If not that Prof. Pius Adesamni is my Broda from another Mama, I would have cried havoc, and let loose my Koboko, on his ‘yansh’, for daring to accuse me of NEUTRALITY, as it applies to the Nigeria election cycle; where in my estimation, rationality as always, has finally taken a terminal leave.
One can only market shit, if only one can package it very well. Pius, one of the most incisive Nigerian Public commentators of our times, really knows how to package and market insult across board. He is an equal opportunity “insulter”. Being an eminent connoisseur of words, this broda of mine, could dress you in borrowed robes, with venerable embroidery of words that seduces the undiscerning nostrils of the un-initiated, into seeing you in great odor, even when, like the unspeakable tyrant, proverbially one walks around aping the pomp of a non-existent office. He knows that neutrality has forever been the refuge of scoundrels. He did not want to directly accuse me of being a scoundrel. So, he went into the packaging business. In the African cultural tradition, where respect for elders is a cultural good of eternal legitimacy, a child can only get away with calling his father a beast, if he can creatively package that insult, and clothe it in the garbs of valor. To successfully call his father an animal, a child would, as Nigerians would say, “use style” to proclaim in the hearing of all, Papa, you are a lion! The kid, aware of his mission, knows that the lion is the king of beasts. The unsuspecting Papa, would smile, and congratulate himself for his prowess, without even giving a thought to the fact that his son has just called him a beast.
Why did I choose to complain now?
Well, I would invoke and invite that bright Nigerian comedian, Basketmouth to come to my aid and make you see why. A woman according to Mr. Okpocha was in a Molue travelling with her baby. Sitting beside her was a well-dressed Nigerian man, laboring under the sweaty weight of his suit and tie, on a very humid afternoon, in a Lagos Molue packed to the brim; with the itinerant pastors peddling their spiritual wares. The hapless woman could not get her baby to feed on anything she had to offer. Instead of the woman, minding her child, she would tease the kid, “you better eat this Kpof-Kpof (puff-Puff) or I will give to broda, ooo!, referring to the unbeknownst to her, hunger-terrorized neighbor laboring under a sweaty suit. All entreaties to the kid fell on deaf ears, no matter the tasty temptation thrown at him.”Chin-chin” came and went the same way. Even Agege Bread made an appearance. But the kid resisted every temptation thrown at him. It may have been that someone was binding and casting the devil of temptation from the kid. Broda sat quietly nearby and did not interfere in the proceedings. And in frustration, the woman unpacked her two ‘Mount of Olives’, and bellowed at the kid, “you better suck now, or I will give it to broda ooo, in a last minute effort to get the kid to breastfeed. The kid as usual paid no heed. That was when the woman committed, according to the Broda, “the unforgivable crime” of packing her wares back into holding position. Broda exploded! “I never interfered on all other occasions you teased me with food, in spite of my hunger. I never complained. But now, you said you will give me the breasts to suck, if the kid refused, and the kid refused. It would naturally have been my turn to ensconce on those twin towers, but you packed them speedily before I could bat my eyelids. I am not taking that anymore! Lawyers would argue whether there was a valid offer here. Or whether the right to the dignity of the broda was injured in any way as to need redress. Well, let them keep on arguing till I finish my roforofo with Pius.
I am choosing this moment to complain for the following reasons. First and foremost, my broda Pius Adesamni connived with malaria and a mean-spirited German border controller, to escape my festival of pounded yam, which was prepared to challenge Everest in height, so much so that guests at the opposite sides of the table, would have to wait until the foo-foo- mountain has been leveled, before each could realize who made it onto the guest list. This was a festival thrown in his honor, on his scheduled stop-over in Frankfurt last year. Every Nigerian in the Diaspora knows how difficult it is to get egwusi and stockfish past the Egunje-prone Nigerian customs officials in Lagos, many of whom abandoned their job detail of safeguarding our borders from illegal goods, to start doing the job of foreign customs officers for them, by making sure that Nigerians on their return flight to “Obodo Oyibo”, must pay a bribe before they could make it on board the plane with their egwusi and Ogbono. I invested those hard smuggled essential commodities only for Pius to plead Malaria, and escaped to Ottawa. I did not complain. And he has not paid restitution for sentencing me to the beautiful but hard labor of swallowing Eba with Egwusi soup for one week, even when my Okra soup could have sufficed. Now, my yeye Broda landed in Ottawa, still owing me restitution, and from his perch in Ottawa, thinking that I have forgotten that, decided that insult should be added to that injury.
