BY GIDEON I. ONYEDI.
‘They queued behind him. Others queued behind Bola Ahmed Tinubu who had queued behind him. Many others queued behind Obasanjo who had queued behind him. The rest queued behind ethno-religious politics which had already queued behind him. The global community, apart from a number of them, queued behind the former President of the United States, Barack Obama who had also queued behind him. That was in 2015’. ……………… ‘And today, Atiku has been adopted, even by Nasir El-Rufai. His Insistence that Peter Obi will not be Vice President implies an open acceptance that Atiku Abubakar is the next President in 2019. There is more to this than meet the eye.’’
From the days of colonial integration,
Ere the deeds of our forebears,
Foreshadowed betrayals and aberration,
In the demonstrations of our founders ideals,
Our heritage, a case of repeated conquest,
Our commonwealth an appeal for ravishing and rape,
Our tide a prey for torrents and tempest,
Our pride and prejudice precariously agape.
When the drummers take up their gongs,
Playing in dissonance with the faithful and forlorn,
With a consonance in dissimulation and fantasy,
We, bowing to a rhythm of all and sundry.
When the dancers troop out in throngs,
For the pleasures of Herod and Pharaoh,
The waiters waltz up in chants,
Though the wailers wake up in chains.
In endless hopes and hunger,
A nation of old endured,
With ceaseless hype for yonder,
Our honour and pride demurred,
Our brethren live on in slavery,
Under the chords of compatriots,
Our banners fly unending in bravery,
Upheld by the valour of patriots.
The dreamers sleep still in nightmares,
The drillers toil on in sun shine,
Only the masters make merry in madness,
And the pipers fallen on horse whine.
Like the soul-less we march in blindness,
And the tongue-less we mime in dumbness,
As sheep we trail together,
Unto death or life we shan’t asunder,
The current of Niger our yonder,
And the depth of Benue our wonder.
Nigeria is a country of celebrated paradox evident in her puzzles, pains, and plenitude. This is not a voyage on pun. We are enchanted by too many ‘disequilibrating’ variables to afford such a poetic luxury. It is intended to draw out the understanding in us and draw us out of the doldrums in which we, in our common heritage and political culture, have been unsparingly enmeshed, since history.
Indeed, a country of people with great minds and understanding. The array of intellectuals of Nigerian descent, within and beyond the shores and borders of this nation, unarguably attests to this. The question then is: ‘How did we get to this level of disorienting hollowness in our analytical orientation? How did Nigerians helplessly find themselves in this abysmal plunge into an unmitigated historically cyclical, generational dearth of reality-based judgment and decision?
How did we surrender our fate, future, and fortune to power merchants and mongers, and hero-worship agents? How?
In the historical year of political and diplomatic darkness and pariah, 1998, the year the legendary Bishop Benson Idahosa passed on; the year the singing bird, East of the Niger, Obi Igwe, died, (remember his controversial release that year ‘Operation Change ’98’, which re-echoed the better-forgotten episode of the unfortunate war); the year General Sani Abacha died; the year Nigeria was at another most uncertain crossroads, some patriots had come together from different cultures, backgrounds and religions, to form alliances to save our nation and restore it on the path of democracy. This bravery was in spite of what had been described as the phenomenological mortars of the khaki-clad and iron-hoofed tough guys, fired at our common heritage and our then celebrated anti-establishments. A flashback reminds you of the Ogoni nine, Ken Saro wiwa, etc.
One of these groups or alliances metamorphosed into the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It was a group of different individuals with one purpose. Nigerians came together to achieve that purpose in 1999. Democracy was reborn. And since then it has continued to be nurtured. The point here is: there was a common ground. There was a common cause that mobilized a common people. Everyone fell in line. A consequence of ideology and frustration.
Before then we had had the YEAA –Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha, led by one Daniel Kanu, with coordinators in all the 36 states of the federation. Remember the planned awe-inspiring 2 million-man march. Remember the ideologically infantile and infertile adoption of Abacha as the sole presidential candidate by the then five political parties. It was a bandwagon followership. Abacha was only being challenged by a former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Dikko Yusuf of the Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM.
Every youth wanted to be relevant in darkness. Every youth identified with Daniel Kanu’s campaign. Every vocal youth identified with YEAA. Every youth identified with Abacha. Traditional rulers did as well. Many of them. Many who started publicly denouncing him did so after his demise.
And we found ourselves in bandwagon-effect followership. Was it fear? Was it frustration? Was it faithlessness?
