Chief Abraham Adesanya was diligently accused by Sani Abacha of shooting himself on the streets of Lagos on January 14, 1997. Again on September 18, 1997, US ambassador, Mr. Walter Carrington’s farewell party was attacked and disrupted by soldiers and mobile policemen. The Abacha government spoke loud and clear and washed its hands clean of the sacrilege. It said the ambassador organized and did the attack all by himself. Nigeria is an incredible nation.
In my country, progressivism has become the new fascism. On Saturday, the state and its security swore that their truth was the truth; that we did not see what we saw in video clips shot inside that Sowore courtroom. The state insisted that the arrested arranged the attack against himself – exactly like Adesanya and Carrington. Those who wrote the fantastic script of the Abacha years appear to be back at work. The smell is too striking in offensive similarity. Other people may live life forward; we live backwards. We are back to the past.
I am reluctant to join any fireside chat on the Omoyele Sowore shame of last Friday. I am reluctant too to ask why and how he has become the sole nut in our fire. It is golden to wail at fascism; it is godly to scream at conscienceless power wherever it reigns. But some very bad matters are beyond wailing and flailing. How should a country handle a tragedy bigger than tears? If there are still elders around, they should tell us to just blow this moment off with laughter – and wait for the end of the mad season with its sure harvest of doom.
Nigerians love distractions. There is a war raging on the internet on Sowore and his travails. I saw pro-Goodluck Jonathan troops with ‘serve him right’ placards. Sowore worked with everything, fair and foul, to see Buhari defeat Jonathan in 2015. A woodcutter is about to be eaten by the tiger he saved from death. He saw a Jackal, told his story and asked: “Is it fair that this tiger should eat the one who helped him?” Well, in power politics, kings relish renewing the potency of their throne with the prized blood of their backers. That is why we are told to be close to kings by 1,400 feet and be distant from them by 1,200. They kill.
Buharists are also on the defensive, making excuses for the evil of their deity. Politics would not let them remember that this Sowore used to be their General Officer Commanding (GOC). Yet there is the third force condemning both as two sides of same coin. Buhari’s arch critic, Farooq Kperogi, tore at Jonathan’s people on Saturday throwing at them same bad adjectives he coined for Buhari’s blind lovers. He said they should keep quiet because their Jonathan laid the foundation for today’s fascist beats of the Buhari regime. Jonathan, he said, with his Cybercrime Act 2015 “clearly prepared for what Buhari is doing now. His only luck is that Buhari is worse than him.” He said Jonathan “also ordered the invasion of the National Assembly by the police. He sent soldiers to close Daily Trust’s office in Abuja. He asked soldiers to seize newspapers that carried critical stories.”
While we waste ourselves with the inanities of who enabled today’s acid rain, the national being is fast decomposing. Why are we like this?
The one who drinks is the one who must get drunk. I don’t want to think about it. We are what we are because of who we are. I listen to the voice of the ancient chant of the bard: Somebody’s neighbour made 200 heaps and planted 200 yam seeds. Another made 200 heaps and planted 200 okra. The agent of death sweated to make 200 heaps but planted in there 200 skulls. At harvest, he complained that the skulls he planted yielded no yam. Tell him that you reap exactly what you sow. Let the head hunter ask his ancestors what profit their murderous deeds in Orwellian 1984 brought to the table of regeneration. “I was detained for three years and only released after my mother died,” Buhari repeatedly lamented this in his early years in power. He never liked it, yet he does it to others. Before all these defiant arrests, rearrests and interminable detention, I had thought mothers were the best witnesses to the pains of childbirth. The one who has suffered legal or illegal detention should know how it feels. I was wrong.
Progressives are scented arsonists. They spray petrol on naked truth, set it alight with falsehood and swear they have no hand in the ensuing fire – or that the blaze is for public good. Disease is their synonym – or their surname. So, instead of wasting our limited energy on the symptom called Sowore, we should start looking for a permanent cure for the ailment. ‘In Sickness and In Power’ is the title of a 2008 book by Lord David Owen. It is a sober narration of the queer marriage that exists between medicine and politics. Running through over a hundred years, it x-rays political, military, security and business leaders and what they contribute to societal dislocation. The book presents a study in mental and physical illnesses, in foolishness and stupidity and rash hubris – the combo that ruins leaders. Of all the ailments, Owen identifies ‘hubris syndrome’ in leadership as the greatest threat to people’s freedom and well-being. A reviewer identified the symptoms to include “patterns of reckless behaviour, bad judgment and operational incompetence, often compounded by delusions of personal infallibility and divine exemption from political accountability.” If we were a reading nation, I would recommend it to our leaders in politics and security – and to all who vote and regret so soon after dropping the ballot paper into the box.
For leaders who endorse evil, when things get pretty bad, they will be alone and lonely. Ibadan had a Baálè in 1912 whose story teaches caution. History says the kingmakers did not really want this man called Irefin but the people did. The poor especially supported him because of his actions and rhetorics against thieves. He was made Baálè amid great expectations. But he soon became a captive of his ‘boys’ who visited unimaginable wickedness on the people, beating many, forcing even many more to “dry to death in the sun.” It was widely believed that “he actually endorsed these horrible acts.” Soon, his chiefs also made him to take perilous decisions one of which proved fatal to his reign. When trouble came, what did his chiefs do? They disowned him. History says: “Ilú ko Baálè Ìréfín” (the city rejected Baálè Ìréfín). He then wandered from Ibadan to his farm and to Lagos in search of a political solution to his misfortune. He got none. The deposed ruler finally decided to go back home and do what his predecessors in similar situation did. He ended it on February 12, 1913. The fate of Ìréfín was not new. He led same process against his predecessor. His own successor also suffered same.
Governmental powers are sacred costumes fit only for the fit. When a masquerade names itself Máfojúkànmi (Do not look at me), it will dance alone, rejected, uncelebrated. There was Aláàfin Sàngó whose rage made trees fall upon trees and who forced rivers to flow backwards. As his anger set dense forests ablaze and burnt down palm trees of Oyo, the king said he was cleansing the city of warts of badness. Sango was Kìígbó, Kìígbà (Does-not-hear, Does-not-agree) – but everything ended soon for him at Koso.
Every power must expire – and this includes powers being wielded by those with life-and-death influence over their cowed worlds. For if masquerades are benign ancestors, why would they beat the world around them? Every Yoruba town has had a masquerade who was notorious for excessive wickedness. In its moment of strength, the hooded one won’t remember that no egúngún festival lasts forever. When the feast of bean cake ‘awuf’ ends – because it must end – the man behind the mask must account for all his profanities while inside the sacred costume.
A fortunate government should know the very limits of its luck and logic.