This Penkelemesi: We Have No Dog in This Fight

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa (Nnamdi)

We have another penkelemesi on our hands! We have been here before. The year was 1993. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, that godfather of all thieves had fouled the air one last time and once the effluvium cleared, a monster named Sani Abacha was born. We had to fight back. Our people were told to hold their noses and “collaborate” with scumbags, ex rapists of the Nigerian treasury, “repented” thugs who had created an organization named NADECO. Our people were assured that if they flirted with these jerks, all would be well, they would receive their “freedom” from their apprenticeship in Maximum Leader Sani Abacha’s hell. And the people believed the used-car salesmen of the pro-democracy movement. I am sure the gentle reader knows the roll call of the NADECO chieftains. Well, a coalition of the willing and the unwilling formed the pro-democracy movement. And to counter the movement, unrepentant jerks like Tom Ikimi and Mr. Fix It Anenih raced around the world, Abacha’s messengers of darkness, assuring the world that Nigerian pro-democracy activists in Europe and North America were ne’er do well dishwashers and penniless academicians who had nothing better to do than to harass poor Abacha. Abacha eventually died of causes totally unrelated to the agitation of dishwashers and cab-drivers. And who do you think have been the beneficiaries of the pro-democracy struggle? The chief beneficiaries have been unrepentant jerks like Tony Anenih and Tom Ikimi!

We all know what the pro-democracy struggle gave us: Eight years of the most buffoonish rule in the history of Africa since Idi Amin, only not nearly as deadly. In the eight years of that shame, we did not hear from the pro-democracy movement. They were too busy strutting all over the land, wining and dining with the devils of Aso Rock and jerks like Tom Ikimi and Tony Anenih. So now, after some of these people have lost a fight, they want the long-suffering masses to dust off their old placards and fight for the dreams of people like Tom Ikimi and Abubakar Atiku! Mba O! Not me! And not anybody if I can help it! It is outrageous that good people would align with odious characters like Abubakar Atiku and Tom Ikimi for what I don’t know. Mark my words, nothing good will come out of such an association. There is something called credibility and this new struggle for what I don’t know lacks credibility, period. As long as the aggrieved are the Atikus of the world, nobody worth his or her salt should be aligned with the “struggle.” Unlike June 12th, this struggle is all about the agenda of a handful of big men and apparently the “masses” agree with me. They are not interested in the histrionics of “pro-democracy version two.” And so they have decided to take a siddon look approach to this penkelemesi du jour. A people can only take so much. Some people may be distraught that “the masses” may be sitting on the fence, instead of burning the place down. I think it is an effective strategy. Remember Kongi once said that even the act of sitting on a fence is akin to taking a position. I say let our people sit on the fence until they recognize the dispensation that will save them.

It is pretty sad. Just look around you; Chief Anthony Enahoro, poor man, is hobbling around with his walking stick, copies of parliamentary rules in hand, yelling reform! Professor Wole Soyinka, Kongi, is writing furiously, brooding, and refusing to be consoled. Mr. Atiku is “abroad” nursing his imaginary knee problem and threatening to return someday to reclaim his mandate. The only dim hope among them, Professor Utomi, ever the Internet warrior is busy writing long essays online. Somebody should stop these people!

So thanks to Kongi, we are now enduring lectures, put downs and other indignities from the EU, western scholars and Nobel Prize deities. These are intimidating times to be a Nigerian. It is good that Professor Soyinka is able to tap into his vast connections in the West’s intellectual community to try to ramp up the agitation for what, I don’t quite remember All these scholars and Nobel Prize laureates wailing Mbakwe about an election so far away from their hallowed halls of erudition – they are at the very least guilty of wailing way louder than the bereaved. I would also add that we have to be careful about encouraging these groups to send us patronizing, condescending memos with their electronic signatures affixed by a powerful aide-de-camp (I know how these things work!). But we must be careful. Who decides what is acceptable to the West? The West? Did these scholars and Nobel deities wag their unctuous fingers at President Bush for supporting the Musharrafs of the world? Pakistan is not a democracy the last time I read about that country. In fact, Pervez Musharraf blatantly quashed a democracy and has been a strong ally of a democratic America ever since. My point is this: Would we have gotten all these hastily written letters if Professor Soyinka’s man had won the rigging? I think the opposition should calm down, take a deep breath and reassess its strategy just as Mr. Bush is reassessing his strategy on the Iraq debacle. The first question the opposition should ask is this: Why is the “electorate” largely indifferent to the opposition’s insistence that they should be outraged? We all know the answer. The poor masses no longer believe any of us: ‘They are all one and the same bad kobo!” they wail. They await another coming. Until then, they will sit on the fence and watch the ugly dance of hopefully the last Big Men of Africa.

