The recent story of 35-year old Nigerian drug baron, Izuchukwu Ezimoha, executed after being sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Indonesia but who was given heroic burial by his people at his mansion in Ezigbo village, Ihiala LGA of Anambra state on Thursday, August 18, 2016 is provoking this piece. A banner announcing his burial which claimed Ezimoha was “a hero” has courted diverse commentaries on the social media. Hero? Whose hero?
Pardon this personal reminiscence as a kicker. This writer was on his way to Davis Sacramento airport, from Denver Colorado, United States a couple of years ago and the highly burnished American patriotism hit him like a pleasant thunderbolt. It was like Bob Marley’s warning about reggae music; that when it hits you, you feel no pain. This time, the writer’s head swelled from the punch. We had been waiting for our flight on the Northwestern and then, the hostess announced the arrival of a group of young folks, donning the grey khaki dresses of American soldiers, to board the flight first. And pronto, they filed out, their rucksacks sitting regally on their backs, as they chatted like high school kids into the aircraft. Even when the plane was airborne and it was time for announcement, they were objects of acknowledgment, and the bla bla bla of how America was grateful to them for fighting in Iraq and all that. And my head swelled beyond proportion.
Since then, I had a proper perspective of the American patriotism and heroism. America and many of the advanced democracies do not joke with their citizens. The country abides by the biblical story of the shepherd who temporarily leaves his flock in frenetic search of one single one who strays off. Even when that lost sheep is a recidivist, who lives the life of constant relapse crime in a foreign land, America meets with the country of crime, seeking the probability of the national serving out their time on her soil. There is a fiduciary relationship between America and its nationals which is religiously and piously observed to the latter. This is reflected in every respect. America bends over backwards for her citizens’ quality existence. In return, Americans give her complete and unalloyed loyalty and the process of heroism is easily forged. Heroes are brought out from this relationship and their lifestyles become examples to be copied by the upcoming youth.
Nigeria has been on a comparative keel for this writer, vis a vis these advanced democracies. Why is it that the quality of patriotism in Nigeria is at an abysmally low level? Why is it that Nigerians have receded from Nigeria and Nigeria literally has no meaning for Nigerians except, as Obafemi Awolowo opined, as a geographical identifier? Why is it that Nigerians do not have explicit or implicit trust in Nigeria and they are in fact very wary of and indeed, very disdainful of Nigeria? Put more succinctly, why are there no heroes in the land and the converse of the class of people others make heroes are those who tickle us and have become emblems of our society? Or is it that these dross and scum of other lands are emblematic of our society and we would be upturning nature’s moral codes if we have proper heroes as they do in societies that are properly and morally structured?
What readily comes to mind is that Nigerians do not matter to Nigeria because humanity has receded from our midst and replaced by a capitalist hanker after national survival which ultimately does not endure and which sees humanity as mere demographics. Pardon me, this may actually be insufficient or misleading an analysis, after all, can a society be more capitalist than the American and British societies? Yet they value the lives of their nationals and do not treat them as a mere number. Could it be that Nigeria has dehumanised Nigerians for too long a time that we have gone beyond the borderline of care and we have lost our humanity by so doing? Could the millions killed during the Biafran war by soldiers who later occupied leadership positions, be responsible for the gradual and ultimate zenith of insouciance that they have for the people they lead? Remember that then certain officers were fingered in the massacre of Igbo in Asaba, while many of the Igbo soldiers were also responsible for the revenge massacre by drowning of Nigerian soldiers at the Onitsha bridge? Scholars should please help research this connect.
I like to garnish stories of departure of humanity from the human body with the Dube Train by Can Themba. Setting was the apartheid era of the 1950s and inside the third class carriage of a train heading for Johannesburg from Dube Station in Soweto. As the train travels on and gets to Phefeni Station, a young woman enters the train carriage and sits next to the narrator. Not long after, a tsotsi (tout) launches a verbal assault on a girl, apparently trying to woo her. This harassment continues and when the girl gets to her stop and is about to get off the train, the tsotsi stops and slaps her. She struggles with him in bid to get away but the tsotsi was yet in her pursuit. And no one can and dares to challenge him. This was until a woman dares all the men in the train by her singeing words: “If there were real men here, they’d pull his pants off and give him such a leathering he’d never sit down for a week.” The tsotsi charges at the woman, setting off the anger of a huge man who sits opposite the narrator. He stands to his feet and charges towards the tsotsi and the latter pulls a knife, cutting the huge man in the chest. The big man then lifts the tsotsi up and tosses him off the moving carriage, ostensibly to his death. Everyone continues without a whimper, Themba apparently seeking to state how banal murder and killing of fellow man were in apartheid South Africa. This is what you can liken the relationship between Nigeria and Nigerians. The truth is that, the Nigerian state is no longer anybody’s template for heroism or humanity; neither its people. Peter Eke’s locus classicus on the two publics tried to rationalise why. I sincerely don’t have any proffer on how we can get back our Nigeria.