I am gawking. I am in utter disbelief. Is this Nigeria? This forlorn figure, is she Nigeria? It’s incredible that this mangled, hesitant and prostrate woman with sunken eyes staring blankly is my beloved country, Nigeria. “I am maniacally bewildered” ,due apology to wordsmith Hon Patrick Obahiagbon. It is unbelievable that this was the woman who nourished and still nourishes some odd 140 million citizens.
But here she was-fallen, shrunken and gasping for breath. In the past she had marched with a swagger. She walked tall buoyed by the oil boom of the 70s. Now she is hunched and almost mired into the ground under the obese weight of rapacious rulers.
A couple of years ago, the doomsayers gazed into the future. They saw ‘visions’.
They declared, with the authoritative finality of those who spoke with God Himself that this House will fall by 2015.Those of us weaned on the side of optimism said nay. I sneered. The kind of snicker you reserve for the benighted, completely lost in the labyrinthine smog that is our national politics. We are survivors. A nation of resilient people plagued by heartless leaders. We had roughened and tumbled in the past. The scars of the civil war bear testimony. We rose. We straightened.
There was a time, our politicians made a health habit of stretching our collective national tolerance level. Regionalists would make an elaborate show of contempt for other regionalists. But at the end of the day, kiss and make up. Not any more. Our politicians of today are of the do-or-die persuasion. It is either they or nobody else.
Make no mistake about it. Our politics and politicians are made in hell. Most of them want to be ‘leaders’. They will rather be leaders in hell than followers in heaven.
They don’t lose elections. If they did, it must have been rigged. It is a lot easier for an elephant to pass through the eye of a needle than our politicians to accept defeat.
The current spectacular under performers, represent that tendency. Our politics is unique. It flavour is distinct.
First, it has no rules. It is for all comers. Professionals and crooks. Clergymen and conmen. You name them. All found sanctuary in the bosom of our politics. For good or for bad, our politics lacks any ideology. This has been said and often. Repeatedly too. It is only in our politics that a politician wakes up in the morning in one political party, and by afternoon, he has crossed carpet to another and by nightfall, yet to another. And surprisingly , he is welcome with open arms anywhere he goes. He gets preferential treatment if he is a moneybag. Most of the politicians are ‘amala’ or ‘tuwo’ inclined.
Late Ibadan strong man of politics, Lamidi Adedibu perfected the art of swaying the voter with balls of well-molded amala. Until ‘garrison’ politics rudely intruded into the nation’s political lingo, amala was the surest way to the voters’ heart.
At both the levels of leadership and followership, all, except a very limited few, shift position and switch loyalty at the sight of the naira represented by balls of amala. Garrison politics is one the legacies bequeath by Obasanjo as President. It is relatively new. It means arm-twisting recalcitrant supporter with a vast local followership. Where amala will cajole dangling a carrot, garrison politics will compel brandishing canon. Where amala will waft the nostrils with a pleasing aroma of egusi soup, garrison politics will whip with bare back a horsewhip.
Our politicians are sectional. Most of them are prisoners of base sentiments. Because of this flaw, nothing is sacrosanct. Our current players are of this persuasion.
Under their watch, Nigeria has disappeared as my generation knows her. A bandit regime with a persecution complex has serially raped this woman, called Nigeria.
Her children have been deliberately polarized along the fault lines of ethnicity and religion. A bogeyman called Boko Haram is stalking a section of the country, while the actors at the centre are living in denial. As recently as the third week of April, Nigerians have collectively demonstrated the spirit of being their brothers’ keepers in the campaign to bring back the abducted schoolgirls. Up until the other bogeyman deceptively garbed arrived and introduced the religion element into the saga. Since then, the rulers have been living in denial flatly refusing to admit that such monstrosity had, truly, happened. Now you are either a Muslim or a Christian.
A settler or an indigene. A southerner or a northerner. Dude, where is my country?