October 28, 2020

On Buhari’s imminent revolution

viewpoint illustration
| credits: Bennett Omeke

The patchy response of the Peoples Democratic Party to Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s forecast of a looming revolution was predictable; nobody I know expected a dialogic engagement of issues. Nigerian political mannerism is a push-me-I-shove-you attack, inelegant press releases and other nonsense. The General, really, didn’t say anything new and while I will agree with him that a revolution could happen, I vehemently hope it wouldn’t happen. It is easy enough for Buhari to theorise revolution from Katsina but if it happens, does he himself have an after-revolution plan mapped out?

I just finished a book, ‘Out of America’, by Keith Richburg. Richburg is a Black American journalist who covered the Kenyan and Somalian crises, and the Rwanda genocide for the Washington Post. It was a bad time to be in Africa. The spate of violence he witnessed made him thank God that his ancestors made the slave ship; he was rescued from the sub-humanity and violence that characterise Africa. Though I was biased against him, I agree that he made some points in his analysis of Black Africans.

Keithburg stated that as a cub reporter, a severed arm was found somewhere and his editor sent him back to the scene to ask if it was a right or left arm. He juxtaposed this attentiveness to Africa and said Africans don’t even count their dead bodies, they simply bury them in mass graves. Up till that point, I was defensive; that in Africa, we don’t even count our children so why should we count dead bodies? Yet, I knew he was right. The names and exact number of those who died in the 9/11 attacks are well-documented.

About a year ago, some members of the National Youth Service Corps and hundreds of others were slaughtered and up till today, nobody is facing the music for those crimes. Is there even an official record of the names of the slain? If it were a different country, we would be having a vigil-protest in the Three Arms Zone and demanding justice. But no, after the Presidency paid some blood money, we all moved on. On the anniversary of the massacre, the late corps members’ parents could not do more than a feeble plea for justice. The silence-as-official-response spoke volumes; the state had paid and with that, divested itself of any responsibility. And those killers, wherever they are, can be grateful that Sugar-Daddy Nigeria has wiped their slates. If we don’t have that much regard for life, why would anybody think a revolution (even a bloody one) would make any difference in Nigeria? And let’s not even fantasise about a military take-over. If up till now, they have not been able to deal with Boko Haram, would they make any difference if they seize power?

Richburg spoke some hard truths about Black people, both in Africa and America, but stories of Africa are terrible and shameful. One sees gun-toting teenagers, empowered by a sadist warlord corner relief materials and remain unfazed while people around them drop dead with starvation and diseases.

While the defensive part of me says ‘That’s Somalia’, the objective part of me asks if those child soldiers are different from our leaders who are being treated in Israel while Nigerian hospitals themselves are sick. How are those killer children squad different from James Ibori who acquired so much while Niger Delta people wallowed in poverty? Or those who steal pension funds while pensioners drop dead in the queue? Right now, the fuel subsidy scam is going on. As it is, it would be a revolution in itself if anybody is jailed for the roles they played in the scam.

Richburg only stopped short of putting the blame on our DNA; there has to be something about the black skin that makes us act against our own selves. It prompted a friend to ask, ‘Are we children of a racist God?’ True, did God create us as a kind of foil character to show the world the antithesis of being?

Richburg said he once asked the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, ‘Why is sub-Saharan Africa so backward?’ Museveni gave the familiar reasons: colonialism, civil wars, tribalism, etc. He threw it back at Museveni. Asian countries were also colonised, they suffered destructive civil wars and they have diverse ethnic groups. So, what is the problem with Africans?

Museveni replied, ‘Discipline.’

I agree, to a large extent. Without a sense of discipline, we cannot delay gratification. But more than that, I espy a scant social conscience in us as a people generally and it’s manifested in our leaders. A foreigner once asked me that if Nigerian churches/mosques located near dump sites take a Sunday off to clean the neighbourhood, would it not be higher act of worship to God than praying all day? I agreed.

Recently, I was told about a certain project a certain American rich man gave for a fight-to-the-death of a certain disease in Africa (I will spare those involved their ‘eminent’ names). He said in Nigeria they practically ate the whole money and the most despicable thing was that they started falsifying figures to send to the headquarters in the US as proof that the funds were making impact. When the organisation discovered, they cancelled the project. It was disheartening that one of the names mentioned happened to be a well-respected ‘Professor’ whom I know personally.

So, if Nigeria will suffer a revolution, it is the tendency to cheat, steal and pillage that we should confront. Call it our value system or the national pathology, the issue is, we cannot change Nigeria without dealing with our demons. And it should not be directed only at our leaders, we are all guilty of the tar.

The PDP, in its eternal infantile mien, can rail against Buhari but the man only stated the obvious. And Buhari might also talk about Nigeria imploding but the question is: are we truly prepared for such a state of anarchy? Is there a critical mass of change agents that will focus on the bigger picture rather than themselves waiting in the wings? Revolution suggests that something positive will result from it. If it happens to be a mere uprising, we will only suffer loss of human lives and as usual, we will bury the dead in mass graves, go home and continue to live with our inept leaders. In Nigeria, the more things change, the more they remain the same.



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