Again, in the year 2015, whether rightly or wrongly, birds, not of the same feather, defied the logic of flocking apart; a strange coalition, informed and inflamed by factors ranging from political ego to cosmetic and concrete clamour for change, was conceived. The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, adopting the principle of selective morality, with the self-serving blessings of seemingly wound-licking and hurting kingmakers, created a political galvanization that seemingly failed to do a balanced stock-taking and analysis, and went ahead to create an upsurge in the nation’s political scheme and history by sacking the incumbent with the hope of a better covenant and character in governance.
With the announcement, eventual, and eventful arrival of the new government, panegyric ‘singers’, political jobbers, armchair critics, regional promoters, ‘outside’ collaborators, serial betrayers, characteristic opportunists, compromised intelligentsia, unprincipled apologists, disoriented youth, hungry and frustrated compatriots, innocent, unsuspecting, helpless and hapless citizens, and many others, caught in the ‘frills’ and thrills of this seemingly promising but uncertain change, began to chant a new song. Song of victory. Song of joy. Song of future prosperity and security. And, song of hope. An Ode to a Harbinger of Hope. Long awaited and overdue hope. It was like a nation in hypnosis. A nation in euphoria. Like Israel of old, just delivered from Egypt, and victoriously marching unto Canaan land.
But here, there is no Moses. And Egypt does not apply. Three years on; three years going; three years down, the waiters, the waltzers, the wailers, are all one. A new song. A dirge of regret. An elegy of nostalgia; chanting across the Niger, and bellowing beneath the Benue. Heard on the mounted top, and rehearsed across the Sahara. The soloist is loud and clear. The chorus is down and deafening: THE BEAUTIFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN. So, we still go on in search of the true man of the people.
But, what brought the people together in the first place? What informed the confederacy of hitherto strange bed fellows? What was the motivation behind the realignment and rechristening of the reputed sophisticated opposition socio-political ‘West’ to ‘mainstreamism’ and conformism? How was the hybrid ideology conceived and perceived as ‘Renaissance de l’espoir?’ Everyone was cajoled and apparently hoodwinked by the borrowed magical Obama mantra: CHANGE. It had a bandwagon effect. Yes, bandwagon politics. History and antecedents were thrown to the dustbin. Politics of relevance, helplessness frustration and opportunism.
There is no gain-saying the fact that hunger and deprivation are indeed potent and unassailable weapons of war. Intellectual war, ideological war, political war, diplomatic war, and biological and chemical war. Deprivation of any kind. Including intellectual. Critical thinking. Hindsight. It subjects and subjugates one under a precarious condition and duress, and then uses the instrument of ‘want’ to get one detached from one’s purity, and regrettably divorced from one’s innocent romance with regenerating and beautiful nature, principle, personal convictions, and virtuous reputation.
Our masters over the years have lustfully and insatiably used these weapons of want and deprivation to either by psychological ‘operantism’ or ‘classicalism’ and outright economic suffocation and fear, with unbridled depravity, perfectly conditioned us to massage their ego, satiate their political lust, and eulogise their emptiness and selfishness, against our original and objective nature.
And we found ourselves in bandwagon-effect followership
Today, history has started playing out again
Nigerians came together in 1998,/1999 just to sack the military, not minding who would come in as civilian president. We needed a change.
Nigerians formed a coalition in 2015 to sack the incumbent not minding the type of change that was to come in. Again, it does appear, Nigerians are coming together in 2018 with one purpose, just to get rid of the man in power or retain him at all cost, not minding how the next leader will be, or how the next four years under the incumbent will be.
We are a people of hope. But have we learnt any lesson from the past. Or are we still being controlled by the same spirit and conditioned pattern?
Today, Atiku Abubakar, a credible man, and so are they all credible men, and of ‘proven’ integrity, is on the lips of everyone that wants Buhari to go. We have seen it before. Today, Buhari is the problem of the nation in the judgment of everyone that wants him to go. And the people’s judgement cannot always be wrong. Not ‘NEVER’. If it must be democracy, it must be the people’s judgment. And not always objective. After all, democracy is not always the best form of government, but the most preferred among the lot. We have sung that song before. Today, another four years for Buhari will be a disaster for the nation. We have seen disaster already. (Function of late perception). We have heard that before. Buhari said the same thing of Jonathan in 2015. Obasanjo said so of Jonathan. Soyinka said so of Jonathan
I am not disputing the above: The evidence of present disaster, and the potential of a bigger future disaster. I am not interested in Buhari winning or not winning. But I perceive a politics of willful ignorance, forgetfulness, failure, frustration, vindictiveness, and bandwagon in our culture. What led us to the judgment to adorn and adopt Buhari in 2015? And, I keep repeating, as I have done in my previous writings. After knowing all we knew about him and his antecedents and history, what led us to that judgment of approval on him? For those who did, among us, what? Nothing. It was just the bandwagon-effect politics. Or is it hero-cultural cultism? All one.
