Gabon: Moment of Truth

by Abiodun Komolafe

There’s always a general tendency which is often ignored at the peril of governments; and that’s the fact that bad governance brings exposure. Of course, this exposure comes in all ramifications. When people get dissatisfied at home, they look abroad for succor. Human beings are like that. What has helped the Francophone countries to remain silent for too long is the principle of assimilation – to be brainwashed like robots; unlike other colonizers who allowed people to be themselves. That’s why countries like Nigeria and Ghana experienced coups decades ago because, from the British culture, they saw bad governance and reacted.

The principle of assimilation for which the French are renowned is a very dangerous tendency; it’s nothing but slavery. What’s therefore happening is that countries that are now revolting, sort of, are just waking up. So, let not President Bola Tinubu fret over copycat coups. Yes, there will be; even more! But it’s not as if democracy is dying in Africa. No! In the first place, democracy was not born in Africa. It was only an adopted child. It was imposed on us. So, it is not likely to die here. Thank God democracy is working in Nigeria and Tinubu is our president. He need not be afraid; only that the right thing must be done to the extent that it’s the citizens who will rise in opposition to anything that’s adversative to democracy in Nigeria.

Karl Marx once said: “woe betide the slave owner who feeds and gives his slaves freedom because it is at his own peril.” Well, Marx was only asking the colonizers to sustain the pressure so that the colonized would not possess the capacity to think. That’s what the Gabonese were subjected to. After all, when a man stays in darkness for too long, he begins to think that darkness is the norm. Birds that were born in a cage would always think that flying amounted to illness. If people look for water and they can’t find it, the possibility of drinking sand cannot be ruled out. Also, one who is caught in a desert is bound to do ugly and unimaginable things when thirst and hunger bite! So, it’s unlikely that an ordinary Gabonese would think that life would continue that way. That many of their children and wards have succeeded in traveling out of the country ought to have treated society to a story of slow movement in social circles; that it grows unhurriedly. Come, to think of it, people were losing their jobs. They were losing their homes and human dignity, yet the careless rulers who had amassed all the wealth in the country to themselves and their cronies thought that everybody would keep quiet.

In reality, once a man is exposed, the man in him will start working, for no one can fool all the people all the time! It took Major Kaduna Nzeogwu’s exposure to Sandhurst to be bold enough to say, ‘enough is enough’. So, when he got back, it wasn’t too much effort for him to organize a putsch. And there was a coup! The pattern is the same everywhere. Ghana got the same exposure and the country experienced a coup d’état. In March 1998, some oil-rich Niger Delta youths travelled to Abuja, courtesy of the ‘Two-Million-Man March’. They beheld the wonders of the Federal Capital Territory and took the ‘good news’ back home. Nigeria is yet to recover from the aftereffects of that experience.

The experience in Gabon can be likened to the fate of dynasties; they will all die. Surely certainly, Gabon will happen to any country that is careless, callous, irresponsible and non-responsive to the yearnings of the people. The Monarchy in England survives till today because the chicken that was sold at £1 twenty years ago is still £1. So, it is safe to say: ‘Hail the King!’ But why will I say ‘Hail the King’ when I am hungry? What’s there in the king to hail when my house is not stable, when my major preoccupation is how to pay the school fees of my kids and how to feed them and their mother; even pay rent? Why will it even enter the flow of any reasonable man in a society where citizens are hungry and in need; in a society where one’s family is not safe? The more reason arrogant and sit-tight rulers need to read the fig leaf from Gabon before it is too late.

The late MKO Abiola was reputed for a spectacular achievement before he went away. Once he slept with a woman and she’s lucky to have been impregnated by him, the baby was taken care of at birth, to overcome certain initial obstacles of life. It’s not because MKO was demonstrating money. No! It’s simply because the man knew that once one was able to overcome these obstacles – which would always come – the rest was paradise! Good life, good health, good accommodation and quality education for the children: what else does one want? That was Abiola’s focus at the time. He knew the disadvantages and allied negative implications of poverty. That’s why he was always setting aside certain amounts of money as the cost of his indiscretion. MKO did his best to attack them frontally so as to make life meaningful for his children. Till date, it’s doubtful if any of his children has ever been told that their father neglected them when they were born. Certainly, not a single one!

Now that Tinubu is our president, it won’t be a bad idea if, once in a while, he descends on Agege in Lagos or visits Ijebu-Jesa in Osun State to remind him of the lot of many Nigerians. If you are taking wine, please bear in mind that some people don’t have water because it is what you know that will determine what you do. Unfortunately, the retinue of aides won’t tell you that truth; that unmet expectations are recipes for unintended consequences. Yes, they may be unintended but they are surely there! For example, why will a grown-ass man continue to sing a song that will not add any value to him? It is that principle that cuts across age, tribe, region, religion and the like. Poverty affects everybody, but it is worse with some people. In other words, there is inequality in poverty; and it is consistent. That’s where leadership must fare! Leadership is an ongoing phenomenon in which one must keep shooting right, not that ‘I shot once yesterday and it was correct’. How about today? In a word, leadership must be concerned about the barometer of the living conditions in society. It must be able to devise tactical strategies that meet the people’s expectations, if the government’s response is to have meaning or impact at all.

The ordinary Gabonese saw the putsch as the hand of God which nobody could control. People were hungry and the rulers were giving them grapes. They said the people needed it because it contained vitamin C. They were hungry but those that were saddled with leadership responsibilities were greening the streets, forgetting that the stomachs of those who would walk on those streets must be filled for them to have strength; and that those whose stomachs were ‘ungreened’ would ultimately ‘disgreen’ the streets.

‘He who feels it knows it!’ Few years ago, it was the ‘Arab Spring’. Now, it is the ‘Francophone Awake.’ Even North Korea is already seeing the visuals on the screens in her ‘other room’.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

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