And so it was that on the last year of the Incompetent King on the Niger, Ogbuefi Pius Adesamni stood up in the village square, dressed me up in borrowed robes, and accused me of a Neutrality of Swiss proportions!!!
Pius knows a long line of my interventions that have over the years solidified my opinion as fundamentally radical, and never content with Nigerian mediocrity. Pius knows my credentials as an iconoclast in the face of such mediocrity that has laid our country Nigeria prostrate. For him to accuse me of being neutral because of my irreversible rejection of both Buhari and Jonathan as the best that Nigeria can offer at this time pretends to the presumption that Buhari and Jonathan are the only presidential candidates in Nigeria at this election. And for him to ignore my public proclamation of the fact that I will be voting for Onovo and NCP, come election day, may mean that he posed a nelson’s eye to my position, which would have defeated every attempt at casting me as neutral.
I would have taken that if I am Sam Loco Efe or Nkem Owoh, who would have done a somersault as soon as that Ogbunigwe of neurality exploded. But this “Neutrality” pass me ooo! Ibn Adesamni knows that our brother Desmond Tutu was right when he opined that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, that you have chosen the side of the oppressor. He knows that if an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. He also knows that our friend Dante Aligheri rightly contended that the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. He knew very well the contentions of Elie Wiesel to the effect that “we must takes sides, since neutrality helps the oppressor and never the oppressed”. He knows that neutrality is at times a graver sin than belligerence. He knows Paulo Freire well enough to know his assertion that ‘washing one’s hands off the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral’. He knows like Howard Zinn offered that ‘you cannot be neutral on a moving train’. And what better example of a moving can one have than Nigeria in an election cycle.
I would have appreciated Pius’s effort at following Foucault’s exhortation of criticizing the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them. But I am neither an institution nor neutral in anyway.
I can never be neutral. This inheres in the nature of neutrality, which is a contradiction to all that I stand for. Neutrality has forever been the refuge of scoundrels. It is the impotence of cowards. Neutrality is the escape route of profiteers, the crutch of sycophants, and the staple of moral Lilliputs. Neutrality is courted by a pretense to objectivity, which is an epistemic impossibility to maintain. Howard Zinn, once asked a question of eternal relevance. Why should we cherish objectivity, as if ideas were innocent, as if they don’t serve one interest or another? He countered by submitting thus “Surely, we want to be objective if that means telling the truth as we see it, not concealing information that may be embarrassing to our point of view. But we don’t want to be objective if it means pretending that ideas don’t play a part in the social struggles of our time, that we don’t take sides in those struggles”. For Howard Zinn, it is fundamentally “impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now. It is a world of clashing interests-war against peace,…equality against greed, democracy against elitism-and it seems to me both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts”.
Why would my broda Adesamni accuse me of neutrality at this time that Nigeria needs every sane voice to salvage her? Is he trying to escape paying me my pounded yam reparations or what?
My position remains that Jonathan is incompetent, and Buhari is mediocre. I refuse to reduce my intellectual integrity to groveling at the insipid candidacy of these two men. Pius, in attempt to nominate me as neutral, cleverly compelled neutrality to wear a meaning and significance in this context, which it could never acquit on any score. Neutrality means not taking any side. But I took a side already and very early in the game. Pius calling me neutral is based on his misreading of my rejection of these two leprous choices in the game, as if to say that only these two are vying for the Nigerian presidency at this time. Nigeria has over 26 Political parties vying for elective offices. Some of them are presenting candidates for the presidency. And out of these, I chose the NCP as the bearers of the kind of freshness, which I wish to see in Nigeria moving forward. I reject Buhari, and I reject Jonathan because Nigeria deserves better than these two choices. And rejection of these two for a third choice is where I stand.
