By Bolanle Bolawole
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The philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it – Karl Marx.
Last Friday as I engaged in my usual house chores of washing my dirty clothes to exercise my limbs, I heard a sermon. By His grace, I do always and in several other places such as when having a bath; when washing the car; when taking a stroll; when in bed or when cooking in the kitchen. It is not only in church or in the place of prayer that the Spirit speaks; He speaks in sundry other places as it pleases Him and to whomsoever, He so desires for purposes He alone knows more than we can ever decipher. So, He said: “A preponderant number of Nigerians are not averse to corruption despite their understanding that corruption will kill them if they do not quickly kill corruption” Taken by surprise, I asked Him why He said so. “Because despite the hues and cries against corruption, they still acquiesce in corruption and celebrate the corrupt. Your leaders and heroes are the corrupt elements. When honest men come, you reject them” Then I remembered that when Gani Fawehinmi offered to be our president, he lost his deposit! Femi Falana also contested the election as governor of Ekiti, he lost woefully. I know there are many men and women of integrity contesting in this cycle of elections but their voices are never heard and they have remained as an unknown and unwanted quantity. Then I remembered that this phenomenon is not new or novel. The people rejected Jesus and demanded that he be executed but demanded that Barabbas, the thief, be released unto them. Reminded that one was innocent while the other was a confirmed and condemned sinner and told how sinful their decision was, the crowd yelled that the curse or consequence be not on them alone but also on their generations!
“What you need to understand is that your people merely envy, and do not condemn, the corrupt. Corruption is bad when they do not have access to be corrupt but corruption is good when they are the ones inside of it. It is a question of whether or not the access and opportunity to be corrupt is available. Jealousy, more than altruism, is at the bottom of it” Then I remembered cases of many fire-eating anti-corruption crusaders who got into office and not only forgot and abandoned the crusade against corruption but also became more corrupt than those they had railed against! And they began to defend corruption and the corrupt, shamelessly repudiating the noble causes they had stood for, having joined the oppressor class of the nouveau riche. But why are there people like that, I asked. “There are many reasons for this, the first being that many of the people you see suffering today nurse the hope in their heart that, one day, they, too, will get there and it will then be their turn to be corrupt and become stupendously rich and they, too, will forget about poverty and join the class of the big men and women and begin to also enjoy the goodies of life” But isn’t this mere wishful thinking for many of them, I asked. “Wishful thinking or not, it keeps them going. It also dulls any desire or promptings to act against corruption. To try to pull the wool off their eyes is like you are blocking their road to greatness and denying them the opportunities that others have enjoyed”
Could that, then, be the reason why so many people want to keep the current decadent system alive? Those with the advantage will do anything to maintain the system and will defend it with the last drop of their blood. Those outside but who are struggling to get inside will also, ironically, do anything to maintain and defend the status quo. This sounds awkward until you appreciate the fact that they are not fighting to give birth to an egalitarian or just society; they may mouth it but their true intention is not to salvage the situation for the suffering masses but, rather, to further savage the masses for their own selfish interest. Why they are fighting may be misunderstood by the masses – and they love it so and will do anything to keep it so – but they themselves have no doubt in their wicked and sinister heart that they are fighting for their own selfish interests. Then I remembered that a member of this class of predators once defined politics as a game of self-interest and not of service to the people. “So you can see that the ordinary people have a mountain to climb. Those who lead them are not their friends; they themselves have foolishly neglected to clearly define and follow their own interests” Then I remembered some political campaigns I have followed – with the then Gov. Olusegun Agagu (Ondo state); Otunba Gbenga Daniel (Ogun state); Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti state); Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka (Ekiti state), to mention but a few; the people openly and shamelessly discountenanced the flyers detailing the policies and programmes of the candidates and demanded money. “Give us money; we will not see you again!” That was the chorus everywhere. It was like they had all rehearsed it!
I then suggested that ignorance or lack of political education must have accounted for this kind of self-immolating attitude. “Yes, to some extent, but the problem is deeper than that because even the educated among you do not fare much better. Those milling around your leaders and doing their bidding for peanuts are not illiterates but are, in the main, well-educated; they are very much aware of the damaging consequences of their actions. Since their interests are taken care of – or so it seems – they do not care what happens to the rest or to the country itself” This, then, is selfishness, I offered! “Yes, it is. It is this same selfishness that truncated the best form of government God had wanted to establish after the crucifixion and ascension of Jesus Christ when Ananais and Sapphira sold their land, kept a portion of the sale but lied to Peter and the others that they had brought all of the proceeds”. And I began to flip in my heart to the full story in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, beginning from Chapter 4 verse 32.
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet”. This was when the system worked but it soon floundered.
Chapter 5 verses one to 10 records how it happened: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all of them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then fell her down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband”.
Then I remembered that one of the maxims of Marxism is “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need” This is the surest way to building a just and egalitarian society. The apostolic fathers tried it (communalism/communism) but failed due to human greed (capitalism) and unfaithfulness as epitomised by the couple in this bible story. “So you can see that greed is also one of the major problems why corruption waxes stronger and stronger in your midst. And once a problem persists for far too long, it develops strong tap roots, and wide branches to accommodate all manner of patrons and all of these work together to entrench themselves. Two consequences arise from these” Then I wondered what these could be. As if He read the thoughts of my heart, He answered: “They become very difficult to uproot. They flourish and taunt the upright. They produce fruits after their own kind and reduce the space available for contrary opinion to sprout, not to talk of flourishing” And then I remembered the Marxian maxim that “the dominant idea in any society is the idea of the ruling class”. Their culture is the dominant culture; their law, the dominant law and their decadence rubs off on everyone.
“This leads to frustration and despondency even in the ranks of the few that are not comfortable with the rotten and decadent system and who will not keep silent in the face of tyranny” The Spirit even is familiar with Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, I thought to myself! “There is nothing we don’t know! Who gave your Soyinka the idea, courage and strength to write the book? More of you will have to be like him and his ilk before you can change the system; but you are still far off the mark. Nothing good comes easy and cheap but Nigerians love to eat omelette but hate to break eggs” So He even knows that! We love the rain but despise the thunderstorm and like Fela crooned, we love the good life but are not willing to fight or suffer to make it happen. “I will tell you one last point before I leave you alone. The struggle for a better society is not a sprint but a long distance race. Perseverance, endurance, focus, commitment and faith are the ingredients needed” And as I remembered that we are a people who love quick results, who love to cut corners and apply fire brigade approach to all that we do, my heart sank!
By this time next week, we may or may not have had the election; a winner may or may not have emerged; peace may reign or all hell might have been let loose. Note that none of these will change anything! Our fate does not lie in an election of the ruling class conducted by the ruling class in the interest of the ruling class. Rather, our destiny lies in our own hands. No one has put it better than Frantz Fanon, author of the seminal work, The Wretched of the Earth, when he said: Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it”
*Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD'S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.
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