Nigeria Matters

Python Dance and the Trials of Muhammadu Buhari

In between 1986 and 1990; Nigeria had a Prof. Jerry Gana; who as the Director of MAMSER- Mass Agency for the Mobilization of Social and Economic Reform; regaled Nigerians with the slogan; 

“If you are a Director, you direct well.  

If you are a Managing Director, you manage and direct well. 

If you are a commander-in-chief, you chiefly command well. ”

These slogans filled the airwaves as radio and television jingles those days; keeping us busy; as Ibrahim Babangida; the Maradona of Minna; dribbled Nigeria onto the brink of economic ruin and political implosion. 

Babangida as Commander-in-Chief did not chiefly command well while his wandering minstrel of cant kept stuffing bullshit down our throats. He wrecked Nigeria for good measure. Left us more broken than he found us. Augustus Cesar could boast for all eternity, that he “found Rome a city of bricks; and left it a city of Marbles”. Babangida and a host of his predecessors and successors till today, found Nigeria a land of promise and a land of infinite potentiality. They left it a broken, raped, and plundered embrace; constructed for the maximum inconvenience of its inhabitants. 

Babangida has been the summary of the dark grottos, that has been the Nigerian political space. 

That is Nigeria for you. 

The Operation Python dance going on in Umuahia, and the Southeast of Nigeria today, made me realize; plumbing contemporary history a bit, that so many of our Commanders-in-Chief have been pretenders to a vacuous throne. Almost all of them would have received flooring and stinging rebukes from strategists like Sun Tzu, and Von Clausewitz. They were neither schooled in the arts of war, nor were they skilled in visionary politics. 

In my book, a good commander-in-chief should double not only as a military historian and a student of history; but a student of social psychologies and historical sociologies of peoples. These would arm him with lessons of history, and if applied, would enable his success in office. 

To this end, any student of history would know that sending an Army into a civilian enclave has been the death sentence of many an Empire. Such actions have been the obituary of many a Republic. Many civilizations signed their death warrants, and certificates; with the inks of such brazen affront on common sense. 

Spartacus was a Thracian commoner; minding his farm and land; in the outbacks of reckoning; until Rome sent her Legions into his neighborhood to sack and to plunder; to rape and to kill; to oppress and to pacify a civilian population. 

Legend has it that Spartacus lost his wife; and love of his life; to the buccaneering savageries of Roman soldiers. 

Aristotle contended that love is such a powerful force that, “two things a man cannot hide, is that he is drunk, and or that he is in love”. This is the reason why a man can kill you; when you take away his love from him. That is why many a man is ready to lay down his life; if anything is to happen to the love of his life; just like the Shakespearean Romeo did. 

Niccolo Machiavelli; the Florentine philosopher of amoral politics; realized that nothing makes a leader more hated above all things; and contemptible than to be “rapacious , and to be a violator of the PROPERTY and WOMEN of his subjects. He eternally warned his Prince; and all other princes and leaders of all times and climes accordingly. 

But Rome never heeded that nugget of political wisdom. They went into Thrace; Spartacus’ home country around 70 BC. Sacked his land. Killed his wife. Raped and plundered to their heart’s content. Destroyed their subjects’ properties and raped their women. Two things Machiavelli warned against. 

Then came the backlash. The uprising followed. Spartacus taken captive; rose to give the Roman Empire a run for its money. His rebellion shook the foundations of Rome. 

Rome learnt a bitter lesson that should not be forgotten in a hurry. But true to type; Rome later forgot.  In a drunken amnesia of self overestimation; which has been the lot of imperial constructs; Rome went back to its historical vomit. The neo-feudal epistemology that has ruled Nigeria all this while; also forgot these historical lessons.

The Decline and Fall of Rome was predicated on its inability to learn from its run with Spartacus. Though the fall was more of a process, than an event; the most cogent or plausible theory could be situated in Rome’s bloodthirsty desire to pacify a people clamouring to be left alone; namely the Germanic tribes. It was the Germanic tribes that sealed Rome’s fate. Rome did not learn her lessons to leave them alone. 

At the battle of Teutoburg Forest; Rome was handed a defeat so heavy that it swallowed her Armies, and compelled a retirement of many Legionary banners and formations. The Germanic tribes, led by Arminius, were outraged at the “tyrannous insolence and wanton cruelty to the conquered”, displayed by Varus the Roman General. They rose to avenge that insolence. 

Many young Igbos in Southeast Nigeria, are interpreting the Operation Python Dance of Muhammadu Buhari’s government, exactly the same way the Germanic tribes of yore, interpreted the actions and bearings of Varus the Roman General. For these young people; it is “tyrannous insolence and wanton cruelty to the defeated in war”. That this government is insensitive to that history and memory; as well as the danger such insensitivities portends, or have led to, in history; remains unfathomable to my consideration. 

Collective outrages have forever been a catalyst to revolutions. It could compel people to forge alliances and bridge differences; to create intensely passionate armadas of resolve, to topple the object of their collective hate. Dennis Brutus knew that well; when he chorused that “a common hate enriched our love and us”, in his poem of that title. 

Rome fell to the collective outrage of the Germanic tribes. With Operation Python Dance; and everyday, which that insult walks Igbo streets; Buhari is piling coals on the fires cooking Igbo outrage. He is generating Megawatts of resentment that may electrocute Nigeria. For many an Igbo, Nnamdi Kanu was making his noise, and convincing very few until Buhari arrested and made a celebrity out of him. Now, slaughtering Igbo youths to avenge whatever his hurts were is the definition of tyrannous insolence. 

When historians were essaying on the Fall of Rome; Edward Gibbons submitted in his great work “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, that “….instead of inquirying why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should be rather surprised that it had subsisted so long”.

He further made an interesting observation as to why this should have been the line of inquiry; namely, that:

“The victorious legions, who in distant wars, acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries; first oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majesty of the purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy….and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians”.

(Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, General Observations, Chap.38)

Everyone who has a head knows that an Army is not a troop of cheerleaders or altar boys. The military is a killing machine. It is a dagger aimed at external enemies of the State. That is why no State aims this dagger at her own people. Or to its own heart, or heartland. 

This explains why the State trains and arms its army to kill. The army is the purveyor of savagery; and violent death; called upon in the most extreme of circumstances; to stand between the State and external enemies. The soldiers are selected from the citizenry to defend the State. Sending those citizens to go murder their mothers or brothers and to rape their sisters is not only a terrible misuse of this fearful instrument of terminal violence; but an abomination of desolations; which if flows into a civil war; would make Casualties of us all, like JP Clark, clearly articulated in his poem of that title. 

So when future historians would be essaying on why Nigeria collapsed; many would be surprised that it lasted this long. This is all due not only to internal contradictions pushing the country to implode and choke on its weights; but also at those moments in time; like Odi. Like Zaki Ibiam. Like Umuahia; when some of our Commanders-in-chief; deployed our Army; which like Gibbon wrote of Rome; “acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries, first oppressed the freedom of the republic”. 

Future history would then indict the myopia of a government; which in spite of the massive research resources available to it; ignored all lessons of history to run its country aground; marooned on the islands of oppression; which has forever been a brewery of rebellion.

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