By Bola Bolawole
Last Friday, governments, civil society and labour groups, private organisations and individuals rolled out the drums purportedly to celebrate Democracy Day – they deluded themselves! Nigeria is not a democracy and democratic norms, nuances, practices and dividends are still very far away from these shores. We may have had the longest stretch of the absence of the military bearing rule over the people – since 1999 – but we are yet to enjoy civil or civilized rule. We have seen apparitions but not the real thing; we have seen the coverings but the masquerade itself is yet to appear. Dem – all – crazy is what has been on sale in Nigeria.
The statements, actions, inactions, policies and activities of those in the corridors of power since 1999 have not proven otherwise; so also the aloofness of the vast majority of citizens that cannot be bothered by the shenanigans of rulers that further impoverish them every minute. Going by the very concept and definition of citizenship or of man as a political animal, Nigerians fail abysmally to qualify. Nigerians act as if this is not their country; as if they have another country elsewhere; and as if what happens here does not impugn or affect them. They act and behave as if they cannot be bothered! Yet, they are viciously afflicted; their well-being is ruined and the future of their children mortgaged before their very eyes. Yet, they offer no resistance; not even a whimper!
Declaring June 12 as Democracy Day was a grand deception meant, in 2019, to gift APC/Muhammadu Buhari four more years in the saddle. A brilliant even if devious idea, it worked! And just one more year of Buhari since then has meant further ruination of the country and pauperisation of its people. If there is anything worse than being the poverty capital of the world; that is what this country would have become before Buhari ends his second term. Already, the country is so much indebted now than ever before – and we have not yet seen the end of their craze for more indebtedness that is poured down into what seems like a bottomless pit!
Two categories of people benefit from the senseless loans: the creditors who impose terms and conditions that only a fool will accept; and the fools accepting the conditions with glee because of what is in it for them. Nigeria and its hapless, lame-duck, and prostrate people are the grass that suffers. The history of the Slave Trade, and of the heroics of slaves who fought their oppressors to a standstill, teaches that some slaves were even more honourable than the so-called free-born of today!
Do we have democracy in Nigeria? What, then, did they celebrate last Friday? Does “government of the people, by the people and for the people” exist here? Why, then, did they roll out the drums last week? It was elite deceit and conspiracy. It was another grand larceny, like the ongoing COVID-19 rip-off! Someone said they were remembering MKO Abiola! To make quick bucks, they hurriedly painted a stadium, which had been decrepit and which will soon afterwards fall back into disuse until another Dem – all – crazy Day; and then they said they were celebrating MKO!
They merely dropped MKO’s name! Remember, during the struggle for June 12, the cliche was “On June 12 we stand” Their new “stand” is Democracy Day! On Democracy Day they now stand to continue the “eating” and looting of the commonwealth! Abiola played his part and departed; none of the politics of deceits they now bind around his name and what he stood for in the last leg of his life will ever define the ‘June 12’ hero.
Just two examples: Abiola’s campaign motto was “Farewell to poverty”! Anyone interested in keeping MKO’s memory alive will address grinding poverty in the land. How best has this government addressed poverty? It has good policies on paper to eradicate poverty. It is a CHANGE party that speaks eloquently on making life more abundant for Nigerians. Their mantra is “we shall; we shall”! They are “Ambo ooo, Ambo!”; “we are coming; we are coming; but they never arrive – like Godot! They “create” hundreds of thousands of jobs on the pages of newspapers and on television screens. At press conferences and in press statements, they paint the picture of Eldorado – but it exists only in their dreams.
They have already turned Nigeria into Dubai – but only by words of the month. They perceive and sense the country’s greatness – but only in their hallucinations. They fiddle but Nigeria slides. Insults, abuses and vile propaganda have become their hallmark. They have discovered an ingenious way to escape rebuke and claim unmerited credit: They look you straight in the eye and declare without shame and without remorse that they have delivered on campaign promises they have barely touched! Those purportedly celebrating Abiola have failed to deliver on the June 12 hero’s promise to banish poverty from the land. If anything, they have accentuated poverty more than ever before.
The second example: June 12, 1993 was about an election that made Abiola; it was an election that threw up the phenomenon that Abiola later became; it was not about Abiola as a person but Abiola as a “symbol” of a phenomenon never before experienced in Nigeria. That was why Abiola kept referring to himself as the “symbol” of a process, a struggle, and a phenomenon so uncommon and so unique in the history of this country. That was also why he described his mandate given by the Nigerian people as a “sacred mandate” which he was not willing – in fact, was not able – to relinquish.
It was a union or marriage between Abiola and the people which must subsist “Until death do us part”! June 12, 1993, presidential election was free, fair, credible and peaceful. It was the best and most acceptable election in the history of Nigeria. It broke all barriers of ethnicity, religion and other stratifications and primordial sentiments. It was a Muslim/Muslim ticket; yet, it won. That would have sounded the death knell of religious fanaticism in Nigeria. That election united the entire country. It gave us hope! Little wonder, then, that Abiola’s campaign was tagged “Hope ‘93”
Everything Abiola stood for has been negated by Buhari/APC. After the shenanigans of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua went to work to repair the monumental and wilful damage deliberately inflicted by Obasanjo on the electoral process. Goodluck Jonathan came in and continued the healing process. We were almost out of the woods when the then INEC boss, Attahiru Jega, hand in gloves with Buhari/APC and playing the ethnic-cum religion card, set us back many decades and railroaded Buhari into office in 2015.
Since then, the retired Major-General has not looked back in his single-mindedness of purpose to destroy democracy and return this country to the days of the jackals reminiscent of his first iron-fisted, despotic, disruptive and destructive military rule of 1983/1985. Under Buhari, elections have become war; like Bob Marley sang, everywhere and anywhere Buhari/APC is interested in the outcome of an election – “we say war”!
Buhari is the very opposite of Abiola. Abiola was a unifier par excellence. Buhari is a divisive, destructive and disruptive influence. Abiola was a Muslim; yet, he loved and embraced Christians and those ones reciprocated in kind. Buhari is fanatical about his religion. Abiola was a Nigerian patriot and nationalist. Buhari is an ethnic jingoist and tribal warlord. Buhari is rabidly pro-Fulani. Abiola was pan-Nigeria. Abiola promoted peace. Buhari is like a bloodhound. His baying for blood in 2011 will not be forgotten in a hurry; so also the daily bloodletting taking place under his watch that has not only cheapened life beyond what operated under Thomas Hobbes’s state of nature but has also blighted this country home and abroad. Abiola and Buhari are light and darkness, day and night, good and evil, God and Satan.
It is trite that no one gives what he does not have. As Fela aptly put it, animals cannot “dash” us human rights in the same way a dictator, in and out of uniforms, cannot understand, least of all “dash” us democracy. What they did last Friday in the name of celebrating democracy was dancing on MKO’s grave for selfish and self-serving political and pecuniary gains.
LAST WORD: With the way politicians shamelessly defect – and are gleefully received – it is safe to conclude that we operate a one-party system. They are birds of a feather! The parties all appear the same: No ideology, no principles, no scruples, no morality, no shame, no honour, no integrity, no reputation, no good name; nothing! With Nigeria’s politics taking after the postulations of Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, famous author of The Prince (1513), who posited that “the end justifies the means”, we can draw a nexus between the moral deficiency of political leaders and the general depravity stalking the land. If gold rusts, what will iron do? A fish gets rotten from the head. Devoid of morals, politicians without scruples and rotten rapists, paedophiles and murderers all drink from the same cistern – Machiavelli’s!
Mr Bolawole, a former Editor of Punch, can be reached via turnpot.gmail.com or 0807 552 5533
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