Every now and then when I say something about Nigeria, someone says, well, Ikhide, do you have a solution? I always dismiss such inquiries for what they are – condescending, patronizing attempts to dismiss what others find uncomfortable. Is it really the case that the Nigerian situation is a result of a dearth of solutions? Anyone who believes that is in deep denial. There is an over-abundance of solutions to the Nigerian problem. Professor Aluko is absolutely right, what we are desperately short of is a “credible leadership corps.” of men and women committed to doing the right thing for our troubled nation. There should be a moratorium on creating new Nigerian solutions; instead we should go hunting for men and women who will lead us out of the darkness. At some point someone has to step up to the plate and deliver. We await that someone. And I can tell you that the someone is not Obasanjo, not Atiku, not Buhari and definitely not the rag-tag soldiers of misfortune hurriedly gathering under the wretched toga of the second coming of the pro-democracy movement. Their credibility is zilch and the people’s apathy to their insincere clarion call for justice is a parting gift for their complicity in this recent crime against the Nigerian people. I have said it a thousand times, we already have too many solutions; we are simply cursed with irresponsible leaders who refuse to accept responsibility for the mess that we find ourselves. Enough of solutions. It is time to do something for a change. Chinua Achebe is right; we are witnessing a failure of leadership. And I am not just referring to Obasanjo. Everybody should calm down, take a pause and plan for the real battle that is surely coming. That battle will clarify for us what should work for us. This democracy that we are fighting over is insane. It has poisoned our values and imprisoned our people in the mirage of its pyramid schemes. We must do something about this new scourge. It is way too expensive a model and I am just not talking about the money.

I am compelled to respond to my good friend Professor Mobolaji Aluko who uttered these sage words at another forum: ‘… with all due respect, we have never lacked “Think Tanks.” What we lack is a CLC – Credible Leadership Corps.’ That kind of thinking comforts me and gives me hope that someone is finally listening. Anyone who has not read Professor Chinua Achebe’s little book that roars, The Trouble with Nigeria should run, not walk to a cyber-bookshop and get a copy. Professor Achebe is on the money; “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” No ifs, no ands and no buts about it, our “leaders” have failed us and they have failed us miserably. A thousand Nobel Laureates will not fix our problems. There is nothing to fix but us. Let me repeat myself: Folks like Obasanjo, Soyinka et al do not quite get it. They are all suffering from the African Big Man Syndrome – they fervently believe that they are bigger than Nigeria. And they ride Nigeria like overfed giants wearing an Okada motorcycle. Nigeria is proving to be bigger than any and every one of us. A return to home-grown strategic planning, visioning and implementation will cure us of that malaise. Now that is a solution for you.

Finally, I return to the words of the great Chinua Achebe in the little book The Trouble with Nigeria “As a class, you and I and our friends who comprise the elite are incredibly blind. We refuse to see what we do not want to see. That is why we have not brought about the changes which our society must undergo or be written off. We have no option really; if we do not move, we shall be moved. The masses whose name we take in vain are not amused; they do not enjoy their punishment and poverty.” (p 25)

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1 comment

obi, USA May 29, 2007 - 1:35 pm

Wa o! One of the few sensible voices out there. You said it all. Atiku and co. have served their purpose (deepening our democratic culture and trust in the judiciary, which they destroyed in the first place). As they go into sunset, they should go in the knowledge that they have atoned a little for their sins. Their experience may help shape the next leadership for better.


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