The wages of impunity (I)

By Wole Soyinka

The dancing obscenity of Shekau and his gang of psychopaths and child abductors, taunting the world, mocking the BRINGBACKOURGIRLS campaign on internet, finally met its match in Nigeria. to inaugurate the week of September 11 – most appropriately. Shekau’s dance macabre was surpassed by the unfurling of a political campaign banner that defiled an entry point inNigeria’s capital of Abuja. That banner read:  BRINGBACKJONATHAN2015. President Jonathan has since disowned all knowledge or complicity in the outrage but, the damage has been done, the rot in a nation’s collective soul bared to the world.

The very possibility of such a desecration took the Nigerian nation several notches down in human regard. It confirmed the very worst of what external observers have concluded and despaired of  – a culture of civic callousness, a coarsening of sensibilities and, a general human disregard.It affirmed the acceptance, even domination of luridpractices where children are often victims of unconscionableabuses including ritual sacrifices, sexual enslavement, andworse.  Spurred by electoral desperation, a bunch ofself-seeking morons and sycophants chose to plumb the abyssof self-degradation and drag the nation down to theirlevel.  It took us to a hitherto unprecedented low inethical degeneration.  The bets were placed on whoseturn would it be to take the next potshots at innocentyouths in captivity whose society and governance have failedthem and blighted their existence?

Would the Chibok girls now provide standup comic material for the latest staple ofNigerian escapist diet?  Would we now move to a newexport commodity in the entertainment industry named perhaps“Taunt the Victims”?  As ifto confirm all the such surmises,an ex-governor, Sheriff,notorious throughout the nation – including withinsecurity circles as affirmed in their formal dossiers – asprime suspect in the sponsorship league of the scourge named Boko Haram, was presented to the world as apresidential traveling companion. And the speculationbecame: was the culture of impunity finally receivingendorsement as a governance yardstick?  Again, Goodluck Jonathan swung into a plausible explanation: it was Sheriff who, as friend of the host President Idris Derby, had travelled ahead to Chad to receive Jonathan as part ofPresident Deby’s welcome entourage.

What, however, does this say of any president? How come it that a suspectedaffiliate of a deadly criminal gang, publicly under suchominous cloud, had the confidence to smuggle himself intothe welcoming committee of another nation, and even appearin audience, to all appearance a co-host with the Presidentof that nation? Where does the confidence arise in him that Jonathan would not snub him openly or, after theinitial shock, pull his counterpart, his official host asideand say to him, “Listen, it’s him, or me.”? So impunity now transcends boundaries, no matter how heinousthe alleged offence?  TheNigerian president however appeared totally at ease. Whatthe nation witnessed in the photo-op was an affirmation of agovernance principle, the revelation of a decided frame ofmind – with precedents galore.


Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian Nobel laureate

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