By Nkrumah Bankong-Obi
Some Nigerian politicians are watching the political scoreboards, space-gazing at the sun in hope for new beginnings. Beginnings, stale enough to warrant vigils as a means of atonement, to brighten any hope of revival. Such brethren launch their quest, which is tinged with the putridity of manipulative politics, in churches, mosques, motor parks, sport arenas. Social clubs, pubs and town union meetings have been usurped by these warriors. Even the adjoining streets of the Wadata Plaza in Abuja and Justice Okon Abang’s courtroom have not heard their high decibels emitting from the raucous search for an opposition political platform to checkmate the perceived excesses of the governing All progressives congress, APC. Who says they are not right? But it is a long way to go
That prayer, it appears, may never be answered by He who answers prayers. Reason? These salts of the earth have sidestepped a more readily available and credible opposition plank. The saner walk path provided by professional groups ascollective thought machines which offer in-depth analyses, effective reading of situations from varied perspectives to ease governance and put those leadership positions on their toes, is given a short shrift. Instead, our concerned un-retiring politicians have turned to the once powerful cesspool of graft, integrity-challenged, political dart-riddled outfit and renowned vehicle of commonwealth mercantilism of, to tackle a government that has so far kept itself immune from financial malfeasance, even though not completely insulated from the blame of Nigeria’s current economic misfortunes. However, one looks at it, there is still no nearness of a dead ball, if judgment were to suffice, between that which was, and that which is. Certainly, the currently fuddling bride promises to be a better housekeeper than the ballot-sacked, éclat-frenzy bull in a Chinese shop.
A couple of things make this adventure by partakers in these opposition party- seekers more hurtful. At its recent convention(?) in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, the remnants of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, paraded a crème-de-la-crème of cornerstones, and potential members of various guilds recognised in our country. Cramped in that small room where the congregation of ‘Africa’s largest political party’ was eventually been reduced to, were lawyers, medical doctors, theatre artists, entertainers, journalists, student groups among others. Many of those who defy claustrophobia to pack into that space probably haven’t attended end-of-year gatherings of their professional associations in decades. And that is, if we excuse absence at regular meetings of their supposed unions. It is difficult to hazard an explanation for this abandonment of viable opposition option for guilt-laden, restitution-owing umbrella that left its children drenched by the rain when it mattered most.
What remains inferable is that political parties are the cash machines and those who stick proboscis hard into them reap bountifully, at least the recent revelations by the anti-graft agencies have shown so. Taken critically, opposition here indicates idea-driven, fact-based, credibility-certified alternate versions to governing party propositions, policies and programmes.it is an essential democratic element built not only a peer review mechanism but as a vehicle for ensuring that the electorate are not short-changed.This of course, is antithetical to, and towers higher than the puerile, manifestly empty, and sometimes skulduggery that a faction of the now gormless former ‘ruling’ party is churning out in the guise of opposition. No, the current offering from that party amounts to nothingness, an inferior contribution to governance and the navigation of our peculiarlynodusnotionof nation building.
So, when the purity of professional associations is derided and political parties become choice destinations, we create even more problems for ourselves. It is true that political parties are, in Nigeria, the only platforms to climb to power. So, everyone desirous of holding political office in the land must be a registered member of one such association. With this compulsory prescription by the constitution, one wonders why our ‘great’ national collaborators who gathered in Port Harcourt haven’t exploited KOWA Party, or any of the other parties as a means to smoother the way to elective offices, thus serving the nation. What about the women who resisted rain and shine to be in Port Harcourt? Why can’t they team up with the presidential candidate of KOWA party in the last election, a woman, academic, a professor and an achiever to finally shake themselves off the fetters hung on them by men?
