By Rev. Fr. John Odey
Keeping silent in the face of injustice is a crime. On September 17, 1997, Walter Carrington who was then the United States ambassador to Nigeria lamented during a lecture at the Island Club, Lagos, that Nigeria, the giant of Africa, had fallen from grace to grass. He said: “At independence, Nigeria was among the most richly endowed nations of the world in resources.
Today, Nigeria is one of the world’s leading oil-producing nations. But like the cobbler whose children often go without shoes, it, frequently, is unable to supply its own people with fuel. In spite of its vast potential, it is today ranked by the United Nations as one of the fifteen poorest countries in the world. Its wealth has been squandered and many of its best and brightest, in frustration and fear, have chosen to live in exile.”
Today, 26 years later, more and more of Nigeria’s sons and daughters are living in exile because the giant of Africa has been crippled by what Chinua Achebe pertinently identified as “simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” At the beginning of the Russian and Ukrainian war, we saw it go viral on the social media where some Nigerian youths declared that they were not prepared to return to Nigeria even if that meant perishing in Ukrain.
That Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not win the February 25, 2023, presidential election is no longer news. He knows he did not win. All the political jesters who flock around him expecting to pick some crumbs from him know he did not win. Professor Mahmood Yakubu the arrogant chairman of the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who imposed Tinubu on Nigerians as their president, knows that he did not win.
The judges handling Tinubu’s defence in the court know that he did not win but they had to yield to the Macedonian call beckoning their profession. It is no longer news that an overwhelming percentage of Nigerians have lost hope in the possibility of a resurgent Nigeria.
Many Nigerians, out of frustration, have been having some doubt as to whether God is still interested in Nigeria. But we should not lose hope. The God we believe in is still the God of the biblical Exodus. At his appointed time the hardened Pharaoh was compelled to let his people go. It is very possible for such divine intervention to take place in Nigeria. Our Pharaohs can be compelled to untie their grips on us and on the nation to let Nigeria compete with the progressive nations of the world.
It is no longer news that the hopeless situation in the country is responsible for the untimely deaths of thousands of Nigerians being buried daily. That the wickedness and the insensitivity of the elite political class to the suffering of the masses of this country constitute major reasons for the escalation of crimes in the land is no longer news, when all the avenues and foundations of decent living are unjustifiably denied a whole generation of the young people, when all their hopes are frustrated and dashed, anarchy is let loose.
At that stage they will brace up to the occasion to survive “by any means necessary.” Finally, it is no longer news that the majority of Nigerian youths are agitatedly waiting for the judiciary to dare pervert justice in their verdict before they will make their presence felt by moving to take their country by any means necessary.
We are aware that those who refuse to learn from history will eventually allow history to turn them into monuments of disaster. George Santanya, the Spanish-American philosopher, put this mildly when he said: “Only the dead have seen the end of the war. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. A country without memory is a country of madmen.”
A dark and thick cloud is hovering over Nigeria. But Nigeria is certainly not a country of madmen. In this context if there happen to be some madmen in the country, they may be found among our political leaders and certainly not among our learned men and women of the law. Hence, the judiciary must disperse that cloud. The judiciary must not set Nigeria ablaze to please Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his gang of electoral mandate snatchers.
A Brief Historical Flashback: Anybody who is conversant with the history of the Civil Rights struggle in the United States of America in the 1950s and 1960s will recall that the phrase “by any means necessary” is the language of Malcolm X. Malcolm was a contemporary but a stark opposite of Martin Luther King Junior as far as their struggle for freedom was concerned.
The sting of American racism at a time pushed King to admit that at a time he was at the verge of losing hope in a nonviolent approach in the course of their struggle. He said: “I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.” His family upbringing prevailed, and he refused to succumb to despair.
Hence, he continued: “Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know you cannot give up in life.” As all of us know, the summary of his dream is that a time would come when racial oppression and discrimination in America would become history and that when that time comes, no person would be judged on the basis of the colour of his skin but on the basis of the content of his character.
