria. We allowed ourselves to be given the Pavlovian conditioning fit only for dogs. The oppressed are then offered religion to enable them transition their ignorance into faith. They are urged to pray, where resistance is called for. Prayer has never sacked any dictator. Guns have. Since prayers have never sacked any dictator, the oppressors are assured of some eternal reign. The poor and the oppressed have been so conditioned that even when they get the guns, they turn it on themselves, instead of on the sources of their discomfiture.
5. Symbols of Our Addiction to Mediocrity
It is only in a republic of mediocrity that clowns like Ibrahim Babangida; and an accident like Goodluck Jonathan would be running for the highest offices. These two prominent jokes had precedents that are not so very great. Babangida sat on the saddle as the absolute ruler of Nigeria from 1985 till 1993, when civil discontent drove him off his inglorious perch. He had the time, the power and the resources to change Nigeria’s negative trajectory for good. But since a shrew cannot smell better than his genes would allow him, he mangled and frittered away that opportunity like a drunken sailor. The only achievement of repute; nay notoriety, is that he enthroned a climate of moral amorphousness which pulled corruption out of the miry dungeons of peripheral indiscretion to the mainstream of our national life. He decriminalized fraudulence and elevated it to a fine art of governance. His moral variousness earned him appellations like “the evil genius”, and “Maradona”- a negatively wooden depiction of his ability to ruthlessly out-dribble the country; embezzle her unto economic insolvency, and mortgage her future to the totalitarianism of a syphilitic-crazed butcher-Sanni Abacha, while bearing a toothy smile.
Under him, letter-bombing of opponents by operatives of the military intelligence entered its inglorious appearance on our psyche. Dele Giwa was eternally muzzled; reduced to a mangled sack of cordite-grilled flesh. Human rights activists were hunted down by his Gestapo-like secret police. He was busy raping our heritage, while urging the people to tighten their belts and embrace SAP.
At the end of a long, windy, hair-spinning transition to a civil rule program, which gulped over 40 billion naira, he went on ahead to scuttle the will of the Nigerian electorate. Today, this crooked ex General is a stunningly rich man. He is not rich because he invested in a blue-chip company that yielded stupendous returns. He is not rich because he earned and invested his salaries to that end. He is not rich because he wrote a software, which trumped up the market and netted him a handsome fortune. Neither is he a doyen or mogul of industries. He is rich because he is a common thief. He made a fortune by dipping his hands in the treasuries of our commonweal to enrich his yawning avarice. He went on ahead to articulate his mockery of our collective stupidity in a book, which was titled in a Freudian slip gone awry, “For their Tomorrow, we gave our Today”.
This short aphorism that became the title of his collection of speeches has quite some history. Mediocrity is known for being obscenely hyperbolic about its role in any event of significance. It is a gimmick. Mediocrity uses that ploy to place itself in good odor, with an eye to securing a privileged place in our esteem. Such privileged places in our esteem can confer power or historical immortality on anyone who secures it. That is why scoundrels spend the first half of their lives ripping decency to shreds, and the second part whitewashing and revising history to suit their projects of repackaging their broken reputations.
The full text of those words originally reads thus:
When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For their tomorrow, we gave our today!
Those words were attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958), who put them together among a collection of 12 epitaphs for WWI. It is today more widely known as the Kohima Epitaph, adopted by the Burma Star Association at the end of World War II. This association adopted it because it did justice to their battle for the soul of what they believed in. Kohima was the scene of a crucial battle in March, 1944 between the Japanese 31st Division numbering over 15,000 supported by supplies of 10,000 ammunition-laden oxen; and the British forces numbering 2,500 men.
The Japanese forces had moved north-westward in Burma, took Naga hill, invaded India and came to Imphal and Kohima. The allies were at the brink of a disaster unless the onslaught of the Japanese forces was stopped. It came to head in Kohima. The battle raged for weeks. After 64 days with terrible casualties on both sides, the Japanese were sent on a retreat. Kohima marked the waterloo of Japanese dominance in Northern Burma.
And these words attributed to Edmonds arose to become a befitting epitaph to the memory of those brave men, who played their roles well to stop the Axis forces overrunning the globe with their eugenic ideologies of hatred and racial supremacy.
This was the sacred theatre of meaning, which a Nigerian, thieving tyrant raided to yank out a branch celebrating uncommon bravery, denuded of its meaning, and deployed it to dignify his rascality and plunder of Nigeria, which he celebrated in a collection of his dissimulations.
That book should have been titled &#
8220;For my today, I stole their tomorrow”. That is the only fitting title for such a wooden attempt to smuggle his way into reckoning after making a mess of our nation.
What about Goodluck Jonathan? He is an accident. Nigeria has seen enough accidents who found themselves on the corridors of power. They achieved nothing save leaving the country worse than they found it. These accidents had a godfather and archetype in Olusegun Obasanjo, who as an accident profited from the death of Murtala Muhammed, and became president overnight. The Igbos of Nigeria articulated the outcomes well. He who never dreamt of ever attaining the Ozo title, once providence throws it on his laps, will deafeningly advertise his unearned privilege by wearing the Ozo ivories beyond his knees. That was Obasanjo in his first missionary journey. When fate hoisted him atop Nigeria’s presidency for no justifiable reason, he took Gowon’s announced stupidity to heart. This stupidity articulated by Gowon to the effect that Nigeria’s problem was not how to make money but how to spend it became Obasanjo’s mantra and operational software. His was a government of jamborees and white elephant projects. He was fingered in raping the nation using OFN and ITT deals with Abiola. He organized FESTAC in 1977 which was another drainpipe and White elephant project, which neither got Nigeria on the path to industrialization nor gained her the unearned prominence she sought in the comity of nations. He achieved nothing save handing over the nation to a set of puerile undertakers, ran by Shagari and Umaru Dikko. And Nigeria’s burial by installment continued.