Little wonder, the guilds have become paupers, wrecked by the trauma of incompetent leadership. The mother of them all, the Nigerian Labour Congress has been blown into factions, leaving the workers in the cold of unpaid wages and poor conditions of service. The Nigerian Bar Association, undoubtedly the throb of the nation, is blown off – one contestant is in court seeking to invalidate the election of his rival. Everywhere one turns, the once-buoyant associations have become either political appendages or are just too weak to speak truth conscientiously to power. The hollow resulting from this naturally gives birth to a third force. Painfully, in the Nigerian situation, it is the landmines to the Rwandan genocide that screen largely on the national canvass. And the architects are well-known both to geeks and the old-fashioned spook, including princes of the global intelligence community.
For the benefit of psychic connection, the Rwanda genocide began on the day the official jet conveying that country’s president, Juvenal Habyrimana was shutdown in Kigali on 6 April, 1994. That night, the mass murder of nearly a million Tustsi and moderate Hutus commenced. But the mines to this barbarity were laid years and months before the actual commencement. The superiority contest between the two tribes had always been there. The historical of favouritism by Belgium, the Eastern African country’s colonial master, of one ethnic unit over another was extant bile that was never cut off. But the events of 1994 were brewed and freshly served by the hard-line Hutu vampire, Colonel Theoneste Bagasora. He had threatened to declare an ‘apocalypse’, if Habyriaman, softened by the threats of the United States and the United Nations, accepted to cede power to the General Paul Kegame-led Rawanda Patriotic Front, RPF. Bagasora got his way and the apocalypse went as planned. From arranging militia trainings to aligning with discreet foreign collaborators, the Colonel who served as Chief of Staff in he cabinet, built a reputation that made the killing fields perfect for he and his collaborators’ objectives.
Of course, the most useful weapon for the mass murderers was not the gun. No. Clubs, axes and machetes imported from China and elsewhere came handy. But Bagasora and his co-travellers’ radically’ innovative’ weapon which he deployed was the Radio Television des Libre Mille Collins, RTLM. Led by Felicien Kabunga, Gasper Gahigi, Phocas Habimana et al, the state-supported broadcaster committed all the anti-human atrocities that should make real journalists and broadcasting outfits ashamed of their profession. Apart from announcing the names of victims to be killed, RTLM went as far as announcing hideout of targets and gave the killer- militias or the interahamwhe direction to locations where targets huddled. History books already hold these. So, we open a chapter from one documentary and find Nigeria’s proximity to this ugly tar on the history of the “Nation of a Thousand Hills.”
As some Nigerians think of politics less along the lines of collective nation building and more of self-christened opposition and cloak-seeking squirrels diving from shadows of anti-corruption czar, they leave professional bodies bleeding with emptiness. To fill the sepulchres left behind, potential ‘apocalypse demons’ take centre stage. This is where RTLM in the Nigeria scenario extends beyond radio and television. The Nigerian mimickers of RTLM operate on the wings of the social media whirlwind. They perch on the tinniest waves of the radio bands. They dodge the openness of the television. They no longer spew drivel, their message is clearly couched in incitement of violence.
Regardless of the language, one thing is clear, they are threading the path of extermination – whether they get exterminated or they exterminate others, regardless. These potential candidates for the Hate Factor are taking over the public space. They show up in all forms of inter-personal communication. These socio-political, ethnic and economic profiteers, taking advantage of a missing genuine opposition platform and the seeming opacus lying vertically between the governing All Progressives Congress and the electorate, set the nets wide. And they are winning, especially as the promised mirabilis are not forthcoming.
Identifying such merchants of hate is easy. All you need is to follow this quote from the dubiously famous Rwanda model “I have read that after each genocide, historians explain that this will be the last. Because no one could again allow such an infamy. That is an amazing joke. Those responsible for the Rwanda genocide are not poor ignorant farmers, no more than they are ferocious and drunken interahamwhe – they are the educated people. They are the professors, the politicians and journalists who expatriated themselves to Europe to study the French Revolution….they are those have travelled, who are invited for conferences and who have invited whites to eat at their Villas.”