What lesson can we learn from this here in Nigeria where the likes of Nasir El-Rufai believe and teach our Muslim brothers publicly that what matters in being a leader is not the character of anybody but whether the leader is a Muslim? Does it occur to our mischievous political leaders that their penchant to promote tribalism and religious intolerance at the expenses of the contents of our character leaves the entire nation at the mercy of the cult of mediocrity? Did Mahmood Yakubu think of the contents of the characters of the presidential candidates the electorate voted for or the tribe, the religion and the political party they belong to? Did he believe that he was doing a favour to Nigeria as a whole when he gave our electoral mandate to a man who did not only lose the election but who has played his own part and should have retired honourably but insists on constituting a stumbling block to the younger generation?
Unlike Martin Luther King, Malcolm did not believe that white racists would ever have a change of heart and freely allow Black Americans on equal basis the civil rights that they had packaged for themselves. Apart from the unbearable plight of the blacks in general, the family history of Malcolm, what his father, mother, Malcolm, and his siblings suffered in the hands of the dreaded Ku Klux Klan, a secret and terrorist group that white racists formed to promote white supremacy, made it impossible for him to believe in King’s dream.
Hence, while King talked of the dream of a better future, Malcolm said that the blacks were kept “at the bottom of the social heap”, where they were being choked to death by persistent nightmare. He declared: “And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.”
Here in Nigeria, does it occur to our political leaders that the rest of Nigerians who do not belong to the upper echelon of their favoured political parties, particularly the youths, have been confined to the bottom of the social heap and are seeing nightmares having been blinded by the politicians’ empty promises, maddening ostentations, and interminable rascality? Does it occur to them that in spite of being unable to effect any positive change, the rest of Nigerians at least know that they do not mean well for Nigeria and for us. This claim is here substantiated.
On December 31, 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari ousted the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. In his statement, Brigadier Sani Abacha, as at that time, who announced the coup, gave the following as one of the reasons why Shagari had to go: “Our educational system is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Unemployment figures, including the graduates, have reached embarrassing and unacceptable proportions. In some states, workers are being owed salaries and there are threats of salary cuts. Yet, our leaders revel in squander mania and corruption and indiscipline continues to proliferate, public appointments in complete disregard of our stark economic realities.”
Since this write-up is meant to be a brief discussion on what is currently going on in the court about the 2023 political elections, there is no need to talk about how Sani Abacha himself ruled Nigeria from November 1993 when he bulldozed his way through as Nigeria’s military president to June 8, 1098, when he died. When, after three attempts, Buhari eventually became once more the president of Nigeria, a statement in his inaugural address on May 29, 2015, fascinated and deceived Nigerians into believing that he came for good, not knowing that he had some ulterior motive that would unfold and do a long-lasting damage to the security, unity, and progress of the nation. That statement is: “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.”
Buhari has completed the assignment he viciously mapped out for Nigeria and disappeared in shame. Now that he has accomplished his disreputable and nepotistic assignment and faded out, it has become clear that he did not believe in what his speech writer wrote for him to read as his inaugural speech. He did not belong to everybody. Rather, he proved by words, by actions and by his body language that he belongs only to a particular section of the country and to a particular tribe.
While he deliberately played the ostrich when his favoured tribe kept unleashing mayhem on the rest of Nigerians, he was at the same time determined to exterminate people from another section of the country. The Muhammadu Buhari who told us that he belonged to everybody and to nobody is the same Buhari who later told the world that a particular section of the country gave him only about five percent of their votes and so have no claim over his administration.
To crown it all, Buhari ensured that he handed over the leadership of the country to a man who did not win the election, to a man into whom, according to Dele Farotimi, every evil about Nigeria has coalesced. Is Nigeria under a curse? When Buhari ruled Nigeria as a military dictator from December 31, 1983, to August 27, 1985, most of the mothers that gave birth to the very youths whose hopes are being shattered today had not matured and had not been given into marriage.
It is possible that a good number of them had not even been born. Whether he likes it or not, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians believe that so far, the worst thing that has happened to Nigeria in the name of leadership is Muhammadu Buhari. It makes sense to acknowledge that Nigerians are patient with their evil leaders. That is a virtue. But it certainly does not make sense to think that their patience in the face of leadership scourge is infinite. That is a vice…To Be Continued.
…Rev. Fr. John Odey published first published this article on July 5, 2023