Of Explosions and Implosions: Goodbye to Red October

by Sheyi Oriade

What an interesting irony it is that the enduring memory indented upon the national consciousness, following the curious decision to celebrate the nation’s half-century of existence as an underperforming post-colonial geographical expression; is the memory of deafening reverberations of death producing explosions, rather than the resonance of jubilations of jubilee.

It is instructive that our presiding political potentates forsook the opportunity to reflect soberly on the scale of our national underperformance on October 1st. Choosing rather to celebrate an event notable in its significance, for the putting off of the off-putting chains of colonial suppression, and their replacement by the placement upon Nigerian necks by Nigerian hands – of weightier chains of oppression fashioned and forged in foundries of indigenous provenance – under whose weight the masses still groan fifty years hence. The more things change the more they stay the same.

And so the story goes on, as it did on October 1st, when certain unidentified purveyors of death violated our aural space – shocking our collective sensibilities – turning the atmosphere red with blood through their incendiary devices. In so doing they – consciously or subconsciously – painted an apt and stark metaphor of the explosive nature of our nation’s evolution over the past half century. For at different junctures during this period various explosive moments of varying severity have occurred and recurred to alter the destiny and destination of our nation.

For four out of five decades in which we have proclaimed pretensions to being politically independent, we have endured explosions in the form of, one or the other, of a successful or abortive military coup, courtesy of overactive and overambitious sections of self-centred soldiers. And on top of all this, a gruesome Civil War. Our post-colonial history has been one combustible mess.

But if certain members of our armed forces stand guilty of having befouled our national space, they no longer stand alone in this indictment. Our political class has become equally tainted. To the degree now, that economic and financial vampirism has become a national pastime. From the centre to the circumference of our circles of political power, large numbers of our so-called democratic representatives now pre-occupy themselves with sinking their fangs into our body politic, draining it of its vital essence, as they engorge themselves on its financial life blood, leaving the masses anaemic and emaciated.

It used to be the fashion, in the South at least, to lay the blame for this sort of vampirism on sections of the North; not any more. Certain sections of the North may have had longer practice at it in our half-century history, but the rest of the nation has now caught up and even surpassed it in the practice of this infernal art. Each now sucks upon its own with relish and abandon.

And as the financial bloodsuckers persist in their vampirism, our national vehicle of State continues in its uncertain motion, leaking its essential fuel as it stutters and splutters beyond the milestone of its half-century of existence. In reaching and passing this critical juncture, it approaches a critical junction in the road it travels. The point at which those at the controls need to be make and take a decision as to the direction in which the nation is to travel and at what speed and in what gear – forward or reverse.

Seated at the controls of our national vehicle, is a driver who owes the possession of his licence to the incidence of fortuity rather than the exercise of foresight. Unlike many other ambitious drivers of our national vehicle, his right to steer the controls arose as he reposed in his passenger seat before being re-positioned by predestination or providence to pilot the course of our national journey following his predecessor’s untimely passing.

But in common with all those who have sat in the comfort of the driver’s seat of our vehicle of State, he now seeks a renewal of his licence to keep control of the controls for four more years. This quest for renewal is causing upset within his party and may yet cause it to implode. This disagreement brings to the fore some of the underlying tensions afflicting the ruling party. Given the inflammatory nature of some of the outburst on the issue, the disagreement also highlights the combustible nature of the nation.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of the ongoing disagreement(s) regarding – the existence or non-existence – of zoning arrangements within the national ruling party, it will do well to realise that neither Nigeria, nor the office of president, have been zoned to it. The assumption should never be made by anyone in our system of government, that the ruling party (regardless of its identity) has a divine right to rule in perpetuity; it does not. And incumbents in office eligible for re-election should never consider themselves automatic shoo-ins to office without proper reference to, and endorsement of, the people.

The way things are in our nation it appears that explosions and implosions, in one form or another, will continue to be a feature of our evolutionary process. And this seems particularly likely, if our law enforcement agencies are unable to unravel and apprehend in expeditious fashion those who painted October red with blood.

Somehow, one wonders whether a Police Force that has had more Inspectors-General at its helm in recent years, than it has had success in resolving high profile criminal cases, has the ability to finger the fingers of those who perpetrated and detonated those explosives on October 1st. We hold our breath, as we wait to exhale in eager anticipation.

As for the next half-century it is difficult to foretell whether or not our nation will implode, explode, or remain as presently composed with its different peoples juxtaposed within the perimeters of our Luggardian post-colonial geographical expression.

Whatever the case; it is good riddance to red October.

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