Nigerians from certain socio-cultural and ethnic provinces had appeared to be certain he would win, (yes, because some people had decided to play politics of ego and bias), and no one wanted to be on the losing side. They queued behind him. Others queued behind Bola Ahmed Tinubu who had queued behind him. Many others queued behind Obasanjo who had queued behind him. The rest queued behind ethno-religious politics which had already queued behind him. The global community, apart from a number of them, queued behind the former United Stes President Barack Obama who had also queued behind him. That was in 2015.
What is happening today is that many appear convinced that Atiku Abubakar would win the next election, and they have decided to join the winning camp. to position themselves, and to escape from what they think is a sinking boat. And Atiku has been adopted, even by a high ranking member of an opposing party, El-Rufai of Kaduna State. His insistence that Peter Obi will not be Vice President implies an open acceptance that Atiku Abubakar is the next President in 2019. There is more to this than meet the eye.
If by chance and circumstance the pendulum swings favourably towards Buhari or it is perceived in anyway, by any chance that Buhari will retain his position, the tune of our political choir could change.
Was that not what happened in 2015 in every part of this country, except in the South East and South South? Other parts, the North East, the North West, the North Central, the Middle Belt, and the South West, all abandoned Jonathan. The South East stood on principle of history, conviction and solidarity. The South South stood on solidarity.
Why the choice of Atiku Atibubakar? If indeed he has been chosen. Why? Is it because he is the only one that can defeat Buhari? Who decides who wins? The candidate or the people? It means it is not the people that win elections in Nigeria, it is the candidate. If not, couldn’t the people ideologically and resolutely stand behind Makarfi and make him win? Or Dankwanbo? Or Lamido? Or Saraki? Or David Mark? Any of these could still have been adorned. Could still have been made to look politically ‘beautiful’ and marketable. For holding forth and holding the forth. For staying faithful ‘in season and out of season.’ This is not a denial of the known fact that candidates go a long way in helping political parties to victory. Not all candidates have that charisma and character to command electoral followership and victory. Donald Trump won his election based on his political ideology and promises, and people voted for him based on that.
My point here is, whatever decision it is, let it not be a political foolery of hoodwinked bandwagon, or where the people cannot ideologically and rationally defend their choices.
Where does the power reside? With the people or the colossal individual candidate? And like a colossus, he bestrides all the people, and in the spirit of hero-worship and politics of bandwagon, the people queue behind him. Many others queue behind those who queue behind him.
I am not against Atiku, not out of bandwagon effect. Neither am I in support of Buhari. I have written a 3000-word letter that will surely remain historically relevant, to Atiku Abubakar on the need for Transformational Leadership in Nigeria. I doubt if he will ever see the letter. The reasons for my action are mine today; and will be made known ‘tomorrow’. If you are supporting a political office seeker who is in one way or the other, part of the old stock, why do you do so?
There are three types of political followership. The first is ideological followership, which is based on common principle, manifesto, personal conviction, political enlightenment, people-oriented and humanity-circumscribed objective, and global citizenship and democratic ideals. The educated, the intellectual, the professional, the so-called enlightened mind, the celebrated and the celebrity that have repeatedly made repeatedly regrettable choices in the past are not in this category.
The second is hero-worship followership or hero-cultural cultism, which is based on the personality of the individual, ethno-religious biases and sentiments, complex factor, and pecuniary interests. This is bandwagon type A.
The third is subjugated followership, which is based on oppression, frustration, self-pity, resignation, fear, helplessness, deprivation and want, which is a conditioned bandwagon followership.
Many of those in categories two and three are cowards, the helpless, the poor, and individuals who can neither think for themselves nor take decisions for themselves, no matter their level of school enrolment, attainment or certification (not education).
There is no fourth type or category. Where do you belong? Choose, with personal conviction.
Like sheep we trail together,
Unto death or life we shan’t asunder,
The current of Niger our yonder,
And the depth of Benue our wonder.
Gideon I. Onyedi,
Founder/President, Diamond-Crest for Youth Education Foundation