The more pathetic one is that these blood seeking vampires are as survivor Innocent Zwiliza told the author of A Time for Machetes: Killers Speak,that masterminds of that darkness are”intellectuals who bought themselves libraries reaching high to the ceiling.” When these evil men set up their combustible equipments, comprising of‘tushed-up’ oratory and resources to mobilise foot soldiers, “hardly any of them kill with their own hands but they send people to the hills to do the job”.
A Nigerian commentator recently decries the rise manipulation of vulnerable minds towards violence. He accuses even those who claim to be offering nationalistic solutions to problems as masking differently “But their trademark remains unconcealed, exposing an unjustifiable destructive mindset. It runs unhindered, mostly in shadowy cloaks of yawning hate sentiments.” He associate the traducers of national collective good will as “Political party chieftains or party financiers, community leaders, civil society groups, decorated human rights activists, untouchable godfathers of the land or some queer High Chief, some amazingly without even a kingdom to preside over, much more a voice to command respect.” Haven’t we been hearing their succulent voices, comments emanating from the contrived privacy afforded them by the internet or even their flowery prose on different newspapers?
The immediate connection for example, between the Rwandan nightmare and the brewing repeat in Nigeria suffices from the Boko Haram velociraptor. Even though Boko Haram being is being exorcised, its wraith still terrifies our national psyche. But how did that carnage begin? I am aware that in 2008, the Federal Government received adequate security briefings that young men were massing on the outskirts of Borno State, undergoing all sorts of civilian trainings and military exercises. They government did nothing about this. Two years later, the genie unbolted. And six years down the lane the war is not abating. But not for renewed combat strategy and taming the rot that prevented the armed forces from stopping the disaffected band of Islamist, we probably could have been talking of an eclipse worse in scale than that of Rwanda. Fingers have been pointing at different directions at the brains behind that havoc. The law is too feeble to ask. Government appears febrile to seek for the guilty ones to step out for punishment.
All indicators have shown that Boko Haram is sponsored. Identifying the sect’s financiers has become another uphill task. But I take a consolation and I point the law to an interview granted Daily Trust by Hajia Aisha Wakil, a lady who has been famously described as”Mama Boko Haram” because of her tenderly disposition toward members of that sect. In the interview, she enlightens us that the group claimed that “they killed our people and nobody is doing anything” and that the government had betrayed them and so on.” She then framed the situation thus:”I asked them about what that betrayal could be and whether we could address and stop it…he folded his hands (that is Yusuf Mohammed, the founder of Boko Haram), bent his neck and kept mute. That was his nature. He then said “Mama, my hands are tied. I am not alone in this thing. A decision has been taken. They must fight this war unless you go and meet the governor.Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the governor until the war started”. Elsewhere, the law would have been asking who that governor was and what he knew about a group that has killed thousands of people and displace a population that is more than that of some countries. No, unlike Bagasora and his band of evildoers who had a date with the law, the Nigerian “governor” has absolute immunity even after serving his term in office, at least so it appears.
On the other flank, the Fulani herdsmen are crowing like the killer-mobs of Rwanda that “the graves are not filled yet.” So, they fly on a killing spree from Kafanchan to Ikere-Ekiti, from Akure to Guma and from Shikpeche to Gassol. These characters operate with such leeway as our people have weak. This compounds the suspicion that an ethnic cleansing is in the offing. These fears are understandable. Given that in Nigeria, nobody ever gets punished for a crime. In Rwanda, the judicial system was activated to deal with the genocide. Apart from the international systems that dealt with cases involving the high-profile instigators and plotters, the local communities established the gacaca where killers and small time enforcers were tried and sentenced or shamed, accordingly.
No, not in Nigeria! The justice system is scrambled. From the atrocities of 1966 to the post-election violence of 2011, nobody has answer questions from the law. In Nigeria, if you bring Alice Lakwena and Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, here, they would be let off the hook in a matter of minutes. This is because the law is a Christian, Islam, animist or atheist, it is crooked and acutely feeble. So, we wait for the worst despite glittering laws that can nib this disaster on the bud.
Bankong-Obi is reachable at email@example.com