Dictatorship of Mediocrity

That was the first Obasanjo.

After ensuring that Nigeria will be in the paws of bandits recycled from the First Republic for the foreseeable future; he hibernated in his farms, writing books to burnish his democratic credentials, revising the Biafran war history to put himself in a better light, and marinating in the unearned status of an African statesman; a meaningless ego massage conferred on him by the Western press and regurgitated at the least excuse by local ones, for his “willingly” handing over to a civilian government in Nigeria. Since a cow in a china shop would never disappoint, he was not slow in showing the world the level of his Intelligence Quotient, and appreciation of reality, when he asked the world to use juju in fighting Apartheid in South Africa. Not to be outdone in his avid desire to celebrate mediocrity at the least excuse, he went on ahead to contest the UN secretary General seat, which he thankfully failed to convince anyone of his worthiness for that office.

The Deutro-Obasanjo was equally an accident. Sanni Abacha the ogre of Aso rock had him roped into a coup, which was a ruse. He was sent to prison to await his execution, since his co-wayfarer Shehu Yar Adua has succumbed to the needles of Abacha’s executioners. Abacha was not only a mean tyrant. His mental depravity makes Emperor Nero look like a choirboy. He was hell-bent on not only eliminating every opposition to his madness, but to murder anyone who dared oppose him. His hatchet-men coordinated by Al Mustapha, and led by Sergeant Rogers, roamed the streets of Nigeria, dispatching death like songs yanked of off the murderous sonnets of the Shakespearean Macbeth and her Lady:

Hear this not Kudirat; Hear this not Rewane, for Abacha’s bullets are the knells that summons you to heaven or to hell”.

Sergeant Roger’s at Abacha’s orders prowled the nation; his guns spitting death. Many died. Others fled.

The coup from heaven came. Abacha died atop imported prostitutes and the Deutro-Obasanjo who was languishing in jail counting his days, got a new life breathed into him. Within a few days of Abacha’s death, Abiola the purported winner of the June 12, 1993 elections, was murdered in circumstances that mirrored Jacob’s voice singing, and Esau’s hand playing, to pave the way for the emergence of Obasanjo into national reckoning. He moved from prison into the PDP.

PDP; the Peoples Democratic Party emanated from the patriotic efforts of the G-34; an attempt by some patriotic Nigerians to fight the Abacha junta. All was well with this party until Obasanjo got out of prison, spoke to Abdusalami Abubakar, who seating on Abacha’s seat was in serious hurry to steal as much, and hand over as quickly as he can; since pressures from the civil society and the international community made further association with Abacha’s memory or political heritage an untenable position.

All of a sudden, an Obasanjo who nearly expired in prison got out of it and a few days later, made a whooping donation of over 130 million naira to the PDP. That sealed the deal and ripped the soul of that patriotic attempt asunder. That was political simony of the highest order. The PDP sold its soul for 30 pieces of silver to a Judas, who was equally a no mean thief. Alex Ekwueme was out-rigged at the Jos convention to make way for the resurrection of Obasanjo. He became the party’s torch-bearer for the hurriedly organized presidential election.

He was sworn in on May, 29th 1999.

Nigerians in their timidity heaved a sigh of relief!

His inaugural address on May 29th 1999 was a litany of sterilized platitudes. They were sanctimonious and intended never to be kept. He promised to fight corruption. He promised to tackle Nigeria’s perennial power problem, which has been the albatross to our development. He promised us a new beginning. We thought that he had an “on the road to Damascus experience”, that converted this Nigerian “Saul” to a “Paul”. We were mistaken. Eight years later, he showed us that a goat eats yams pursuant to his genetic blueprints. Take a pig to best the Wellness clinic. Once you take him back, he jumps instantly back to his mire. He is congenitally drawn to it.

In his eight years in power, he cloned more corrupt sacred cows like many others before him. Over 16Billion Dollars was spent to generate darkness in Nigeria. His daughter bestrode the land like Herodias’ daughter, dipping her hands in so many corrupt pies in the country. She was in the bandwagon that swindled the health ministry. Obasanjo’s war on corruption was so selective as to be nauseating. He was so greedy for power that he wasted so much money scheming to change the constitution to allow him a Third term in office.

That was Obasanjo the accident!

What about Jonathan the accident? He was a deputy to a thief in Bayelsa state. Alamesigha was an Ali Baba among the other PDP thieves. He fell out with the scoundrel ruining Nigeria at that time; Emperor Obasanjo II. He was nominated a scapegoat in Obasanjo’s war on Atiku his deputy, and crucified among other thieves that dared challenge Emperor Nero Obasanjo. He was rusticated with extreme prejudice, and Jonathan succeeded to his seat.

