Nigeria's King Nebuchadnezzar: The reign of Impunity

Nigeria's King Nebuchadnezzar: The reign of Impunity

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 11:30 pm


By Wole Soyinka

I SHALL not insist that the historic/biblical figure of Nebuchadnezzar is uniquely apt for the pivotal figure of the ‘democratic’ history in the making at this moment — for one thing, Nebu was a nation builder and a warrior.

One could argue, even more convincingly for the figure of Balthazar, his successor, or indeed, Emperor Nero as reference point — you all remember him — the emperor who took to fiddling while Rome was burning.

Soyinka: Nebuchadnezzar as Metaphor

Soyinka: Nebuchadnezzar as Metaphor

However, you should easily recall why I opted for King Nebu — the figure that currently sits on the top of our political pile himself evoked it, albeit in a context that virtuously disclaimed any similarities, even tendencies. Perhaps, he meant it at the time when he claimed: ‘I am no Nebuchadnezzar’. Perhaps, not!

One judges leaders on acts however, not pronouncements, which are often as reliable as electoral promises. King Nebu remains relevant — and not only for leadership. We, the citizens, are beginning to feel the heat.

Without any claims to prophecy — unlike Shadrach and company, we wake up each morning to a sensation that we have been cast in the furnace together with those who at least committed the crime of dissent or criticism. No divine miracle appears to be at hand for a last-minute rescue.

In desperation, one is reduced to hoping that the evocation of his own biblical reference point will resonate somewhere in the mind of one who is so ostentatiously humble and pious, kneels at the feet of a priest who could easily be mistaken for an office worker, and cultivates the high and holy company of acknowledged spokesmen of God.

So, here goes. Let’s not beat around the bush: the line has been drawn. The people must decide — whether to submit or resist. We may be no-count plebians in the sight of the new-born patricians of Aso Rock and their apologists but — must we revert to the Abacharian status of glorified slaves? Of course, it is up to any people to decide.

The praetorian guards have been let loose — to teach the rabble their place. The recent choice of a new leader for the Guard was clearly no accident, and this hitherto unknown enforcer, one Suleiman Abba, has wasted no time in inaugurating a season of brutish power.

When a people’s elected emissaries are disenfranchised, cast out like vagrants and resort to scaling fences to engage in their designated functions, the people get the message. However, the choice is always there, and each choice comes at a cost. It is either we pay now, or pay later.

The latest action of the supposed guardians of the law against the nation’s lawgivers is an unambiguous declaration of war against the people. I am glad that a commentator has referred to it as an attempted coup-de-tat. And it nearly worked.

Legislators are not elected for their athletic prowess, and such endeavours should not be demanded of them. There are even presidents and prime ministers who were elected despite physical handicaps. The brain is where it matters, the vision and commitment to service. Our legislators however have been made to perform over and beyond the call of the Olympics.

I don’t understand why some media have described their action as a show of shame — this is a very careless, easily misapplied designation. The act of scaling gates and walls to fulfill their duty by the people must be set down as their finest hour. They must be applauded, not derided.

•Jonathan: is he Nebuchadnezzar?

•Jonathan: is he Nebuchadnezzar?

If shame belongs anywhere, it belongs to the Inspector-General of Police and his slavish adherence to conspiratorial, illegal, and unconstitutional instructions — to undermine a democratic structure, and one — to make matters worse — convoked in response to an emergency of dire public concern.


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