I refuse to accept or be intimidated by the argument of those who contend that we must choose one of them due to their inevitability. To these I respond that our inability to get what we deserve all these years as an excuse for settling for less is an intellectual sell-out that I adamantly refuse to accept. I will never follow the crowd of infamy when everyone is getting on the bandwagon. If you call that neutrality, then you have refused to see that my refusal is a stand. I do not belong to the camp of ‘when the desirable is not available, the available becomes desirable’. When the desirable is not available, I will keep on working to make it available. Succumbing to the pull of the available because my desirable is not available sounds very much like a capitulation to mediocrity. I also will never join the camp of ‘if you can’t beat them, you join them’. That camp is atrocious in its dalliance with sycophancy. If I can’t beat them, I will constitute myself into a very thorny opposition. I will virtually perch as a tse-tse fly on their scrotum, until they beat themselves or make things right. Why should I be satisfied with mediocrity? Why I should I be satisfied with mediocrity when my country, my family, and myself have been paying the price for mediocrity all these years?
Pius Adesamni is a brother and an intellect that I respect. I know that we are fighting the same war to see Nigeria a better place than it has been. Our disagreement is about the depth of the tools we should apply in our fight. He prefers cozying to what he considers the lesser of the evils. I on my own part, refuse to cozy up to any of the evils. In this context, I grant every man his entitlement to his position and opinion. But to be honest with you, I cannot understand the two parties and their support for certifiable mediocrity. I cannot understand why Nigerians have actively and passively condemned themselves to being compelled to make a choice between grotesque incompetence and certifiable mediocrity. Till now, I cannot for the life of me, understand why Pius would be rooting for mediocrity, when he should be offering himself up for that office. I cannot understand for the life of me, why my other brothers, would resign unto a mental acquiescence that canonizes the present structures of anomie, as a given that must be accepted, whereas they should be working to dethrone that anomie from our conceptual schemes. Pius may contend that his position to vote for Buhari is because he sees a way out of our predicament, no matter how incremental that would be. That for him may be a pragmatic trade off since I believe that Pius is not unaware of Buhari’s anti-democratic antecedents. Pius may argue that Buhari may have been converted to democracy, as his patience and readiness to go on vying for the office shows. And that he deserves a second chance. I am for giving everyone a second chance. But he has not gotten into power after his first missionary journey of military tyranny, as to prove to us that his anti-democratic antecedents have changed. So, he is asking us to trust him based on his words, not on his antecedents. You actually get to know a man once you make him a boss.
Pius, like me, may be enamored by the austere, incorruptible, and upright character of the man Buhari; an attribute, which we undoubtedly need in a leader in Nigeria, since Achebe cited the “unwillingness or inability of Nigerian leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, as the trouble with Nigeria. But the question then becomes, does Nigeria actually need a strong man, or the proverbial strong institutions? If the latter rightly happens to be the answer, then why not root to change those structures that would condemn a superlatively intelligent man like Pius into rooting for a man, who is not his intellectual equal in any way, to assume the highest office in the land, which requires the highest integrity and intellectual acumen? I will vote for Pius Adesamni for President, instead of voting for Buhari or Jonathan.
Secondly, Nigeria has had a history of a leader who looked morally upright, austere and incorruptible in the name and person of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. But Shagari unfortunately presided over one of the most corrupt administrations in the country. We can argue whether Shagari was corrupt by allowing corruption, but no one has been able to impugn his character in that regard. But that strong character never prevented his administration from being one of the most corrupt that Nigeria has ever seen; producing czars of corruption like Umaru Dikko and the rest of the NPN thieves, whom PDP and their decamped confreres in the APC have succeeded in dethroning from the irokos of corruption and thievery in Nigeria. So, Buhari being incorruptible is not a guarantee that buccaneers in the APC like Tinubu and the rest of the pack will not hijack the nation, and run it aground just like Umaru Dikko and company hijacked Nigeria under Shehu Shagari and virtually ran it aground, marooned on the islands of corruption and underdevelopment.