His wife Patience broke new records in greed and corruption among State first ladies in Nigeria, but the EFCC was compelled to look away and not to touch Obasanjo’s anointed. He was anointed the heir to a fraudulent ticket as Obasanjo insulted reason and went on ahead to crucify Nigeria between a terminally sick man and his deputy, who was an accident. Yar Adua and his aristocracy of greed headed by Turai ran Nigeria as a feudal manor until Yar Adua expired in Saudi Arabia. Jonathan escaped his pupa to become president.

And since then, he has been in a hurry to spend Nigeria into penury. I wonder what a president is doing with 3 new presidential Jets when Nigerians lack good roads. I wonder how he could in good conscience approve up to 17 billion for the celebration of Nigeria’s fifty years of failure. At present, electric and power generation in Nigeria is simply nonexistent. Universities are on strike. Poverty is still covering the land like a blanket of darkness. Yet, Goodluck Jonathan seems to have neither a plan nor the will to go about tackling Nigeria’s problems.

Yet, Nigerians are watching waiting for their help to come from heaven.

Furthermore, it is only in our republic that medieval monstrosities are rebaptised, repackaged and relauched into relevance in the lives of our people. That is why our greatest industry today across Nigeria is establishing churches and attending them in record numbers; even while corruption ravage our body politic. We label our kids as witches and have them abused and mishandled to appease our ignorance.

It is only in such republics that petty criminals are hanged while the great crooks are celebrated and offered social titles and honors. It is in such republics that a teacher, who is charged with creating our tomorrow, is paid peanuts, while a legislator that sleeps his way through every legislative seating goes home with millions of naira and steal billions more, without anyone raising eyebrows.

That Nigeria is a country that was created to smother her geniuses, kill her saints and canonize her rogues is equally another symbol of our addiction to mediocrity. This explains why James Ibori; a thief of no mean feat, could rise to the position of a godfather in the Nigerian ruling party. On the other hand, this dysfunctional addiction is what explained our collective apathy, as succession of tyrannies took time and turns to murder Gani Fawehimi by installment.

A word about Gani is apposite here. But before that, I know that the great Soyinka must have equa

lly thought about the positive obverse of his realization. The man who never kept quiet in the face of tyranny, lives; and will never die. His abode is those shores of immortality, fit only for men of character. His recompense is eternal life in our memories. Such a man has built himself up into a lighthouse that would forever direct weary travelers on the tempestuous waters of tyranny safely onto liberty’s shores.

In that respect, Gani Fawehimi expired in the flesh, but his forever alive. Such characters never die. He never kept silence in the face of tyranny. The man did not die in him!

Gani Fawehimi was a Nigerian lawyer, who spent his life fighting to liberate Nigerians from the unthinkable collectivity of fatalistic and fraudulent acquiescence to rogue power. He severally placed his hide on the line for the ideals that gave his life meaning. While lesser mortals with oversized egos made trips to the corridors of power to get their share of the loot, this honorable soul rejected Satan with all his pomp, briberies and deceit. He rejected the inducements of the infernal powers ruining Nigeria, to purchase his silence, and auction off his conscience. His conscience, unlike that of many of his countrymen was never a casino for the amoral gambling of political rascality. He fought all the tyrants that ever bestrode Nigeria under his watch. He chose the instrument of the law for his battles. He was severally bludgeoned by the cudgels of mean power. He tasted the raw and savage excesses of tyranny’s insecurities. He was a regular guest of almost all the prisons in Nigeria, where tyranny tried many times to lock him out of circulation and out of existence. But they never cowed his spirits. He fought on the side of the law and on the side of the downtrodden. He became an advocate for the voiceless. Since naked power intrinsically hated the concerns of the voiceless, Gani became the perennial target of power’s lecherous fangs.

During his tribulations and afflictions, the people he sacrificed for, went about their normal business, as if everything was normal; as if the reason why he was severally confined and afflicted was of no interest to them; as if he was simply a rabble-rouser out to ride roughshod to popularity on the backs of obscene power. We never deserved him, yet he sacrificed for our common good.

We never deserved such a genius!

Collectively we kept silent at his tribulations. Collectively we backed his tormentors with our silence. Collectively we contributed to his troubles all those times we kept quiet and allowed tyranny to creep back into our power equations. Collectively we share the guilt of the slaps given to his face; the military jackboots designated for his groin; the cudgels that landed on his back; and the derisive tugging meant for his beards.

