One of the reasons that one can safely adduce for the seeming numbness and complacency of the elite, the hoi polloi and the international community against the oppressive tendencies of the Obasanjo government is that we have all been brainwashed to suppose and agree with the dictum that ‘even the worst civilian government is better than the best military dictatorship’. I accept this mantra only to some extent because it keeps reminding me of the virtues inherent in the military government of General Sanni Abacha – a dictatorship that pushed us to the wall but saw an effervescence of the revolutionary spirit inherent in a people who always take no for an answer. I accept that mantra only to the extent of what you and I understand when we talk about a ‘worst civilian government’ and ‘the best military regime’. What does it mean when a civilian government is said to be ‘the worst’? Does it mean that we have no choice but to tag along and accept all manner of indignities to our life and persons simply because we are in a democracy? Does it mean that ‘worst’ and ‘best’ are some kind of synonyms? Does it mean that we should just allow our lives to drift by in this existential Nigerian ocean that has been deliberately infested with home-grown piranha and not make any attempt to flush out the angst prevalent in the system? What does that concept, ‘the worst civilian government’ mean?
I had been in a comma and in a comatose pose since the 25th day of December, 2006. I just came to. God in his infinite mercies spared my life from complications arising from an initial surgical operation. As I regain consciousness by very little degrees, pockets of what life had been began to filter in, and almost in a chronological order. Saddam Hussein has been hanged by the Americans (Of course they would. I thought everyone knew they would and my thinking being that I was taken a little seriously in my article of November 22, 2005, Daily Independent, ‘Prediction on the Trial of Saddam Hussein’). There was a replay of that Jesse inferno nine years ago in Abule Egba, Lagos – hundreds were roasted beyond recognition. Gerald Ford has died, poor chap; Atiku Abubakar was declared persona non-grata in his country and his office declared vacant in an adedibuish manner, can you imagine. It turned out that it was a christmasless, newyearless, sallahless, holidayless an epoch on account of a scarcity of fuel in a country that just hosted all other oil exporting countries’ conference. It was the driest time in the life of any Nigerian. As I listened to some of these tragic stories, it seemed to me that time froze when I was in that semi-vegetable state. I took one painful glance at the contraptions that were put in place by the doctors to get my system still running – nasogastric tubes, the urine bags, the catheter, the infusion gadgets – and it struck me that the people around me who tended to me were not any different from my present physical predicament, what with unseen catheters, nasogastric tubes hanging all around them. It also occurred to me as I manage to vent my anger thus that the Nigerian situation is not any different from the position that I found myself – through no fault of ours, we find ourselves in a sick state and in terrible pain and in need of emergency surgery. What we have witnessed so far in the history of this government is no different from a painful, unnecessary surgical operation that could have been by-passed if the doctors and surgeons knew what to do instead of focusing so much on how much they were going to make from the patient.
Another thing that vexes me apart from the numbness and complacency of our people in the face of the oppressive tendencies of this government is the misapplication and misinterpretation of our dogmas. Certain purveyors just go about telling us that a people get the kind of government they deserve, or deserve the kind of government they get (whatever that means) in effect, that we should just sit there, wear the government out patiently, obey government because in obeying government we obey God that put them there, and all such arrant nonsense. Of course, a people get the kind of government they deserve and deserve the kind of government they get but this has never meant that they should just sit down there like zombies and accept all sorts of crap. They, we, must realize that we have in our hands that tool with which we can change and refuse to accept ‘a worst civilian government’ if what we deserve is the best. And, do we deserve the best? I think we do. We also have in our heads the will to decide that enough is enough of these crazy stuffs that we are constantly subjected and which diminish the value of our lives. Any and every Nigerian has in his veins red enough blood corpuscles that should show in our faces at the slow rate that our pulse as a people beats whenever a dose of Chloroquine is injected into our system when ordinary mist magnesium solution could have done the trick.
If we say that we have had enough of this government and that we must do something about it even though it is a minute to the end of it all, we do not speak in isolation. People, real ordinary people all over the world usually organize themselves into all sorts of pocket pressure groups to make strong statements and mass movements that make governments sit up. There are a lot of instances but we should be guided by the Argentine situation in the year 2002. Their President at that time, Fernando de la Rua, like Obasanjo was a Noah who thought he knew it all when he employed the hard-nosed Domingo Cavallo as Economy Minister. According to Time December 31, 2001, ‘Cavallo had previous experience at playing a bad hand into brilliant economic success’. But his austerity measures in which he made the peso stronger than the dollar snowballed into a situation where exports shrunk, imports rose, unemployment rate rose to 19% and multinationals closed shop and ran to other climes. Before long riots engulfed the whole country and some 5,000 demonstrators gathered outside Cavallo’s apartment in the posh Palermo Chico neighbourhood in a peaceful demonstration. Cavallo resigned and in two weeks, Fernando’s government collapsed.
I know you think this cannot happen in our Nigeria but it can never happen if you and I say it will never happen. The Argentines are not any smarter or more sensible or any more stressed out than we are yet they were able to take their destiny in their hands. The Argentines used to be better footballers than we were but we showed them in a certain year that we could be sleek and tough if we want to. I would recommend that a lot of us who are tired of this catheter kind of life band together and start something. The Argentines were a mere 5,000 demonstrators, but more than 5 million Nigerians daily experience ten times what the Argentines experience before they laid siege at Cavallo’s house. Enough of this suffering. Enough, I say!