I refuse to believe that Buhari and Jonathan are the best that we can produce to lead Nigeria. If Buhari and Jonathan are the best that we can produce, then we should just abandon all pretenses to decency and expire as a nation. This is my position. And that is not the definition of neutrality. Neutrality means “I tanda here, dey look, make una no jam me with una wheel barrow”. I am not sitting on the fence waiting for Jonathan or Buhari to win. I do not detest the men like Pius rightly asserted. I detest them as choices for our highest office. They are too brazenly mediocre, for a country like Nigeria. What we should be getting together to make sure, is that we make Nigeria so very unprofitable for such criminal enterprises like PDP and their APC counterparts. We should make Nigeria so very unprofitable for politicians that they would quickly wish to leave office, than die in one. We should be gunning for a structure that makes moneybags extinct in our political space, so that mediocrity armed with money will not be the determinant of Nigeria’s future.
Many people piggybacking on the Buhari euphoria train, are feeding off that monstrous nostalgia of his tough stance against corruption and indiscipline while he was a military head of State. But the epistemic roots of that nostalgia is the fact that the conceptual universe of the average Nigerian has been so raped, and devastated that Nigerians have come to believe that brutalizing Nigerians with primitive whips and cudgels is the only way to rule Nigerians and introduce order into the society. That is the same ontology feeding the ease and propensity with which Nigerians lynch their fellows for suspected petty crimes. We have been dehumanized into a mental masochism that accepts it as a given, that the only way to make us disciplined is for koboko wielding soldiers to force us into frog-jumping on the way side, slapping our dignities off our faces with their brutality, and flogging us as beasts of burden. The opposite side of that social masochism is the ease with which we sing the praises of the thieves, who stole our commonwealth, and the ease with which we elevate them into social reckoning by conferring titles both academic and traditional on them. Buhari’s regime was among those, who through their brutal stance, stripped Nigerians of every dignity, and so devastated our collective psyche and reduced the Nigerian psyche to a drooling, groveling nincompoop in the face of power.
Should I open my book on Jonathan? Well, if he is the best that Nigeria can offer, then we are really lost as a people.
Many years after independence, the jury is out. We have seen what mediocrity can do. Nigeria is today a brewery of frustration. She looks like a house constructed for the maximum inconvenience of its inhabitants. To this end, millions of Nigerians escaped Nigeria and are contributing their talents and skills in developing other parts of our world instead of their father land. Thousands of others have perished in the Mediterranean looking, begging, and clawing to be allowed into some comfortable slavery in Europe. Boko Haram is killing those who dared to claim Nigeria as their home as well. The country has become an unsustainable citadel of inequality. 1% of Nigerians own about 80% of the wealth in the country. We are still an underdeveloped country.
I am for a third way. Being for a third way is not the definition of neutrality, Ogbuefi Adesamni.
So, I totally reject. I cast. I bind. And I send to the Arctic Circle, all machinations of the enemy. I send Holy Ghost fire and Holy Water together, to fire and quench at the same time, anyone, spiritual or temporal that dares accuse my humble self of neutrality on such an ultra-important matter. That I decided to take my goatskin bag, and leave the village-square, does not mean that I am looking at the fight from a safe distance of unconcern, or that I am suffering an agony of indecision. No! It is a fact that the Nigerian political noise has dwarfed the sounds of reason. And my taking my leave is indicative that I have voted with my feet, against this status quo.
I will never vote for Jonathan. And I will never vote for Buhari. That is not neutrality. That is the only way to salvage Nigeria. I will be voting for Onovo. I may be in the minority, but let posterity record that I voted for what I believe to be the best for my country at this time in history!
Me, neutral, ke?
The devil is a liar!