Gani Fawehimi bore in his body the sorrows of a rogue nation. He bore in his frame the agonies of a nation that forgot its destiny. His heart wailed at the frittering away of the Nigerian potential and promise. He must have died a very frustrated soul: frustrated at the incomprehensible cowardice; frustrated at the idiocy in allowing a few rogues the leeway to determine the destiny of more than 150 million people; frustrated at the pervasive foolery and the poverty of ideas and vision dominating our decision making bodies; frustrated that Nigerians instead of uniting to fight executive thievery wherever it was found in the body politic, allowed themselves the lewd leisure of being bamboozled into spending their time like the ancient Roman patricians did, watching gladiatorial shows, while our band of trans-ethnic thieves cart away and apportion our collective patrimonies to their personal estates; frustrated that we allowed the conversion of our body politic into a large amphitheatre where our home grown scoundrels and their foreign collaborators strive to outdo each other in who would steal more from a decadent nation.

Nigeria never deserved Gani.

He must have died a broken man. His heart must have bled at what a consortium of civilian thieves and brigades of military brigands made of his country. He must have been crucified by the shame that a country as blessed as ours have been led by the nose, by the worst elements that we can boast of. He must have really given up on his fellow countrymen.

These are some of the symbols of our addiction to mediocrity. And our addictions are not abating. We are increasingly evolving into complex and reason-resistant strains of mediocrity junkies.

6. We are All Casualties
J.P Clark, in his poem titled “The Casualties”, which was a dirge for the grotesquery that was the Nigerian civil war, rightly contended that the casualties in that war were not only those who were dead, as they were well out of it. Neither are they only those who are wounded, even though they await burial by installments. For this brilliant poet; since the battle failed and the problems that gave rise to the Nigeria predicament was silenced or “swept under the carpet”, as is the traditional Nigerian propensity; we all then became casualties. Even the “looters for office and wares” are casualties like the rest of us since according to Clark; they are “fearful everyday the owners may return”.

Clark is not alone in this realization. He has a great pedigree. Shakespeare had to coax and squeeze out of Cassius, a prime mover in the plot to assassinate Caesar; those memorable words that ring true even to the furthest thresholds of our time.

Why, man, he [Caesar] doth bestride the narrow world
Like a colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings

In the first part of those memorable words, Cassius was on song, mourning. He mourned the debilitating mediocrity of petty men like himself, who were condemned by their pettiness, to spend their entire lives, walking under the huge legs of a man like Caesar; peeping about in insignificance and leaving the world at the end of it all, unsung. He queried why quite in contrast to Caesar, who bestrides the world like a Colossus, they would expire in their pettiness leaving no memories upon the face of their firmaments. Lines 1 to 4 of the above citation covered the “mourning Cassius”.

That first part was equally a dirge for two epic occasions. It was dirge at the funeral of the timorous mediocrity of men like him, which his speech marked to banish for always. It was equally a dirge for Caesar, who in their consideration has risen to summarize great danger for the Rome they loved so much; and who to that effect has been condemned to be sacrificed for good of Rome. He mourned that mediocrity thus:

Why, man, he [Caesar] doth bestride the narrow world
Like a colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.

Cassius did not just spend his life mourning and querying, like Nigerians are wont to do. He rose from the dungeons of mediocrity, broke the shackles tying him and his ilk to timidity, and took his destiny in his own hands once and for all times. He bellowed:

Men at some time are masters of the

ir fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings

How I wish that Nigerians would pay heed. We are the masters of our destiny. If we want the leadership to keep on raping us, and carting our resources off to their private estates, it is our choice. God feeds every bird, but it never throws those foods into their nests. Theirs still remains the job of going out to find the food themselves. Sophocles is forever right. Heaven has not and will never help those who will never act. So, if we are all casualties, why wait for the leadership to fix us? The leadership is a part of the “casualties” like JP Clark has shown. We must never forget that thieves can only rule a nation of idiots.

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1) Chinua Achebe, “The African Writer and the Biafran Cause“, in Morning yet on Creation Day, London, Heinemann, 1975, p.78

2) Wole Soyinka, The Man Died, Ibadan, Spectrum Books, 1972, p.15

3) My take on JP Clark was informed by the Poem itself which I read as a young Secondary School Student in Nigeria in preparation for my WAEC examinations in 1991, and the analysis I read at http://www.brighthub.com/arts/books/articles/65695.aspx accessed on the 1st of October, 2010.

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