(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Monday, 5 August, 2019).
In July 1968, a year into Nigeria’s civil war, one of the divisional commanders fired a note, from the war front, to the Head of State: “What really are we fighting for: to enliven a new class of the domineering type or to integrate the country?” General Benjamin Adekunle who wrote that note to General Yakubu Gowon fought in our civil war and became a folk hero. He thought he was performing that duty for the sake of the children and grandchildren of a future Nigeria of justice. The celebrated General soon saw how Nigeria bred privileged vultures and preening maggots. He died broke and broken.
He was not alone. Ask the unmarked graves of the hundreds who died fighting for what they thought was democracy. We should also ask today’s casualties of civil rule, remnants of the people’s army of the 1980s, 1990s. Those who are alive among them will answer us, pointing at the physical, financial and psychological wrecks they have become. Ask Omoyele Sowore – he was in the trenches with other patriots at a time General Muhammadu Buhari was helping General Sani Abacha to detain freedom and stock our hospitals with N28 billion expired PTF drugs and HIV/AIDS kits.
Sowore was picked up by the witches of the state long before dawn on Saturday. He thought Buhari was Goodluck Jonathan, lame and afraid. You don’t threaten an executioner with blank ammo; he takes it as a live bullet and responds appropriately. Buhari’s government is a child of treasonable protests and vile propaganda. It won’t die of same democratic poisons. No. Only the stupid who kills by the sword waits to die by the sword. Sowore’s buyer’s remorse has pushed him into the belly of the Lion of Daura. His planned protest of today is suicidal high treason, inheritors of our democracy have told us.
Someone listed the world’s most notorious criminal gangs. The first, he said, is the Italian Mafia; next is the Japanese Yakuza; then the Russian Bratva; and next is the Irish Mob….and there, next, sitting regally in that dubious circle is the Nigerian Government. This theorist was right. No matter which political party is in power in Nigeria, one thing is constant: criminal class conspiracy rules the affairs of our country. Like the other gangs which have always existed (some since the 17th century), the Nigerian Mafia sits pretty here since the beginning of time. Our government was the militant in the creeks; it is the bandit of Zamfara and the kidnapping enterprise in the South-West forest. From Zamfara to Katsina to Abuja, our government fetes terrorists; it bargains with bandits and carouses kidnappers. The government has regular unprotected sex with violent felons – because it has absolute trust in the fidelity of the forested devil. Then it shoots and jails peaceful street protesters because, like Samuel Doe of Liberia said, the opposition are persons who are tired of living. Twenty years into democracy, the government tells us every dissent is treason; every criminal acquiescence is patriotism. Marching, not marching; walking, not walking; talking and not talking are capital crimes, except the party in power is the beneficiary. But still, can we be dead quiet as kidnap victims in Nigeria’s forest of carrion eaters?
Vile is the adjective for the vampire state which our country has turned out to be. Vampires are the undead, the ghostly beings you watch in horror films wreaking cold blooded havocs on the living. When vampire spirits run a state, they run it aground. Where they find money, they spend it – spend everything on anything of fancy. When there is no money to spend, they borrow and borrow till the lender slams his shylock doors shut. When they choose ministers, they spend weeks and months thinking about what to do with the chosen. When, finally, the cabinet is set, what they do is what kitchen knives are used for. It is about food chopping and how to scramble for, cut and share what can be grabbed.
Did you watch videos of that dead whale washed ashore in Bayelsa State last week? The large creature was found lifeless – and then noisy knives, axes and machetes raced to that seaside to carve their share. One big boy worked on the sea beast with a sawing machine. That whale is nature’s metaphor for Nigeria – a fish out of water cannot live, and won’t die in one piece. Everyone with long legs, with a sharp tongue and a sharp brain and fast fingers is feasting on our country’s comatose trunk. Nigeria is a captive of cannibals.
There is this Federal Government agency called AMCON. It was created to take over loans that cannot be paid back by powerful debtors. Big men, in real life, don’t pay back loans – that is why they are called big men. Only ordinary, small fries worry about miserable debts – because it is the destiny of the poor to owe and pay back or he goes to jail. Recently, AMCON has been in the news screaming that there are N5 trillion of such bad debts owed banks by the very few owners of Nigeria. And the presidency arm of the ownership is doing dark drama setting up panels and committees to go after the fat cats. I won’t say you are not a fool if you wait for results here. There will be none. AMCON itself is some lions’ food basket.
Nigeria is a dead whale available for carving by anyone with the right tool. And the spirit of corpse-eating undertakers is at work day and night. So, do we leave this corpse with the specialists and the madmen? No one does that, especially if the dead is the mother of the unwell. We must retrieve the country from its dark-hearted men and their criminal enterprise. And do we have to do another un(civil) war to achieve that? Sometimes, war is the weapon of the unwise. Museums are full of trophies of war which went to unintended victors. Those who won the last war of unity, what became of them?
The Lao people of South-East Asia have very many fascinating folktales and legends. Folktales are stories from folk-memory of simple life and complex living. There is this one titled The Mango Tree. It is the story of a stranger doing to a village what politicians have turned our country to. To the stranger, his brute strength and privilege were enough to abduct and appropriate all the fruits of his society to himself. And I am going to quote the tale here verbatim:
Once upon a time, a fine mango tree grew in the jungle near a village. Every year when the fruit was ripe, the village children ran into the jungle and picked the fruit.
One day, however, when the children went to the tree, they found a fence all around it. At the side of the fence there were two huge, fierce dogs. A stranger came out of the jungle.
“Go away!” He shouted loudly. “This is my tree now.”
“No, it is not,” the children cried. “You don’t own the jungle. The tree is everybody’s tree. Anyone can have the fruit.”
The children were telling the truth, but the stranger did not listen to them. He made his dogs chase the children back to the village. The children went to the village headman and told him what had happened. The village headman was very wise and, after some thought, he worked out a clever trick to play on the nasty stranger.
The next day, one of the girls of the village went to the tree again. She threw two pieces of meat to the dogs and climbed over the fence. Then she took a mango from the tree and began to eat it. Again, the stranger ran out of the jungle and he shouted at her: “Stop! You cannot take my mangoes. Go away.”
The girl took another bite from the mango. Suddenly she screamed out loud and fell to the ground. At that moment, the headman came by and asked: “What have you done to that girl?”
“Nothing!” The man answered. “She took one of my mangoes and fell to the ground.”
The headman looked sadly at the little girl. “She has mango sickness,” he said. “Once every ten years, this mango tree has poisonous fruits. This must be the tenth year for this tree. You must not eat the mangoes on it this year.” Then he picked up the girl and carried her back to the village.
The next morning, the village headman took the children into the jungle to the mango tree.
The stranger had gone, and he had taken his fence and his huge dogs with him. Once again, the children picked up the fruits, and carried them back to the village, laughing and singing because the tree was everybody’s tree once more. End of story.
Like that tree and its fruits, Nigeria must work for all, not for the criminal rapists lording it over the manor. There are gangsters everywhere – in government, in the boardrooms and in the forests. And that should explain why it has been very easy for these partners to meet and negotiate. They are the abductors; Nigeria is the abductee. But we won’t leave the whale at the mercy of the wanton destiny eaters. There must be a way for us to retrieve our country’s fruits and tree and future from the nasty strange men in power. There will be resistance from them; there must be counter-resistance from their victims.
Let us pray the rescue will be done without bloodshed – like the recently kidnapped and speedily freed RCCG pastors.